We know that the Caucasus Mountains formed a persistent prehistoric barrier to cultural and population movements. Nevertheless, an even more persistent frontier to population movements in Europe, especially since the Neolithic, is the Pontic-Caspian steppe – forest-steppe ecotone.
Like the Caucasus, this barrier could certainly be crossed, and peoples and cultures could permeate in both directions, but there have been no massive migrations through it. The main connection between both regions (steppe vs. forest-steppe/forest zone) was probably through its eastern part, through the Samara region in the Middle Volga.
The chances of population expansions crossing this natural barrier anywhere else seem quite limited, with a much less porous crossing region in the west, through the Dnieper-Dniester corridor.
A Persistent ecological and cultural frontier
It is very difficult to think about any culture that transgressed this persistent ecological and cultural frontier: many prehistoric and historical steppe pastoralists did appear eventually in the neighbouring forest-steppe areas during their expansions (e.g. Yamna, Scythians, or Turks), as did forest groups who permeated to the south (e.g. Comb Ware, GAC, or Abashevo), but their respective hold in foreign biomes was mostly temporary, because their cultures had to adapt to the new ecological environment. Most if not all groups originally from a different ecological niche eventually disappeared, subjected to renewed demographic pressure from neighbouring steppe or forest populations…
Before the emergence of pastoralism, the cultural contacts of the Pontic region (i.e. forest-steppes) with the Baltic were intense. In fact, the connection of the north Pontic area with the Baltic through the Dnieper-Dniester corridor and the Podolian-Volhynian region is essential to understand the spread of peoples of post-Maglemosian and post-Swiderian cultures (to the south), hunter-gatherer pottery (to the north), TRB (to the south), Late Trypillian groups (north), GAC (south), or Comb Ware (south) (see here for Eneolithic movements), and finally steppe ancestry and R1a-Z645 with Corded Ware (north). After the complex interaction of TRB, Trypillia, GAC, and CWC during the expansion of late Repin, this traditional long-range connection is lost and only emerges sporadically, such as with the expansion of East Germanic tribes.
A barrier to steppe migrations into northern Europe
One may think that this barrier was more permeable, then, in the past. However, the frontier is between steppe and forest-steppe ecological niches, and this barrier evolved during prehistory due to climate changes. The problem is, before the drought that began ca. 4000 BC and increased until the Yamna expansion, the steppe territory in the north Pontic region was much smaller, merely a strip of coastal land, compared to its greater size ca. 3300 BC and later.
This – apart from the cultural and technological changes associated with nomadic pastoralism – justifies the traditional connection of the north Pontic forest-steppes to the north, broken precisely after the expansion of Khvalynsk, as the north Pontic area became gradually a steppe region. The strips of north Pontic and Azov steppes and Crimea seem to have had stronger connections to the Northern Caucasus and Northern Caspian steppes than with the neighbouring forest-steppe areas during the Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic.
NOTE. We still don’t know the genetic nature of Mikhailovka or Ezero, steppe-related groups possibly derived from Novodanilovka and Suvorovo close to the Black Sea (which possibly include groups from the Pannonian plains), and how they compare to neighbouring typically forest-steppe cultures of the so-called late Sredni Stog groups, like Dereivka or partly Kvityana.
Despite the Pontic-Caspian steppes and forest-steppes neighbouring each other for ca. 2,000 km, peoples from forested and steppe areas had an obvious advantage in their own regions, most likely due to the specialization of their subsistence economy. While this is visible already in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, the arrival of the Neolithic package in the Pontic-Caspian region incremented the difference between groups, by spreading specialized animal domestication. The appearance of nomadic pastoralism adapted to the steppe, eventually including the use of horses and carts, made the cultural barrier based on the economic know-how even stronger.
Even though groups could still adapt and permeate a different territory (from steppe to forest-steppe/forest and vice-versa), this required an important cultural change, to the extent that it is eventually complicated to distinguish these groups from neighbouring ones (like north-west Pontic Mesolithic or Neolithic groups and their interaction with the steppes, Trypillia-Usatovo, Scythians-Thracians, etc.). In fact, this steppe – forest-steppe barrier is also seen to the east of the Urals, with the distinct expansion of Andronovo and Seima-Turbino/Andronovo-like horizons, which seem to represent completely different ethnolinguistic groups.
As a result of this cultural and genetic barrier, like that formed by the Northern Caucasus:
1) No steppe pastoralist culture (which after the emergence of Khvalynsk means almost invariably horse-riding, chariot-using nomadic herders who could easily pasture their cows in the huge grasslands without direct access to water) has ever been successful in spreading to the north or north-west into northern Europe, until the Mongols. No forest culture has ever been successful in expanding to the steppes, either (except for the infiltration of Abashevo into Sintashta-Potapovka).
2) Corded Ware was not an exception: like hunter-gatherer pottery before it (and like previous population movements of TRB, late Trypillia, GAC, Comb Ware or Lublin-Volhynia settlers) their movements between the north Pontic area and central Europe happened through forest-steppe ecological niches due to their adaptation to them. There is no reason to support a direct connection of CWC with true steppe cultures.
3) The so-called “Steppe ancestry” permeated the steppe – forest-steppe ecotone for hundreds of years during the 5th and early 4th millennium BC, due to the complex interaction of different groups, and probably to the aridization trend that expanded steppe (and probably forest-steppe) to the north. Language, culture, and paternal lineages did not cross that frontier, though.
EDIT (4 FEB 2019): Wang et al. is out in Nature Communications. They deleted the Yamna Hungary samples and related analyses, but it’s interesting to see where exactly they think the trajectory of admixture of Yamna with European MN cultures fits best. This path could also be inferred long ago from the steppe connections shown by the Yamna Hungary -> Bell Beaker evolution and by early Balkan samples:
While the true source of R1a-M417 – the main haplogroup eventually associated with Corded Ware, and thus Uralic speakers – is still not known with precision, due to the lack of R1a-M198 in ancient samples, we already know that the Pontic-Caspian steppes were probably not it.
R1a-M459 (xR1a-M198) lineages appear from the Mesolithic to the Chalcolithic scattered from the Baltic to the Caucasus, from the Dniester to Samara, in a situation similar to haplogroups Q1a-M25 and R1b-L754, which supports the idea that R1a, Q1a, and R1b expanded with ANE ancestry, possibly in different waves since the Epipalaeolithic, and formed the known ANE:EHG:WHG cline.
The first confirmed R1a-M417 sample comes from Alexandria, roughly coinciding with the so-called steppe hiatus. Its emergence in the area of the previous “early Sredni Stog” groups (see the mess of the traditional interpretation of the north Pontic groups as “Sredni Stog”) and its later expansion with Corded Ware supports Kristiansen’s interpretation that Corded Ware emerged from the Dnieper-Dniester corridor, although samples from the area up to ca. 4000 BC, including the few Middle Eneolithic samples available, show continuity of hg. I2a-M223 and typical Ukraine Neolithic ancestry.
NOTE. The further subclade R1a-Z93 (Y26) reported for the sample from Alexandria seems too early, given the confidence interval for its formation (ca. 3500-2500 BC); even R1a-Z645 could be too early. Like the attribution of the R1b-L754 from Khvalynsk to R1b-V1636 (after being previously classifed as of Pre-V88 and M73 subclade), it seems reasonable to take these SNP calls with a pinch of salt: especially because Yleaf (designed to look for the furthest subclade possible) does not confirm for them any subclade beyond R1a-M417 and R1b-L754, respectively.
The sudden appearance of “steppe ancestry” in the region, with the high variability shown by Ukraine_Eneolithic samples, suggests that this is due to recent admixture of incoming foreign peoples (of Ukraine Neolithic / Comb Ware ancestry) with Novodanilovka settlers.
The most likely origin of this population, taking into account the most common population movements in the area since the Neolithic, is the infiltration of (mainly) hunter-gatherers from the forest areas. That would confirm the traditional interpretation of the origin of Uralic speakers in the forest zone, although the nature of Pontic-Caspian settlers as hunter-gatherers rather than herders make this identification today fully unnecessary (see here).
EDIT (3 FEB 2019): As for the most common guesstimates for Proto-Uralic, roughly coinciding with the expansion of this late Sredni Stog community (ca. 4000 BC), you can read the recent post by J. Pystynen in Freelance Reconstruction, Probing the roots of Samoyedic.
NOTE. Although my initial simplistic interpretation (of early 2017) of Comb Ware peoples – traditionally identified as Uralic speakers – potentially showing steppe ancestry was probably wrong, it seems that peoples from the forest zone – related to Comb Ware or neighbouring groups like Lublyn-Volhynia – reached forest-steppe areas to the south and eventually expanded steppe ancestry into east-central Europe through the Volhynian Upland to the Polish Upland, during the late Trypillian disintegration (see a full account of the complex interactions of the Final Eneolithic).
The most interesting aspect of ascertaining the origin of R1a-M417, given its prevalence among Uralic speakers, is to precisely locate the origin of contacts between Late Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Uralic. Traditionally considered as the consequence of contacts between Middle and Upper Volga regions, the most recent archaeological research and data from ancient DNA samples has made it clear that it is Corded Ware the most likely vector of expansion of Uralic languages, hence these contacts of Indo-Europeans of the Volga-Ural region with Uralians have to be looked for in neighbours of the north Pontic area.
My bet – rather obvious today – is that the Don River area is the source of the earliest borrowings of Late Uralic from Late Indo-European (i.e. post-Indo-Anatolian). The borrowing of the Late PIE word for ‘horse’ is particularly interesting in this regard. Later contacts (after the loss of the initial laryngeal) may be attributed to the traditionally depicted Corded Ware – Yamna contact zone in the Dnieper-Dniester area.
NOTE. While the finding of R1a-M417 populations neighbouring R1b-L23 in the Don-Volga interfluve would be great to confirm these contacts, I don’t know if the current pace of more and more published samples will continue. The information we have right now, in my opinion, suffices to support close contacts of neighbouring Indo-Europeans and Uralians in the Pontic-Caspian area during the Late Eneolithic.
Single Grave and central Corded Ware groups – showing some of the earliest available dates (emerging likely ca. 3000/2900 BC) – are as varied in their haplogroups as it is expected from a sink (which does not in the least resemble the Volga-Ural population):
Interesting is the presence of R1b-L754 in Obłaczkowo, potentially of R1b-V88 subclade, as previously found in two Central European individuals from Blätterhole MN (ca. 3650 and 3200 BC), and in the Iron Gates and north Pontic areas.
Haplogroups I2a and G have also been reported in early samples, all potentially related to the supposed Corded Ware central-east European homeland, likely in southern Poland, a region naturally connected to the north Pontic forest-steppe area and to the expansion of Neolithic groups.
The true bottlenecks under haplogroup R1a-Z645 seem to have happened only during the migration of Corded Ware to the east: to the north into the Battle Axe culture, mainly under R1a-Z282, and to the south into Middle Dnieper – Fatyanovo-Balanovo – Abashevo, probably eventually under R1a-Z93.
This bottleneck also supports in archaeology the expansion of a sort of unifying “Corded Ware A-horizon” spreading with people (disputed by Furholt), the disintegrating Uralians, and thus a source of further loanwords shared by all surviving Uralic languages.
Confirming this ‘concentrated’ Uralic expansion to the east is the presence of R1a-M417 (xR1a-Z645) lineages among early and late Single Grave groups in the west – which essentially disappeared after the Bell Beaker expansion – , as well as the presence of these subclades in modern Central and Western Europeans. Central European groups became thus integrated in post-Bell Beaker European EBA cultures, and their Uralic dialect likely disappeared without a trace.
NOTE. The fate of R1b-L51 lineages – linked to North-West Indo-Europeans undergoing a bottleneck in the Yamna Hungary -> Bell Beaker migration to the west – is thus similar to haplogroup R1a-Z645 – linked to the expansion of Late Uralians to the east – , hence proving the traditional interpretation of the language expansions as male-driven migrations. These are two of the most interesting genetic data we have to date to confirm previous language expansions and dialectal classifications.
It will be also interesting to see if known GAC and Corded Ware I2a-Y6098 subclades formed eventually part of the ancient Uralic groups in the east, apart from lineages which will no doubt appear among asbestos ware groups and probably hunter-gatherers from north-eastern Europe (see the recent study by Tambets et al. 2018).
Corded Ware ancestry marked the expansion of Uralians
Sadly, some brilliant minds decided in 2015 that the so-called “Yamnaya ancestry” (now more appropriately called “steppe ancestry”) should be associated to ‘Indo-Europeans’. This is causing the development of various new pet theories on the go, as more and more data contradicts this interpretation.
There is a clear long-lasting cultural, populational, and natural barrier between Yamna and Corded Ware: they are derived from different ancestral populations, which show clearly different ancestry and ancestry evolution (although they did converge to some extent), as well as different Y-DNA bottlenecks; they show different cultures, including those of preceding and succeeding groups, and evolved in different ecological niches. The only true steppe pastoralists who managed to dominate over grasslands extending from the Upper Danube to the Altai were Yamna peoples and their cultural successors.
[A]rchaeologist Volker Heyd at the University of Bristol, UK, disagreed, not with the conclusion that people moved west from the steppe, but with how their genetic signatures were conflated with complex cultural expressions. Corded Ware and Yamnaya burials are more different than they are similar, and there is evidence of cultural exchange, at least, between the Russian steppe and regions west that predate Yamnaya culture, he says. None of these facts negates the conclusions of the genetics papers, but they underscore the insufficiency of the articles in addressing the questions that archaeologists are interested in, he argued. “While I have no doubt they are basically right, it is the complexity of the past that is not reflected,” Heyd wrote, before issuing a call to arms. “Instead of letting geneticists determine the agenda and set the message, we should teach them about complexity in past human actions.
Between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, many Neolithic societies declined throughout western Eurasia due to a combination of factors that are still largely debated. Here, we report the discovery and genome reconstruction of Yersinia pestis, the etiological agent of plague, in Neolithic farmers in Sweden, pre-dating and basal to all modern and ancient known strains of this pathogen. We investigated the history of this strain by combining phylogenetic and molecular clock analyses of the bacterial genome, detailed archaeological information, and genomic analyses from infected individuals and hundreds of ancient human samples across Eurasia. These analyses revealed that multiple and independent lineages of Y. pestis branched and expanded across Eurasia during the Neolithic decline, spreading most likely through early trade networks rather than massive human migrations. Our results are consistent with the existence of a prehistoric plague pandemic that likely contributed to the decay of Neolithic populations in Europe.
We have evolved in the interpretation of the plague from 1) a Corded Ware-driven disease, to 2) a steppe disease that was spread by Yamna and Corded Ware, and now 3) a (potentially) Trypillia-driven disease that spread to the west earlier than Yamna and Corded Ware, but probably also later east and west with both.
At least it still seems that the plague and its demographic consequences were a good reason for the expansion of Indo-Europeans and Uralians into Europe, as we thought…
Featured image, from the paper: “The predicted model of early dispersion of Y. pestis during Neolithic and Bronze Age was built by integrating phylogenetic information of Y. pestis strains from this period (Figure 1E), their divergence times (Figure 3), the geographic locations, carbon dating and genotypes of the individuals, and the archaeological record. The model suggests that early Y. pestis strains likely emerged and spread from mega-settlements in Eastern Europe (built by the Trypillia Culture) into Europe and the Eurasian steppe, most likely through human interaction networks. This was facilitated by wheeled and animal-powered transports, which are schematized in the map with red lines with arrows pointing in both senses. Our model builds upon a previous model (Andrades Valtuena et al., 2017) that proposed the spread of plague to be associated with large-scale human migrations (blue line).”
Interesting report by Bernard Sécher on Anthrogenica, about the Ph.D. thesis of Samantha Brunel from Institut Jacques Monod, Paris, Paléogénomique des dynamiques des populations humaines sur le territoire Français entre 7000 et 2000 (2018).
A summary from user Jool, who was there, translated into English by Sécher (slight changes to translation, and emphasis mine):
They have a good hundred samples from the North, Alsace and the Mediterranean coast, from the Mesolithic to the Iron Age.
There is no major surprise compared to the rest of Europe. On the PCA plot, the Mesolithic are with the WHG, the early Neolithics with the first farmers close to the Anatolians. Then there is a small resurgence of hunter-gatherers that moves the Middle Neolithics a little closer to the WHGs.
From the Bronze Age, they have 5 samples with autosomal DNA, all in Bell Beaker archaeological context, which are very spread on the PCA. A sample very high, close to the Yamnaya, a little above the Corded Ware, two samples right in the Central European Bell Beakers, a fairly low just above the Neolithic package, and one last full in the package. The most salient point was that the Y chromosomes of their 12 Bronze Age samples (all Bell Beakers) are all R1b, whereas there was no R1b in the Neolithic samples.
Finally they have samples of the Iron Age that are collected on the PCA plot close to the Bronze Age samples. They could not determine if there is continuity with the Bronze Age, or a partial replacement by a genetically close population.
The sample with likely high “steppe ancestry“, clustering closely to Yamna (more than Corded Ware samples) is then probably an early East Bell Beaker individual, probably from Alsace, or maybe close to the Rhine Delta in the north, rather than from the south, since we already have samples from southern France from Olalde et al. (2018) with high Neolithic ancestry, and samples from the Rhine with elevated steppe ancestry, but not that much.
This specific sample, if confirmed as one of those reported as R1b (then likely R1b-L151), as it seems from the wording of the summary, is key because it would finally link Yamna to East Bell Beaker through Yamna Hungary, all of them very “Yamnaya-like”, and therefore R1b-L151 (hence also R1b-L51) directly to the steppe, and not only to the Carpathian Basin (that is, until we have samples from late Repin or West Yamna…)
NOTE. The only alternative explanation for such elevated steppe ancestry would be an admixture between a ‘less Yamnaya-like’ East Bell Beaker + a Central European Corded Ware sample like the Esperstedt outlier + drift, but I don’t think that alternative is the best explanation of its position in the PCA closer to Yamna in any of the infinite parallel universes, so… Also, the sample from Esperstedt is clearly a late outlier likely influenced by Yamna vanguard settlers from Hungary, not the other way round…
Unexpectedly, then, fully Yamnaya-like individuals are found not only in Yamna Hungary ca. 3000-2500 BC, but also among expanding East Bell Beakers later than 2500 BC. This leaves us with unexplained, not-at-all-Yamnaya-like early Corded Ware samples from ca. 2900 BC on. An explanation based on admixture with locals seems unlikely, seeing how Corded Ware peoples continue a north Pontic cluster, being thus different from Yamna and their ancestors since the Neolithic; and how they remained that way for a long time, up to Sintashta, Srubna, Andronovo, and even later samples… A different, non-Indo-European community it is, then.
Let’s wait and see the Ph.D. thesis, when it’s published, and keep observing in the meantime the absurd reactions of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression (stages of grief) among BBC/R1b=Vasconic and CWC/R1a=Indo-European fans, as if they had lost something (?). Maybe one of these reactions is actually the key to changing reality and going back to the 2000s, who knows…
Featured image: initial expansion of the East Bell Beaker Group, by Volker Heyd (2013).
Overall, 96 samples ranging from Slovenian littoral to Lower Styria were genotyped for 713,599 markers using the OmniExpress 24-V1 BeadChips (Figure 1), genetic data were obtained from Esko et al. (2013). After removing related individuals, 92 samples were left. The Slovenian dataset has been subsequently merged with the Human Origin dataset (Lazaridis et al., 2016) for a total of 2163 individuals.
First, Y chromosome genetic diversity was assessed. A total of 52 Y chromosomes were analyzed for 195 SNPs. The majority of individuals (25, 48.1%) belong to the haplogroup R1a1a1a (R-M417) while the second major haplogroup is represented by R1b (R-M343) including 15 individuals (28.8%). Twelve samples are assigned to haplogroup I (I M170): five and two samples belong to haplogroup I2a (I L460) and I1 (I M253), respectively, while the remaining five samples did not have enough information to be further assigned.
Considering the unbalanced sample size of the Slovenian population compared to the other populations included in the dataset, a subset of 20 Slovenian individuals randomly sampled was used.
All Slovenian samples group together with Hungarians, Czechs, and some Croatians (“Central-Eastern European” cluster) as also suggested by the PCA. All Basque individuals with few French and Spanish cluster together (“Basque” cluster) while a “Northern-European” cluster is made of the majority of French, English, Icelanders, Norwegians, and Orcadians. Five populations contributed to the “Eastern-European” cluster including Belarusians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Mordovians, and Russians. Western and South Europe is split into two cluster: the first (“Western European” cluster) includes all Spanish individuals, few French, and some Italians (North Italy) while the second (“Southern-European” cluster) groups Sicilians, Greeks, some Croatians, Romanians, and some Italians (North Italy).
Admixture Pattern and Migration
All Slovenian individuals share common pattern of genetic ancestry, as revealed by ADMIXTURE analysis. The three major ancestry components are the North East and North West European ones (light blue and dark blue, respectively, Figure 3), followed by a South European one (dark green, Figure 3). Contribution from the Sardinians and Basque are present in negligible amount. The admixture pattern of Slovenians mimics the one suggested by the neighboring Eastern European populations, but it is different from the pattern suggested by North Italian populations even though they are geographically close.
Using ALDER, the most significant admixture event was obtained with Russians and Sardinians as source populations and it happened 135 ± 9.31 generations ago (Z-score = 11.54). (…) When tested for multiple admixture events (MALDER), we obtained evidence for one admixture event 165.391 ± 17.1918 generations ago corresponding to ∼2620 BCE (CI: 3101–2139) considering a generation time of 28 years (Figure 4), with Kalmyk and Sardinians as sources.
We then modeled the Slovenian population as target of admixture of ancient individuals from Haak et al. (2015) while computing the f3(Ancient 1, Ancient 2, Slovenian) statistic. The most significant signal was obtained with Yamnaya and HungaryGamba_EN (Z-score = -10.66), followed by MA1 with LBK_EN (Z-score -9.7) and Yamnaya with Stuttgart (Z-score = -8.6) used as possible source populations (Supplementary Figure 5).
We found a significant signal of admixture by using both pairs as ancient sources. Specifically, for the pair Yamnaya and Hungary_EN the admixture event is dated at 134.38 ± 23.69 generations ago (Z-score = 5.26, p-value of 1.5e-07) while for Yamnaya and LBK_EN at 153.65 ± 22.19 generations ago (Z-score = 6.92, p-value 4.4e-12). Outgroup f3 with Yamnaya put Slovenian population close to Hungarians, Czechs, and English, indicating a similar shared drift between these population with the Steppe populations (Supplementary Figure 6).
Not that any of this would come as a surprise, but:
PCA keeps supporting the common cluster of certain West, South, and East Slavs in a “Central-Eastern European” cluster, distinct from the “North-Eastern European” cluster formed by modern Finno-Ugrians, as well as ancient Finno-Ugrians of north-eastern Europe who were only recently Slavicized.
Admixture supports the same ancient ‘western’ (a core West+South+East Slavic) cluster, and the admixture event with Yamna + Hungary_EN is logically a proxy for Yamna Hungary being at the core of ancestral Central-East population movements related to Bell Beakers in the mid- to late 3rd millennium.
I don’t know where exactly this impulse for the theory of Russia being the cradle of Slavs comes from today (although there are some obvious political trends to revive 19th c. ideas), but it was always clear for everyone, including Russians, that East Slavs had migrated to the east and north and assimilated indigenous Finno-Ugrians, apart from Turkic-, Iranian-, and Caucasian-speaking peoples to the east. Genetics is only confirming what was clear from other disciplines long ago.
Let me begin this final post on the Corded Ware—Uralic connection with an assertion that should be obvious to everyone involved in ethnolinguistic identification of prehistoric populations but, for one reason or another, is usually forgotten. In the words of David Reich, in Who We Are and How We Got Here (2018):
Human history is full of dead ends, and we should not expect the people who lived in any one place in the past to be the direct ancestors of those who live there today.
Another recurrent argument – apart from “Siberian ancestry” – for the location of the Uralic homeland is “haplogroup N”. This is as serious as saying “haplogroup R1” to refer to Indo-European migrations, but let’s explore this possibility anyway:
We have now a better idea of how many ancient migrations (previously hypothesized to be associated with westward Uralic migrations) look like in genetic terms. From Damgaard et al. (Science 2018):
These serial changes in the Baikal populations are reflected in Y-chromosome lineages (Fig. SA; figs. S24 to S27, and tables S13 and SI4). MAI carries the R haplogroup, whereas the majority of Baikal_EN males belong to N lineages, which were widely distributed across Northern Eurasia (29), and the Baikal_LNBA males all carry Q haplogroups, as do most of the Okunevo_EMBA as well as some present-day Central Asians and Siberians.
The only N1c1 sample comes from Ust’Ida Late Neolithic, 180km to the north of Lake Baikal, which – together with the Bronze Age sample from the Kola peninsula, and the medieval sample from Ust’Ida – gives a good idea of the overall expansion of N subclades and Siberian ancestry among the Circum-Arctic peoples of Eurasia, speakers of Palaeo-Siberian languages.
What we should expect from Uralic peoples expanding with haplogroup N – seeing how Yamna expands with R1b-L23, and Corded Ware expands with R1a-Z645 – is to find a common subclade spreading with Uralic populations. Let’s see if it works like that for any N-X subclade, in data from Ilumäe et al. (2016):
Within the Eurasian circum-Arctic spread zone, N3 and N2a reveal a well-structured spread pattern where individual sub-clades show very different distributions:
N1a1-M46 (or N-TAT), formed ca. 13900 BC, TMRCA 9800 BC
N1a1a2-B187, formed ca. 9800 BC, TMRCA 1050 AD:
The sub-clade N3b-B187 is specific to southern Siberia and Mongolia, whereas N3a-L708 is spread widely in other regions of northern Eurasia.
N1a1a1a-L708, formed ca. 6800 BC, TMRCA 5400 BC.
N1a1a1a2-B211/Y9022, formed ca. 5400 BC, TMRCA 1900 BC:
The deepest clade within N3a is N3a1-B211, mostly present in the Volga-Uralic region and western Siberian Khanty and Mansi populations.
N1a1a1a1a-L392/L1026), formed ca. 4400 BC, TMRCA 2800 BC:
The neighbor clade, N3a3’6-CTS6967, spreads from eastern Siberia to the eastern part of Fennoscandia and the Baltic States
N1a1a1a1a1a-CTS2929/VL29, formed ca. 2100 BC, TMRCA 1600 BC:
In Europe, the clade N3a3-VL29 encompasses over a third of the present-day male Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians but is also present among Saami, Karelians, and Finns (Table S2 and Figure 3). Among the Slavic-speaking Belarusians, Ukrainians, and Russians, about three-fourths of their hg N3 Y chromosomes belong to hg N3a3.
In the post on Finno-Permic expansions, I depicted what seems to me the most likely way of infiltration of N1c-L392 lineages with Akozino warrior-traders into the western Finno-Ugric populations, with an origin around the Barents sea.
This includes the potential spread of (a minority of) N1c-B211 subclades due to contacts with Anonino on both sides of the Urals, through a northern route of forest and forest-steppe regions (equivalent to the distribution of Cherkaskul compared to Andronovo), given the spread of certain subclades in Ugric populations.
NOTE. An alternative possibility is the association of certain B211 subclades with a southern route of expansion with Pre-Scythian and Scythian populations, under whose influence the Ananino culture emerged -which would imply a very quick infiltration of certain groups of haplogroup N everywhere among Finno-Ugrics on both sides of the Urals – , and also the expansion of some subclades with Turkic-speaking peoples, who apparently expanded with alliances of different peoples. Both (Scythian and Turkic) populations expanded from East Asia, where haplogroup N (including N1c) was present since the Neolithic. I find this a worse model of expansion for upper clades, but – given the YFull estimates and the presence of this haplogroup among Turkic peoples – it is a possibility for many subclades.
N1a1a1a1a2-Z1936, formed ca. 2800 BC, TMRCA 2400 BC:
The only notable exception from the pattern are Russians from northern regions of European Russia, where, in turn, about two-thirds of the hg N3 Y chromosomes belong to the hg N3a4-Z1936—the second west Eurasian clade. Thus, according to the frequency distribution of this clade, these Northern Russians fit better among other non-Slavic populations from northeastern Europe. N3a4 tends to increase in frequency toward the northeastern European regions but is also somewhat unexpectedly a dominant hg N3 lineage among most Turcic-speaking Volga Tatars and South-Ural Bashkirs.
N1a1a1a1a4-M2019 (previously N3a2), formed ca. 4400 BC, TMRCA 1700 BC:
Sub-hg N3a2-M2118 is one of the two main bifurcating branches in the nested cladistic structure of N3a2’6-M2110. It is predominantly found in populations inhabiting present-day Yakutia (Republic of Sakha) in central Siberia and at lower frequencies in the Khanty and Mansi populations, which exhibit a distinct Y-STR pattern (Table S7) potentially intrinsic to an additional clade inside the sub-hg N3a2
The second widespread sub-clade of hg N is N2a. (…):
N1a2b-P43 (B523/FGC10846/Y3184), formed ca. 6800 BC, TMRCA ca. 2700 BC:
The absolute majority of N2a individuals belong to the second sub-clade, N2a1-B523, which diversified about 4.7 kya (95% CI = 4.0–5.5 kya). Its distribution covers the western and southern parts of Siberia, the Taimyr Peninsula, and the Volga-Uralic region with frequencies ranging from from 10% to 30% and does not extend to eastern Siberia (…)
The “European” branch suggested earlier from Y-STR patterns turned out to consist of two clades
N1a2b2a-Y3185/FGC10847, formed ca. 2200 BC, TMRCA 800 BC:
N2a1-L1419, spread mainly in the northern part of that region.
N1a2b2b1-B528/Y24382, formed ca. 900 BC, TMRCA ca. 900 BC:
N2a1-B528, spread in the southern Volga-Uralic region.
We also have a good idea of the distribution of haplogroup R1a-Z645 in ancient samples. Its subclades were associated with the Corded Ware expansion, and some of them fit quite well the early expansion of Finno-Permic, Ugric, and Samoyedic peoples to the east.
This is how the modern distribution of R1a among Uralians looks like, from the latest report in Tambets et al. (2018):
Among Fennic populations, Estonians and Karelians (ca. 1.1 million) have not suffered the greatest bottleneck of Finns (ca. 6-7 million), and show thus a greater proportion of R1a-Z280 than N1c subclades, which points to the original situation of Fennic peoples before their expansion. To trust Finnish Y-DNA to derive conclusions about the Uralic populations is as useful as relying on the Basque Y-DNA for the language spread by R1b-P312…
Among Volga-Finnic populations, Mordovians (the closest to the original Uralic cluster, see above) show a majority of R1a lineages (27%).
Hungarians (ca. 13-15 million) represent the majority of Ugric (and Finno-Ugric) peoples. They are mainly R1a-Z280, also R1a-Z2123, have little N1c, and lack Siberian ancestry, and represent thus the most likely original situation of Ugric peoples in 4th century AD (read more on Avars and Hungarians).
Among Samoyedic peoples, the Selkup, the southernmost ones and latest to expand – that is, those not heavily admixed with Siberian populations – , also have a majority of R1a-Z2123 lineages (see also here for the original Samoyedic haplogroups to the south).
To understand the relevance of Hungarians for Ugric peoples, as well as Estonians, Karelians, and Mordovians (and northern Russians, Finno-Ugric peoples recently Russified) for Finno-Permic peoples, as opposed to the Circum-Arctic and East Siberian populations, one has to put demographics in perspective. Even a modern map can show the relevance of certain territories in the past:
Summary of ancestry + haplogroups
Fennic and Samic populations seem to be clearly influenced by Palaeo-Laplandic peoples, whereas Volga-Finnic and especially Permic populations may have received gene flow from both, but essentially Palaeo-Siberian influence from the north and east.
The fact that modern Mansis and Khantys offer the highest variation in N1a subclades, and some of the highest “Siberian ancestry” among non-Nganasans, should have raised a red flag long ago. The fact that Hungarians – supposedly stemming from a source population similar to Mansis – do not offer the same amount of N subclades or Siberian ancestry (not even close), and offer instead more R1a, in common with Estonians (among Finno-Samic peoples) and Mordvins (among Volga-Finnic peoples) should have raised a still bigger red flag. The fact that Nganasans – the model for Siberian ancestry – show completely different N1a2b-P43 lineages should have been a huge genetic red line (on top of the anthropological one) to regard them as the Uralian-type population.
It is not hard to model the stepped arrival, infiltration, and/or resurge of N subclades and “Siberian ancestries”, as well as their gradual expansion in certain regions, associated with certain migrations first – such as the expansions to the Circum-Arctic region, and later the Scythian- and Turkic-related movements – , as well as limited regional developments, like the known bottleneck in Finns, or the clear late expansion of Ugric and Samoyedic languages to the north among nomadic Palaeo-Siberians due to traditions of exogamy and multilingualism. This fits quite well with the different arrival of N (N1c and xN1c) lineages to the different Uralic-speaking groups, and to the stepped appearance of “Siberian ancestry” in the different regions.
It is evident that a lot of people were too attached to the idea of Palaeolithic R1b lineages ‘native’ to western Europe speaking Basque languages; of R1a lineages speaking Indo-European and spreading with Yamna; and N lineages ‘native’ to north-eastern Europe and speaking Uralic, and this is causing widespread weeping and gnashing of teeth (instead of the joy of discovering where one’s true patrilineal ancestors come from, and what language they spoke in each given period, which is the supposed objective of genetic genealogy…)
As far as I know – and there might be many other similar pet theories out there – there have been proposals of “modern Balto-Slavic-like” populations (in an obvious circular reasoning based on modern populations) in some Scythian clusters of the Iron Age.
NOTE. I will not enter into “Balto-Slavic-like R1a” of the Late Bronze Age or earlier because no one can seriously believe at this point of development of Population Genetics that autosomal similarity predating 1,500+ years the appearance of Slavs equates to their (ethnolinguistic) ancestral population, without a clear intermediate cultural and genetic trail – something we lack today in the Slavic case even for the late Roman period…
We also know of R1a-Z280 lineages in Srubna, probably expanding to the west. With that in mind, and knowing that Palaeo-Germanic was in close contact with Finno-Samic while both were already separated but still in contact, and that Palaeo-Germanic was also in contact and closely related to a ‘Temematic’ distinct from Balto-Slavic (and also that early Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic from the Roman Iron Age and later were in contact with western Uralic) this will be the linguistic map of the Iron Age if R1a is considered to expand Indo-European from some kind of “patron-client” relationship with west Yamna:
My problem with this proposal is that it is obviously beholden to the notion of the uninterrupted cultural, historic and ethnic continuity in certain territories. This bias is common in historiography (von Falkenhausen 1993), but it extends even more easily into the lesser known prehistory of any territory, and now more than ever some people feel the need to corrupt (pre)history based on their own haplogroups (or the majority haplogroups of their modern countries). However, more than on philosophical grounds, my rejection is based on facts: this picture is not what the combination of linguistic, archaeological, and genetic data shows. Period.
Nevertheless, if Yamna + Corded Ware represented the “big and early expansion” of Germanic and Italo-Celtic peoples proper of the dream Nazi’s Lebensraum and Fascist’s spazio vitale proposals; Uralians were Siberian hunter-gatherers that controlled the whole eastern and northern Russia, and miraculously managed to push (ethnolinguistically) Neolithic agropastoralists to the west during and after the Iron Age, with gradual (and often minimal) genetic impact; and Balto-Slavic peoples were represented by horse riders from Pokrovka/Srubna, hiding then somewhere around the forest-steppe until after the Scythian expansion, and then spreading their language (without much genetic impact) during the early Middle Ages…so be it.
Even though proposals of an Eastern Uralic (or Ugro-Samoyedic) group are in the minority – and those who support it tend to search for an origin of Uralic in Central Asia – , there is nothing wrong in supporting this from the point of view of a western homeland, because the eastward migration of both Proto-Ugric and Pre-Samoyedic peoples may have been coupled with each other at an early stage. It’s like Indo-Slavonic: it just doesn’t fit the linguistic data as well as the alternative, i.e. the expansion of Samoyedic first, different from a Finno-Ugric trunk. But, in case you are wondering about this possibility, here is Häkkinen’s (2012) phonological argument:
The case of Samoyedic is quite similar to that of Hungarian, although the earliest Palaeo-Siberian contact languages have been lost. There were contacts at least with Tocharian (Kallio 2004), Yukaghir (Rédei 1999) and Turkic (Janhunen 1998). Samoyedic also:
a) has moved far from the related languages and has been exposed to strong foreign influence
b) shares a small number of common words with other branches (from Sammallahti 1988: only 123 ‘Uralic’ words, versus 390 ‘Uralic’ + ‘Finno-Ugric’ words found in other branches than Samoyedic = 31,5 %)
c) derives phonologically from the East Uralic dialect.
The phonological level is taxonomically more reliable, since it lacks the distortion caused by invisible convergence and false divergence at the lexical level. Thus we can conclude that the traditional taxonomic model, according to which Samoyedic was the first branch to split off from the Proto-Uralic unity, is just as incorrect as the view that Hungarian was the first branch to split off.
Late Uralic can be traced back to metallurgical cultures thanks to terms like PU *wäśka ‘copper/bronze’ (borrowed from Proto-Samoyedic *wesä into Tocharian); PU *äsa and *olna/*olni, ‘lead’ or ‘tin’, found in *äsa-wäśka ‘tin-bronze’; and e.g. *weŋći ‘knife’, borrowed into Indo-Iranian (through the stage of vocalization of nasals), appearing later as Proto-Indo-Aryan *wāćī ‘knife, awl, axe’.
It is known that the southern regions of the Abashevo culture developed Proto-Indo-Iranian-speaking Sintashta-Petrovka and Pokrovka (Early Srubna). To the north, however, Abashevo kept its Uralic nature, with continuous contacts allowing for the spread of lexicon – mainly into Finno-Ugric – , and phonetic influence – mainly Uralisms into Proto-Indo-Iranian phonology (read more here).
The northern part of Abashevo (just like the south) was mainly a metallurgical society, with Abashevo metal prospectors found also side by side with Sintashta pioneers in the Zeravshan Valley, near BMAC, in search of metal ores. About the Seima-Turbino phenomenon, from Parpola (2013):
From the Urals to the east, the chain of cultures associated with this network consisted principally of the following: the Abashevo culture (extending from the Upper Don to the Mid- and South Trans-Urals, including the important cemeteries of Sejma and Turbino), the Sintashta culture (in the southeast Urals), the Petrovka culture (in the Tobol-Ishim steppe), the Taskovo-Loginovo cultures (on the Mid- and Lower Tobol and the Mid-Irtysh), the Samus’ culture (on the Upper Ob, with the important cemetery of Rostovka), the Krotovo culture (from the forest steppe of the Mid-Irtysh to the Baraba steppe on the Upper Ob, with the important cemetery of Sopka 2), the Elunino culture (on the Upper Ob just west of the Altai mountains) and the Okunevo culture (on the Mid-Yenissei, in the Minusinsk plain, Khakassia and northern Tuva). The Okunevo culture belongs wholly to the Early Bronze Age (c. 2250–1900 BCE), but most of the other cultures apparently to its latter part, being currently dated to the pre-Andronovo horizon of c. 2100–1800 BCE (cf. Parzinger 2006: 244–312 and 336; Koryakova & Epimakhov 2007: 104–105).
The majority of the Sejma-Turbino objects are of the better quality tin-bronze, and while tin is absent in the Urals, the Altai and Sayan mountains are an important source of both copper and tin. Tin is also available in southern Central Asia. Chernykh & Kuz’minykh have accordingly suggested an eastern origin for the Sejma-Turbino network, backing this hypothesis also by the depiction on the Sejma-Turbino knives of mountain sheep and horses characteristic of that area. However, Christian Carpelan has emphasized that the local Afanas’evo and Okunevo metallurgy of the Sayan-Altai area was initially rather primitive, and could not possibly have achieved the advanced and difficult technology of casting socketed spearheads as one piece around a blank. Carpelan points out that the first spearheads of this type appear in the Middle Bronze Age Caucasia c. 2000 BCE, diffusing early on to the Mid-Volga-Kama-southern Urals area, where “it was the experienced Abashevo craftsmen who were able to take up the new techniques and develop and distribute new types of spearheads” (Carpelan & Parpola 2001: 106, cf. 99–106, 110). The animal argument is countered by reference to a dagger from Sejma on the Oka river depicting an elk’s head, with earlier north European prototypes (Carpelan & Parpola 2001: 106–109). Also the metal analysis speaks for the Abashevo origin of the Sejma-Turbino network. Out of 353 artefacts analyzed, 47% were of tin-bronze, 36% of arsenical bronze, and 8.5% of pure copper. Both the arsenical bronze and pure copper are very clearly associated with the Abashevo metallurgy.
The Abashevo metal production was based on the Volga-Kama-Belaya area sandstone ores of pure copper and on the more easterly Urals deposits of arsenical copper (Figure 9). The Abashevo people, expanding from the Don and Mid-Volga to the Urals, first reached the westerly sandstone deposits of pure copper in the Volga and Kama basins, and started developing their metallurgy in this area, before moving on to the eastern side of the Urals to produce harder weapons and tools of arsenical copper. Eventually they moved even further south, to the area richest in copper in the whole Urals region, founding there the very strong and innovative Sintashta culture.
Regarding the most likely expansion of Eastern Uralic peoples:
Nataliya L’vovna Chlenova (1929–2009; cf. Korenyako & Ku’zminykh 2011) published in 1981 a detailed study of the Cherkaskul’ pottery. In her carefully prepared maps of 1981 and 1984 (Figure 10), she plotted Cherkaskul’ monuments not only in Bashkiria and the Trans-Urals, but also in thick concentrations on the Upper Irtysh, Upper Ob and Upper Yenissei, close to the Altai and Sayan mountains, precisely where the best experts suppose the homeland of Proto-Samoyed to be.
The Cherkaskul’ culture was transformed into the genetically related Mezhovka culture (c. 1500–1000 BCE), which occupied approximately the same area from the Mid-Kama and Belaya rivers to the Tobol river in western Siberia (cf. Parzinger 2006: 444–448; Koryakova & Epimakhov 2007: 170–175). The Mezhovka culture was in close contact with the neighbouring and probably Proto-Iranian speaking Alekseevka alias Sargary culture (c. 1500–900 BCE) of northern Kazakhstan (Figure 4 no. 8) that had a Fëdorovo and Cherkaskul’ substratum and a roller pottery superstratum (cf. Parzinger 2006: 443–448; Koryakova & Epimakhov 2007: 161–170). Both the Cherkaskul’ and the Mezhovka cultures are thought to have been Proto-Ugric linguistically, on the basis of the agreement of their area with that of Mansi and Khanty speakers, who moreover in their Fëdorovo-like ornamentation have preserved evidence of continuity in material culture (cf. Chlenova 1984; Koryakova & Epimakhov 2007: 159, 175).
The Mezhovka culture was succeeded by the genetically related Gamayun culture (c. 1000–700 BCE) (cf. Parzinger 2006: 446; 542–545).
From the Gamayun culture descend Trans-Urals cultures in close contact with Finno-Permic populations of the Cis-Ural region:
[Proto-Mansi] Itkul’ culture (c. 700–200 BCE) distributed along the eastern slope of the Ural Mountains (cf. Parzinger 2006: 552–556). Known from its walled forts, it constituted the principal Trans-Uralian centre of metallurgy in the Iron Age, and was in contact with both the Anan’ino and Akhmylovo cultures (the metallurgical centres of the Mid-Volga and Kama-Belaya region) and the neighbouring Gorokhovo culture.
[Proto-Hungarian] via the Vorob’evo Group (c. 700–550 BCE) (cf. Parzinger 2006: 546–549), to the Gorokhovo culture (c. 550–400 BCE) of the Trans-Uralian forest steppe (cf. Parzinger 2006: 549–552). For various reasons the local Gorokhovo people started mobile pastoral herding and became part of the multicomponent pastoralist Sargat culture (c. 500 BCE to 300 CE), which in a broader sense comprized all cultural groups between the Tobol and Irtysh rivers, succeeding here the Sargary culture. The Sargat intercommunity was dominated by steppe nomads belonging to the Iranian-speaking Saka confederation, who in the summer migrated northwards to the forest steppe
[Proto-Khanty] Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age cultures related to the Gamayunskoe and Itkul’ cultures that extended up to the Ob: the Nosilovo, Baitovo, Late Irmen’, and Krasnoozero cultures (c. 900–500 BCE). Some were in contact with the Akhmylovo on the Mid-Volga.
Parpola (2012) connects the expansion of Samoyedic with the Cherkaskul variant of Andronovo. As we know, Andronovo was genetically diverse, which speaks in favour of different groups developing similar material cultures in Central Asia.
Juha Janhunen, author of the etymological dictionary of the Samoyed languages (1977), places the homeland of Proto-Samoyedic in the Minusinsk basin on the Upper Yenissei (cf. Janhunen 2009: 72). Mainly on the basis of Bulghar Turkic loanwords, Janhunen (2007: 224; 2009: 63) dates Proto-Samoyedic to the last centuries BCE. Janhunen thinks that the language of the Tagar culture (c. 800–100 BCE) ought to have been Proto-Samoyedic (cf. Janhunen 1983: 117– 118; 2009: 72; Parzinger 2001: 80 and 2006: 619–631 dates the Tagar culture c. 1000–200 BCE; Svyatko et al. 2009: 256, based on human bone samples, c. 900 BCE to 50 CE). The Tagar culture largely continues the traditions of the Karasuk culture (c. 1400–900 BCE), (…)
The use of a map of “Siberian ancestry” peaking in the arctic to show a supposedly late Uralic population movement (starting in the Iron Age!) seems to be the latest trend in population genomics:
I guess that would make this map of Neolithic farmer ancestry represent an expansion of Indo-European from the south, because Anatolia, Greece, Italy, southern France, and Iberia – where this ancestry peaks in modern populations – are among the oldest territories where Indo-European languages were recorded:
Probably not the right interpretation of this kind of simplistic data about modern populations, though…
Overall, and specifically at lower values of K, the genetic makeup of Uralic speakers resembles that of their geographic neighbours. The Saami and (a subset of) the Mansi serve as exceptions to that pattern being more similar to geographically more distant populations (Fig. 3a, Additional file 3: S3). However, starting from K = 9, ADMIXTURE identifies a genetic component (k9, magenta in Fig. 3a, Additional file 3: S3), which is predominantly, although not exclusively, found in Uralic speakers. This component is also well visible on K = 10, which has the best cross-validation index among all tests (Additional file 3: S3B). The spatial distribution of this component (Fig. 3b) shows a frequency peak among Ob-Ugric and Samoyed speakers as well as among neighbouring Kets (Fig. 3a). The proportion of k9 decreases rapidly from West Siberia towards east, south and west, constituting on average 40% of the genetic ancestry of FU speakers in Volga-Ural region (VUR) and 20% in their Turkic-speaking neighbours (Bashkirs, Tatars, Chuvashes; Fig. 3a).
However, this ‘something’ that some people occasionally find in some Uralic populations is also common to other modern and ancient groups, and not so common in some other Uralic peoples. Simply put:
I already said this in the recent publication of Siberian samples, where a renamed and radiocarbon dated Finnish_IA clearly shows that Late Iron Age Saami (ca. 400 AD) had little “Siberian ancestry”, if any at all, representing the most likely Fennic (and Samic) ancestral components before their expansion into central and northern Finland, where they admixed with circum-polar peoples of asbestos ware cultures.
I will say that again and again, any time they report the so-called “Siberian ancestry” in Uralic samples, no matter how it is defined each time: it does not seem to be that special something people are looking for, but rather (at least in a great part) a quite old ancestral component forming an evident cline with EHG, whose best proximate source are Baikal_EN (and/or Devil’s Gate) at this moment, and thus also East European hunter-gatherers for Western Uralic peoples:
So either Samara_HG, Karelia_HG, and many other groups from eastern Europe all spoke Uralic according to this ADMIXTURE graphic (and the formation of steppe ancestry in the Volga-Ural region brought the Proto-Indo-European language to the steppes through the CHG/ANE expansion), or a great part of this “Siberian ancestry” found in modern Uralic-speaking populations is not what some people would like to think it is…
PCA clines can be looked for to represent expansions of ancient populations. Most recently, Flegontov et al. (2018) are attempting to do this with Asian populations:
For some Turkic groups in the Urals and the Altai regions and in the Volga basin, a different admixture model fits the data: the same West Eurasian source + Uralic- or Yeniseian-speaking Siberians. Thus, we have revealed an admixture cline between Scythians and the Iranian farmer genetic cluster, and two further clines connecting the former cline to distinct ancestry sources in Siberia. Interestingly, few Wusun-period individuals harbor substantial Uralic/Yeniseian-related Siberian ancestry, in contrast to preceding Scythians and later Turkic groups characterized by the Tungusic/Mongolic-related ancestry. It remains to be elucidated whether this genetic influx reflects contacts with the Xiongnu confederacy. We are currently assembling a collection of samples across the Eurasian steppe for a detailed genetic investigation of the Hunnic confederacies.
There are potential errors with this approach:
The main one is practical – does a modern cline represent an ancestral language? The answer is: sometimes. It depends on the anthropological context that we have, and especially on the precision of the PCA:
The ‘Europe’, ‘Middle East’, etc. clines of the above PCA do not represent one language, but many. For starters, the PCA includes too many (and modern) populations, its precision is useless for ethnolinguistic groups. Which is the right level? Again, it depends.
The other error is one of detail of the clines drawn (which, in turn, depends on the precision of the PCA). For example, we can draw two paralell lines (or even one line, as in Flegontov et al. above) in one PCA graphic, but we still don’t have the direction of expansion. How do we know if this supposed “Uralic-speaking cline” goes from one region to the other? For that level of detail, we should examine closely modern Uralic-speaking peoples and Circum-Arctic populations:
The real ancient Uralic cluster (drawn above in blue) is thus probably from a North-East European source (probably formed by Battle Axe / Fatyanovo-Balanovo / Abashevo) to the east into Siberian populations, and to the north into Laplandic populations (see below also on Mezhovska ancestry for the drawn ‘European cline’, which some may a priori wrongly assume to be quite late).
The fact that the three formed clines point to an admixture of CWC-related populations from North-Eastern Europe, and that variation is greater at the Palaeo-Laplandic and Palaeo-Siberian extremities compared to the CWC-related one, also supports this as the correct interpretation.
However, judging by the two main clines formed, one could be alternatively inclined to interpret that Palaeo-Laplandic and Palaeo-Siberian populations formed a huge ancestral “Uralic” ghost cluster in Siberia (spanning from the Palaeo-Laplandic to the Palaeo-Siberian one), and from there expanded Finno-Samic on one hand, and “Volga-Ugro-Samoyed” on the other. That poses different problems: an obvious linguistic and archaeological one – which I assume a lot of people do not really care about – , and a not-so-obvious genetic one (see below for ancient samples and for the expansion of haplogroup N).
Unlike this PCA with ancient samples, where Bell Beaker clines could be a rough approximation to the real sources for each population, and where a cluster spanning all three depicted Early Bronze Age clusters could give a rough proximate source of European Bell Beakers in Hungary (and where one can even distinguish the Y-DNA bottlenecks in the L23 trunk created by each cline) the PCA of modern Uralic populations is probably not suitable for a good estimate of the ancient situation, which may be found shifted up or down of the drawn “Uralic” cluster along East European groups.
After all, we already know that the Siberian cline shows probably as much an ancient admixture event – from the original Uralic expansion to the east with Corded Ware ancestry – as another more recent one – a westward migration of Siberian ancestry (or even more than one). While we know with more or less exactitude what happened with the Palaeo-Laplandic admixture by expanding Proto-Finno-Samic populations (see here), the Proto-Ugric and Pre-Samoyedic populations formed probably more than one cline during the different ancient migrations through central Asia.
Apparently, the Corded Ware expansion to the east was not marked by a huge change in ancestry. While the final version of Narasimhan et al. (2018) may show a little more detail about other forest-steppe Seima-Turbino/Andronovo-related migrations (and thus also Eastern Uralic peoples), we have already had enough information for quite some time to get a good idea.
Mezhovska‘s position is similar to the later Pre-Scythian and Scythian populations. There are some interesting details: apart from haplogroup R1a-Z280 (CTS1211+), there is one R1b-M269 (PF6494+), probably Z2103, and an outlier (out of three) in a similar position to the recently described central/southern Scythian clusters.
NOTE. The finding of R1b-M269 in the forest-steppe is probably either 1) from an Afanasevo-Okunevo origin, or 2) from an admixture with neighbouring Andronovo-related populations, such as Sargary. A third, maybe less likely option is that this haplogroup admixed with Abashevo directly (as it happened in Sintashta, Potapovka, or Pokrovka) and formed part of early Uralic migrations. In any case, since Mezhovska is a Bronze Age society from the Urals region, its association with R1b-Z2103 – like the association of R1b-Z2103 in Scythian clusters – cannot be attributed to “Thracian peoples”, a link which is (as I already said) too simplistic.
The drawn “European cline” of Hungarians (see above), leading from ‘west-like’ Mansi to Hungarian populations – and hosting also Finnic and Estonian samples – , cannot therefore be attributed simply to late “Slavic/Balkan-like” admixture.
Karasuk – located further to the east – is basically also Corded Ware peoples showing clearly a recent admixture with local ANE / Baikal_EN-like populations. In terms of haplogroups it shows haplogroup Q, R1a-Z2124, and R1a-Z2123, later found among early Hungarians, and present also in ancient Samoyedic populations now acculturated.
The most interesting aspect of both Mezhovska and Karasuk is that they seem to diverge from a point close to Ukraine_Eneolithic, which is the supposed ancestral source of Corded Ware peoples (read more about the formation of “steppe ancestry”). This means that Eastern Uralians derive from a source closer to Middle Dnieper/Abashevo populations, rather than Battle Axe (shifted to Latvian Neolithic), which is more likely the source prevalent in Finno-Permic peoples.
Their initial admixture with (Palaeo-)Siberian populations is thus seen already starting by this time in Mezhovska and especially in Karasuk, but this process (compared to modern populations) is incomplete:
We know now that Samic peoples expanded during the Late Iron Age into Palaeo-Laplandic populations, admixing with them and creating this modern cline. Finns expanded later to the north (in one of their known genetic bottlenecks), admixing with (and displacing) the Saami in Finland, especially replacing their male lines.
So how did Ugric and Samoyedic peoples admix with Palaeo-Siberian populations further, to obtain their modern cline? The answer is, logically, with East Asian migrations related to forest-steppe populations of Central Asia after the Mezhovska and Karasuk periods, i.e. during the Iron Age and later. Other groups from the forest-steppe in Central Asia show similar East Asian (“Siberian”) admixture. We know this from Narasimhan et al. (2018):
(…) we observe samples from multiple sites dated to 1700-1500 BCE (Maitan, Kairan, Oy_Dzhaylau and Zevakinsikiy) that derive up to ~25% of their ancestry from a source related to present-day East Asians and the remainder from Steppe_MLBA. A similar ancestry profile became widespread in the region by the Late Bronze Age, as documented by our time transect from Zevakinsikiy and samples from many sites dating to 1500-1000 BCE, and was ubiquitous by the Scytho-Sarmatian period in the Iron Age.
Flegontov: Present day Turkic speakers fall into two clusters of admixture patterns (Uralic/Yenisean and Tungussic/Mngolic) based on genomic data with ancient Turks belonging almost exclusively to the first cluster. #ISBA8
The Ugric-speaking Sargat culture in Western Siberia shows the expected mixture of haplogroups (ca. 500 BC – 500 AD), with 5 samples of hg N and 2 of hg R1a1, in Pilipenko et al. (2017). Although radiocarbon dates and subclades are lacking, N lineages probably spread late, because of the late and gradual admixture of Siberian cultures into the Sargat melting pot.
The observed reduction in the genetic distance between the Middle Tagar population and other Scythian like populations of Southern Siberia(Fig 5; S4 Table), in our opinion, is primarily associated with an increase in the role of East Eurasian mtDNA lineages in the gene pool (up to nearly half of the gene pool) and a substantial increase in the joint frequency of haplogroups C and D (from 8.7% in the Early Tagar series to 37.5% in the Middle Tagar series). These features are characteristic of many ancient and modern populations of Southern Siberia and adjacent regions of Central Asia, including the Pazyryk population of the Altai Mountains.
Before the Iron Age, the Karasuk and Mezhovska population were probably already somehow ‘to the north’ within the ancient Steppe-Altai cline (see image below9 created by expanding Seima-Turbino- and Andronovo-related populations. During the Iron Age, further Siberian contributions with Iranian expansions must have placed Uralians of the Central Asian forest-steppe areas much closer to today’s Palaeo-Siberian cline.
However, the modern genetic picture was probably fully developed only in historic times, when Samoyedic and Ugric languages expanded to the north, only in part admixing further with Palaeo-Siberian-speaking nomads from the Circum-Arctic region (see here for a recent history of Samoyedic Enets), which justifies their more recent radical ‘northern shift’.
This late acquisition of the language by Palaeo-Siberian nomads (without much population replacement) also justifies the wide PCA clusters of very small Siberian populations. See for example in the PCA from Tambets et al. (2018):
For their relationship with modern Mansi, we have information on Hungarian conqueror populations from Neparáczki et al. (2018):
Moreover, Y, B and N1a1a1a1a Hg-s have not been detected in Finno-Ugric populations [80–84], implying that the east Eurasian component of the Conquerors and Finno-Ugric people are probably not directly related. The same inference can be drawn from phylogenetic data, as only two Mansi samples appeared in our phylogenetic trees on the side branches (S1 Fig, Networks; 1, 4) suggesting that ancestors of the Mansis separated from Asian ancestors of the Conquerors a long time ago. This inference is also supported by genomic Admixture analysis of Siberian and Northeastern European populations , which revealed that Mansis received their eastern Siberian genetic component approximately 5–7 thousand years ago from ancestors of modern Even and Evenki people. Most likely the same explanation applies to the Y-chromosome N-Tat marker which originated from China [86,87] and its subclades are now widespread between various language groups of North Asia and Eastern Europe .
The genetic picture of Hungarians (their formed cline with Mansi and their haplogroups) may be quite useful for the true admixture found originally in Mansi peoples at the beginning of the Iron Age. By now it is clear even from modern populations that Steppe_MLBA ancestry accompanied the Uralic expansion to the east (roughly approximated in the graphic with Afanasievo_EBA + Bichon_LP EasternHG_M):
An interesting aspect of the paper, hidden among so many relevant details, is a clearer picture of how the so-called Yamnaya or steppe ancestry evolved from Samara hunter-gatherers to Yamna nomadic pastoralists, and how this ancestry appeared among Proto-Corded Ware populations.
Please note: arrows of “ancestry movement” in the following PCAs do not necessarily represent physical population movements, or even ethnolinguistic change. To avoid misinterpretations, I have depicted arrows with Y-DNA haplogroup migrations to represent the most likely true ethnolinguistic movements. Admixture graphics shown are from Wang et al. (2018), and also (the K12) from Mathieson et al. (2018).
1. Samara to Early Khvalynsk
The so-called steppe ancestry was born during the Khvalynsk expansion through the steppes, probably through exogamy of expanding elite clans (eventually all R1b-M269 lineages) originally of Samara_HG ancestry. The nearest group to the ANE-like ghost population with which Samara hunter-gatherers admixed is represented by the Steppe_Eneolithic / Steppe_Maykop cluster (from the Northern Caucasus Piedmont).
Steppe_Eneolithic samples, of R1b1 lineages, are probably expanded Khvalynsk peoples, showing thus a proximate ancestry of an Early Eneolithic ghost population of the Northern Caucasus. Steppe_Maykop samples represent a later replacement of this Steppe_Eneolithic population – and/or a similar population with further contribution of ANE-like ancestry – in the area some 1,000 years later.
This is what Steppe_Maykop looks like, different from Steppe_Eneolithic:
NOTE. This admixture shows how different Steppe_Maykop is from Steppe_Eneolithic, but in the different supervised ADMIXTURE graphics below Maykop_Eneolithic is roughly equivalent to Eneolithic_Steppe (see orange arrow in ADMIXTURE graphic above). This is useful for a simplified analysis, but actual differences between Khvalynsk, Sredni Stog, Afanasevo, Yamna and Corded Ware are probably underestimated in the analyses below, and will become clearer in the future when more ancestral hunter-gatherer populations are added to the analysis.
2. Early Khvalynsk expansion
We have direct data of Khvalynsk-Novodanilovka-like populations thanks to Khvalynsk and Steppe_Eneolithic samples (although I’ve used the latter above to represent the ghost Caucasus population with which Samara_HG admixed).
We also have indirect data. First, there is the PCA with outliers:
Second, we have data from north Pontic Ukraine_Eneolithic samples (see next section).
Third, there is the continuity of late Repin / Afanasevo with Steppe_Eneolithic (see below).
3. Proto-Corded Ware expansion
It is unclear if R1a-M459 subclades were continuously in the steppe and resurged after the Khvalynsk expansion, or (the most likely option) they came from the forested region of the Upper Dnieper area, possibly from previous expansions there with hunter-gatherer pottery.
Supporting the latter is the millennia-long continuity of R1b-V88 and I2a2 subclades in the north Pontic Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Early Eneolithic Sredni Stog culture, until ca. 4500 BC (and even later, during the second half).
Only at the end of the Early Eneolithic with the disappearance of Novodanilovka (and beginning of the steppe ‘hiatus’ of Rassamakin) is R1a to be found in Ukraine again (after disappearing from the record some 2,000 years earlier), related to complex population movements in the north Pontic area.
NOTE. In the PCA, a tentative position of Novodanilovka closer to Anatolia_Neolithic / Dzudzuana ancestry is selected, based on the apparent cline formed by Ukraine_Eneolithic samples, and on the position and ancestry of Sredni Stog, Yamna, and Corded Ware later. A good alternative would be to place Novodanilovka still closer to the Balkan outliers (i.e. Suvorovo), and a source closer to EHG as the ancestry driven by the migration of R1a-M417.
The first sample with steppe ancestry appears only after 4250 BC in the forest-steppe, centuries after the samples with steppe ancestry from the Northern Caucasus and the Balkans, which points to exogamy of expanding R1a-M417 lineages with the remnants of the Novodanilovka population.
4. Repin / Early Yamna expansion
We don’t have direct data on early Repin settlers. But we do have a very close representative: Afanasevo, a population we know comes directly from the Repin/late Khvalynsk expansion ca. 3500/3300 BC (just before the emergence of Early Yamna), and which shows fully Steppe_Eneolithic-like ancestry.
Compared to this eastern Repin expansion that gave Afanasevo, the late Repin expansion to the west ca. 3300 BC that gave rise to the Yamna culture was one of colonization, evidenced by the admixture with north Pontic (Sredni Stog-like) populations, no doubt through exogamy:
This admixture is also found (in lesser proportion) in east Yamna groups, which supports the high mobility and exogamy practices among western and eastern Yamna clans, not only with locals:
We don’t have a comparison with Ukraine_Eneolithic or Corded Ware samples in Wang et al. (2018), but we do have proximate sources for Abashevo, when compared to the Poltavka population (with which it admixed in the Volga-Ural steppes): Sintashta, Potapovka, Srubna (with further Abashevo contribution), and Andronovo:
The two CWC outliers from the Baltic show what I thought was an admixture with Yamna. However, given the previous mixture of Eneolithic_Steppe in north Pontic steppe-forest populations, this elevated “steppe ancestry” found in Baltic_LN (similar to west Yamna) seems rather an admixture of Baltic sub-Neolithic peoples with a north Pontic Eneolithic_Steppe-like population. Late Repin settlers also admixed with a similar population during its colonization of the north Pontic area, hence the Baltic_LN – west Yamna similarities.
NOTE. A direct admixture with west Yamna populations through exogamy by the ancestors of this Baltic population cannot be ruled out yet (without direct access to more samples), though, because of the contacts of Corded Ware with west Yamna settlers in the forest-steppe regions.
A similar case is found in the Yamna outlier from Mednikarovo south of the Danube. It would be absurd to think that Yamna from the Balkans comes from Corded Ware (or vice versa), just because the former is closer in the PCA to the latter than other Yamna samples. The same error is also found e.g. in the Corded Ware → Bell Beaker theory, because of their proximity in the PCA and their shared “steppe ancestry”. All those theories have been proven already wrong.
NOTE. A similar fallacy is found in potential Sintashta→Mycenaean connections, where we should distinguish statistically that result from an East/West Yamna + Balkans_BA admixture. In fact, genetic links of Mycenaeans with west Yamna settlers prove this (there are some related analyses in Anthrogenica, but the site is down at this moment). To try to relate these two populations (separated more than 1,000 years before Sintashta) is like comparing ancient populations to modern ones, without the intermediate samples to trace the real anthropological trail of what is found…Pure numbers and wishful thinking.