Genetic origins of Minoans and Mycenaeans and their continuity into modern Greeks

mycenaean-minoan

A new article has appeared in Nature, Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans, by Lazaridis et al. (2017), referenced by Science.

Abstract:

The origins of the Bronze Age Minoan and Mycenaean cultures have puzzled archaeologists for more than a century. We have assembled genome-wide data from 19 ancient individuals, including Minoans from Crete, Mycenaeans from mainland Greece, and their eastern neighbours from southwestern Anatolia. Here we show that Minoans and Mycenaeans were genetically similar, having at least three-quarters of their ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers of western Anatolia and the Aegean, and most of the remainder from ancient populations related to those of the Caucasus3 and Iran. However, the Mycenaeans differed from Minoans in deriving additional ancestry from an ultimate source related to the hunter–gatherers of eastern Europe and Siberia, introduced via a proximal source related to the inhabitants of either the Eurasian steppe or Armenia. Modern Greeks resemble the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the Early Neolithic ancestry. Our results support the idea of continuity but not isolation in the history of populations of the Aegean, before and after the time of its earliest civilizations.

Samples are scarce, and there is only one Y-DNA haplogroup of Mycenaeans, J2a1 (in Galatas Apatheia, ca. 1700-1200), which shows continuity of haplogroups from Minoan samples, so it does not clarify the potential demic diffusion of Proto-Greeks marked by R1b subclades.

Regarding admixture analyses, it is explicitly or implicitly (according to the press release) stated that:

  • There is continuity between Mycenaeans and living people, so that the major components of the Greeks’ ancestry was in place already in the Bronze Age, after the migration of the earliest farmers from Anatolia.
  • Anatolians may have been the source of “eastern” Caucasian ancestry in Mycenaeans, and maybe of early Indo-European languages (i.e. earlier than Proto-Greek) in the region.
  • The “northern” steppe population (speaking a Late Indo-European dialect, then) had arrived only in mainland Greece, with a 13-18% admixture, by the time studied.
  • Samples before the Final Neolithic (ca. 4100 BC) do not possess either type of ancestry, suggesting that the admixture detected occurred during the fourth to second millennium BC.
  • Admixture from Levantine or African influence (i.e. Egyptian or Phoenician colonists) cannot be supported with admixture.

All in all, there is some new interesting information, and among them the possibility of obtaining ancient DNA from arid regions, which is promising for future developments in the field.

Related:

Featured map: samples studied, from the article.

Something is very wrong with models based on the so-called ‘steppe admixture’ – and archaeologists are catching up

steppe-admixture

Russian archaeologist Leo Klejn has published an article Discussion: Are the Origins of Indo-European Languages Explained by the Migration of the Yamnaya Culture to the West?, which includes the criticism received from Wolfgang Haak, Iosif Lazaridis, Nick Patterson, and David Reich (mainly on the genetic aspect), and from Kristian Kristiansen, Karl-Göran Sjögren, Morten Allentoft, Martin Sikora, and Eske Willerslev (mainly on the archaeological aspect).

I will not post details of Klejn’s model of North-South Proto-Indo-European expansion – which is explained in the article, and relies on the north-south cline of ‘steppe admixture’ in the modern European population -, since it is based on marginal anthropological methods and theories, including glottochronological dates, and archaeological theories from the Russian school (mainly Zalyzniak), which are obviously not mainstream in the field of Indo-European Studies, and (paradoxically) on the modern distribution of ‘steppe admixture’…

The most interesting aspects of the article are the reactions to the criticism, some of which can be used from the point of view of the Indo-European demic diffusion model, too. It is sad, however, that they didn’t choose to answer earlier to Heyd’s criticism (or to Heyd’s model, which is essentially also that of Mallory and Anthony), instead of just waiting for proponents of the least interesting models to react…

The answer by Haak et al.:

Klejn mischaracterizes our paper as claiming that practitioners of the Corded Ware culture spoke a language ancestral to all European Indo-European languages, including Greek and Celtic. This is incorrect: we never claim that the ancestor of Greek is the language spoken by people of the Corded Ware culture. In fact, we explicitly state that the expansion of steppe ancestry might account for only a subset of Indo-European languages in Europe. Klejn asserts that ‘a source in the north’ is a better candidate for the new ancestry manifested in the Corded Ware than the Yamnaya. While it is indeed the case that the present-day people with the greatest affinity to the Corded Ware are distributed in north-eastern Europe, a major part of the new ancestry of the Corded Ware derives from a population most closely related to Armenians (Haak et al., 2015) and hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus (Jones et al., 2015). This ancestry has not been detected in any European huntergatherers analysed to date (Lazaridis et al., 2014; Skoglund et al., 2014; Haak et al., 2015; Fu et al., 2016), but made up some fifty per cent of the ancestry of the Yamnaya. The fact that the Corded Ware traced some of its ancestry to the southern Caucasus makes a source in the north less parsimonious.

In our study, we did not speculate about the date of Proto-Indo-European and the locations of its speakers, as these questions are unresolved by our data, although we do think the genetic data impose constraints on what occurred. We are enthusiastic about the potential of genetics to contribute to a resolution of this longstanding issue, but this is likely to require DNA from multiple, as yet unsampled, ancient populations.

Klejn response to that:

Allegedly, I had accused the authors of tracing all Indo-European languages back to Yamnaya, whereas they did not trace all of them but only a portion! Well, I shall not reproach the authors for their ambiguous language: it remains the case that (beginning with the title of the first article) their qualifications are lost and their readers have understood them as presenting the solution to the whole question of the origins of Indo-European languages.

(…) they had in view not the Proto-Indo-European before the separation of the Hittites, but the language that was left after the separation. Yet, this was still the language ancestral to all the remaining Indo-European languages, and the followers of Sturtevan and Kluckhorst call only this language Proto-Indo-European (while they call the initial one Indo-Hittite). The majority of linguists (specialists in Indo-European languages) is now inclined to this view. True, the breakup of this younger language is several hundred years more recent (nearly a thousand years later according to some glottochronologies) than the separation of Anatolian languages, but it is still around a thousand years earlier than the birth of cultures derived from Yamnaya.
More than that, I analysed in my criticism both possibilities — the case for all Indo-European languages spreading from Yamnaya and the case for only some of them spreading from Yamnaya. In the latter case, it is argued that only the languages of the steppes, the Aryan (Indo- Iranian) are descended from Yamnaya, not the languages of northern Europe. Together with many scholars, I am in agreement with the last possibility. But, then, what sense can the proposed migration of the Yamnaya culture to the Baltic region have? It would bring the Indo-Iranian proto-language to that region! Yet, there are no traces of this language on the coasts of the Baltic!

My main concern is that, to my mind, one should not directly apply conclusions from genetics to events in the development of language because there is no direct and inevitable dependence between events in the life of languages, culture, and physical structure (both anthropological and genetic). They can coincide, but often they all follow divergent paths. In each case the supposed coincidence should be proved separately.

The authors’ third objection concerns the increase of the genetic similarity of European population with that of the Yamnaya culture. This increases in the north of Europe and is weak in the south, in the places adjacent to the Yamnaya area, i.e. in Hungary. This gradient is clearly expressed in the modern population, but was present already in the Bronze Age, and hence cannot be explained by shifts that occurred in the Early Iron Age and in medieval times. However, the supposed migration of the Yamnaya culture to the west and north should imply a gradient in just the opposite direction!

Regarding the arguments of Kristiansen and colleagues:

[They argue that] in two early burials of the Corded Ware culture (one in Germany, the other in Poland) some single attributes of Yamnaya origin have been found.

(…) if this is the full extent of Yamnaya infiltration into central Europe—two burials (one for each country) from several thousands (and from several hundreds of early burials)—then it hardly amounts to large-scale migration.

Quite recently we have witnessed the success of a group of geneticists from Stanford University and elsewhere (Poznik et al., 2016). They succeeded in revealing varieties of Y-chromosome connected with demographic expansions in the Bronze Age. Such expansion can give rise to migration. Among the variants connected with this expansion is R1b, and this haplogroup is typical for the Yamnaya culture. But what bad luck! This haplogroup connected with expansion is indicated by the clade L11, while the Yamnaya burials are associated with a different clade, Z2103, that is not marked by expansion. It is now time to think about how else the remarkable results reached by both teams of experienced and bright geneticists may be interpreted.

Regarding the work of Heyd,

(…) with regard to the barrow burials of the third millennium BC in the basin of the Danube, although they have been assigned to the Yamnaya culture, I would consider them as also belonging to
another, separate culture, perhaps a mixed culture: its burial custom is typical of the Yamnaya, but its pottery is absolutely not Yamnaya, but local Balkan with imports of distinctive corded beakers (Schnurbecher). I would not be surprised if
Y-chromosome haplogroups of this population were somewhat similar to those of the Yamnaya, while mitochondrial groups were indigenous. As yet, geneticists deal with great blocks of populations and prefer to match them to very large and generalized cultural blocks, while archaeology now analyses more concrete and smaller cultures, each of which had its own fate.

Iosif Lazaridis shares more thoughts on the discussion in his Twitter account:

As we mentioned in Haak, Lazaridis et al. (2015), the Yamnaya are the best proximate source for the new ancestry that first appears with the Corded Ware in central Europe, as it has the right mix of both ANE (related to Native Americans, MA1, and EHG), but also Armenian/Caucasus/Iran-like southern component of ancestry. The Yamnaya is a westward expansive culture that bears exactly the two new ancestral components (EHG + Caucasus/Iran/Armenian-like).
As for the Y-chromosome, it was already noted in Haak, Lazaridis et al. (2015) that the Yamnaya from Samara had Y-chromosomes which belonged to R-M269 but did not belong to the clade common in Western Europe (p. 46 of supplement). Also, not a single R1a in Yamnaya unlike Corded Ware (R1a-dominated). But Yamnaya samples = elite burials from eastern part of the Yamnaya range. Both R1a/R1b found in Eneolithic Samara and EHG, so in conclusion Yamnaya expansion still the best proximate source for the post-3,000 BCE population change in central Europe. And since 2015 steppe expansion detected elsewhere (Cassidy et al. 16, Martiniano et al. 17, Mittnik et al. 17, Mathieson et al. 17, Lazaridis et al. 2016 (South Asia) and …?…

I love the smell of new wording in the morning… viz. Yamnaya best proximate source for Corded Ware, Corded Ware might account for only a subset of Indo-European languages, Corded Ware representing Aryan languages (probably Klejn misinterprets what the authors mean, i.e. some kind of Indo-Slavonic or Germano-Balto-Slavic group)…

We shall expect more and more ambiguous rewording and more adjustments of previous conclusions as new papers and new criticisms appear.

Related:

Featured image from the article: Distribution of the ‘Yamnaya’ genetic component in the populations of Europe (data taken from Haak et al., 2015). The intensity of the colour corresponds to the contribution of this component in various modern populations

Indo-European demic diffusion model, 2nd edition, revised and updated

It has been three months since I published the first paper on the Indo-European demic diffusion model.

In the meantime, important pre-print papers with samples of Bell Beaker and South-Eastern European cultures compel me to add new data in support of the model. I have taken this opportunity to revise the whole text in a new paper, Indo-European demic diffusion model, 2nd edition, and also some of the maps of Indo-European migrations, which are now hosted in this blog.

I have made changes to some of the old blogs I had, like this one, and I have merged two of them (from carlosquiles.com and indo-european.info) in this domain, indo-european.eu, to begin blogging about anthropological questions regarding Proto-Indo-Europeans and their language.

This blog was used years ago as my personal dialectic training site in English, mostly filled with controversial topics, and while I hope to keep some form of discussion, I want to turn it into a more pragmatic blog for news and reports on Indo-European studies.

Indo-European.info will be used as a collaborative Wiki website for this model to include supplementary information from published papers – such as results of individual and group’s admixture analyses, archaeological information of individual samples, and also mtDNA. To collaborate, users will have to request an account first (it will be a closed community), and those with important contributions will be added as authors of the following editions of the paper.

Esperanto vs. Europaio?

I’ve recently read in some forums about Indo-European revival being a “new IAL” with ‘no chances against Esperanto‘.

The objective of Europaio is – and was – never to substitute Esperanto or to undermine the Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, etc. communities. We are very respectful of the long tradition of IALs in building worldwide communities around international, ‘neutral’ languages, for our society to become more democratic, more jointly liable, or whatever those groups may seek.

However, things should always be clear to everyone when comparing Indo-European with such languages:

  • Esperanto is an artifcial language invented by one man, as there are hundreds of them. Europaio (as a modern Indo-European) is a unique, natural, reconstructed language.
  • Esperanto hasn’t been ever spoken but for some erudite meetings. Indo-European was spoken by a prehistoric community, and its dialects are now spoken by half the world’s population; also, many classical language students in European Universities have attended (Proto-)Indo-European courses as obligatory subjects to obtain their degrees.
  • Esperanto’s aim a century ago was to be spoken as the only IAL; some are still waiting. Europaio’s not-so-ambitious aim is to become the EU’s common language, to help further integration into a single country; we haven’t even begun to promote it, and our idea is quickly dismissed by some.
  • Esperanto’s clones – or, better, Volapük clonesare infinite, and the newer are supposedly better than the older ones. Indo-European (or better late PIE) was and is only one, although different approaches can be made to its writing and syntax system – as with any other natural language.
  • Esperanto was made by a conlang fan, as all other constructed languages. We don’t see Indo-European revival as a cultural experiment, or as a personal hobby – we rely, in fact, on more than two centuries of IE studies; we think Europaio will match the European linguistic needs for real cohesion, and will mean an overwhelming social, economic, educational and political integration movement if it succeeds. We are far from considering all this a game or a hobby.

The first motto we thought about to promote Europaio some months ago was “Europaio’s not another Esperanto!” (like “GNU’s not Unix!”), but I personally disliked it because it seemed to undermine the efforts of whole communities of well-minded conlang-supporters; it was eventually discarded because (surprisingly) many people hadn’t ever heard about Esperanto, so misunderstandings based on linking artificial languages with Europaio weren’t so likely as we firstly thought.

Now I cannot make a Google search for “Europaio” without finding it related to other five-or-ten-minute-grammar’s conlangs, and without reading some comments criticizing our lack of support for our ‘not-so-powerful conlang’, and I just cannot believe that such comments come mainly from conlangers and others who haven’t even read our project.

We are not politically involved, as we wanted to represent an apolitical (indeed Pro-European) linguistic movement, but this kind of initial reactions are making us seriously reflect on becoming politically active at a European level, whether as a provisional platform, as an association or even as a EU-only political party.

I hope those communities realize that what we are doing is trying to unite locally to act globally, and not vice-versa, and thus we are not confronted, but just acting in two very different levels. We have certainly proposed an IAL project (Sindhueuropaiom), just as some of them have proposed Esperanto as EU’s language, but both proposals are mainly theoretical and probably out of each other’s scope.

Our Europaio proposal is as real as the EU, and theirs as utopic as a worldwide (private) agreement over adopting a one-man’s language. No matter how big and strong their historic communities are, these facts will not change; they can accept it and maybe collaborate with us or others in IE revival – or just stay aside -, or they can foolishly try to undermine our efforts, thus unnecessarily confronting two very different worlds.

[By the way, we usually compare – and criticize – Esperanto and other conlangs, as we do with English, English-French, English-French-German, Multilingualism and Latin, because they all have been proposed for EU’s future language policy. Europaio is not really opposed to any of those languages, though, unless they compete for the role of EU’s main language]

Indo-European? Why?

I was thinking about the conversation I am going to have with the person responsible of a University Department of Classical Languages. And all of a sudden the most obvious question I could face arose: why? A simple question deserves a simple and clear answer, and I wanted it written down here, too; so I came to the main implicit reasons hypothesis under which we work:

  1. The uprising and fall of civilizations is a random event, which depends on too many factors to be completely ascertained by any academic discipline.
  2. The more powerful a country is (and the richer its citizens), the greater its scientific and cultural investments and achievements.
  3. At any given time and community, the language used as lingua franca is the one spoken by the most powerful (or influential) Nation, as others struggle to catch up with its knowledge.

You may believe that English is accepted as the main lingua franca today because it is easier or prettier than other important languages (say Chinese or German). You may also be one of those who think that it was because of some important values the Brittish Empire had and exported (say Constitution or liberalism) that English-speaking countries (especially the US) were to lead today, while others – as Latin or Arab countries – lack those values; such values would have been related, then, not only to wealth and modernization, but also to some English underlying democratic substrate.

Now, think about the same past role of languages like Greek, Latin or French – or even Chinese, Persian, Arabian, Russian or German in its surrounding territories -; if you still believe that, then you probably won’t see the point in adopting Europaio as our common language in the EU and Indo-European as the world’s main language – I certainly wouldn’t.