Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Yamnaya people drank horse milk (Wilkin et al. 2021)

Over at Nature at this LINK. I'm guessing the claim that Yamnaya pastoralists lived in Scandinavia is a huge typo. Obviously, the authors are referring to the people of the Corded Ware culture (CWC). From the paper:

During the Early Bronze Age, populations of the western Eurasian steppe expanded across an immense area of northern Eurasia. Combined archaeological and genetic evidence supports widespread Early Bronze Age population movements out of the Pontic–Caspian steppe that resulted in gene flow across vast distances, linking populations of Yamnaya pastoralists in Scandinavia with pastoral populations (known as the Afanasievo) far to the east in the Altai Mountains1,2 and Mongolia3. Although some models hold that this expansion was the outcome of a newly mobile pastoral economy characterized by horse traction, bulk wagon transport4,5,6 and regular dietary dependence on meat and milk5, hard evidence for these economic features has not been found. Here we draw on proteomic analysis of dental calculus from individuals from the western Eurasian steppe to demonstrate a major transition in dairying at the start of the Bronze Age. The rapid onset of ubiquitous dairying at a point in time when steppe populations are known to have begun dispersing offers critical insight into a key catalyst of steppe mobility. The identification of horse milk proteins also indicates horse domestication by the Early Bronze Age, which provides support for its role in steppe dispersals. Our results point to a potential epicentre for horse domestication in the Pontic–Caspian steppe by the third millennium bc, and offer strong support for the notion that the novel exploitation of secondary animal products was a key driver of the expansions of Eurasian steppe pastoralists by the Early Bronze Age.

Wilkin, S., Ventresca Miller, A., Fernandes, R. et al. Dairying enabled Early Bronze Age Yamnaya steppe expansions. Nature (2021).

See also...

On the origin of the Corded Ware people


  1. Corded Ware isn't even mentioned once in this paper. WTF?

  2. Delete/ignore my previous comment. I was thinking of the map the author cited here, but that's not their report:

  3. It's not coming up in the PDF search.

  4. @Dave the Slothtopus

    They were drinking horse milk? That's really interesting.

  5. It's not often I look at Twitter, but that's a cool info thread.

    Interesting that, although based on 2 samples, there was no evidence on dairying in Botai. So they must have used the horse for meat. Whilst Yamnaya steppe pastoralists shifted to using horse for traction & milk, with implication of some form of cultural influence from nearby agro-pastoralist ("M.N. farmer") groups from east-central Europe

  6. Our ancestors drank horse milk? I thought dairy more likely.

    If Yamnaya drank horse milk, maybe they can also be credited with the invention of the Kumis (low alcoholic beverage formed by fermented horse milk).

    I also remember reading articles west back, claiming that it was either Yamnaya or Scythians who were the first to cultivate hemp.

  7. Please note that comments by "unknown" are not allowed here.

  8. Given that the reconstructed late PIE can be identified with CWC, would it be plausible to regard both the language(s) spoken by Yamnaya and the Anatolian branch (Cernavoda?) as “para-PIE”? The Hittite words for “eat” and “water”, for example, are very similar to their English cognates.

    Shishlina 2018 - Genes, Isotopes and Artefacts Conference Vienna
    Isotopes of various cultural groups, river, steppe, etc...Krivyanskiy 9 looks like one of the regions Shishlina was comparing in her 2018 lecture.
    @8.30 comparing Isotopes of horses and human groups.

    It will be interesting to see where the Yamnaya Caucasus sample is from, in David Reich's lecture (Harald Ringbauer et al..)(8-12 IBD),

  10. It's amazing how you can work around the main focus of ethnogenesis for several years. We examined the Dnieper and nothing, we examined the Volga and also nothing. The only burial examined on the Don immediately showed domesticated horses. I think that the reason is that in Soviet times there were two major opposing trends in archeology: the Dnieper and the Volga, which fought among themselves for primacy in the formation of Yamnaya culture. The archaeologists of the Don were weak and were not taken into account. Now it is obvious that all the main events that led to the formation of the steppe population occurred in the Azov-Don region.

  11. According to the film at the link below, the Botai people milked horses.

  12. Has anyone tried horse milk? How does it taste?

  13. Hell no. I didn't know anyone drank horse milk till today when I saw this study.

  14. @ Vladimir

    The only horse burials in this study were from Utevka VI (~ 2000 bce)
    So what exactly are you referring to ?

  15. @Rob
    The burial of horses has nothing to do with it. We are talking about the burial of people who used mare's milk, and this is from Don Krivyansky 9.

  16. @ Vlad
    Krivyansky 9 is late Yamnaya period
    Funnily enough, this just so happens to be the western most site in this stuff
    But until contemporaneous and earlier sites (Eg Dereivka) from Ukraine are also analysed, your statement is speculative
    What this study has established is that horse domestication did not occur in SW Russia

  17. @Rob

    As much as you would like it, but this study has established the following: " Our identification of—to our knowledge—the earliest horse milk proteins yet identified on the steppe or anywhere else reveals the presence of domestic horses in the western steppe by the Early Bronze Age, which suggests that the region (where the first evidence for horse chariots later emerged at about 2000 BC47) may have been the initial epicentre for domestication of the DOM2 lineage during the late fourth or third millennium BC."
    And until there are new studies, this location is the most truthful.

  18. @ Vlad

    We should read the supplement & understand absolute dates. The earliest evidence for dairy signatures apparently are in Dereivka and Mikhailovka. Both precede Krivyansky 9 by hundreds of years. So comparative proteomic data from these sites will be interesting

  19. The ancient Norse religion worshipers sacrificed horse meat. In Iceland there are Neo-pagan revivalists who feast on horse meat steaks.

  20. Interesting comments on milk production

    "In any case, she adds, if you do not respect the horses, they will not produce much milk: "They are not genetically programmed to produce milk like a cow. You need a relationship with them for them to share their milk with you."

    Perhaps interesting probiotic properties and immune system benefits-
    Dietetic effects of oral intervention with mare's milk on the Severity Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis, on faecal microbiota and on immunological parameters in patients with atopic dermatitis
    [The effect of the essential fatty acids in mare's milk on the function of the immune system and of nonspecific resistance in rats]

    I wonder if there were any benefits of mares milk in fighting Yerisna pestis?

  21. Re Old Prussians and perhaps Balts in general (quote from wiki, but it’s general knowledge):
    “ Wulfstan of Hedeby, who visited the trading town of Truso at the Vistula Lagoon, has observed that wealthy people drink fermented mare's milk instead of mead. According to Adam of Bremen, the Samians are said to have consumed horse blood as well as horse milk. He also mentions that horse meat was eaten.”

  22. This Indo-European heritage was cultivated for the longest time by the Prussian tribes, who consumed mare's milk until the end of the Middle Ages. Moravians also consumed mare's milk, but at them it could be a memento of the Avar times.

  23. Old Prussian elites drank mare milk, and commoners drank mead. That is according to different Medieval accounts.

  24. Yes, I have tried horse milk. It's very sweet and is the best tasting animal milk, IMHO. I lived in Russia back in 2000-2001. They sell horse milk there in shops. I've also had kumiss, which is fermented horse milk. It tastes like alcoholic blue cheese salad dressing.

  25. I want this site to be investigated further.

    "The authors discuss the archaeozoological indicators for horse domestication, and come to a conclusion that a considerableincrease of horse remains, accompanied by a presence of other certainly domesticated species could be one of them. With sucha situation we have to do in Ayakagytma 'The Site', Uzbekistan, where in the Early Neolithic layers dated to 8000-7400 cal.BP, a share of horse remains reach 30-40%. It would suggest the earliest horse domestication known today."

    From the Polish-Uzbek arch project.

  26. Overall, our results point to a clear and marked shift in milk consumption patterns between the Eneolithic and Early Bronze Age in the Pontic–Caspian Steppe. The majority of Eneolithic individuals (10 out of 11 (92%)) in our assemblage lack any evidence for milk consumption, whereas the overwhelming majority of Early Bronze Age individuals (15 out of 16 (94%)) contain ample proteomic evidence for dairy consumption in their calculus.

    So "dairying" reached the Steppe quite late relative to Neolothic Europe where they were consuming dairy from 7,900-7,450 years ago.

    Evidence from other studies suggest dairying was present in south-eastern Europe soon after the arrival of farming, while milk proteins found in ceramic vessels provide evidence for dairying in (present-day) Romania and Hungary some 7,900-7,450 years ago. Traces of fats also point to dairying at the onset of farming in England some 6,100 years ago. But it is most likely that milk was first fermented to make yoghurt, butter and cheese, and not drunk fresh. The Romans used goat and sheep milk to produce cheese, and cattle as a draught animal. However, Germanic and Celtic people practiced cattle dairying and drank fresh milk in significant amounts.

    To me this looks like the steppe people got a taste for dairy from the farmers.

  27. The suggestion that dairying had anything to do with the steppe migration is very stupid. The Mongols would slit a vein on the neck of their horse and drink the blood for nourishment, no dairying required.

  28. Interesting potential nutritional advantage to mare's milk over even cow's milk:
    "How does mare’s milk stack up against other milk, say that from a cow or a goat? In terms of protein, a nutrient necessary for optimal growth, mare’s milk is similar to both cow’s and goat’s milk in total crude protein. However, not all proteins found in milk are the same.

    Milk is composed of two primary proteins, whey and casein. Whey is considered a high-quality protein because it includes several essential amino acids. Mare’s milk surpasses cow’s milk with respect to whey, as mare’s milk contains about 40%, approximately double that of cow’s. Whey is thought to be better absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract than casein. The quantity of casein is about half that found in cow’s milk. Interestingly, studies have uncovered differences between mares of varying breeds in terms of protein levels, though the effect of dietary influences have not been determined."
    Meanwhile IIRC there are studies where many neolithic farmer diets were deficient in certain amino acids and other nutrition. The pastoralists (and perhaps farmers who allied with them) may have had an advantage in the overall health and number of children surviving to adulthood.

  29. Note that the chatter about this so far has been weirdly focused on *horse* milk when a) milk traces from multiple, specific genuses of animal (including sheep, goats, cows) are attested in these individuals, and b) traces attributable to Equus specifically were only found in 2 of the 35 or so Early and Middle Bronze Age samples. From the paper:

    "Although many of the milk peptides were only specific to higher taxonomic levels (such as Pecora, an infraorder within Artiodactyla (cow, sheep, goat, buffalo, yak, reindeer, deer and antelope)), others enabled more specific taxonomic classifications, including to family, genus or species. We found Ovis, Capra and Bos attributions, and the calculus of many individuals contained dairy peptides from several species. Notably, we identified Equus milk peptides from the protein BLGI in 2 of 17 Early Bronze Age individuals, both from the southwestern site of Krivyanskiy 9 (3305 to 2633 calibrated years BC (Supplementary Table 5 provides individual accelerator mass spectrometry dating information)). Although the genus Equus includes horse, donkey and kiang, only horse species (E. caballus, E. przewalskii, Equus hemionus and Equus ferus) are archaeologically attested in the steppe in the Early Bronze Age, supporting the Equus identification as horse."

    I feel that the paper is surprisingly unclear and shakily written given that they have basically one result to report and nothing else (e.g. the massive "Yamnaya in Scandinavia" blunder -- how did David Reich, a co-author, let that one slide?).

  30. @vAsiSTha

    Sweeter but less fatty. I like cows milk or goat milk better. The sweetness is likable though.

  31. @Andrzejewski

    "If Yamnaya drank horse milk, maybe they can also be credited with the invention of the Kumis (low alcoholic beverage formed by fermented horse milk)."

    The old Prussians were fond of this stuff; and of mead. From what I've read they didn't know beer.

  32. @Davidski

    “Corded Ware isn't even mentioned once in this paper. WTF?”

    “Together, the innovations opened up a vast new landscape. “Milk is a contributing factor, but not the only factor,” says University of Helsinki archaeologist Volker Heyd, who was not involved in the research. “It’s a new economy and a new way of life, and the origins are the invention of the wheel, horse riding, and dairying.””

    Surely Yamnaya didn’t invent the wheel or dairying. I don’t know about horse riding. So the question is who did they get the wheel and dairying from? Was it the same population that CWC got it from i.e. Sredny Stog?

  33. @Andrzejewski

    "I also remember reading articles west back, claiming that it was either Yamnaya or Scythians who were the first to cultivate hemp."

    It cannot have been Yamnaya, because the word hemp is considered a main testimony of the rather late Germanic sound shift. Scythian kanba, compare Greek kannabis, became xanapiz in Proto-Germanic, after the sound shift. The late introduction of this plant into northern Europe suggests an even later Germanic sound shift.

  34. @Andrzejewski

    "The ancient Norse religion worshipers sacrificed horse meat. In Iceland there are Neo-pagan revivalists who feast on horse meat steaks."

    Horse sacrifice, including sexual rituals, possibly also occured in ancient Ireland and India:

  35. @Rich S. "I've also had kumiss, which is fermented horse milk. It tastes like alcoholic blue cheese salad dressing"

    Hard pass!

  36. Earlier, arza got SNP results for Bohemia ancient DNA.

    The interesting thing is Bohemia farmers are twice as "light pigmentated" as other Neolithic farmers. The only farmers to tie them are in Late Neolithic Switzerland.

    This suggests selection for lighter pigmentation in central European farmers. The GAC mass grave doesn't. But I am interested in seeing what more DNA samples show.

    Yamnaya & Corded Ware seem to also show selection for lighter skin. Because, Yamnaya has a higher SLC45A2 than EHG and UkraineHG. Early Corded Ware shows a higher frequency of SLC45A2 % than Yamnaya.

    A possible scenario, is selection for SLC45A2 started in both Eastern Euro Steppe & in Northern Euro farmers at the same time (4500-3000 BC). Then it continued to be selected for in Europe till 1000 BC.

  37. And here they say:

    "Ancient DNA results from Khvalynsk and other Eneolithic sites in the Volga and northern Caucasus2,7,26 support the existence of an Eneolithic population across this region that was genetically similar to the Yamnaya population, but who lacked the additional farmer (Anatolian) ancestry that would arrive later on the steppe."

    So basically Yamnaya people in this context means Similar People not the Culture which only form much later.

  38. So basically the horse milk drinkers on the map was found to the West of the Lower Don River. So it seems Dnieper-Don rather than Don-Volga....

  39. I drank koumiss many times when I was in Mongolia. It resembled kefir or ayran.

  40. Another recent interview/podcast with Dr Niraj Rai is out.

    These are the projects to be published in the next 1-3yrs according to him.

    1. Modern Indian y-dna. 10k samples, out of which 30% is r1a.
    2. Sanauli 2 samples 1 male one female. Unclear if they were able to extract useful adna.
    3. West gangetic plains 1000bce samples
    4. South india 500-200bce megalithic samples.
    5. Gangetic plains mesolithic samples 6000bce.

  41. I have to admit that I've mostly lost interest in India, because the situation there, as it pertains to ancient Europe and the Indo-European expansions, is basically cut and dried.

    I mean, anyone who isn't insane or handicapped in some other way has to admit that R1a moved into South Asia during the Bronze Age along with Indo-European languages.

  42. You feign to have lost interest without seeing any decent sample from India because things can only get worse with actual data for you compared to your fairy tale stories.

  43. You really must have shit for brains if you believe that anything from India can change things.

    Take a careful look at the samples from Eastern Europe. It's all over.

  44. Garbage in = garbage out.
    davidski, thats what steppe theorists like you are good at. Even if predictions dont show in evidence you still stick to your theories.

    nothing's over till its over.

  45. Looking forward to the Mesolithic data !
    For more recent periods, many people would be interested to know how IVC people looked (#2); how different ancestry streams intermixed across North -central India (#3,4)

  46. Those mesolithic buggers from gangetic plains were 185cm+ tall if I recall correctly. Should be interesting. My guess is they will be at least 20%+ iranN like. Although Niraj Rai himself presupposes them to be Aasi.

  47. @vAsiSTha
    Garbage in = garbage out. davidski, thats what steppe theorists like you are good at. Even if predictions dont show in evidence you still stick to your theories. nothing's over till its over.

    So according to you, what is the truth about PIE, etc? Can you finally describe your version of events, or will you rather continue to heroically spit on everything that does not suit you hindutva bias, as seen above?

  48. Yeah, AASI seem to be quite tall. But even the man from Rakhigarhi (BR02) was quite tall despite him likely having a nice amount of Iran_N ancestry.
    Balangoda Man from Sri Lanka was also taller than the average contemporary person from Sri Lanka.

  49. @vAsiSTha
    OUPS! Should be: your hindutva bias, as seen above?

  50. It would be fascinating to figure out the origin of Dravidian languages: are they Iran_N or Onge-related?

    If Dravidian are derived from Iran, what’s their relationship with BMAC language? Is the Elamite-Dravidian theory valid again. Where do Burushaski fit in?

    All of these items and their interplay would be interesting to find out.

  51. Most people on the internet who tried drinking kumis assert that it’s really disgusting tasting. What’s the truth to it, among those of us who did?

  52. So it looks as if domesticates spread along the Forest Steppe and then down the Rivers from there. Kind of makes sense since Cattle flourish in semi-forested areas where they can get a lot of their micro-nutrient needs from trees. Goats like browsing even more. This could explain why Hunter Gatherers persisted for so long in certain more grassy areas on the Pontic Caspian Steppe.


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