Scytho-Siberians of Aldy-Bel and Sagly, of haplogroup R1a-Z93, Q1b-L54, and N


Recently, a paper described Eastern Scythian groups as “Uralic-Altaic” just because of the appearance of haplogroup N in two Pazyryk samples.

This simplistic identification is contested by the varied haplogroups found in early Altaic groups, by the early link of Cimmerians with the expansion of hg. N and Q, by the link of N1c-L392 in north-eastern Europe with Palaeo-Laplandic, and now (paradoxically) by the clear link between early Mongolic expansion and N1c-L392 subclades.

A new paper (behind paywall) offers insight into the prevalent presence of R1a-Z93 among eastern Scytho-Siberian groups (most likely including Samoyedic speakers in the forest-steppes), and a new hint to the westward expansion of haplogroups Q and N (probably coupled with the so-called “Siberian ancestry”) from the east with different groups of Iron Age steppe nomads:

Genetic kinship and admixture in Iron Age Scytho-Siberians, by Mary et al. Human Genetics (2019).

Interesting excerpts (emphasis mine):

From an archeological and historical point of view, the term “Scythians” refers to Iron Age nomadic or seminomadic populations characterized by the presence of three types of artifacts in male burials: typical weapons, specific horse harnesses and items decorated in the so-called “Animal Style”. This complex of goods has been termed the “Scythian triad” and was considered to be characteristic of nomadic groups belonging to the “Scythian World” (Yablonsky 2001). This “Scythian World” includes both the Classic (or European) Scythians from the North Pontic region (7th–3th century BC) and the Southern Siberian (or Asian) populations of the Scythian period (also called Scytho-Siberians). These include, among others, the Sakas from Kazakhstan, the Tagar population from the Minusinsk Basin (Republic of Khakassia), the Aldy-Bel population from Tuva (Russian Federation) and the Pazyryk and Sagly cultures from the Altai Mountains.

Proportions of Scythian mtDNA haplogroups. Western (blue) and eastern (pink) Eurasian lineages are equally distributed in the Arzhan Scytho-Siberian sample. The U5a2a1 haplogroup shared between the two Scythian groups studied is in bold

In this work, we first aim to address the question of the familial and social organization of Scytho-Siberian groups by studying the genetic relationship of 29 individuals from the Aldy-Bel and Sagly cultures using autosomal STRs. (…) were obtained from 5 archeological sites located in the valley of the Eerbek river in Tuva Republic, Russia (Fig. 1). All the mounds of this archeological site were excavated but DNA samples were not collected from all of them. 14C dates mainly fall within the Hallstatt radiocarbon calibration plateau (ca. 800–400 cal BC) where the chronological resolution is poor. Only one date falls on an earlier segment of calibration curve: Le 9817–2650 ± 25 BP, i.e. 843–792 cal BC with a probability of 94.3% (using the OxCal v4.3.2 program). This sample (Bai-Dag 8, Kurgan 1, grave 10) is not from one of the graves studied but was used to date the kurgan as a whole.

Y-chromosome haplogroups were first assigned using the ISOGG 2018 nomenclature. In order to improve the precision of haplogroup definition, we also analyzed a set of Y-chromosome SNP (Supplementary Table 2). Nine samples belonged to the R1a-M513 haplogroup (defined by marker M513) and two of these nine samples were characterized as belonging to the R1a1a1b2-Z93 haplogroup or one of its subclades. Six samples belonged to the Q1b1a-L54 haplogroup and five of these six samples belonged to the Q1b1a3-L330 subclade. One sample belonged to the N-M231 haplogroup.


The distribution of these haplogroups in the population must be confronted with the prevalence of kinship among the samples. Although five individuals belonged to haplogroup Q1b1a3-L330, three of them (ARZ-T18, ARZ-T19 and ARZ-T20) were paternally related (Fig. 2). It must, therefore, be considered that haplogroup Q1b1a3-L330 is present in three independent instances (given that the remaining two instances exhibit no close familial relationship with other samples or one another). All five were buried on the Eki-Ottug 1 archaeological site (although in two different kurgans).

In the same way, although two groups, of two and three individuals, shared haplotypes belonging to the R1a-M513 haplogroup, these groups likely include a father/son pair (ARZ-T2 and ARZ-T12). Therefore, among nine R1a-M513 men, we found six independent haplotypes, one being present in two independent instances. All R1a-M513 haplotypes, however, including those attributed to the R1a1a1b2-Z93 subclade, only differed by one-step mutations, across 5 loci at most. All R1a-M513 individuals were buried on the same site, Eki-Ottug 2, in a single Kurgan.


Haplogroup R1a-M173 was previously reported for 6 Scytho-Siberian individuals from the Tagar culture (Keyser et al. 2009) and one Altaian Scytho-Siberian from the Sebÿstei site (Ricaut et al. 2004a), whereas haplogroup R1a1a1b2-Z93 (or R1a1a1b-S224) was described for one Scythian from Samara (Mathieson et al. 2015) and two Scytho-Siberians from Berel and the Tuva Republic (Unterländer et al. 2017). On the contrary, North Pontic Scythians were found to belong to the R1b1a1a2 haplogroup (Krzewińska et al. 2018), showing a distinction between the two groups of Scythians. (…) The absence of R1b lineages in the Scytho-Siberian individuals tested so far and their presence in the North Pontic Scythians suggest that these 2 groups had a completely different paternal lineage makeup with nearly no gene flow from male carriers between them.

The seven other male individuals studied in this work were found to carry Eastern Eurasian Y haplogroups Q1b1a and one of its subclades (n = 6) and N (n = 1). Haplogroup Q1b1a-L54 was previously described in four males from the Bronze Age in the Altai Mountains (Hollard et al. 2014, 2018) and was clearly associated with Siberian populations (Regueiro et al. 2013).

The N-M231 haplogroup emerged from haplogroup K in Southern Asia around 21,000 years BCE, maybe in Southern China (Shi et al. 2013; Ilumäe et al. 2016). Previous studies attested to its presence in samples from Neolithic and Bronze Age in China (Li et al. 2011; Cui et al. 2013). Waves of northwestern expansion of this haplogroup are described as beginning during the Paleolithic period (Derenko et al. 2006; Shi et al. 2013) but traces of this expansion in archeological samples were reported only in two Scytho-Siberian males from the Altai (Pilipenko et al. 2015).

The sample of haplogroup N comes from the Aldy-Bel culture (ARZ-T15), from the Eerbek site, but has no radiocarbon date. All Q1b-L330 samples come from the Sagly culture, and three are paternally related. The other Q1b-L54 sample is from other tombs in one kurgan at Aldy Bel.

It seems that – exactly as expected – different waves of steppe nomads brought different lineages at a time (the Iron Age) when many regions incorporated different eastern lineages without necessarily changing language. Just like the expansion of N among Ugrians and Samoyeds, and N1c among Finno-Permic peoples, and like many other lineages expanding with federation-like groups in eastern, central, and western Europe


Updated phylogenetic tree of haplogroup Q-M242 points to Palaeolithic expansions


New paper (behind paywall) Paternal origin of Paleo-Indians in Siberia: insights from Y-chromosome sequences by Wei et al., Eur. J. Hum. Genet. (2018)

Interesting excerpts (for Eurasian migrations):

Differentiation and diffusion in Palaeolithic Siberia

Based on the phylogenetic analyses and the current distributions of relative sub-lineages, we propose that the prehistoric population differentiation in Siberia after the LGM (post-LGM) provided the genetic basis for the emergence of the Paleo-Indian, American aborigine, population. According to the phylogenetic tree of Y-chromosome haplogroup C2-M217 (Fig. 2 and Figure S1), eight sub-lineages emerged in a short period between 15.3 kya and 14.3 kya (Table S5). Within these sub-lineages, haplogroups C2-M48, C2-F1918, and C2- F1756 are predominant paternal lineages in modern Altaic-speaking populations [46, 51, 52]. Samples of haplogroups C2-F8535 and C2-P53.1 were found in two Turkic- and Mongolic-speaking minorities in China (Table S1). Both archeological and genetic data suggest that Altaic-speaking populations are results of population expansion in the past several thousand years in the Altai Mountain, Mongolia Plateau, and Amur River region [51–54].

By contrast, three other sub-lineages, C2-B79, C2-B77, and C2-P39, appear only in Koryaks and Native Americans [16, 35]. The latitude of the Altai Mountain, the Mongolia Plateau, and Amur River region are much lower than that of Beringia, where the ancestors of Native Americans finally separated from their close relatives in Siberia. Therefore, the phylogeographic patterns of sub-lineages of C2-M217 in this study reveal a major splitting event between populations in a lower latitude region of Siberia and ancestors of Koryaks and Native Americans during the post-LGM period.

The sub-lineages of the Y-chromosome Q-M242 haplogroup were found in populations throughout the Eurasia continent. According to available data, the Q1-L804 lineage is exclusively found in Northwest Europe, while Q1-M120 is primarily restricted to East Asia [48]. Additionally, the lineage Q1-L330 is the predominant paternal lineage in Altai, Tuva, and Kets in South Siberia [34–36, 55]. A number of Q1-M242 samples have also been found in ancient remains from South Siberia and adjacent regions [56, 57]. Other sub-lineages of Q-M242 are scattered widely in different geographic regions of Eurasia, including Q1-L275, Q1-M25, and Q1-Y2659 [14, 35, 37, 58]. Additionally, the Y-chromosome of a 6000–5100 BCE sample (I4550) from Zvejnieki, Latvia has been identified as Q1-L56 [59]. These findings suggest that the sub-lineages of Q-M242 started to diffuse throughout Eurasia in a very ancient period.

Founding paternal lineages of American aborigines and their most closely related lineages among Eurasia populations

Emergence of Paleo-Indian populations

The revised phylogenetic tree of Y-chromosome haplogroup Q-M242 in this study provides clues regarding the origin of Native American lineages Q1-M3 and Q1-Z780 (Fig. 3). According to our estimates, haplogroup Q1-L54 expanded rapidly between 17.2 kya and 15.0 kya and finally gave rise to two major founding paternal lineages of Native American populations, known as Q1-Z780 and Q1-M3. Ancient DNA studies indicate that the early population in South Siberia, represented by MA1 genomes, had a genetic influence on both modern western European and Native American populations [7]. Therefore, we conclude that the accumulated diversity of sub-lineages of Q-M242 before 15.3 kya resulted from the in situ differentiation of Q-M242 in Central Eurasia and South Siberia since the Paleolithic Age, and the appearance of the Paleo-Indian population is part of the great human diffusion throughout the Eurasia after the Last Glacial Maximum.

The Southern Caucasus PIE homeland

Image modified from Wang et al. (2018). Samples projected in PCA of 84 modern-day West Eurasian populations (open symbols). Previously known clusters have been marked and referenced. An EHG and a Caucasus ‘clouds’ have been drawn, leaving Pontic-Caspian steppe and derived groups between them.See the original file here.

The origin of Q-M242 in Zvejnieki, like those of Lola (Q1a2-M25) and Steppe Maykop (Q1a2-M25) from Wang et al. (2018) are therefore most likely migrations throughout North Eurasia dated to the Palaeolithic.

As you might remember, the sample of haplogroup Q1a from Khvalynsk was the closest one (in the PCA, see above) to those we now know most likely represent one or more groups of the steppe north of the Caucasus, which were absorbed during the formation and expansion of Khvalynsk.

NOTE. In fact, the position of this early Khvalynsk sample in the PCA is near the Steppe Eneolithic cluster, in turn near ANE (with the Lola sample Q1a2-M25, circle in dark blue/violet above), and Steppe Maykop (which includes the other Q1a2-M25 sample).

It is often assumed that these populations absorbed in the Pontic-Caspian steppe were dominated by haplogroup J, due to the oldest representatives of CHG ancestry (Kotias Klde and Satsurblia).

However, it would not be surprising now to find out that (one or more of) these “CHG/ANE-rich” groups from the steppe (possibly the Kairshak culture in the North Caspian region) were in fact dominated by Q1-M25 subclades.

If this is the case, I don’t know where the proponents of the (south of the) Caucasus homeland will retreat to.