Bronze Age population dynamics and the rise of dairy pastoralism on the eastern Eurasian steppe (2018)

I’m running the risk of this becoming a genetics blog, but another interesting paper came out this week: Bronze Age population dynamics and the rise of dairy pastoralism on the eastern Eurasian steppe.

The paper deals with Late Bronze Age (~1200BC) burials in the north of modern Mongolia, Hövsgöl province. These represent the earliest evidence for pastoralism on the Mongolian steppes[1]. Unlike most Siberian pastoralists found so far, who were genetically predominantly European (although with significant East Asian ancestry),  all but one Hövsgöl individual are distinctly Asian, similar to modern “Altaic” populations, with only slight admixture from Andronovo-derived western peoples.

As the PCA graphs show, Hövsgöl culture is on a “Eurasian-Neosiberian”[2] cline of Botai – Okunev – Hövsgöl – Early Bronze Age (cis-)Baikalia – Neolithic (cis-)Baikalia – Devil’s Gate cave, but far closer to DGC than Botai. Yet by paternal haplogroups, Hövsgöl, like Bronze Age Baikal, appears more similar to Okunev (and Turkic and Yeniseian populations) with ten out of twelve males carrying Q1a variants; than to Neolithic Baikal populations: only one male is carrying haplogroup N, which dominates among Neolithic Baikals, Liao civilization, Yakuts, and many Uralic groups.

Previously, I have speculated that Siberian Sakas and the Western Xiongnu were the speakers of Pre-Proto-Turkic.  I no longer hold this to be likely. The Hövsgöl people seem like a better fit for the Pre-Turks. It seems possible that the acquisition of pastoralism afforded them greater influence on the neighboring peoples and that this period represents a starting point or an upsurge in lexical borrowing from (pre-)Turkic among other languages of northeastern Eurasia.

I hope that soon we’ll see some archaeogenetic findings from Inner Mongolia and Manchuria soon. It is probably here that we will find vital clues about the nature of “Neosiberian” ancestry that may have implications on the languages of East Asia.


[1] Note that introduction of domestic cattle into China, also from western Eurasia, took place much earlier.

[2] Continuing with the terminology from the previous post, I use “Eurasian” to refer to ancestry related to the Mal’ta boy (~22000BC), usually called “Ancient North Eurasian” (ANE), which is present to some extent in Europeans and Native Americans, and “Neosiberian” to that similar to remains found in Devil’s gate cave (~5500BC), which shows great affinity to modern Tungusic populations of Primorsky krai.

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