Tuesday, September 11, 2018

European archaeogenetics

Two of my favorite non-fiction books of all time include J. P. Mallory's In Search of the Indo-Europeans and David Anthony's The Horse, The Wheel, and Language.  However, both are sadly out of date.  Indeed, the latter (published 2007) seems like a modest update to the former (published 1989) although the former is actually a better survey of the subject, while the latter proposes a more specific and detailed model.  Both, however, predate the incredible and game-changing work in archaeogenetics which is defining the subject more than anything else that's come before or since since James Parsons famous statement that identified the Proto-Indo-European family in the first place, or Marija Gimbutas' first proposal of the Kurgan Hypothesis in the first place.

Unfortunately, there really isn't a good layman's book that updates the subject to include this, probably because 1) the findings are too new still, and 2) the findings are coming too fast and furious; by the time a book could be brought to press, it'd already be out of date.  This means that I'm trying to get up to speed on what the wealth of information is about prehistoric events for which we have no evidence other than archaeogenetics from blogs and other sources that reference scientific papers that are, quite honestly, too technical for me to make heads or tails of sometimes.  (I'm sharp enough, but I lack a grounding in the science, and it's devilishly hard to pick up from context alone.  I need to find a good primer on population genetics and how to read them.)  So, the updated next best survey of the subject featuring genetic evidence is not on the verge of coming out anytime soon, I bet. Unfortunately.

But, let's see if I can't come up with a very high level survey of the genetic history of Europe up into the historical era (not counting the invasions of, say, the Mongols, the Arabs/Ottomans and other Turks, or Africans, the latter two of which are ongoing.)  The founder populations of Europe are actually relatively easy to spot, if you look at them in broad strokes, and all Europeans are descended of some mix of all of these stocks.  This includes, obviously, the diaspora Europeans like Americans, Australians, etc., although they obviously include varying degrees of localized genetic admixtures (Elizabeth Warren's "Cherokee ancestry", the synthesis that created the Brazilians out of native Indians, Portuguese and other Europeans, and formerly enslaved Africans, etc.)
  • Neanderthals, of course, were in Europe prior to the arrival of anatomically modern humans.  Modern Europeans tend to have an average of about 2% Neanderthal admixture in their genetic profile, and some traits, such as sleep patterns, moods, and some physical phenotypal traits are believed to be influenced by this genetic legacy.
  • The first wave of Cro-Magnon seems to have left little to no genetic legacy, either because they were aggressively replaced by later waves, or because the Last Glacial Maximum proved to be their undoing or both.
  • Western Hunter Gatherers (WHG) - the first modern humans that have left a significant trace in our DNA, they appear to have been relatively short, with darker hair and skin (although some of the illustrations and descriptions have gone way overboard with this) than is common to most of Europe today, and blue eyes.  Although they've called Western, they did range pretty fair to the east, and in fact are a common early type around the Baltic.  Their phenotypes, at least, appear to have been largely bred out of much of Europe; no modern populations resemble them very much, although they have contributed a not insignificant (albeit varied) amount to the genetics of most Europeans still.
  • Their counterpart was the Eastern Hunter Gatherers (EHG) which ranged in the forest steppes of Eastern Europe, parts of Scandinavia, and moved into the actual Pontic-Caspian region, where they are associated with the physically robust "Proto-Europoid C" physical type of the Dnieper-Donets culture, for instance.  Taller, blonder, and fairly robust, the largest contribution of their genetics in a modern population today would be the Finns and northern Scandinavians, which they probably resembled, at least somewhat.
  • Moving out of Ice Age refugia in the Caucasus Mountains, we have the Caucasian Hunter Gatherers (CHG) who were darker in eye, skin and hair than the EHG, and probably resembled fairly closely the populations in the Caucasus today.  There were probably more than one pulse of this getting into Europe; a large portion of their DNA went to the formation of the Yamnaya, for example (see below) but separate admixtures seem to have contributed to some of the Anatolians and the Minoans, for example.
  • The Ancient North Eurasians are a much older population, modeled after a genetic study of 20,000+ year old DNA around Lake Baikal, that has offered tantalizing hints to connections between Europe and North America.  This is mostly based on how freakin' old it is, though—it's not meant to imply that the English and the Cherokee are long lost cousins, or anything like that.  It's also sometimes expected to represent an "Asian" type genetic, but it doesn't; it's far enough away from anything that would resemble a modern Asian as the WHG is.  It is, however, an important component of the EHG population, and further admixture as Uralic peoples gradually moved western along a far northerly route have strengthened its signal among, again, for the example, the Finns and Lapplanders.
  • The Yamnaya genetic markers, associated with the Yamnaya cultural horizon on the Pontic-Caspian steppe and which is strongly associated with the spread of the Indo-European languages (both into Europe and many parts of Asia, including India) is essentially a combination of EHG and CHG which then underwent further development in situ on the steppes.  As they spread into Europe in particular, there was widespread population displacement and replacement; the subsequent Corded Ware horizon in northern Europe is 75% Yamnaya genetically, for instance, and the Bell Beaker horizon that replaced 90% of the genetics of Britain (including the Stonehenge builders) with a proto-Celtic stock was similarly highly congruent with the Yamnaya.  To the east, the far eastern Afanasevo culture is genetically identical to the Yamnaya, and represents a migration of some portion of them without any admixture at all, curiously.
  • The Early European Farmers (EEF) spread from the south prior to the Yamnaya spread and are associated with the Neolithic "Secondary Products Revolution."  This population forms a cline; that is, it's signature is strongest to the south and fades (but not completely) as it heads north.  Much is made of the fact that the modern Sardinian population seems to be at least 80% congruent even today with this ancient genetic signature.
Because some of the ancient stocks get to us through intermediaries (i.e, both ANE and CHG mostly come through a Yamnaya filter) living populations are often described as a mixture of three main components; WHG, EEF and Yamnaya.

This interesting genesis of the European peoples is being seized upon, sadly, by globalists to push the narrative that Europeans aren't a real people, they're just a "mix" and therefore the "melting pot" is always part of Europe (and presumably should continue, as Europe is given away by hostile elites to hostile newcomers, while the native stock has yet to realize the true danger or do anything significant about it, other than start to vote for anti-immigrant political candidates in a small way.  Rather, the lesson to be learned from this is that population replacement is a real thing, it's happened many times in the past, and it could happen again if we let it.

Anyway, there are other interesting small details that get added to this.  While it's true that a gene such as Y DNA haplogroup R1a or R1b doesn't necessarily correlate exactly to a language family, it does mostly correlate, and linguistic shifts are pretty highly correlated to genetics shifts.  This means that we can use archaeogenetic sampling to, for instance, suggest that it is very unlikely that the Maykop culture is PIE (a perennial source of debate among the specialists) because it doesn't bear the genetic markers that are associated with the Indo-Europeans, but rather it is more closely associated with modern Caucasian populations such as the Circassians.  Similarly, the Kura-Araxes culture to the south of the range should be seen as most likely belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language group.  Now, obviously it's not quite this simple; the Maykop peoples seem to have interacted with Yamnaya people a great deal in terms of trade and more, and the Mitanni kingdom was a Hurrian kingdom that has clear evidence of an Indo-Aryan superstrate.  But still, the genetics is a powerful tool to tell us things about the past that we otherwise would have no way of knowing.

It's also a powerful tool that has swept away much of the political correctness that has gripped the field for the last many decades, as it is reinforcing the comebacks of many broader theories that enjoyed wide currency a while ago but which were set aside as not sufficiently politically correct to stand up to current year scrutiny.  Now, we have to accept them again, because we have new lines of evidence that suggest that some of the "OMG, fainting couch, those old white guys were racist!" theories were right all along.

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