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Yamnaya nomads left a strong genetic mark on Europeans and Asians

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By Ann Gibbons

Republication from www.sciencemag

The Bronze Age came to Europe and Asia 5000 years ago, leaving a trail of metal tools, axes, and jewelry that stretches from Siberia to Scandinavia. But was this powerful new technology an idea that spread from the Middle East to European and Asian people, or was it brought in by foreigners? Two of the largest studies of ancient DNA from Bronze Age and Iron Age people have now found that outsiders deserve the credit: Nomadic herders from the steppes of today’s Russia and Ukraine brought their culture and, possibly, languages with them—and made a relatively recent and lasting imprint on the genetic makeup of Europeans and Asians.

In the studies, published online today in Nature, two rival teams of geneticists analyzed the DNA from 170 individuals who lived at key archaeological sites in Europe and Asia 5000 to 3000 years ago. Both teams found strong evidence that a wave of nomadic herders known as the Yamnaya from the Pontic-Caspian, a vast steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea and as far east as the Caspian Sea, swept into Europe sometime between 5000 and 4800 years ago; along the way, they may have brought with them Proto-Indo-European, the mysterious ancestral tongue from which all of today’s 400 Indo-European languages spring. These herders interbred with local farmers and created the Corded Ware culture of central Europe, named for the twisted cord imprint on its pottery. Their genes were passed down to northern and central Europeans living today, as one of the teams posted on a preprint server earlier this year and published today.

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Yamnaya nomadic herders may have swept into Bronze Age Europe, transforming the local people

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Republication from www.sciencemag.org

 

[map of Yamnaya culture from Wikimedia commons]

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Call it an ancient thousand man march. Early Bronze Age men from the vast grasslands of the Eurasian steppe swept into Europe on horseback about 5000 years ago—and may have left most women behind. This mostly male migration may have persisted for several generations, sending men into the arms of European women who interbred with them, and leaving a lasting impact on the genomes of living Europeans.

“It looks like males migrating in war, with horses and wagons,” says lead author and population geneticist Mattias Jakobsson of Uppsala University in Sweden.

 

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The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia

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Republication from biorxiv

 

Abstract

The genetic formation of Central and South Asian populations has been unclear because of an absence of ancient DNA. To address this gap, we generated genome-wide data from 362 ancient individuals, including the first from eastern Iran, Turan (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan), Bronze Age Kazakhstan, and South Asia. Our data reveal a complex set of genetic sources that ultimately combined to form the ancestry of South Asians today. We document a southward spread of genetic ancestry from the Eurasian Steppe, correlating with the archaeologically known expansion of pastoralist sites from the Steppe to Turan in the Middle Bronze Age (2300-1500 BCE). These Steppe communities mixed genetically with peoples of the Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) whom they encountered in Turan (primarily descendants of earlier agriculturalists of Iran), but there is no evidence that the main BMAC population contributed genetically to later South Asians. Instead, Steppe communities integrated farther south throughout the 2nd millennium BCE, and we show that they mixed with a more southern population that we document at multiple sites as outlier individuals exhibiting a distinctive mixture of ancestry related to Iranian agriculturalists and South Asian hunter-gathers.

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New study shows how Indo-European languages spread across Asia

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Republication from  humanities.ku.dk (University of Copenhagen)

Indo-European languages

A new study has discovered that horses were first domesticated by descendants of hunter-gatherer groups in Kazakhstan who left little direct trace in the ancestry of modern populations. The research sheds new light on the long-standing “steppe theory” on the origin and movement of Indo-European languages made possible by the domestication of the horse.

The domestication of the horse was a milestone in human history that allowed people, their languages, and their ideas to move further and faster than before, leading both to widespread farming and to horse-powered warfare.

 

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Analysis of ancient mitochondrial DNA gives insights into population movements in the Tarim Basin, China

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Republication from Biomed central

Afanasievo-Tarim

Fig. 1

Map of Eurasia showing the location of the Xiaohe cemetery, the Tarim Basin, the ancient Silk Road routes and the areas occupied by cultures associated with the settlement of the Tarim Basin. This figure is drawn according to literatures

 

https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2Fs12863-015-0237-5/MediaObjects/12863_2015_237_Fig2_HTML.gif

 

Fig. 2

a Fourth layer of the Xiaohe cemetery showing a large number of large phallus and vulva posts; b A well-preserved boat coffin; c Female mummy with European features; d Double-layered coffin excavated from the Xiaohe cemetery

 

Chunxiang Li, Chao Ning, Erika Hagelberg, Hongjie Li, Yongbin Zhao,  Wenying Li, Idelisi Abuduresule, Hong Zhu and Hui Zhou

BMC Genetics201516:78

DOI: 10.1186/s12863-015-0237-5

Abstract

Background

The Tarim Basin in western China, known for its amazingly well-preserved mummies, has been for thousands of years an important crossroad between the eastern and western parts of Eurasia. Despite its key position in communications and migration, and highly diverse peoples, languages and cultures, its prehistory is poorly understood. To shed light on the origin of the populations of the Tarim Basin, we analysed mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms in human skeletal remains excavated from the Xiaohe cemetery, used by the local community between 4000 and 3500 years before present, and possibly representing some of the earliest settlers.

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Most European men descend from a handful of Bronze Age ancestors

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Republication from the University of Leicester

Bronze Age EuropeBronze Age European warriors

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University of Leicester researchers discover a European male-specific population explosion that occurred between 2000 and 4000 years ago
  • Researchers determined DNA sequences from the Y chromosomes of 334 men belonging to 17 populations from Europe and the Middle East
  • Study shows that almost two out of three (64%) modern European men belong to just three young paternal lineage
  • Male-specific population expansion was widespread, and surprisingly recent, focusing interest on the Bronze Age

Geneticists from the University of Leicester have discovered that most European men descend from just a handful of Bronze Age forefathers, due to a ‘population explosion’ several thousand years ago.

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