Reactionary views on new Yamna and Bell Beaker data, and the newest IECWT model

You might expect some rambling about bad journalism here, but I don’t have time to read so much garbage to analyze them all. We have seen already what they did with the “blackness” or “whiteness” of the Cheddar Man: no paper published, just some informal data, but too much sensationalism already.

Some people who supported far-fetched theories on Indo-European migrations or common European haplogroups are today sharing some weeping and gnashing of teeth around forums and blogs – although, to be fair, neither Olalde et al. (2018) nor Mathieson et al. (2018) actually gave any surprising new data that you couldn’t infer before… People are nevertheless in the middle of the five stages of grief (for whatever expectations they had for new samples), and acceptance will surely take some time.

They will be confronted with two options:

  1. Keep fighting for what they believed, however wrong it turns out to be – after all, we still see all kinds of autochthonous continuists out there, no matter how much data there is against their views. People want to be supporters of a West European origin of R1b-M269 linked to Vasconic languages, fans of R1b-M269 continuity in Central Europe, Uralic speakers who believe in hidden N1c communities in Mesolithic or Neolithic Eastern Europe, fans of the OIT and Indian origins of R1a-M417…
  2. Just accept what seems now clear, change their model, and go on.
wiik-modified
Modified from Wiik for the current autochthonous continuity fans: Vasconic-Uralic distribution and Indo-European folk distribution

For me, the second option sounds quite simple, since whatever happens – markers of Indo-European migration being R1a or R1b, Corded Ware or Bell Beaker, or bothour group’s aim for the past 15 years or so is to support a North-West Indo-European proto-language, so any of the most reasonable anthropological models are a priori compatible with that. My model of Indo-European demic diffusion fits best the most recent proto-language guesstimates, though.

However, I understand that if I had been buying or selling dreams – and I mean literally buying or selling fantasies of whiteness and Europeanness (hidden behind an idealized concept of “Indo-European”, and ancestral components disguised as populations), beginning with the ‘R1a-M417/CWC’ and ‘Yamnaya ancestry’ craze of the 2015 papers – , and I realized data didn’t support that money exchange, I would be frustrated, too.

There is a funny mental process going on here for some of these people, as far as I could read today. Let me review some history of the Indo-European question here before getting to the point:

  1. Firstly linguists reconstructed (and are still doing it) Proto-Indo-European and other ancestral Indo-European proto-languages.
  2. Then archaeologists tried to identify certain ancestral cultures with these actual communities with help from linguistic guesstimates and dialectal classifications,
  3. using anthropological models of migration or cultural diffusion.
  4. Then genetic data came to support one of these alternative anthropological models, if possible.

Now some (amateur) geneticists are apparently disregarding what “Indo-European” means, and why Yamna was considered the best candidate for the expansion of Late Indo-European languages, and question the very sciences of Linguistics and Archaeology as unreliable, instead of questioning their own false assumptions and wrong interpretations from genetic papers.

Really? Genomics (especially ancestral components) now defines what an Indo-European population, culture, and language is? If that is not a fallacy of circular reasoning, I wonder what is.

The modified IECWT model

The surprise today came from the quick reaction of one member of the IECWT workgroup, Guus Kroonen, in his draft Comments to Olalde et al. 2018., The Beaker phenomenon and the genomic, transformation of northwest Europe, Nature.

Allentoft Corded Ware
The IECWT workgroup’s so-called “Steppe model” until today, as presented in Haak et al. (2015).

He and – I can only guess – the whole IECWT workgroup finally rejected their characteristic Corded Ware -> Bell Beaker migration model – which they defended as “The steppe model” of Indo-European migration in Haak et al. 2015. They now defend a proposal similar to Anthony (2007).

Fan fact: Anthony changed his mind recently to partially support what Heyd said in 2007. While I did not dislike Anthony’s new model, I consider it wrong.

The Danish group – unsurprisingly – sticks nevertheless to the hypothesis of some kind of autochthonous Germanic in Scandinavia being defined by Corded Ware migrants and haplogroup R1a, and being somehow special and older among Proto-Indo-European dialects because of its non-Indo-European substrate – although in fact Kroonen’s original linguistic paper didn’t imply so.

While this new change of the workgroup’s model brings it closer to Heyd (2007), and parallels in that sense the adaptation process of Anthony (but always one step behind), what they are proposing right now seems not anymore a modified Kurgan model, as I described it: it is essentially The Kurgan model of Marija Gimbutas (1963), with Bell Beakers spreading a language ancestral to Italo-Celtic, and Corded Ware spreading some kind of mythical Germano-Balto-Slavic

I find it odd that he would not cite Gimbutas, Heyd – as Anthony recently did – , or the most recent paper of Mallory on the language expanded with Bell Beakers, but just the workgroup’s papers and other old ones, to present this “new” theory.

However simple and (obviously) rapidly drafted it was, following the publications in Nature, it does not seem right: They were first, they were right, acknowledge them. Period.

It is interesting how the wrong interpretations of the ‘Yamnaya ancestral component’ (you know, that bulletproof “Yamna R1a-R1b community” and Yamna->Corded Ware migration that never happened) is affecting everyone involved in Indo-European studies.

Related:

Another nail in the coffin for the Anatolian hypothesis: continuity and isolation in the Caucasus during the Neolithic and Calcholithic, in mtDNA samples

caucasus-armenia

A new paper appeared on Current Biology, by Margaryan et al. (including Morten E. Allentoft): Eight Millennia of Matrilineal Genetic Continuity in the South Caucasus.

Among its conclusions:

The plot clearly shows the clustering of the ancient group together with the modern European, Armenian, and Caucasian populations. We observe none of the typical East Eurasian mtDNA lineages (A, C, D, F, G, and M) among the ancient individuals, and only one individual with haplogroup D is present in the modern Armenian maternal gene pool (Artsakh). As such, the archaeologically and historically attested migrations of Central Asian groups (e.g., Turks and Mongols) into the South Caucasus [14, 15] do not seem to have had a major contribution in the maternal gene pool of Armenians. Both geographic (mountainous area) and cultural (Indo-European-speaking Christians and Turkic-speaking Muslims) factors could have served as barriers for genetic contacts between Armenians and Muslim invaders in the 11th–14th centuries CE. The same pattern was observed using Y chromosome markers in geographically diverse Armenian groups.

Also, regarding the potential Indo-European migration into the area:

It appears that during the last eight millennia, there were no major genetic turnovers in the female gene pool in the South Caucasus, despite multiple well-documented cultural changes in the region [27, 28]. This is in contrast to the dramatic shifts of mtDNA lineages occurring in Central Europe during the same time period, which suggests either a different mode of cultural change in the two regions or that the genetic turnovers simply occurred later in Europe compared to the South Caucasus. More data from earlier Mesolithic cultures in the South Caucasus are needed to clarify this. During the highly dynamic Bronze Age and Iron Age periods, with the formation of complex societies and the emergence of distinctive cultures such as Kura-Araxes, Trialeti-Vanadsor, Sevan-Artsakh, Karmir-Berd, Karmir-Vank, Lchashen-Metsamor, and Urartian, we cannot document any changes in the female gene pool. This supports a cultural diffusion model in the South Caucasus, unless the demographic changes were heavily male biased, as was most likely the case in Europe during the Bronze Age migrations [29, 30]. However, genome-wide data from the few Bronze Age individuals published so far from the South Caucasus also support a continuity scenario [26]. Another possibility is that any gene flow into the South Caucasus occurred from groups with a very similar genetic composition, facilitating only subtle genetic changes that are not detectable with the current datasets.

I would obviously support the latter possibility, a demic diffusion that can be shown by precise subclade and admixture analyses, because cultural diffusion is quite difficult to justify in any ancient setting. Since it is most likely south-eastern European R1b-Z2103 lineages (or R1b-M269, if resurged during the proto-language transition in the Balkans) the original marker of Palaeo-Balkan speakers, that is what one should be looking for in Y-DNA investigation in the area. Since migrations were probably male-biased, it is not likely that mtDNA was much affected. But, especially during the Iron Age, a change should also be seen, marked by the appearance of (recent) U subclades.

Related:

The Aryan migration debate, the Out of India models, and the modern “indigenous Indo-Aryan” sectarianism

On the origin of R1a and R1b subclades in Greece

News of the article seen first in Eurogenes (you can see the specific samples there).

Featured image is from the article.