Not misunderstanding the past requires suspicion

By Razib Khan | December 21, 2010 1:52 pm

In my post on African farmers someone responded:

It was famously reported last winter that Bushmen seem to differ genetically amongst themselves more than Europeans and Asians do. These two latter groups have been separate for at least 40,000 years.

At least? Razib, you are way off on the separation time of Europeans and East Asians. I think it’s much closer to 30,000 years at most. There is growing evidence that ancestral Europeans and ancestral East Asians were one and the same people until 22,500 years ago.

Present-day Europeans and East Asians descend largely from a small nomadic population that once roamed Eurasia’s northern tier—a belt of steppe-tundra that stretched from southwestern France to Beringia during the last ice age. This population then split in two around the time of the glacial maximum (Rogers, 1986; Crawford et al, 1997). Chronologically, this barrier to east-west gene flow matches the dating by Laval et al. (2010) of the split between ancestral Europeans and ancestral East Asians.

The italics are my words, emphasized by the commenter. The bolding is the commenter’s as well (I had to fix some HTML in that comment, but I think I corrected in line with the commenter’s intent). I read (and blogged) the paper cited, so I’m well aware of the low bound value implying more recent common ancestry of East and West Eurasians posited here. I’m moderately skeptical. Part of the issue is that these sorts of computational models are tricky, and most of us aren’t versed in the various moving parts which go into constructing the model. Consider the following from the cited paper:

We tested different evolutionary models…that allow different levels of introgression of archaic hominids to modern human populations. We assumed an early diffusion of archaic hominids (Homo erectus) out of Africa ~1.25 and ~2.25 million years ago…various ancestral migration rate intensities (m0, ancestral migration rate is the proportion of migrants before the Out-of-Africa exodus) and an African exodus of modern humans between ~40,000–100,000 years ago…By tuning the replacement rate δ, we then simulated scenarios that consider different levels of replacement of archaic hominids by modern humans (i.e. different levels of introgression of archaic material into the modern gene pool), including the most extreme cases of complete (δ = 1) and no replacement (δ = 0) as well as several scenarios with varying intermediate levels of replacement…The summary statistics were calculated by merging all population samples (except for global FST) in order to minimize the effects of recent demographic events related to the continental populations. We thus considered in all models a constant size for the three modern human populations. The model with residual ancestral migration rate (m0~10−10) and full replacement (δ = 1) clearly better fitted our data than any other model…highest ψ1, the ψ1 of this model is significantly higher after correction for multiple testing when compared with the other ψ1 values, P<0.01). However, we could not discern between a complete (δ = 1) and an almost-complete (δ≥0.99) replacement of archaic hominids (difference between ψ1 is not significant for this pairwise comparison), indicating that a small contribution of archaic humans to our present-day genome cannot be completely ruled out….

This part of the paper produced predictions which are likely false. The highest probability scenario derived from their model is “full replacement,” which was close to falsified in less than a month after the publication of the paper (though until more data comes in we should still obviously include in some wiggle room for error in the results which indicated Neandertal admixture). But even the second highest probability model, 0-1% archaic admixture, is also probably false. Neandertal admixture is estimated between 1-4%, with the probability naturally that it will be within the interval, not on the margin (I am to understand that future research will clarify the fraction, and it is nearly the midpoint, not along the edges of the distribution). Obviously that does not necessarily falsify the contention that Europeans and East Asians share ancestors ~20,000 years BP, but, it should make us cautious of putting too much weight on models which are likely sensitive to a range of inputs when it comes to putative demographic models. I assume that a very similar model with some parameters fine-tuned could align appropriately with the more recent findings which confirm admixture via ancient DNA. But what’s the utility of such models post facto?

eurasianoriginA bigger issue when it comes to positing relatively recent common ancestry of Eurasians has to do with the fact that in many analyses (though not all) it is clear that East Asians are closer to Oceanians than Europeans. When it comes to Oceanians, Papuans, Melanesians, and Australian Aboriginals, the archeology is nicely clear and distinct. It looks as if Sahul was settled ~50,000 years ago. The assumption currently is that the modern populations of the highlands of Papua and the Australian Aborigines are descendants of these populations. This means that Oceanians have been isolated from other non-Africans for ~50,000 years, excluding recent admixture (e.g., Austronesian influence, European admixture among Aborigines). By intuition then East Eurasians and West Eurasians should form a clade with Oceanians as an outgroup, and yet this is not what we always see (though we do see it sometimes). The above is a visualization of Fst distances from the recent paper on Australian Aborigines. It is likely that you are seeing more than simply time to last common ancestor between the groups. Some of these populations have been isolated, and likely gone through population bottlenecks (both Amerindians and Oceanians).

abofig2To the right is a PCA from the same paper. It’s the standard one you see of HGDP populations, along with the addition of Aborigines, who clearly have a great deal of admixture with Europeans. Rather, focus on the Papuans. Remember that you’re capturing only the two largest components of variation in the HGDP set. But the PCA 3 and 4 show that Eurasians and Africans cluster against Oceanians and Amerindians, who are distributed orthogonally with respect to each other. I personally wouldn’t read too much into the Papuan position closer to Europeans than East Asians, though I don’t think it is admixture with Europeans in this case. Let’s look at this in another way.

Below is a standard STRUCTURE bar plot from the same paper, K = 2 to K = 8. The populations on the far right on Oceanian, Aborigines, Melanesians and Papuans. On the far left Africans, then East Asians, then Europeans (I removed South and Central Asians):

struc

Again, you have to interpret these results with care. East Asians, Amerindians, and Oceanians tend to separate off from Eur-Africans first. Later you see the obvious European admixture among Aborigines, as well Austronesian admixture among the Melanesians. But still observe that the genetic variation among Oceanians and Eurasians tends to split off from Europeans first as you ascend up the K’s.

Now let’s look at another paper, The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans. Two figures.

euro1

eurasianorigin2

As they say, curiouser and curiouser. The second figure might actually be consistent with a branching off of Oceanians far earlier than Europeans + East Asians. But look again at the Amerindian branch. All the research currently suggests they’re derived from Siberian groups. Their genetic distance is probably a function of population bottlenecks and/or lack of genetic exchange with populations on the World Island. One issue is that this second paper has as inputs a wider range of African populations. Here’s a slice of the STRUCTURE results from this paper:

eurasianorigin3

Finally, a tree from Worldwide Human Relationships Inferred from Genome-Wide Patterns of Variation:

eurasianorigin6

I kind of saturated this post with charts, but the reason is that these sorts of charts always run through my head whenever I’m trying to evaluate a historical or archaeological hypothesis. Obviously this doesn’t prevent flubs. I so internalized the model whereby non-Africans are a branch of Africans that I neglected to consider the variant genetic distances of non-Africans from Africans, even excluding those with obvious recent admixture from Sub-Saharan Africa such as the Mozabites. Additionally, you always have to account for local genetic peculiarities due to isolation which might deceive as to the time of the last common ancestor between populations because of different evolutionary parameters on some branches of a lineage. And obviously the Neandertal admixture story combined with other confusing results from ancient DNA should make us exceedingly cautious about how rock solid the priors are which we use to frame our probability calculations for any given assertion.

So back to Eurasians and Oceanians. The key for me is that I do believe that archaeologists are correct in pegging the population of Sahul, New Guinea and Australia, to 50,000 years B.P. I also have modest confidence that the populations of the highlands of New Guinea and the non-Eurasian component of Aborigine ancestry derive back to this period of first settlement. Looking at the set of trees above I am simply not confident that East Asians and Europeans separated as half as long ago as they did from Oceanians. One part of the solution though could be admixture. I modestly accept the proposition that South Asians are a hybrid population, and their position between West Eurasians and East Eurasians, but closer to the former, has to do with admixture between and ancient substrate and a West Eurasian population which was intrusive to the subcontinent within the last 10,000 years. A similar model may apply to East Eurasia, where these populations are a compound of an ancient group which was distantly related to those of Sahul, and an intrusive group from the fringes of Siberia. The relative closeness of East Asians to Oceanians (in particular, Papuans, who do not seem to have Austronesian admixture) can then be explained by this common ancient ancestry during the Paleolithic. The current pattern of East Asian variation south of the Amur may be due mostly to a demographic expansion of farmers from a locus of agricultural innovation somewhere in northern China.

Of course there are plenty of models one could construct verbally, and find some support for the literature. My own preference, though only weakly at that, would be a separation of West Eurasians and all other non-Africans ~40,000 years ago. Then a separation of Oceanians from all other non-West Eurasian non-Africans. Then the separation of Amerindians from the East Eurasians. And then finally an expansion of a subset of West Eurasians and East Eurasians during the Holocene which replaced by and large the Southeast Eurasian population which spanned India to the fringes of Sahul. This does not negate the possibility (likelihood in fact) of gene flow around the northern fringe of Eurasia.

But at the end of the day these are the days for humility and caution. Naturally in the course of writing I will forget this on occasion, but the response is not to refute and assert boldly ex cathedra one’s own position.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Genetics, Genomics, History
  • http://dienekes.blogspot.com Dienekes

    Early Upper Paleolithic European skulls cluster with modern Europeans

    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2010/12/world-craniometric-analysis-with-mclust.html
    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2005/09/affinities-of-early-upper-paleolithic.html
    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2005/08/affinities-of-early-upper-paleolithic.html

    Of course they are not _identical_ to modern Europeans, they are generally more robust, longer-skulled, broader-faced, etc. but they are clearly related to Europeans.

    If basic Caucasoid morphology was already in existence 30,000 years ago, how could there be an undifferentiated Eurasian population 20,000 years ago?

  • http://www.kinshipstudies.org German Dziebel

    “But look again at the Amerindian branch. All the research currently suggests they’re derived from Siberian groups.”

    Not true, Razib. Even the charts that you’ve pulled here show this to be false. The chart from “Worldwide Human Relationships Inferred from Genome-Wide Patterns of Variation” shows that Amerindians and Melanesians separated before S-East Asians/Siberians. Fig S14 makes Amerindians closer to East Asians than to anybody else but it’s hard to say which one branched off first. Amerindians are much more divergent than East Asians. The same can be inferred from the very first chart. In the first chart from “The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans,” just like in the last one you show, Amerindians branch off before East Asians.

    Earliest Amerindian skulls are not “East Asian” but rather Australo-Melanesian, which is consistent with some of your charts. The earliest dates for a generalized “Mongoloid” morphology are in fact in America and not in East Asia. From the mtDNA perspective, Amerindians have lineages (B, X) that are barely, if at all, attested in Siberia. From the Y-DNA perspective, only a minor Amerindian clade, namely C, is frequent in Siberia; the major one, Q, is closely related to R, which is frequent in Europe. Archaeologically speaking, there’s not a single Pleistocene culture in Siberia that could be considered the precursor of Clovis. A typical Siberian tool type (from 20K on), namely microblades, is barely attested in the Americas. Clovis is more of flake-biface type, which is untypical for Siberia and closely resembles Solutrean technologies in Europe. Levels of linguistic diversity in the Americas are the highest worldwide and have no parallels in Siberia. Papua New Guinea is the closest match.

    You probably wanted to say that America was colonized from Siberia in a simple geographic sense. But when you say “Siberian groups,” this causes a problem, as no present evidence identifies extant Siberian groups as providing the most recent source for all Amerindians. For another piece of current research see http://ajol.info/index.php/ijma/article/view/60335/48576. It also gives a tree in which Africans and West Eurasians are grouped together, with East Eurasians and Australo-Melanesians separately. Americans are an outgroup to all.

    “My own preference, though only weakly at that, would be a separation of West Eurasians and all other non-Africans ~40,000 years ago. ”

    How do you explain the fact that mtDNA-wise Europe is covered with lineages belonging to the R subset of N macrohaplogroup (U, H, etc.) and show little if any direct descendants of phylogenetically upstream M and N nodes? This suggest to me an almost complete replacement of the original European mtDNA pool by post-LGM migrants.

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  • http://www.evoandproud.blogspot.com Peter Frost

    “If basic Caucasoid morphology was already in existence 30,000 years ago, how could there be an undifferentiated Eurasian population 20,000 years ago?”

    Ancestral Eurasians were more Caucasoid than Mongoloid in morphology. Most specifically Mongoloid traits seem to be “derived”, i.e., they arose after the Caucasoid/Mongoloid split.

    Razib,

    I share your doubts about the Laval et al. paper, but the bulk of the evidence indicates that the Caucasoid/Mongoloid split happened long after the entry of modern humans into the Middle East c. 55,000 years ago. On linguistic grounds alone, the split seems to have occurred in west Siberia at a relatively recent point in time

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    ” I think it’s much closer to 30,000 years at most. There is growing evidence that ancestral Europeans and ancestral East Asians were one and the same people until 22,500 years ago.

    Present-day Europeans and East Asians descend largely from a small nomadic population that once roamed Eurasia’s northern tier—a belt of steppe-tundra that stretched from southwestern France to Beringia during the last ice age.”

    The northern tier nomadic origins theory seems mostly false. Overwhelming evidence suggests that East Eurasians and West Eurasians have genetic origins primarily to the South with only modest admixture in select fringe populations (with the exceptions proving the rule being mixed West and East Eurasian components in Uyghur and Finns and the mtDNA X element in some Native Americans and Paleosiberians). The recent exceptions of note are Indo-European inputs, which reached Europe and South Asia but not East Asia, and modest Altaic contributions to some West Eurasians in the last 2000 years.

    The commentor may be drawing on evidence that some of the allelles that make East Asians distinct from Europeans in distinctive visual racial appearance date only back to 22,500 to 30,000 years ago in both East Asia and Europe, respectively, even though the populations were genetically separate much earlier. Genetic divides do not overlap neatly with appearances. In the same vein, strictly by physical appearance, you wouldn’t correctly guess that Bushmen and Australian Aborigines are two of the most genetically distant populations on the planet.

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    “On linguistic grounds alone, the split seems to have occurred in west Siberia at a relatively recent point in time.”

    Linguistics will carry you no further back than about 15,000 years, and gets very muddy much more than 6,000-8,000 years ago. Mostly they spread with farming/herding culture expansions and ruling class conquests. The evidence concerning the linguistic make up of hunting-gathering populations is exceedingly meager in the vast majority of cases where those languages did not survive into the historic era.

    There is no definitive or even really solid evidence linking the major linguistic families to each other. Populations frequently experience linguistic transition without major genetic shifts. For example, neither the Uralic language speaking ruling class of Hungary, nor the Turkish language speaking rule class of Anatolia, left much in the way of population genetic traces despite converting whole countries of people to their languages.

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


    I share your doubts about the Laval et al. paper, but the bulk of the evidence indicates that the Caucasoid/Mongoloid split happened long after the entry of modern humans into the Middle East c. 55,000 years ago. On linguistic grounds alone, the split seems to have occurred in west Siberia at a relatively recent point in time

    give me a numbers. not necessarily numbers you’re 100% certain of, but something more quantitative that ‘long after’ and/or ‘relatively recent.’ obviously i accept that it post-dates arrival to the mid-east

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/11/we-were-all-africans-before-the-intermission/

    also everyone, let’s take a step back. this isn’t a legal blog where we push our own pet theories forward in a maximal fashion. i’m not too interested in showing how everyone else is wrong. i also think that this is a season for humility in terms of what we know, this is an awesome year of revolution in our understanding of human history, and will be even more so before 2011 arrives.

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

    also, re: laval paper. suspicion is too strong of a word. it’s a fine paper as far as it goes, but on the margin it obviously didn’t make robust predictions. the rough outline is in line with orthodoxy, but one should be cautious about using it to make precise inferences.

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

    Linguistics will carry you no further back than about 15,000 years, and gets very muddy much more than 6,000-8,000 years ago. Mostly they spread with farming/herding culture expansions and ruling class conquests. The evidence concerning the linguistic make up of hunting-gathering populations is exceedingly meager in the vast majority of cases where those languages did not survive into the historic era.

    i would agree with this. i think by and large in most of the world the linguistics tells us about the holocene. not further back. though since i don’t know about linguistics i just have to go by what more knowledgeable people tell me.

    btw, for more productive discussion it would nice if people put in citations like the original commenter.

  • http://www.kinshipstudies.org German Dziebel

    “Populations frequently experience linguistic transition without major genetic shifts. For example, neither the Uralic language speaking ruling class of Hungary, nor the Turkish language speaking rule class of Anatolia, left much in the way of population genetic traces despite converting whole countries of people to their languages.”

    It’s likely the opposite: Languages preserve traces of original kinship longer than neutral genes, as admixture with neighbors speaking a different language is easier to accomplish than a language shift. See, e.g., Friedlaender, J., Hunley, K., Dunn, M., Terrill, A., Lindström, E., Reesink, G., & Friedlaender, F. (2009). Linguistics more robust than genetics [Letter to the editor]. Science, 324, 464-465. doi:10.1126/science.324_464c.

    The most recent case in point is Ket in West Siberia: Linguistically it’s related to Na-Dene, but genetically it’s like their neighbors, Selkups. It’s not that Kets imposed their language on Selkups, it’s Selkups’ genes replaced the earlier genetic stratum that would’ve been in closer alignment with Na-Dene.

    “Mostly they spread with farming/herding culture expansions and ruling class conquests. The evidence concerning the linguistic make up of hunting-gathering populations is exceedingly meager in the vast majority of cases where those languages did not survive into the historic era.”

    Andrew, what are you saying here? Where do you get your information?

  • bioIgnoramus

    “an awesome year of revolution in our understanding of human history, and will be even more so before 2011 arrives”: ooh, a Sailerite hint. Are we all going to get a super Christmas present, then?

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

    someone already broke embargo. go to google news. type ‘denisova.’ habla espanol?

  • Sandgroper

    Un nuevo homínido que compartió origen común con los neandertales!

    Cool.

  • Sandgroper

    “appear to be closely related to modern populations in Melanesia”

    *astonished*

  • http://www.kinshipstudies.org German Dziebel

    Another interesting article on Denisova is about to come out: http://precedings.nature.com/documents/5360/version/1

  • http://dienekes.blogspot.com Dienekes

    Peter Frost wrote:

    Ancestral Eurasians were more Caucasoid than Mongoloid in morphology. Most specifically Mongoloid traits seem to be “derived”, i.e., they arose after the Caucasoid/Mongoloid split.

    That makes absolutely no sense, as Caucasoid traits are also “derived”.
    Since South Asians are also no more distant from Caucasoids and Mongoloids than Caucasoids are from each other, the scenario you are suggesting would include evolution of the Caucasoid traits prior to 30,000 BC, and then their evolutionary reversal in both Mongoloids and South Asians.

    It is also contradicted by the fact that it is specifically many European and North African skulls that look Caucasoid in the Upper Paleolithic. If “ancestral Eurasians” were Caucasoid-like in general, then we’d see Upper Cave skulls look Caucasoid, but they do not.

    The simplest explanation for the fact that the majority of UP European skulls clustering with Europeans is that the racial differentiation that led to Caucasoids had already begun by 30ky.

  • Matt

    “http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2010/12/world-craniometric-analysis-with-mclust.html”

    I found it interesting that Zhoukoudian Upper Cave Man (20,000 – 25,000) seems to cluster with Polynesian and Pacific Islander populations in this analysis. The Mahalanobis distances posted by Dienekes (http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2010/12/relationship-between-world-craniometric.html) indicate that this “Mokapu/Easter Island” cluster has a relatively low distance to the “East Asian” cluster, compared to its distance to other clusters.

  • bioIgnoramus

    “habla espanol?” No, but my wife and daughter do. I just read it as dog Latin, which more-or-less works. :)

  • http://www.kinshipstudies.org German Dziebel

    “It is also contradicted by the fact that it is specifically many European and North African skulls that look Caucasoid in the Upper Paleolithic.”

    Even a South African Hofmeyr skull at 36K clusters with UP Europeans. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17218524. This morphology apparently preceded Khoisan morphology which dates back to only mid-to-early Holocene. Also, one of the typical “Eastern” dental traits, namely shovel-shaped incisors (found in Upper Cave) were apparently more frequent in West Eurasia in the past. For Gravettian, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1863481/. For Catalhouyuk see Pillhoud’s dissertation “Community Structure at Neolithic Çatalhöyük: Biological Distance Analysis of Houshehold, Neighborhood, and Settlement” (available online for free).

  • http://www.kinshipstudies.org German Dziebel

    The full paper on Denisova is now available: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7327/full/nature09710.html

  • http://www.evoandproud.blogspot.com Peter Frost

    “There is no definitive or even really solid evidence linking the major linguistic families to each other.”

    The term “definitive evidence” is an oxymoron. If something is definitive, it’s no longer evidence. It’s a fact.

    If we look at the evidence, however imperfect it may be, the point of greatest convergence between the two groups is in West Siberia. The language families of northern Eurasia, particularly Uralic and Yukaghir and more generally Uralic-Yukaghir, Eskimo-Aleut, Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Altaic, share deep structural affinities that point to a common origin and not simply to word borrowing (Cavalli-Sforza, 1994, pp. 97-99; Fortescue, 1998; Rogers, 1986). Archeological evidence (characteristic lithic technology, grave goods with red ocher and sites with small shallow basins) also suggests a common cultural tradition throughout Europe and Siberia 20,000 to 15,000 years ago (Goebel, 1999; Haynes, 1980; Haynes, 1982). Finally, dental and cranial remains from Mal’ta (23,000-20,000 BP) in southern Siberia indicate strong affinities with Upper Paleolithic Europeans (Alexeyev & Gokhman, 1994; Goebel, 1999).

    “give me a number”

    The glacial maximum, i.e. 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, and the formation of a glacial barrier to east-west movement through the Eurasian tundra belt.

    “That makes absolutely no sense, as Caucasoid traits are also “derived”.”

    If we’re talking about skull morphology, Mongoloids are more derived than Caucasoids. I’m surprised I have to argue the point.

    Soft-tisue traits are a different story, i.e., hair color and skin color.

    I realize this is an issue on which people have strong opinions. Fine. But is it necessary to use totalitarian terms like “absolutely” and “definitive”? Is this the language of science?

    References

    Alexeyev, V.P., & Gokhman, I.I. (1994). Skeletal remains of infants from a burial on the Mal’ta Upper Paleolithic site. Homo, 45, 119-126.
    Cavalli-Sforza, L.L., Menozzi, P. & Piazza, A. (1994). The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Fortescue, M.D. (1998). Language Relations across Bering Strait. Reappraising the Archaeological and Linguistic Evidence. Cassell: London.

    Goebel, T. (1999). Pleistocene human colonization of Siberia and peopling of the Americas: An ecological approach. Evolutionary Anthropology, 8, 208-227.

    Haynes, C.V. (1982). Were Clovis progenitors in Beringia? In Paleoecology of Beringia, D.M. Hopkins (Ed.). New York: Academic Press, pp. 383-398.

    Haynes, C.V. (1980). The Clovis culture. Canadian Journal of Anthropology, 1, 115-121.

    Rogers, R.A. (1986). Language, human subspeciation, and Ice Age barriers in Northern Siberia. Canadian Journal of Anthropology, 5, 11-22.

  • onur

    But is it necessary to use totalitarian terms like “absolutely” and “definitive”? Is this the language of science?

    Peter,

    Dienekes and Andrew (ohwilleke) are no scientists, they are complete amateurs, so don’t expect much from them.

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

    onur, uncalled for. that is not an opening for you to start talking to me about how it is called for.

  • bioIgnoramus

    Given the disgraceful shambles that is “Climate Science”, and the sterling efforts of the amateurs – Steve McIntyre and others – a bit of respect for outsiders may be due. Judge them by their work not their credentials. At least with McIntyre he provides enough detail of his work that you can check it, which is more than can be said of the professionals. But then McIntyre isn’t tryingto hide incompetence and falsehoods, as far as I can see.

  • http://www.kinshipstudies.org German Dziebel

    “The language families of northern Eurasia, particularly Uralic and Yukaghir and more generally Uralic-Yukaghir, Eskimo-Aleut, Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Altaic, share deep structural affinities that point to a common origin and not simply to word borrowing (Cavalli-Sforza, 1994, pp. 97-99; Fortescue, 1998; Rogers, 1986).”

    Evidence for common origin for Uralic, Yukaghir and Eskimo-Aleut has indeed solidified in recent years thanks to Fortescue, Nikolaeva and Seefloth, but Altaic doesn’t show any deep similarities with this group apart from being part of highly controversial Nostratic and Eurasiatic groupings. The Rogers work is a bit off chronologically (1986 is old) and his approach, albeit very interesting, especially in North America, has remained without further elaboration outside of his team. Cavalli is a geneticist with lots of problematic ideas about language classifications which he comfortably leaves to Ruhlen to defend.

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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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