European man, Y chromosomes & tea leaves

By Razib Khan | September 3, 2010 4:00 am

Sydney_opera_house_side_viewSometimes in applied fields artistic license is constrained by the necessity of function to particular creative channels. Architecture comes to mind, at least before innovative technologies produced lighter and stronger materials, freeing up form from its straitjacket (whether this was a positive development is a matter of taste). But there’s only so much you can do with your palette when your palette is limited. This can be a bug, or it can be a feature. Science is not art, but in some ways at its heart it’s a story about the universe. The story can be in words or math, no matter, ultimately it’s the human attempt to map nature and make its subtle patterns comprehensible to us in plainer fashion. Some of the human biases in our quest are transparent. Why is there anthropology? A whole discipline devoted to the study of mankind and his nearest biological kin. We don’t peruse the patters with an objective and uninterested eye. We’re shaped by our presuppositions, as well as the constraints of the methods, and the results we have before us. The emergence of a theoretical evolutionary biology in the decades before the molecular revolution after World War II may have been in part simply a function of the fact that there were only so many results one could squeeze out of classical evolutionary genetic techniques, which relied on tracking only a limited set of phenotypes due to large effect mutations in breeding populations. With the rise of molecular evolution you saw the crystallization of theoretical frameworks, such as the neutral theory, to explain the burst of novel results.

ResearchBlogging.orgAround the year 2000 something similar happened in historical population genetics. The analysis of mtDNA lineages, passed from mother to daughter, had matured, and techniques for typing the Y chromosome had started to catch up, so that a symmetry between the sexes could arise. “Mitochondrial Eve” was now paired with “Y chromosomal Adam.” Though mtDNA and Y lineages were only two direct lines of ancestry, because there was no recombination across much of their sequence it was easy to analyze them within the context of coalescent theory. In contrast, the genealogy of autosomal regions of the genome were confounded by recombination, which mixed & matched the variation in a manner which made reconstruction of past history far more difficult. So we had the technology to extract the genetic variation from mtDNA and the Y chromosome, and, we knew how to model their evolution. The two together produced a genetic time machine.

spencer_wells_00aThe result was a swelling of papers utilizing uniparental markers. You can see the chronology to some extent at the frequency of postings at Stanford’s Human Population Genetics Laboratory online repository. Another byproduct was the emergence of public intellectuals who filled the need which arose to interpret and communicate the findings to a lay audience. Four books are emblematic of the era, Bryan Sykes’ The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry, Spencer Wells’ The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, Stephen Oppenheimer’s The Real Eve: Modern Man’s Journey Out of Africa, and Steven Olson’s Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins. As a professional journalist Olson’s treatment was the odd one out, as much reportage as a personal interpretation. In contrast, Sykes, Wells, and Oppenheimer were making scholarly cases from their own vantage point. Oppenheimer and Wells also paired their books with television documentaries. Wells continues to remain in the public eye, he’s become a new sort of intellectual entrepreneur with the The Genographic Project. The age of uniparental markers then spawned careers and truisms. For example, the patterns of variation of mtDNA and Y chromosomes resulted in the consensus that ~75% of the ancestors of modern Europeans are descended from Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. The proportion of the ancestry contributed by Neolithic farmers decreased from southeast to northwest, converging upon zero in the far reaches of the British Isles and Norden.

R1bmapThis inference was made in large part based upon the contemporary patterns of genetic variation, by assigning modern haplogroups to putative ancient populations. To the left is a map of the frequency of haplogroup R1b, which is the most common Y chromosomal lineage in western Europe. The frequency is highest among the Basques, who were presumed to be the most pristine reservoir of the genetic substratum of Paleolithic Europe. The conception here was that the Basques were clearly indigenous to Iberia, they were already there before the arrival of outsiders such as the Celts, Phoenicians, and finally Romans (this has influenced modern Basque nationalism to some extent). Their non-Indo-European language was assumed to be a relic of many dialects which once existed before Indo-European swept over them. Using R1b, and other haplogroups at high frequency among the “indigenous peoples” of Europe, historical geneticists pegged the ancestral quanta of hypothetical prehistoric groups using these putative indigenes as modern references. But the inferences rested on assumptions, assumptions which couldn’t be directly tested. Until that is another methodological revolution arrived on the scene: the extraction of ancient DNA! These new waves of results, which came to the fore in the latter 2000s, have unsettled our preconceptions. It now seems that the past was likely more complex than we’d presumed, and the palimpsest of human genetic variation over time may have obscured and clouded our understanding of the map of what once was.

More recently some researches have gone back and looked at the variation within the R1b haplogroup, specifically the subclade which is very common in Western Europe, R1b1b2, and concluded that in fact it was most diverse in the eastern Mediterranean.  The most plausible inference to be made from this was that the R1b1b2 originated to the east, and spread to the west, rising in frequency due to genetic drift as populations went through bottlenecks and then rapidly expanded in size. Additionally, the last common ancestor of these lineages was on the order of ~10,000 years ago. This naturally upends the model which geneticists were confidently pushing forward in the early 2000s, shutting the door on debates as to the provenance of modern Europeans and their relationship to Ice Age hunter-gatherers. A follow up paper rebutted this new claim as to the origin and expansion of R1b1b2. What had been a stable and conventional area of historical population genetics has now been thrown into tumult, and researchers are looking more closely at the uniparental lineages which had had their time in the sun. Or so it seemed.

So with that background, a paper in The European Journal of Human Genetics steps into the “R1b controversy,” leaning to the side of those who argue for its origin more recently among Neolithic farmers. A major Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b Holocene era founder effect in Central and Western Europe:

The phylogenetic relationships of numerous branches within the core Y-chromosome haplogroup R-M207 support a West Asian origin of haplogroup R1b, its initial differentiation there followed by a rapid spread of one of its sub-clades carrying the M269 mutation to Europe. Here, we present phylogeographically resolved data for 2043 M269-derived Y-chromosomes from 118 West Asian and European populations assessed for the M412 SNP that largely separates the majority of Central and West European R1b lineages from those observed in Eastern Europe, the Circum-Uralic region, the Near East, the Caucasus and Pakistan. Within the M412 dichotomy, the major S116 sub-clade shows a frequency peak in the upper Danube basin and Paris area with declining frequency toward Italy, Iberia, Southern France and British Isles. Although this frequency pattern closely approximates the spread of the Linearbandkeramik (LBK), Neolithic culture, an advent leading to a number of pre-historic cultural developments during the past 10 thousand years, more complex pre-Neolithic scenarios remain possible for the L23(xM412) components in Southeast Europe and elsewhere.

There’s aren’t incredibly novel techniques of analyses here. Rather, the confusion around R1b1b2 has prompted researchers to expand their population coverage and resequence the markers around the haplogroup. These phylogenetic trees are constructed by genealogies which are separated by mutational steps, with steps of daughter mutations down a particular branch and distinguishing various derived clades. The terminology can kind of get confusing, but R1b1b2 is equivalent to the M269 branch in this study. What they did was analyze the phylogenetic relationships of the branches of R1b1b2 and it sister clades, and plot their frequencies as a function of geography. Below are a set of figures which show the frequencies of various clades across Europe. The last figure has several panels because they’re all subclades, and of somewhat less interest to the big picture. The first figure has the various branches, so you can see how they relate before browsing the maps.

no images were found

M269 is really the one to focus on. It and its daughter branches are at the heart of the Paleolithic vs. Neolithic controversy. Compare the phylogenetic tree in the first image, and the distributions of the allele frequencies in the subsequent images. The Western European variants seem to be daughter branches from an ancestral variant which is found in Anatolia or thereabouts. The authors also confirm the coalescence back to the last common ancestor  ~10,000 years ago, though the methods have a bias toward inflating the value, so that’s an upper bound. They also used PCA analysis show how the haplogroup variation exhibited cluster patterns. The first panel has the haplogroups, with PC 1 separating the ancestral R1b variant from the daughters, and the second PC separating each daughter branch. The second panel inputs the various fractions of R1b haplogroups in populations. There’s an obvious recapitulation of the geographical map in the distribution of haplogroups.

r1bFinal

What’s the moral of this story? I’m not going to get into the correlations they adduce between various archaeological groups and genetic lineages. That got us into trouble earlier as I implied. I don’t think the fine-grained results are solid enough that we should be taking that sort of interpretation too seriously. Rather, it’s telling us what we don’t know, and what we shouldn’t be clear on. I lean toward the proposition that R1b1b2 was brought by Neolithic farmers at this point, the paper which refuted that finding leaned strong on samples from Sardinia, which I suspect are more than not atypical and not representative (Sardinia tends to be an outlier on genetic plots because of its island isolation). But my confidence is hardly even modest at this point. There’s a lot we don’t know.

Stonehenge_back_wideHistory begins in Sumeria with the written word ~5,000 years ago. But as history dawns agriculture was still new to Norden and the fringes of the Baltic and British Isles. By the time what the ancients called Thule came into some focus, after the fall of the Roman Empire, much had passed beyond our line of sight. The original geneticists and archaeologists who attempted to synthesize their disciplines and construct a plausible model of how Europeans and Europe in its linguistic, genetic, and cultural variation, came to be, followed the principle of parsimony. Cavalli-Sofrza, Ammerman, and Renfrew presented us with a model where Paleolithic Europeans, who hunted & gathered, and spoke non-Indo-European languages, were slowly replaced culturally, linguistically, and partially genetically, by Indo-Europeans who brought farming from the Middle East. This was the “demic diffusion” hypothesis. I don’t think anyone accepts this as likely at this point, at least in its total simplicity of explanatory power. We need to reconsider whether the Basques can even serve as models for Paleolithic European man anymore! It may be that the Basques themselves are culturally and genetically intrusive, bringing their language and folkways along Mediterranean shores with agriculture, eventually marginalizing the thin numbers of hunter-gatherers beyond the limes of their “civilization.” Additionally, we have to remember that there was history before history, that what we term prehistory is rich with many developments which are preserved only vaguely and in the mists of oral tradition (though that tradition rapidly decays in fidelity). The more recent expansion of the Bantu and Austronesian languages do not benefit from copious records, because they spread with preliterate societies. The expansion of Turkic and Indo-Iranian dialects can only be perceived in the outlines because these peoples were on the fringes of societies where writing was part of their culture. Europe’s shift to agriculture occurred over thousands of years, and those thousands of years were all preliterate. Stonehenge and the megaliths were constructed by societies which we can comprehend only through their most robust monuments. The stones speak to a complexity which genetics can not resolve. Sometimes admitting that you don’t know is an answer in and of itself.

Citation: Myres NM, Rootsi S, Lin AA, Järve M, King RJ, Kutuev I, Cabrera VM, Khusnutdinova EK, Pshenichnov A, Yunusbayev B, Balanovsky O, Balanovska E, Rudan P, Baldovic M, Herrera RJ, Chiaroni J, Di Cristofaro J, Villems R, Kivisild T, & Underhill PA (2010). A major Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b Holocene era founder effect in Central and Western Europe. European journal of human genetics : EJHG PMID: 20736979

Image Credit: Frédéric Vincent, Matthew Field, National Geographic, Wikimedia

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Genetics, History
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  • dave chamberlin

    Am I right to assume that while the complex history of population expansion in Europe has not yet come into sharp focus, it is simply a matter of time until it does. I’ve heard Cochran and Hawks speak enthusiastically that there are museums all over Europe with ancient bones of known times and places that are just sitting on shelves waiting for a genetic sampling to be taken from them. Easier said then done I suppose, with the expense of genetic sampling, the difficulty of isolating only the genes of the dead host, and other problems, but I just wish this future would hurry up and get here. So much of our ancient history is lost to us now, but will someday be revealed to us in astonishing detail, when all these very old bones finally tell us their genetic tales.

    Or am I just dreaming?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    i suspect as questions area answered we’ll want to know more detail. so the target will keep moving :-)

  • Marnie

    For anyone who is interested, I’ve posted some comments on this topic on Dienekes blog in the comments on the Myers et al. paper.

  • Naughtius Maximus

    What is the consensus on the Basque language? What do you think caused/helped it to survive? Is it likely that that region became a “genetic hub” so to speak, a place that people carrying the marker used to spread out from.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #5,

    i think the most plausible explanation is the same as for berber dialect. ecological isolation, and distance from the core of the expansion of the new language group. basque is a linguistic isolate btw. as for the marker you need better coverage in european populations to draw finer-grained conclusions i think.

  • Marnie

    “What is the consensus on the Basque language?”

    There is not yet a consensus on the Basque language, although there are some indications that it originates in the Caucasus Mountains.

    “Is it likely that that region became a “genetic hub” so to speak, a place that people carrying the marker used to spread out from.”

    Likely, with the recent discover of the R-M269 Haplogroup, they will now have the tools to further delve into the genetic identity of pastoral groups such as the Basques.

  • onur

    pastoral groups

    Marnie, what do you mean by pastoral? Transhumance, some form of nomadism, non-mobile pastoralism or a combination? Also how much mixed with farming and/or fishing?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    has to be transhumance at most. basque have lots of sheep. but they farm and fish.

  • onur

    has to be transhumance at most. basque have lots of sheep. but they farm and fish.

    Yeah, but my questions were general, not just about Basques, as Marnie has been frequently talking about pastoralism lately.

  • Marnie

    Hi Onur,

    I believe that the initial push westward by R-M269 was nomadic in form. They were likely exploiting new pasture opened up by the receding ice at the end of the Holocene. As they were on the move, they likely did not derive much of their food from farming and they probably fished, hunted and foraged.

    As the later M412 LBK agriculturalists followed R-M269 up the Danube, and as the great forests of Europe grew up in the wake of the LGM, pastoralism in Europe became more regionalized and transhumant.

    I hate to recommend wiki again, but the page there on transhumance is good. It points out the many transhumant groups thoughout the world, many of whom are on the bee line of the ancient path of R-M269 westward.

  • Diarmid Logan

    If M-269 was brought to Europe by Neolithic farmers then why is celiac disease so common in the Irish? This would seem to indicate that M-269 was brought to Europe before gluten became a part of the human diet. Also Figure 3 seems to indicate that the Irish and Austrians are closely related, this does not make sense when you look at the locations of Ireland and Austria.

  • Naughtius Maximus

    If R1b is considered neolithic does it mean that it will be hard to track pre neolithic movements?

  • John Emerson

    The isolate languages in northern Eurasia are Basque, Burushaski, Yukagir*, Gilyak (Nivkh), and (a surprise to me) apparently Korean and maybe Japanese. There are always attempts to connect isolate languages to other language groups.

    The various languages of the Caucasian groups are also thought of as isolates, though I’m not sure why they are and the Finno-Ugric languages aren’t.

    There’s definitely a lumper v. splitter fight in this area. For example, some have questioned the Altaic Mongol-Turkisc-Tungusic group, and that supposed group’s connection with the Finno-Ugric group seems to have been discredited.

    The point I was trying to get to, though, is that the affinities of the Basque language have been argued over for a century or more to no effect, and the connection with the Caucasian languages is speculative, like all the others.

    *A connection of Yukaghir with the Na-Dene languages of N. America (Navajo, etc.) has recently been proposed and is much better argued than most such proposals. But time will tell.

  • Marnie

    “If R1b is considered neolithic does it mean that it will be hard to track pre neolithic movements?”

    Not necessarily. R1b is hardly the only Y haplogroup.

    By the way, it’s not clear that R1b is “Neolithic”. The Myers paper suggests that R-M269, a subclade of R1b, began its westward movement about 10,000 before present. Other subclades of R1b are older.

  • Marnie

    John, what do you think of the paper, “Shape and Tempo of language evolution”, SJ Greenhill, et al.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    By the way, it’s not clear that R1b is “Neolithic”. The Myers paper suggests that R-M269, a subclade of R1b, began its westward movement about 10,000 before present. Other subclades of R1b are older.

    they emphasize repeatedly that the methods are probably overestimating the dates.

  • onur

    they emphasize repeatedly that the methods are probably overestimating the dates.

    For all R1b subclades?

  • onur

    Marnie and Razib, do you have a source (other than Wiki) that you can recommend about transhumance in the world (not necessarily the whole world)?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    from the paper

    The ages of various haplogroups in populations were estimated using the
    methodology described by Zhivotovsky et al,30 modified according to Sengupta
    et al,10 using the evolutionary effective mutation rate of 6.9Â10À4 per 25 years.
    The accuracy and appropriateness of this mutation rate has been independently
    confirmed in several deep-rooted pedigrees of the Hutterites.31 Important
    caveats to consider include the fact that coalescent times (Td) is sensitive to
    authentic rare outlier alleles and that multiple founders during population
    formation will inflate the age estimate of the event.

    As the methodology assumes one founder, the expansion times will be
    inflated if multiple founders or recurrent gene flows have occurred.
    Thus, these estimates should be viewed as the upper bounds of
    dispersal times. A total of 1029 chromosomes were included in
    the Y-STR-based coalescent analysis involving components of the

    R1b-M343-affiliated phylogeny. The coalescent estimate for the
    Y-STR network tree of 245 M269*+L23(xM412) chromosomes is
    10 270±1680 years Before Present (BP). This estimate approximates
    the median TMRCA dates (8.5–12.5k years) of M269 clade across
    Europe based on alternative demographic inference methodology.33
    Our estimate of 8870±1708 years BP, based on 757 M412 chromo-
    somes, suggests that the M412 lineage evolved in Europe soon after the
    arrival of a L23* ancestor. The coalescent times for 11 sub-hap-
    logroups averaged across populations in which the sample size was
    5 are presented in Supplementary Table S2. Notable are the equivalent
    expansion times for all S116 (n1⁄4481), Td1⁄48630±1529 years BP and
    U106 (n1⁄4239), Td 8742±1551 years BP-related lineages.

    john e. prolly has better sources on transhumance.

  • Marnie

    Many of my thoughts and observations about transhumance come from my travels in the Pindos of Northern Greece where my husband comes from, as well as earlier travels in Switzerland. My husband’s family’s neighbours were traditional Sarakatsani shepherds until about 30 years ago, so I’ve taken the trouble to interview them about their way of life. It’s often struck me that these people have many similarities with shepherds in the British Isles. (Or with shepherds in the Pyrenees and Alps.)

    There’s quite a bit of information on the Sarakatsanoi. Even a youtube video:

    Sarakatsanoi: The Nomads of Agrafa

    Part 1:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm9Sui1YHoQ

    Part 2:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEUvP2UDf08

  • Marnie

    The Myres paper also mentions the Rhone Valley as having a very high percentage (27%) of L23(xM412). After reading that, I discovered this paper by Philippe Curd, “Prehistoric settlement in the middle and high latitudes in the Upper Rhone Valley (Valais-Vaud, Switzerland): A summary of twenty years of research.”

    From the paper:

    “After the end of the last Ice Age, Epipalaeolithic and Mesolithic hunters colonised the Rhone Valley by two different routes: over the high mountain passes in eastern Valais (connecting northern Italy) and by the Lower Rhone Valley in the west (connecting Lake Geneva). Early Neolithic culture spread to Valais over mountain passes linking the Alps with the Po Valley, possibly by grazing small herds in high pastures in summer. ”

    Based on the maps from the Myers papers, which you have posted above, L23(xM412) and M269 in the Alps are highly suggestive as being the link between early Neolithic shepherds of Eastern and Western Europe.

  • John Emerson

    Marnie, I just found and bookmarked Greenhill, via Dienekes. I tend to be skeptical of long term arguments about language relationship — this is of course a fairly conventional attitude. My own theory, not checked against what linguists think, is that relationships might not be traceable very far back because of successive and/or overlapping processes of division and separation, borrowing, areal affects, pidginization / creolization (simplification), and complexification. As I understand, when a language is pdiginized/ creolized it loses many structural and typological features.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    keep thinking “marnie nixon” :-)

  • Marnie

    Thanks for your comments John. The authors of the paper I mention are also skeptical, but do point out that some features of language are more enduring than lexicon.

    As to the Basques, the answer with likely be found with genetics.

  • Marnie

    marnie nixon. That’s better than “Marnie” in the Alfred Hitchcock movie!

    Night guys. Have a nice weekend.

  • Robin Datta

    I get a feeling that the Basques might carry the lineage of Homo sapiens neanderthalis, to a greater extent than do most of Europe. But that might be just fanciful thinking. It would however be quite interesting to sequence several representative samples of the Basque genome, and to compare it with the known sequences of the Neanderthal genome.

  • toto

    It may be that the Basques themselves are culturally and genetically intrusive, bringing their language and folkways along Mediterranean shores

    Of course, the modern Basques live near the Atlantic, not the Mediterranean. Their peri-Mediterranean neighbours are the Romance-speaking Catalans. So the putative Basque “invaders” would have gotten a taste of their own medicine at the hand of the Roman culture.

    I have no idea whether the deep linguistic difference between Basque and its Romance neighbours (Catalan, Gascon, etc.) is reflected in genetic data. I put a low prior on it.

  • onur

    Marnie, it seems to me that the Sarakatsanoi correspond more to the description of pastoral nomad (=nomadic pastoral) than transhumant. The term pastoral nomadism reminds me of a form of mobile pastoralism with migration of people and livestock over relatively long distances and with no farming activity, while the term transhumance reminds of a form of mobile pastoralism with migration of people and livestock over relatively short distances and mostly accompanied by farming. The Sarakatsanoi belong to the first category, so I call them pastoral nomad rather than transhumant. The Yörük, a mobile pastoral group who live in parts of Turkey and parts of the Balkans, are also pastoral nomad for example. Aromanians and Arvanitovlachs, mobile pastoral groups who live in parts of the Balkans, and whom you didn’t mention, are also pastoral nomad according to my categorization. But I don’t know to which category the other mobile pastoral groups from Europe you mention belong.

  • John Emerson

    I was also going to say: The origin of language seems to have been no later than 50,000 BC, so the linguistic world of 15,000 BC probably was extremely diverse, already differentiated into thousands of local languages, most of which have not survived in any form. It also may have been / probably was divided into thousands of local kin groups, some of them tiny, which were somewhat though never entirely endogamous., but over the course of time most of these groups disappeared, either destroyed or absorbed.

    We only have one time series of records going back as far as 5,000 years (Egypt / Mesopotamia) and it’s pretty sketchy. China is legendary before about 1200 BC. Greece is legendary before about 700 BC. For much of the world there’s only archeology, and for some part of the world not even much of that.

    In short, the world of 15,000 BC may have had very few cultural or linguistic points of contact with anything we recognize from the societies we have studied, and likewise, it’s possible that none of the peoples of that time would have more than the most general genetic match with any people known since 3000 BC.

    To put it differently, maybe all the peoples (defined as gene pools) and languages we know came into being (defined themselves, separated themselves) after 15,000 BC. (In the long view, the Aryan invasions must be regarded recent.)

    It’s also true, I think, that even though there were no wheeled vehicles in the earliest periods and horses had not been tamed, considerable long range mobility was possible into areas which were unsettled or thinly settled. So conceivably the Basques may indeed have entered Spain from somewhere else in, say, 3000 BC, right before the Indo Europeans, or even along with them, and be “new” there from the point of view of 15,000 BC.

    And while

  • onur

    The Yörük, a mobile pastoral group who live in parts of Turkey and parts of the Balkans, are also pastoral nomad for example.

    I mean according to my categorization.

  • John Emerson

    The pastoral nomads famous in history lived outside the control of any sedentary state on steppe lands stretching from Hungary to Manchuria with few natural boundaries. In the 18th and 19h centuries these groups were increasingly hemmed in and dominated by the sedentary (agricultural, civilized) states. During some of that time nomads in Russia and the Middle East were semi-autonomous allies of Persia, Russia, etc. and served as border guards. (In some cases the treaties they signed actually defined the nomads as free in the nomad-language version and as subjects in the “civilized-language” version, a pattern also seen in the American West during the Indian Wars.

  • John Emerson

    I was going to go on to say (editing glitch): contemporary nomads living under the control of the sedentary governments are a much-reduced version of the classical free nomads, whose ways of life were defined in large part by their independence of the sedentary states, and by their ability to successfully make war on the sedentary states.

  • onur

    I think those nomads living in border territories were often fairly free as you say, but those nomads living in more interior territories were in general less (often much less) free.

  • Pohranicni Straze

    While I understand why R1b gets so much attention -it’s the most common W. European group, so lots of samples are available, plus it generates lots of interest because it is so common- wouldn’t the I haplogroups be better markers for paleolithic European populations? Unlike R1b, haplogroup I seems to have actually originated in Europe, and (except for I2a, which clusters near the Mediterranean) mostly corresponds with the parts of Europe that adopted agriculture later.

  • John Emerson

    Khodarkovsky’s “Where Two Worlds Meet” Tells about the last days of Kalmyk freedom. The Kalmyks left China during the Qing dynasty during one of the Qing offensives against the steppe and affiliated themselves with Russia as free allies. As time went on they came under more and more pressure to become Russian subjects and in the 18th century one group fought it’s way back to China, suffering hideous losses. They still exist as the small Torgut tribe. The Kalmyks who remained became Russian subjects and served in the Czar’s armies — Kalmyks were among the troops who entered Paris when Napoleon was defeated. Those who stayed behind still exist as a Russian minority and have their own district.

    While all this was happening the Kalmyks were sending envoys to Beijing, the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, the Ottomans in Istanbul, and the Persians. Their position was isolated and distant, but the world they knew covered most of Northern Eurasia.

    http://www.amazon.com/Where-Two-Worlds-Met-1600-1771/dp/0801473403/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1283627974&sr=8-1

  • onur

    John, I want to ask you the same question that I asked Marnie and Razib above: do you have a source (other than Wiki) on transhumance in the world (not necessarily the whole world) that you can recommend?

  • Diarmid Logan

    Unlike R1b, haplogroup I seems to have actually originated in Europe, and (except for I2a, which clusters near the Mediterranean) mostly corresponds with the parts of Europe that adopted agriculture later.

    While Haplogroup I may have originated in Europe this does not necessarily mean that it predated the arrival of agriculture. Also, Ireland was one of the last places in Europe to adopt agriculture but Haplogroup I is much rarer there than R1b.

  • John Emerson

    Onur, I know a lot about nomads and very little about transhumance. In general transhumance is regarded as closely symbiotic with agriculture and subordinate to agriculture. In some broad sense nomadism is also symbiotic with agriculture, but it’s not subordinate.

  • onur

    John, in my above post (#29) I wrote these lines:

    “The term pastoral nomadism reminds me of a form of mobile pastoralism with migration of people and livestock over relatively long distances and with no farming activity, while the term transhumance reminds of a form of mobile pastoralism with migration of people and livestock over relatively short distances and mostly accompanied by farming.”

    Are these true?

  • onur

    Then I added these:

    “The Sarakatsanoi belong to the first category, so I call them pastoral nomad rather than transhumant. The Yörük, a mobile pastoral group who live in parts of Turkey and parts of the Balkans, are also pastoral nomad for example. Aromanians and Arvanitovlachs, mobile pastoral groups who live in parts of the Balkans, and whom you didn’t mention, are also pastoral nomad according to my categorization. But I don’t know to which category the other mobile pastoral groups from Europe you mention belong.”

    What about these? Are these true too?

  • John Emerson

    Here’s a book on contemporary and recent nomadism: http://books.google.com/books?id=XJk3AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=irons+nomadism&source=bl&ots=McDKOgczco&sig=roAxiNd_E_YtavCArVUJUkUd12o&hl=en&ei=uHaDTMeqGM7wngfbivzwDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Khazanov’s “Nomads and the Outside World” also has contemporary material.

    Lindner, Rudi Paul, “What was a Nomadic Tribe?”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1982: in some areas nomad raiding remained a reality until the early 20th century, when they found that they couldn’t outrun airplanes. Lindner also has a book I haven’t seen “Nomads and Ottomans”, about the Ottoman founding, and I plan to get it but haven’t read it.

    My interest in nomadism comes from its miitary and political importance 700 BC — 1300 BC. During that period the nomad peoples were a powerful and for a time irresistible political and military force. I have neglected the study of nomadism after 1400 or so, and especially after 1800 or so, because during that period the nomads lost their dominance and even its independence, so their significance became different and basically less.

    Onur #40: That seems about right. I think transhumance tends to be seasonal (spring, and summer pastures up and down a mountainside, plus a winter refuge). It’s often a satellite of an agricultural group, some of whose members are stationary and some mobile.

    Onur 41: I just don’t know, but I think that Irons’ book above, which I’ve only looked at, is a good place to start for contemporary nomadism.

  • onur

    John, thanks for the detailed answer.

    My interest in nomadism comes from its miitary and political importance 700 BC — 1300 BC.

    Yes, that is the golden age of pastoral nomadism. But obviously pastoral nomadism is much older than that, going back to the Neolithic revolutions. In Eurasia there are two big streams of pastoral nomadism: 1. The Eurasian Steppe pastoral nomadism, 2. The Circum Arabian pastoral nomadism. The former one was dominated by Indo-European speaking groups and then by Altaic (assuming such a language family exists) speaking groups, while the latter was dominated by Semitic speaking groups, at least these are what we know from history, archaeology and linguistics.

    That seems about right. I think transhumance tends to be seasonal (spring, and summer pastures up and down a mountainside, plus a winter refuge). It’s often a satellite of an agricultural group, some of whose members are stationary and some mobile.

    Yes. I think transhumant people are in general – both historically and recently – more farmer than pastoralist/herder types, so I was somewhat wrong when I mentioned transhumance as a form of mobile pastoralism. I also think that non-mobile pastoralism is a misnomer as those people too are in general – both historically and recently – more farmer than pastoralist/herder types. Part of the reason of my miscategorizations was that Wikipedia often confuses transhumance with pastoral nomadism and vice versa.

  • Marnie

    Oxford Dictionary definition of Transhumance:

    “The seasonal movement of herd animals, together with the herding population, between regions, as pasture becomes available (often between highlands and lowlands). Transhumant populations, such as the Saami of Arctic Scandinavia and the Nuer of Southern Sudan, differ from nomadic peoples in that their movement is regular, annual, and seasonal, rather than migrational.”

    Britannica has a similar definition, although it does mention that transhumant peoples also can farm, but not necessarily so.

    Certainly, your definition that “transhumant people are in general – both historically and recently – more farmer than pastoralist/herder types” is incorrect.

    And the wiki page on transhumance certainly does not confuse transhumance with pastoral nomadism. It has a wealth of information on transhumant peoples that any curious person can use as a base to further their understanding on this topic.

  • onur

    Disambiguation: I think transhumant people are in general – both historically and recently – more farmer than pastoralist/herder types, so I was somewhat wrong when I mentioned transhumance as a form of mobile pastoralism. I also think that non-mobile pastoralism is a misnomer as those people too are in general – both historically and recently – more farmer than pastoralist/herder types. Part of the reason of my miscategorizations was that Wikipedia often confuses transhumance with pastoral nomadism and vice versa.

    Here by “types” I referred to the subjects of the sentences, thus in the first one to transhumant people, and in the second one to non-mobile pastoralists (allegedly pastoralists if you ask me), so I could have omitted the words “types” and perhaps should have done so not to cause any confusion.

  • Naughtius Maximus

    What would the landscape and climate have been like in the areas in question? would this have an impact on their lifestyle?

  • onur

    Britannica has a similar definition, although it does mention that transhumant peoples also can farm, but not necessarily so.

    I agree that transhumant people may not farm, but I think most of them do farm and farming occupies more of their time than herding. So in general they are more farmer than herder. And of course there is some division of labor in transhumant communities. And I am talking about both ancient and recent times.

  • onur

    subjects of the sentences [#45]

    I mean clauses.

  • Marnie

    “What would the landscape and climate have been like in the areas in question? would this have an impact on their lifestyle?”

    At the end of the Holocene, in the zone of retreating glaciers, I’d guess that it looked like an alpine tundra ecozone, much like the areas exposed by retreating glaciers today.

  • onur

    Marnie, why do you constantly call the Pleistocene Holocene?

  • onur

    And the wiki page on transhumance certainly does not confuse transhumance with pastoral nomadism.

    I don’t think so. Wiki often uses both terms for the same groups of people, also the definitions of the terms aren’t clear.

  • onur

    So in general they are more farmer than herder. [#47]

    Here I should have added “I think” after “so”.

  • Y ddraig werdd

    In Romania transhumance is still practiced. The traditional form was something like the following. The villages ware up in the mountains close to the upper limit of the forest line. Most of the men stayed during the summer months on the highland pastures in permanent or semi-permanent huts. The people left in the villages(all most all the women, the old and small children) raised poultry, pigs and, if the climate allowed, cultivated small plots with vegetables. They also sold dairy and wood products in the lowland area if it was close by. In the autumn the men passed through the village. Some would spend the winter there, the others left with the animals to the lowland area. During there voyages they would also trade wool, dairy and wood products. With age and especial with greater resources they would settle permanently in the village and hire other people to take care of the livestock. The movement was regular and routes fairly fixed. But as this meant that men spent months and even years away from there families some of them , especially the younger ones, did wonder off in new direction. As such the line between trashumance and pastoral nomadism was not that clearly defined. The Romanian shepherds (known as Vlachs , name shared with the closely related Aromanians) spread in this way between the 14th century and the 17th all the way to eastern Moravia in the Czech Republic ( see Moravian Wallachia) They lost the language but there culture left a lasting impact on the highland groups in Slovakia and Poland. Latter on in the second half of the 19th century, as Russia eliminated the threat of the Crimean Tatars, large groups of Romanian shepherds started spending the winter in Dobruja with some advancing along the north cost of the Black Sea until they almost reached the Caucasus. After Dobruja was annexed by Romania in 1878 most of them settled permanently there. This eastern trend finally stopped with the First world war.
    Aromanians, who had a similar lifestyle, started in the late 18th to become more and more engaged in trade and to settle in the Vienna and Budapest (it’s hard to tell the numbers as they were know in Central Europe as “Greak traders”). There traditional transhumance and trade routes where destroyed by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

  • John Emerson

    The politician Michael Dukakis is partly of Greek Aromanian descent.

  • Ponto

    Transhumance is practised in lots of Europe not just Romania, in fact in every place with mountain lands and valleys suitable for grazing during summer.

    Interesting how English speakers always mention Stonehenge and connect it with real ancient Europeans. Linguistic ethnocentrism. I am Maltese and there are many Megalithic Structures, buildings still standing in Malta and older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Egypt. Megaliths vary in age and complexity over Europe from simple stones stuck in the ground, Menhirs, as in England and Portugal to Dolmens to simple shelters to large structures as Stonehenge was in its heyday. The point is this: Stonehenge is the johnny-c0me-lately of Megaliths not the be all and end all. Maybe you should study how Megaliths were started and progressed from Turkey to North Africa to Portugal to Scandinavia.

    I have never believed the preposterous association of R1b with Paleolithic Europeans. A simple glance of a Y chromosome phylogenetic tree will show R1b and R1b are rather down the tree. With R1b it eventually tracks back to haplogroup F, as does haplogroup paragroups I and J which are only a few steps, SNPs, downstream from haplogroup F. Either the R group is highly mutative which implies there would be no R1b today in existence or it is a young haplogroup, much younger than the age of Paleolithic Europeans. The association of R1b with Cro Magnons is laughable. And it all comes from the racism. The hatred of anything to do with the Middle East. The taint from the east of the Mediterranean.

    It is sad that assumptions are made on the frequencies of haplogroups today and what haplogroups existed in the remote past. I can see that the R1b lobby group like the Luddites are fighting back, and using the controversy over haplogroup dating as a ruse. Luckily with time, the truth in science usually prevails.

  • bioIgnoramus

    “Interesting how English speakers always mention Stonehenge ….Stonehenge is the johnny-c0me-lately of Megaliths…you should study how Megaliths were started and progressed from Turkey to North Africa to Portugal to Scandinavia.” Always? But you’ve just repeated the account of the sequence of building that was the standard account in Britain 50 years ago. It may still be the standard account, for all I know, depending on what evidence has emerged over the last 50 years.

  • bioIgnoramus

    “And it all comes from the racism. The hatred of anything to do with the Middle East. The taint from the east of the Mediterranean.” Dear God, that’s ignorant; you’ve got it entirely arse over tip. When I was a boy we were taught that virtually everything civilisational came to us first from the Middle East, then later from the Greeks and Romans. The general line was that our ancestors were woad-covered, head-hunting cannibals while johnny foreigner was reading, writin’ and ‘rithmeticing like mad in his jolly fine cities, by his irrigation canals and astronomical observatories. I dare say that the scholars of the day were over-egging the pudding, but that was the standard line.

  • onur

    Transhumance is practised in lots of Europe not just Romania, in fact in every place with mountain lands and valleys suitable for grazing during summer.

    Yes, transhumance is practised (or at least was practised until very recent times) in almost all countries of Europe and the world in general. Known pastoral nomadic (not transhumant!) groups of West Eurasia like the Sarakatsanoi, Aromanians and some other Vlach groups, the Yörük, the Bedouin, Kotcher Kurds, Bakhtiari Iranians, on the other hand, have always been marginal both in their respective countries/regions and in a West Eurasian context except in Arabia, where the Bedouin have (or had until the sedentarization in very recent times) a high proportion in the total population.

  • onur

    The earliest megalithic sites have been discovered in Turkey like Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Cori (written as “Nevalı Çori” in Turkish). Known European – and from the rest of the world – megaliths are all later than these.

  • Marnie

    My statement above “At the end of the Holocene, in the zone of retreating glaciers . . . ” should instead read,

    At the beginning of the Holocene, in the zone of retreating glaciers, I’d guess that it looked like an alpine tundra ecozone, much like the areas exposed by retreating glaciers today.

    The final word from the Myres paper:

    “The narrow temporal window between potential expansions by Mesolithic foragers at the onset of the Holocene (10k years ago) and pioneer farmers from the Near East during the early Neolithic intoCentral Europe (7.5k years ago) is exceedingly difficult to discern with genetic tools. Thus, invoking the pronounced transformation of the pre-Neolithic European gene pool by intrusive pioneer farmers fromthe Near East must be viewed cautiously especially when such an argument is based on just a single incompletely resolved haplogroup. Although the transition to agriculture was a pivotal event in human history, the spread of specific haplogroups can occur in more than one migration event. Evidence of trade networks based on the exchange of commodities (eg salt, amber) along northwest to south and southeastdirections, eg the Iron Age Hallstatt Culture, provided opportunities for potential gene dispersion. However, the magnitude of such putative commodity-driven gene flows remains uncertain until direct evidence from ancient DNA is provided in combination with potentially even more high-resolution and informative sub-haplogroup fractions relevant to particular trade routes or culturalhorizons are detected and used to test hypotheses concerning post-Neolithic histories.”

  • onur

    There is also the difficulty of discerning between the genetics of Neolithic farmers and the genetics of Neolithic pastoralist nomads (a group often neglected). I am not even mentioning post-Neolithic migrations (farmer, pastoralist or whatever). I think only ancient DNA will give satisfactory answers to these kinds of questions.

  • Diarmid Logan

    And it all comes from the racism. The hatred of anything to do with the Middle East. The taint from the east of the Mediterranean.

    Actually, I think it has little to do with racism and a lot to do with the nonsense going on in the Middle East such as stoning women for adultery.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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