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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Against the conventional wisdom


I've read some very strange theories over the years trying to explain who was responsible for the so called Caucasus/Iranian-related ancestry in the Yamnaya people.

Proto-Indo-European speaking farmers from what is now Iran? How about Uruk invaders from Mesopotamia? No, wait, they were migrants from India who spoke Sanskrit. Haha.

Nope, it seems that hunter-gatherers rich in this type of ancestry lived north of the Caucasus already during the so called Pottery Neolithic or even the Mesolithic. That's the impression that I'm getting from watching the clip HERE.

This is basically also the idea that I gradually developed at this blog during the last few years, following common sense and logic, but totally against the conventional wisdom in regards to this topic. For instance, see here...

But here's my prediction: Steppe_EMBA only has 10-15% admixture from the post-Mesolithic Near East not including the North Caucasus, and basically all of this comes via female mediated gene flow from farming communities in the Caucasus and perhaps present-day Ukraine.
Modeling Steppe_EMBA

Of course, I could've done better with many of the details in my posts, like the dates and archeological links. But hey, at least I was smart enough to ignore the conventional wisdom.

I can't wait for the new ancient samples from the Pontic-Caspian steppe that David Anthony featured in his talks recently. Once I have them we'll be able to work out the details here for ourselves.

See also...

Ahead of the pack

Ancient DNA vs Ex Oriente Lux

Understanding the Eneolithic steppe

Monday, March 29, 2021

Khvalynsk is now out of the picture


The population associated with the Khvalynsk culture was not ancestral to the Yamnaya people. Archeologist David Anthony says so HERE. So where did the Yamnaya and Corded Ware populations come from? Anthony doesn't know yet.

See also...

Understanding the Eneolithic steppe

Ancient DNA vs Ex Oriente Lux

A final note for the year

Sunday, March 14, 2021

How the Shirenzigou nomads became Proto-Tocharians


A couple of years ago, the authors of a paper about a group of Iron Age nomads from the site of Shirenzigou, in the eastern Tian Shan, made a mistake. They wrongly assigned two of these nomads to Y-haplogroup R1b-M269.

This faux pas made them believe that the Shirenzigou nomads were closely related to the M269-rich population associated with the Afanasievo culture.

Indeed, since the Afanasievo culture was often credited with the spread of Tocharian languages to the Tarim Basin, these authors, led by Chao Ning, also concluded that the Shirenzigou nomads were potentially the missing link between the Afanasievo culture and the Tocharians (see here).

Moreover, Ning et al. used formal statistics to argue that the Shirenzegou nomads harbored Afanasievo-related genome-wide ancestry, rather than Sintashta-related genome-wide ancestry, despite the fact that the latter ancestry was widespread in the Tian Shan and surrounds during the Bronze and Iron ages. Soon after, another group of authors, led by Chuan-Chao Wang, also went out of their way to link the Shirenzigou nomads to the Afanasievo people with genome-wide DNA using formal statistics (see here).

Interestingly, one of the Shirenzigou nomads belongs to Y-haplogroup R1a-Z93, which is an obvious Sintashta-related lineage. Both Ning et al. and Wang et al. missed this important fact.

They also missed the key fact that the R1b lineage found in the Shirenzigou nomads actually belongs a native Central Asian subclade, which is only very distantly related to the originally Eastern European R1b-M269.

Now, formal stats are a very useful tool for studying genome-wide ancestry. But they're not infallible, and that's actually something of an understatement. Indeed, if you don't run sanity checks when using formal stats, you're likely to come to some unusual, even arse about face, conclusions. Uniparental markers, like Y-chromosome haplogroups, can provide a robust sanity check when running formal stats on genome-wide data.

One problem with formal stats is that Sintashta-related ancestry often looks very much like Afanasievo-related ancestry when it's mixed with indigenous Central Asian ancestry. Basically, the reason why this happens is that the Central Asian ancestry dampens the Early European Farmer (EEF) signal in the Sintashta-related ancestry.

This is an artifact that once caused scientists at Harvard to believe that Central Asian Scythians and present-day South Asians lacked Sintashta-related ancestry.

Unfortunately, since the publication of the Ning et al. paper, a consensus has emerged in academia that the Shirenzigou nomads are indeed the missing link between the Afanasievo culture and the Tocharians. But, let's be objective and honest here, it's a consensus based on nothing more than a comedy of errors.

On the other hand, me and most of the commentators at this blog have formed opinions about the Shirenzigou nomads that are totally at odds with the academic consensus, that:

- they're a complex mixture of Sintashta-related, indigenous Central Asian and Tibetan-related ancestries, with no clear, unambiguous signal of Afanasievo-related ancestry

- they weren't the speakers of Proto-Tocharian or even related in any specific way to the Tocharians

- they were probably the speakers of a now extinct Indo-Iranian language, and, at least based on geographic proximity, possibly related to the Yuezhi.

Feel free to make up your own mind. But for me, the question of how Tocharian languages ended up in the Tarim Basin remains wide open. I admit though, I'm currently quite partial to the idea floated here by commentator Copper Axe that the Chemurchek culture may have had something to do with it.

See also...

Don't believe everything you read in peer reviewed papers