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Sunday, January 17, 2021

A tantalizing link

A new paper at PLoS ONE reports on the first human genomes reliably associated with the Single Grave culture (SGC). They were sequenced from remains in a burial at Gjerrild, Denmark, roughly dating to 2,500 BCE.

Surprisingly, one of the male genomes belongs to Y-haplogroup R1b-V1636, which is an exceedingly rare marker both in ancient and present-day populations.

However, the results do make sense, because the earliest instances of R1b-V1636 are in three Eneolithic males from burial sites on the Pontic-Caspian (PC) steppe in Eastern Europe, which is precisely where one would expect to find the paternal ancestors of the SGC population. The SGC, of course, is the westernmost variant of the Corded Ware culture (CWC), and there's very little doubt nowadays that the CWC had its roots on the PC steppe.

A Copper Age individual from Arslantepe in central Anatolia also belongs to R1b-V1636, which suggests that Northern Europe shared a very specific link with Anatolia via Eastern Europe during a period generally regarded to have been the time of early Indo-European dispersals.

Numerous SGC barrows or kurgans dot the landscape in what are now the Netherlands, northwestern Germany and Denmark. Unfortunately, most SGC human remains have been eaten up by the acidic soils that exist in this area.

Citation: Egfjord AF-H, Margaryan A, Fischer A, Sjögren K-G, Price TD, Johannsen NN, et al. (2021) Genomic Steppe ancestry in skeletons from the Neolithic Single Grave Culture in Denmark. PLoS ONE 16(1): e0244872.

See also...

Maykop ancestry in Copper Age Arslantepe

That old chestnut: Northeast vs Northwest Euros

In the last comment thread reader Greg put forth this question:

David, when are you going to explain the genetic discrepancy between Northeastern and Northwestern Europeans? You know, the one that people believe is due to Baltic Hunter-Gatherer admixture, whereas you believe it is due to genetic drift? You ought to make a post about this issue at some point, because a lot of people are wondering what's causing the differences.

Well, Greg, this issue has been discussed to the proverbial death here and elsewhere. In fact, there were two posts and rather lengthy comment threads on the same topic at this blog just a few months ago. See here and here.

Nevertheless, it seems that a fair number of people are still befuddled, so I'm going to try to explain this one last time, as briefly as a I can using just a handful of f4-stats.

Admittedly, Northeast Europeans generally do pack higher levels of indigenous European hunter-gatherer ancestry than Northwest Europeans. This is especially true of Balts, who show more of this type of ancestry than even Scandinavians in practically every type of analysis.

The f4-stats below back this up unambiguously. Note the significantly positive (>3) Z scores, which suggest that Latvians and Lithuanians harbor more Baltic hunter-gatherer-related ancestry than Norwegians and Swedes.

Chimp Baltic_HG Norwegian Latvian 0.001301 7.114
Chimp Baltic_HG Swedish Latvian 0.001017 4.205
Chimp Baltic_HG Norwegian Lithuanian 0.001023 7.341
Chimp Baltic_HG Swedish Lithuanian 0.000763 3.408

Greg, I know what you're thinking: the naysayers are right! But wait, because there's a twist to this tale. Check out these f4-stats:

Chimp Baltic_HG Norwegian Belarusian 0.000265 1.934
Chimp Baltic_HG Swedish Belarusian 0.000152 0.7
Chimp Baltic_HG Norwegian Polish 6.4E-05 0.519
Chimp Baltic_HG Swedish Polish -0.000235 -1.074

Please note, Greg, that none of the Z scores reach significance, which means that these Northwest Europeans and Slavs are symmetrically related to Baltic_HG. They're also symmetrically related to other relevant ancient groups such as the Yamnaya steppe herders. This, of course, suggests that they harbor very similar levels of basically the same ancient genetic components.

Chimp Karelia_HG Norwegian Belarusian 0.000136 0.844
Chimp Karelia_HG Swedish Belarusian 7.9E-05 0.32
Chimp Karelia_HG Norwegian Polish -4.7E-05 -0.304
Chimp Karelia_HG Swedish Polish -0.000134 -0.54

Chimp Yamnaya_Samara Norwegian Belarusian -0.000134 -1.085
Chimp Yamnaya_Samara Swedish Belarusian -6.6E-05 -0.34
Chimp Yamnaya_Samara Norwegian Polish -0.000225 -1.995
Chimp Yamnaya_Samara Swedish Polish -0.000311 -1.574

Chimp Barcin_N Norwegian Belarusian -0.000335 -2.809
Chimp Barcin_N Swedish Belarusian -0.000284 -1.491
Chimp Barcin_N Norwegian Polish -0.000222 -2.057
Chimp Barcin_N Swedish Polish -0.000318 -1.662

Chimp Baikal_N Norwegian Belarusian 0.000186 1.3
Chimp Baikal_N Swedish Belarusian -7E-05 -0.33
Chimp Baikal_N Norwegian Polish -4.6E-05 -0.351
Chimp Baikal_N Swedish Polish -0.000477 -2.277

Interestingly, pairing up Ukrainians with English samples from Cornwall and Kent produces similar outcomes. But that's because most ancient ancestry proportions in Europe show a closer correlation with latitude than longitude.

Chimp Baltic_HG English_Cornwall Ukrainian 0.000282 2.242
Chimp Baltic_HG English_Kent Ukrainian 0.000225 1.748

Chimp Karelia_HG English_Cornwall Ukrainian 0.000323 2.175
Chimp Karelia_HG English_Kent Ukrainian 0.000239 1.634

Chimp Yamnaya_Samara English_Cornwall Ukrainian -6.6E-05 -0.569
Chimp Yamnaya_Samara English_Kent Ukrainian -0.000112 -0.977

Chimp Barcin_N English_Cornwall Ukrainian -0.000519 -4.641
Chimp Barcin_N English_Kent Ukrainian -0.000598 -5.232

Chimp Baikal_N English_Cornwall Ukrainian 0.000385 2.874
Chimp Baikal_N English_Kent Ukrainian 0.00036 2.836

Now, Greg, if at least in terms of genetic ancestry, Latvians, Lithuanians, Belarusians, Poles and Ukrainians all qualify as Northeast Europeans, then what makes them different, as a group, from Northwest Europeans? Do you believe that the key factor is admixture from Baltic hunter-gatherers? Or is it genetic drift?

Of course, considering all of the f4-stats above, logic dictates that it must be relatively recent genetic drift.

Keep in mind, however, that this only applies to Balto-Slavic speaking Northeast Europeans without significant Uralian ancestry. Overall, Uralic speakers have a more complex population history, and indeed genetic differences between them and Northwest Europeans are in large part due to somewhat different ancestry proportions and also Siberian admixture.

See also...

So who's the most (indigenous) European of us all?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

David Anthony on Y-haplogroup R1a

Archeologist David Anthony has a new theory which attempts to explain why Y-haplogroup R1a hasn't yet been found in any Yamnaya graves. Basically, he thinks that it was carried by Yamnaya men who weren't buried in kurgans, because they were part of a social underclass, and so their remains are now difficult to locate. See here.

This is an interesting attempt to find a socio-archeological solution to a genetic question, but it's unnecessarily complicated and, in fact, also unnecessary.

The important thing to understand about R1a is that it's rarely seen in the ancient DNA record before the rise of the Corded Ware culture (CWC). Moreover, the vast majority of the R1a lineages in the world today belong to the R1a-M417 subclade, which is a relatively young (Eneolithic era?) marker and closely associated with the CWC population and its rapid expansion.

Indeed, modern R1a lineages show a very strong star-like phylogeny indicative of a series of rapid and massive expansions starting from a handful of lineages only a few thousand years ago.

So if R1a was actually present in the Yamnaya population, then the obvious reason why it hasn't yet been found in any Yamnaya remains is because it was only carried by a very small group of Yamnaya men. Simple as that.

Its expansions from the Pontic-Caspian (PC) steppe, predominantly via the highly successful R1a-M417, may have coincidentally and rather ironically started in a socially disenfranchised Yamnaya clan.

But my view is that R1a-M417 just happened to be present in a small group of early Yamnaya or Yamnaya-related males who came up with an economic package that allowed them to expand out of the PC steppe like no one else before them, and so they did just that.

Anthony is currently collaborating on a new paper about the Eneolithic era on the PC steppe with scientists from Harvard's David Reich Lab (see here). I'm really hoping that they get this right.

See also...

Fatyanovo as part of the wider Corded Ware family