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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tollense Valley Bronze Age battle: preliminary ancient DNA analysis

This dissertation, I'm guessing, is a prelude to a paper on the genetic origins of the victims of what was probably a large scale Bronze Age battle in the Tollense Valley, northern Germany:

Addressing challenges of ancient DNA sequence data obtained with next generation methods.

I blogged about the Tollense Valley project last year, following a Science feature which posited that the battle fallen may have come from very different parts of Europe (see here). But judging by the results in this thesis, that might not be the case after all. Emphasis is mine:

The 21 samples available to this study stem from skeletal remains found in the Tollense valley in north eastern Germany and date to the bronze age (ca. 3200 BP), except for sample WEZ16, which dates to the neolithic (ca. 5000 BP) and was found in a burial context. Although several samples from the Welzin site have been dated using the C 14 method, from the samples used for this study only the neolithic WEZ16 (2960BC ±66) and the Bronze Age sample WEZ15 (1007BC ±102) were radiocarbon dated. All individuals except WEZ16 were found in a non burial context, widely dispersed and dis-articulated [48] along the river bank of the Tollense river.


The PCA in Figure 4.24 shows modern Eurasian individuals in grey and ancient individuals in colour according to their assigned population (for details on the modern populations see Figure A.48). The majority of Welzin individuals fall within the variation of modern populations from the northern central part of Europe (compare Figure A.48), with hunter gatherers, the Yamnaya and the LBK populations appearing on the outer range of PC1 and PC2.


Outliers from the Welzin cluster are: WEZ16, which falls closer to the Sardinians and neolithic LBK along PC2, WEZ54, which clusters with the Basques and also fall closer to LBK individuals along PC2, WEZ57, which falls in between the former individual and the Welzin cluster, and WEZ56, which separates from the main cluster of Welzin individuals along PC2 in the opposite direction as the former three, towards the Corded Ware or Yamnaya.


The ancient population that share the most drift with the Welzin group are WHG and the SHG population followed by the Unetice, the Bell Beaker and the Corded Wear. Starting with the Unetice the following f3 values fall in the range of the standard error of each other. The average difference between two consecutive f3 values is 0.0021 ± 0.0024 and the average standard error in each f3 value is 0.0037 ± 0.0007. The most similar modern populations are the Polish, Austrians and the Scottish.


Any interpretation regarding possible parties that might have been involved in the conflict in the Tollense valley ∼ 3200 ago can only be speculative with regards to the here shown data. With the resolution given here, an educated guess for different involved parties could be, that both parties were relatively local and more closely related than any ancient DNA study was able to separate so far. Maybe similar to people from Hessen versus people from Rhineland-Palatinate in modern Germany.

Sell, Christian, Addressing challenges of ancient DNA sequence data obtained with next generation methods, Mainz : Univ. iii, 109 Seiten, 2017, Urn:nbn:de:hebis:77-diss-1000012793

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hilariously wrong

From a recent paper at Forensic Science International:

The most commonly found haplogroups [among Lithuanians] are R1a and N, hence it can be argued that Lithuanians originate from Pakistan/Northwest India and East China/Taiwan.

Jankauskiene et al., Population data and forensic genetic evaluation with the YfilerTM Plus PCR Amplification kit in the Lithuanian population, Forensic Science International, DOI:

For a reality check see here...

R1a: The beast among Y-haplogroups

Friday, October 20, 2017

Finngolians #2

The mad scientists are at it again. The quote below is from an American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) talk abstract. For the whole thing see here. Now, as I've pointed out on this blog before, Finns do not have Buryat or Mongolian ancestry, or anything even closely related dating to the Middle Ages. What they do have is some sort of Siberian admixture, which has been poorly characterized to date, but probably associated with archaeologically attested population movements across northern Eurasia during the metal ages.

We identified significant gene flow from the Buryats to the Finnish which was predicted to be occurred in 1,228 (±87) year. Moreover, 13.38% of Buryat admixture was predicted in the Finnish genome.

This sort of nonsense should never be let through peer review anywhere. It makes the ASHG and indeed population genetics look like a total joke. In fact, imagine if such sloppy inferences from population genetics are allowed to influence medical genetics work. Someone might eventually get hurt.

See also...

Finngolians #1

R1a and R1b from an early Mongolian tomb

Monday, October 16, 2017

Best of Davidski on South Asian population history

Very soon, perhaps even this year, we'll be seeing a major new paper from Harvard on the population history of South Asia. Apparently it'll be mostly based on ancient DNA from Bronze and Iron Age sites in present-day India and Pakistan. And yes, I know for a fact that it'll include Harappan samples from India.

It has to be said, unfortunately, that nearly all academic efforts to date to crack the mystery of the peopling of South Asia using DNA have been way below par, and often quite farcical. That's because ancient DNA relevant to South Asian population history hasn't been available for very long, and learning about ancient migrations and admixture events exclusively from modern-day DNA is really hard.

Also, I feel that many of these efforts have been ruined by politics. I don't want to harp on about that too much here, but it seems to me that the rather far fetched Out-of-India theory (OIT) has gained traction among many population geneticists of late simply because it's politically more palatable in the west than its main rival, the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). And that's mostly because the Nazis had a thing for Aryans, but also because AIT is seen by many Indians as an outdated concept used by the British during colonial times to legitimize their conquest of India.

Indeed, it's been a frustrating experience for me, and many others I'm sure, watching this nonsense unfold for the past 10-15 years. But on a positive note, it's forced me to look at this issue in more detail and produce a lot of solid work. It might be a good time now to recap this work. Below, sorted more or less in terms of awesomeness, is the best of Davidski on South Asia:

Ancient herders from the Pontic-Caspian steppe crashed into India: no ifs or buts

The Out-of-India Theory (OIT) challenge: can we hear a viable argument for once?

The peopling of South Asia: an illustrated guide

Children of the Divine Twins

The pseudo-steppe theory: last line of defense against the inevitable

A moment of clarity

Indian genetic history in three simple graphs

Caste is in the genes

The Poltavka outlier

Through time AND space?

The Indo-Europeanization of South Asia: migration or invasion?

These blog posts have already been read by many thousands of people, and, somewhat surprisingly for me, even made a decent splash on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. The screen cap below is from a thread at a Desi Reddit community called ABCDesis (see here).

Most of these Desis are highly skeptical of my arguments, which isn't unusual, nor is it surprising, considering the massive amount of anti-AIT/pro-OIT nonsense that has been dumped online in recent years. But I promise, most of my stuff on South Asia will still be relevant after the new Harvard paper touches down.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

40,000-year-old Tianyuan gives new insights into early population structure in Eurasia (Yang et al. 2017)

Over at Current Biology at this LINK. Here's the summary:

By at least 45,000 years before present, anatomically modern humans had spread across Eurasia [1, 2, 3], but it is not well known how diverse these early populations were and whether they contributed substantially to later people or represent early modern human expansions into Eurasia that left no surviving descendants today. Analyses of genome-wide data from several ancient individuals from Western Eurasia and Siberia have shown that some of these individuals have relationships to present-day Europeans [4, 5] while others did not contribute to present-day Eurasian populations [3, 6]. As contributions from Upper Paleolithic populations in Eastern Eurasia to present-day humans and their relationship to other early Eurasians is not clear, we generated genome-wide data from a 40,000-year-old individual from Tianyuan Cave, China, [1, 7] to study his relationship to ancient and present-day humans. We find that he is more related to present-day and ancient Asians than he is to Europeans, but he shares more alleles with a 35,000-year-old European individual than he shares with other ancient Europeans, indicating that the separation between early Europeans and early Asians was not a single population split. We also find that the Tianyuan individual shares more alleles with some Native American groups in South America than with Native Americans elsewhere, providing further support for population substructure in Asia [8] and suggesting that this persisted from 40,000 years ago until the colonization of the Americas. Our study of the Tianyuan individual highlights the complex migration and subdivision of early human populations in Eurasia.

Yang et al., 40,000-Year-Old Individual from Asia Provides Insight into Early Population Structure in Eurasia, Current Biology (2017),

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Upper Paleolithic genomes from Sunghir, Russia (Sikora et al. 2017)

Over at Science at this LINK. Not surprisingly, these four Sunghir individuals are very similar to another Upper Paleolithic Eastern European, Kostenki14, in terms of both genome-wide genetic structure and uniparental markers (Y-haplogroup C1a2, mtDNA-haplogroups U2 and U8c). If you can't access the paper, the supplementary materials are freely available here, and there's a press release here.

Abstract: Present-day hunter-gatherers (HGs) live in multilevel social groups essential to sustain a population structure characterized by limited levels of within-band relatedness and inbreeding. When these wider social networks evolved among HGs is unknown. Here, we investigate whether the contemporary HG strategy was already present in the Upper Paleolithic (UP), using complete genome sequences from Sunghir, a site dated to ~34 thousand years BP (kya) containing multiple anatomically modern human (AMH) individuals. We demonstrate that individuals at Sunghir derive from a population of small effective size, with limited kinship and levels of inbreeding similar to HG populations. Our findings suggest that UP social organization was similar to that of living HGs, with limited relatedness within residential groups embedded in a larger mating network.

M. Sikora et al., Ancient genomes show social and reproductive behavior of early Upper Paleolithic foragers, Science 10.1126/science.aao1807 (2017).

See also...

The genetic history of Ice Age Europe (Qiaomei Fu et al. 2016)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A homeland, but not the homeland #3

I found a historical linguistics paper at that fits rather nicely with my homeland but not the homeland theory. It's freely available in a PDF here. Below is the abstract and conclusion. Fascinating stuff.

In the late 80s and early 90s, Colin Renfrew presented his Anatolian hypothesis. According to him, the agrarian revolution begun in Anatolia, and from there, it spread out in Europe. He supposed that these farmers were carriers of the Proto-Indo European language, but his theory had weak support from Indo-European linguists. Some questions then arise: What language(s) was introduced in the Ægean islands and mainland Greece by these early farmers? Can we figure out the affiliations of the Minoan language? A different agrarian hypothesis will be shown in these pages, unrelated to the Indo-European and Semitic language families. It instead is featuring a new language family that encompasses the Ægean, Anatolia, Caucasus and the Near East.


Both archaeology and genetics point to an agrarian migration to Greece, originating from central/western Anatolia and the fertile crescent. Several millennia later, we find Hattic spoken in central Anatolia, while Hurrian was spoken within a large part of the fertile crescent [13]. Caucasus is nearby and is therefore a possible refuge of people akin to these early farming societies. Linguistic data seem to incline towards the conclusions made by geneticists and archaeologists. The aforementioned migrational model can explain why Pre-Greek words have counterparts in Hattic, Hurro-Urartian and North Caucasian languages. After the Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic linguistic families’ reconstructions, a third big family might emerge from this research. The goal is to restore common roots between those languages. Thus, any finding must be within a framework of rules, the conventional Neogrammarian method that is universally accepted. Rules appear to be static and precise, any Pre-Greek word could have a counterpart with Hattic and/or Hurro-Urartian and/or North Caucasian languages; in all respect, ἀ-> *Ø- is seen in all occasions. There are more rules and lexical data, but they are not mentioned in this paper. This is a proposal for further investigation in Languages and Linguistics, from Bronze Age to present in the region between Asia and Europe.

Giampaolo Tardivo, Philippos Kitselis, Prometheus or Amirani part 2. An updated study on the Pre-Greek substrate and its origins, Palaeolexicon, May 2017.

See also...

A homeland, but not the homeland

A homeland, but not the homeland #2

Steppe admixture in Mycenaeans, lots of Caucasus admixture already in Minoans (Lazaridis et al. 2017)