Genes and Rex Wandalorum et Alanorum

By Razib Khan | January 17, 2012 12:21 am

The idea of a “folk wandering” was once a well accepted idea in history, in particular for the phase of the Late Roman Empire, and the subsequent fall of the Western Empire. It’s a rather simple concept: the collapse of the Pax Romana occurred simultaneous with a mass ethnic reordering of Europe, primarily via the migration of Germanic peoples across its frontiers and beyond. The most extreme depictions of this can be found in the works of the British cleric Gildas: German hordes literally drove the British into the sea, until they only retained their redoubts around the “Celtic Fringe.”

This was an extreme understanding of the dynamics of post-Roman Europe. It was, and has been, succeeded by another extreme model: that the ethnic change in the post-Roman world was more illusion than substance, a manner of shifting nomenclature, than lineage. For example, I have commonly read in this literature that the Germanic tribes which crystallized as “federates” to the Romans, or on occasion as antagonists (or vassals to hostile powers such as the Huns) were ad hoc collections of mercenaries who created an identity de novo.  In some cases it is posited that masses of Romans simply assimilated to the identity of a small cadre of warriors whose demographic impact was trivial. This is the scenario that is posited for the transformation of Celtic Britain into Germanic England. But let’s shift away from that extreme case, and look at another one: the 5th and early 6th century kingdom of the Vandals in Norh Africa.

 

The Vandals were a German tribe with a rather unsavory reputation (perhaps undeserved, but it is what it is). Originally after breaking into the Roman Empire they were junior partners in Spain to a confederation of Iranian tribes, the Alans. But in a series of conflicts the Spanish Alans were reduced to a shadow of their former selves by Romans or Roman federates (e.g., Visigoths), and they allowed themselves to be assimilated into the Vandal power structure. When the Vandals moved into North Africa, they took the Alans with them. And just as the monarchs of England were monarchs of Scotland distinctly, in the 17th century, so the king of the Vandals was separately a king of the Alans.

What does this have to do with genetics? Easy. A few years ago the historian Peter Heather came out with a book, Empires and Barbarians, where he attempted to resurrect the idea of a folk wandering. Instead of the idea of post-Roman Europe being dominated by the rapid emergence of ethnic identities from a small platoon of warriors, he posits that there were general transfers of the freeborn caste of whole Germanic tribes across Northern Europe. The women and children moved with the men. Heather’s thesis is more modest than that of Gildas. He does not suggest there was total, or even wholesale, replacement. Rather, the Franks, Visigoths, Anglo-Saxons, etc., were not rapid social constructions on a chaotic cultural landscape, but peoples which were organic developments out of a broader Germanic cultural milieu who were transplanted in toto across the post-Roman world. The kludge of a dual monarchy in the case of the king of the Vandals and Alans does not make much sense if ethnic identity was so fluid as to be purely instrumental in a proximate sense. Rather, even in extremis the Alans insisted upon retaining their identity as a people in the face of the more practical option of total assimilation into the Vandal horde. If ethnic identities are purely ephemeral labels given to political coalitions of mercenaries this behavior makes no sense. On the other hand if these identities carry with them the weight of history, of cultural memory, then these actions and baroque compromises are rendered understandable.

The Vandal kingdom of North Africa in some ways is probably the most least plausible case for a folk wandering, in that the wandering was quite extensive, and the Vandal kingdom seems to have been the least culturally robust its long term impact (suggesting perhaps a superficiality of their hegemony). And I have read scholarly literature which does argue that the concept of “Vandal” and “Alan” were simply constructs, which post-Roman elites easily took upon when the circumstances suited them. There is something to the idea that individuals can acculturate, but I think what the idea of radical social constructionism in post-Roman Europe misses is that you need a culture to assimilate to, and that culture can only exist in the first place due to a critical mass. Could a small number of German and Iranian warriors, without any women or other elements of their freeborn population replicate their tribal culture over thousands of miles? I think not. Single elements of culture are replicable, but whole cultural systems often exhibit more integrity and contingency than is obvious from the outside.

To explore the possibility of Germanic ancestry in North Africa I decided to use the Henn et al. data set. I merged it with the Utah white sample from the HapMap. I then had 188,000 markers. My goal was to find runs where Southern and Northern Europeans were distinct. Below are two sets of runs where Northern and Southern Europeans were distinct. The first are supervised, and the second unsupervised.

no images were found

I don’t really see any good evidence of the impact of specifically a German element in this. The Vandals seem to fail the test of long term demographic impact in these samples. To really explore this issue I’d have to look at the ancestry at the chromosomal level, and look for matching haplotypes and segments identical-by-descent. Perhaps I will in the future.

Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Justin Loe

    As in the case of North Africa, there appears to a similar situation in Hungary. Prior to recent genetic findings, Hungarians believed that they had a significant Asian component. As far as I know, the ADMIXTURE results have not supported this historical belief. So, the impact of the Huns, along with other migrations from the East, appears to have been relatively negligible on the Hungarian population. Likewise, the intuition the linguistic differences between Hungarians and other European populations was correlated with genetic differences has not proved to be correct.

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

    #1, yes, but there was a massive cultural impact in terms of the magyar language. though do note that the magyars post-date the huns by ~500 years, and may have no ethnic connection to the huns.

  • Justin Loe

    One more thought: some people were experimenting with a gradient of Asian admixture from Germany to Russia west of the Urals. From that map, it appeared that Asian admixture only emerged as a significant factor in populations east of the St. Petersburg to Moscow line. It could be, then, that the various migrations from the east in the past 2000 years did not have a significant demographic impact on populations west of that line, at least based on the incomplete data sampling that currently exists.

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

    From that map, it appeared that Asian admixture only emerged as a significant factor in populations east of the St. Petersburg to Moscow line.

    these are the zones of the fennic peoples. also, after 1500 the russian zone pushed deep into, and absorbed, a lot of tatar territory. so a lot of this has less to do with eastern migrations to the west than the russian drive to the east.

  • Justin Loe

    “after 1500 the russian zone pushed deep into, and absorbed, a lot of tatar territory”
    Yes, I agree.

    Prior to that period, from the period of the Roman empire up until 1500, the Asian migrations from points east, such as the Mongol invasion of Rus did not leave an enduring demographic signature (admix in Eastern Europe to Moscow). From my brief reading, the Mongol domination of Rus lasted from 1240 – 1480.

    The Mongol invasion of course caused a significant reduction in the population of European Russia, but does not appear to have resulted in an Asian admix into that population.

    There’s a slightly speculative cultural issue here which is that Russia has been often regarded as “Asiatic” by Europeans at various times, and part of that may be connected with the notion of a “Mongol” influence. From a demographic admix standpoint, that admix doesn’t appear to have occurred in western Russia or in Hungary, so that popular notion in certain quarters at certain times appears to have been disproven or at least substantially called into question.

    Most of the difference arises from long-standing cultural divisions between Russia and the rest of Europe, but the notion that Russia is particularly distinct, at least in western Russia, does not seem to be supported by the data. Language and customs and religion are still of course the primary modes of difference between countries. The other outstanding example was the case of Lebanon, in which the opposing factions exaggerated the genetic distinctions between themselves, although recent research has not found that to be well-supported.

  • Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ

    With regards to Hungarians, I could be wrong but I recall reading that Hungary lost about 50% of it’s population during the Mongol invasions of the 1240′s. After which the Hungarian court encouraged large scale migration from “Mitteleuropa”. The native Árpád dynasty of course became extinct in 1301 and was replaced by a King from the french Anjou dynasty.

    Even leaving aside from that before the Mongols arrived it presumable the bulk of population consisted of the autochthonous population who had been Magyarized with a Magyar elite overlaid. Given destruction of Hungarian armies by Mongols such Elites would presumably have suffered heavy casualties.

    I should add there is also the fact that Hungary was the “cockpit” of the Hapsburg/Ottoman wars for over 250 years. Surely it’s possible that our current view into Hungary population is distorted by the affects of both this and the previous Mongol invasion?

    What we need is ancient-DNA from Hungarian/Magyar cemetries prefably from period 900-1200. As date of entry for Magyars into Pannoia under Árpád is down as 895AD

  • http://lughat.blogspot.com L

    I’m not surprised to see little Vandal impact, but your data set is not ideal for answering the question. If there was a significant Vandal impact anywhere in North Africa, one would expect it to be mainly in Tunisia and eastern Algeria – that was the only part of North Africa they controlled for a significant period. Morocco and the Mzab are not the best places to look.

  • Steve C

    Paul, some of this has been done. Search for Magyar on Dienekes’s website. From memory, 2 of 4 ancient samples had Tat-C, the Finnic marker while only 1 of a much larger sample size (100+) of the modern sample of both Hungarians in Hungary proper and Szeklers in Transylvania had that marker.

    Even so, that’s not ‘Asian.’ The Asian influence on the early Magyars would have come from the early Magyars mixing with western migrating Turks, which left cultural and linguistic influences. But by the time of this mixing, the Asian component in the Turks themselves would have been diluted by centuries of admixture with European populations.

    I think what’s left in modern Hungarians of their eastern origins is a small mt-dna component from southwestern Siberia.

  • Gav

    A ruler’s titles may not indicate anything more than their advisers’ ideas of what sounds impressive.

    For example, it would be wrong to infer from Elizabeth II’s titles that there was ever an Elizabeth I of Scotland, or indeed that her title of Duke of Normandy was due to the Normans insisting “upon retaining their identity as people”.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Given the Vandal Kingdom only lasted around 100 years, and there was probably only a single immigration event, it is not unsurprising that there little demographic impact. In addition, the Byzantines expelled them once they reconquered the region. Béjaïa, a portion of the Kabyle territory, is said to be the location where most of the surviving Vandals settled, so if there is any genetic echo, it should be among the Kabyle. Actually, that might be the reason why the Kabyle have a relatively high incidence of light hair and eyes.

    More generally, I would guess that the European component is from late antiquity and “Roman” and “Greek” settlement in North Africa, given much of the West was controlled by the Romans for nearly 600 years (longer if you consider the last hurrah of the Byzantines before Islam), and portions of the east saw Greek colonies and Hellenization even earlier. I know the Romans did make a point of settling veterans in North Africa, and that some form of demotic Latin was spoken in the region, arguably until at least the 12th century in some remote areas.

    It’s a shame there is comparably little to distinguish European genetics on an east-west cline, because if there was a substantial genetic boundary roughly between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica it would be pretty substantial evidence of a Roman/Greek genetic imprint in the region. I would expect that it would be higher among those now considered “Arab” however, as colonization was largely limited to urban areas, with the hinterlands speaking Punic or Berber.

  • Justin Giancola

    5. Most of the “distinctiveness” in perception of Russia is probably from the idea that the Mongols came from “the East” and owned significant areas of Eastern Europe for a while (also southern Russia and eastern Ukraine’s historic Iranic element – that is still noticeable – could be at play as well).

    But also, in that Russia has been divorced from it’s Ukrainian conception in a lot of ways, and I don’t think you’d provoke the same responses asking about Ukrainians. Russia is basically a *more* multicultural version of Ukraine. ( England vs. US ) Its aloof history, coupled with proximity to “the East” and its multicultural nature make it easy to exaggerate it’s Eastern-ness.

    Karl, you said in another thread you live in Pittsburgh – as do I. We should get a beer and talk history/anthro. sometime.

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

    #11, i agree that russia is probably more multicultural than ukraine…but the main objection to this is that ukraine was fractured along west-east lines after the period of poland-lithuania. russia has a hegemonic orthodox identity, no matter than 20 percent of the population are not great russians today. ukraine has a contested identity between the uniate and the orthodox.

  • Patrick Wyman

    I love the blog here, but the situation with the Vandals and Alans is considerably more complicated than you make it out to be. There are several reasons for this: first, the available source material is incredibly thin: we’re talking about maybe thirty pages of primary source material total, including both the migration and the full history of the Vandal kingdom. Second, nobody (including Heather, the staunchest critic of this viewpoint) has ever said that the social constructionist viewpoint means that post-Roman cultures were created out of thin air; it’s more that trans-Danubian barbarian culture and identity weren’t simply transplanted wholesale into the post-Roman kingdoms. They didn’t attempt to replicate their “tribal culture”: even in the better-documented kingdoms, there were substantial differences between pre- and post-migration cultures. Think about the differences between diaspora communities and the homeland, for a parallel. Third, assimilation does in fact make a great deal of sense if that small group of warriors to which you refer – which may have been as large as 50,000 people, including women and children, since no Antique army on the move was ever bereft of women and children – violently established itself as a political elite.
    Heather isn’t someone who gets much credit from other specialists in this field, and rightfully so. His work has gotten less and less nuanced over the years, to the point where it’s not particularly credible. This isn’t a debate about migration per se: people move and have always moved. In those situations, however, ethnic identity is a fluid thing. What’s objectionable about Heather’s work is that he privileges “Germanic” migrations and culture over every other group that’s ever moved from one place to another, in addition to the fact that he doesn’t understand how and why population movements happen.

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    I echo L and Karl Zimmerman on the expectations one should have for Vandal impacts in North Africa. It was one wave, it was geographically local, it was short lived because it was swiftly put to rout by a couple of waves moving West across North Africa (first the Byzantines, then the Moors), and one should also add that the Vandal culture transmitted was pretty maladaptive in Tunisia for any kind of economy other than one based upon raiding which became far less viable once the Roman Empire went to pot. This was a case where the golden goose was killed and those who relied upon it suffered as a result.

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

    In those situations, however, ethnic identity is a fluid thing.

    this is a contentless assertion. only morons thing that culture has no flexibility, so who are you talking to?

    let’s get quantitative and cut the crap. within the next 10 years, in fact the next few years, you’ll see a flowering of subfossil DNA studies. we’ll get a better sense of demographic change across much of europe. my bets:

    germans contributed at least 35% to the ancestry of modern east anglians (i’ll put $50 on this)

    slavs from northeast europe contributed at least 35% to the ancestry of modern balkan slaves (i’ll put $100 on this, already seems clear from some of the autosomal stuff)

    berbers & arabs contributed 5% of the ancestry of modern spaniards (i’ll put $150 on this)

    german franks contributed 15% of the ancestry of modern french north of massive central (i’ll bet $25 on this)

    are you will to put money on your own wagers at a third party betting on? i am aware things are complicated, but you must have some opinions. if you don’t have any opinions, you have no confidence in your assessments, right?

  • Karolus Minor

    “he posits that (…) The women and children moved with the men”

    Well… didn’t they? I thought it was a sure thing.
    Aren’t there written testimonies of it?

    When the Visigoths crossed the Danube to ask the Romans protection and the right to enter the Roman empire, they did so in order to flee the Huns, and obviously they did it with their families, right?

    Also, around 408 AD, IIRC, there were anti-germanic pogroms in Italian cities were the families of the Germanic Foederati were slaughtered by Roman soldiers. Would have they be mass-slaughtered if they had been women picked up in the local populations? I’m not sure. The anti-germanic feelings would have expressed differently.

    I’m pretty sure many moved with their families, just like the Teutones and Cimbri did before them (It is attested, so why should it be so different for the later ones).

  • Justin Giancola

    15. Realizing you were likely referring to Danes, but for say Engels, Saxons and Frisians:
    One thing to consider is that when we say Germans in England, these “Germanics” may have been a lot of culturally converted North Sea Celts and genetically may have only been subtly different from Celtic Britons in the first place, whom they could’ve likely shared former Belgic connections.
    Maybe a lot of the similarity between Germany and England in K studies is they were already quite similar once the Celts came and took over from whoever? Though I do think the Scandinavian contribution in The British Isles is higher than people think.

  • idurar

    berbers & arabs contributed 5% of the ancestry of modern spaniards (i’ll put $150 on this)

    I bet most if not all the shared ancestry between Iberians and Berbers is neolithic. (I’ll put only 1€ because I’m poor).

  • Onur

    slavs from northeast europe contributed at least 35% to the ancestry of modern balkan slaves (i’ll put $100 on this, already seems clear from some of the autosomal stuff)

    Can you elucidate this? According to Dienekes’ most recent autosomal analyses, people of the Balkans are genetically pretty uniform except those in the far south regardless of language (though that may partially be to do with the poor sampling of some of the Balkan populations). Romanians and Bulgarians show up especially genetically indistinguishable from each other in every autosomal analysis that includes them I have seen so far despite the fact that one of them speaks a Romance language since the Ancient Roman times and the other one speaks a Slavic language.

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    “modern balkan slaves”

    Just to prevent urban myths from forming from a somewhat credible source, I presume that you meant to say “modern balkan slavs” that merely had a typo.

  • Justin Giancola

    19. Croatia perhaps? does Slovenia count?

  • Patrick Wyman

    Genes are not ethnic identity. There were no “Germans” in this period; that’s a name ascribed to them by outsiders, and talking about “German” components of ancestry in this period is simply incorrect. Attempting to correlate genetic markers with populations that didn’t actually exist outside the mind of a Roman author (Tacitus, in this case) is not productive. At no point did I say that these population movements didn’t have a more or less significant demographic impact; people moved and have always moved.

    As far as your bets are concerned, where did the “German” ancestry in East Anglia come from? Roman auxiliaries, Frisians, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, Vikings, Normans, fifteenth-century immigrants from northern Germany and Flanders, or later population movements internal to Britain? How about northern France? You’ll get the same range of more-or-less significant population movements. Trying to pin down “German” ancestry to one particular migration event is not going to fly – there were more or less continuous population movements between what’s now Germany, northern France, and England for the better part of the last two thousand years, if not before then. Furthermore, what haplotypes are “German”? I’m not saying you’re wrong about the percentages you discussed for any of your bets, just that past population movements are a lot more complex than you’re allowing them to be. These were not one shot events. Evidence for a particular kind of ancestry doesn’t necessarily tell us how or when that person or their ancestors moved there, or how they would have identified or felt about themselves.

    I was just trying to comment on a topic that I’m familiar with – my dissertation deals with personal mobility in the fifth and sixth centuries, and ethnic identity is a part of that. If you’re not interested in this kind of feedback, and your response is to “cut the crap”, then I won’t comment again.

  • leviticus

    @Onur,

    some historians argue that the Slavs are an important ancestral element in the mix that became the Romanians. The present distribution of Romanian and Vlach speakers in the Balkans is also due less to continuity than to Medieval expansion.

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

    There were no “Germans” in this period; that’s a name ascribed to them by outsiders, and talking about “German” components of ancestry in this period is simply incorrect. Attempting to correlate genetic markers with populations that didn’t actually exist outside the mind of a Roman author (Tacitus, in this case) is not productive.

    there is a great deal of genetic evidence that gene flow is sharply demarcated (relatively) a given dialect continuum. whether they called themselves “german” is irrelevant from a population genetic perspective.

    there were more or less continuous population movements between what’s now Germany, northern France, and England for the better part of the last two thousand years, if not before then.

    a constant rate of gene flow has a particular signature in the genetics. that would be our null hypothesis. i’m willing to bet that there are very significant deviations from that null hypothesis. but if there aren’t, then i’m wrong. i would have accepted your expertise in this area a few years ago, but i’ve seen way too many surprising results (e.g., huge differences between muslims and non-muslims in the middle east in the same region) to take it as a given.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong about the percentages you discussed for any of your bets, just that past population movements are a lot more complex than you’re allowing them to be. These were not one shot events.

    do you know how population genetic inferences of demography work? your model is a ridiculously gross caricature of anything i would think. also, in case you don’t understand, my bets are contingent on ancient DNA extraction. that can give us excellent pegs on movement (e.g., you can track male mutational lineages to high precision if you can get STRs). we may not be able to establish a model for how the migrations happened, but it will be easy to accept or reject your null hypothesis of continuity i think.

    my dissertation deals with personal mobility in the fifth and sixth centuries

    is it online?

  • Onur

    19. Croatia perhaps? does Slovenia count?

    Slovenians are all in the main Balkan genetic cluster in Dienekes’ latest analyses. There are no Croatian samples in Dienekes’ dataset that I know of, but there are some Serbs and they are all in the main Balkan cluster.

    @Onur,

    some historians argue that the Slavs are an important ancestral element in the mix that became the Romanians. The present distribution of Romanian and Vlach speakers in the Balkans is also due less to continuity than to Medieval expansion.

    Is there a way to know which theory is true or closer to the truth with the available evidence? I think only ancient DNA research can provide definitive answers on this issue.

  • Patrick Wyman

    Ah, ok, I missed the part about ancient DNA. We’re coming from much different places here, so let’s try to meet in the middle and clarify terminology. What do you mean by “German” ancestry? Haplotypes or markers that are common among today’s Germanic-speaking populations or that were present during the period we’re discussing? Are you saying, “If we find x or y haplotype in our sixth-century skeletal remains, they spoke a Germanic language”? If we get isotope data that says the individual isn’t local or there are exotic grave goods, then I’ll buy it, but just genetic data isn’t defensible proof. There’s a fair amount of textual evidence for marriages across linguistic boundaries in the post-Roman world, as well.

    Let’s stick to East Anglia here – just over the last two thousand years, you have Germanic-speaking Roman auxiliary troops settled in the region, large-scale population movements from what’s now northern Germany in the fifth and sixth centuries, some degree of Viking settlement during the tenth century, the Norman conquest in the eleventh, significant immigration from the Low Countries and Germany during the fifteenth century, and population movements within Britain, especially in the early modern and modern periods. I used the term “continuous” too lightly: to clarify, there were a vast number of historically-documented migrations of greater or lesser scope, and there were certainly more for which we have no evidence. So, your “German” genes: how do you tell the difference? Are Y-STRs really precise enough to demarcate these different movements, some of which are only separated by a hundred years? I honestly don’t know.

    I’m a historian, and I’m really excited for what ancient DNA in particular and population genetics in general can tell us. I’m really trying to familiarize myself with this field, and I appreciate the conversation. What do you mean by “population genetic inferences of demography”?

    Still working on the dissertation. Give it another year.

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

    @26, i will put up a post on this soon…. as you may know from reading this blog i am not unaware of the historical and archaeological scholarship, though it isn’t my domain. there are some differences of terminology which do cause confusion.

  • Grey

    I vaguely recall reading about the Vandals ending up in the Rif mountains (kabyles) also which ties into a broader point.

    In very general terms civilization is a question of calories. Civilization is higher population density and it expands out into lower population density barbarian lands wherever civilized agriculture could increase the number of calories available on the same land and with a line of equilibrium at the margins. What that means is generally barbarian invasions involve moving from lower population densities to higher.

    As an illustrative example take France and Germany as roughly the same size and saying they were divided into 16 regions each with 100,000 per French region but only 50,000 per German region because of the lower pop. density and only half of each region went wandering so 16 x 25,000 combined into four federated armies of 100,000 one targeting each of Britain, France, Italy and Spain.

    Now that can work militarily because 25,000 soldiers >> 25,000 warriors >>>>>> 25,000 civilians and the romans lost their ability to maintain their soldiery but demographically that still leaves only 100,000 Germans to the 16 x 100,000 French. Maybe 20,000 each completely displacing French farmers in large chunks of the four most northern regions and 20,000 scattered around as the new elite.

    The numbers are just illustrative but if the condition is lower pop. density peoples invading higher pop. density then even if it is a volkwanderung the demographic impact is likely to only involve islands of displacement. There are many examples in classical writing of these events – the first part of Gallic Wars describes one and the Belgae were supposedly the result of an earlier one – so i think they happened exactly as the classical writers said they did (minus a zero on the numbers).

    I think the argument is driven by the seeming inconsistency between the relative largeness of the military impact of these events compared to the relative smallness of the demographic impact. I think this is simply the product of a situation where a civilized society with specialized soldiers and farmers and a barbarian one where every man is both a warrior and a farmer collide after the civilized society can no longer produce soldiers – very large military impact but a demographic impact characterized by only islands of displacement.

    Similarly with Britain. More or less how Bede described it, lots of complete displacement in clumps along the south and east coasts but diffuse impact beyond that.

    “With regards to Hungarians, I could be wrong but I recall reading that Hungary lost about 50% of it’s population during the Mongol invasions of the 1240s.”

    This is the other thing, more applicable maybe to 5% elite type conquests but in extreme cases maybe to volkwanderung displacements also. 5% elites tend to concentrate in strategic spots that dominate the surrounding countryside. If a new 5% elite comes along they focus on the same spots so most of the massacring gets done there. You can easily imagine most of the demographic impact of one 5% elite being undone if a new one comes along. For a 5% elite to have a big demographic impact they need to be the last one and not wipe each other out in civil wars.

    “it’s more that trans-Danubian barbarian culture and identity weren’t simply transplanted wholesale into the post-Roman kingdoms. They didn’t attempt to replicate their “tribal culture”: even in the better-documented kingdoms, there were substantial differences between pre- and post-migration cultures. Think about the differences between diaspora communities and the homeland, for a parallel.”

    That’s precisely the point though. If you look at ex-pat or diaspora communities they often cling to things that are the same to make up for all the things that aren’t the same – like the last survivors of the Alans clinging to their name. They also like to live in a huddle for security which ties back to the volkwanderung question and islands of displacement for security.

    “russia”

    higher pop. density -> lower pop. density can swamp very easily while lower pop. density -> higher pop. density can’t (unless there’s a really big massacre).

    so in a nutshell the searchs for genetic evidence for historical movements is likely to require finding the islands. imo.

  • Grey

    “Genes are not ethnic identity. There were no “Germans” in this period; that’s a name ascribed to them by outsiders, and talking about “German” components of ancestry in this period is simply incorrect. Attempting to correlate genetic markers with populations that didn’t actually exist outside the mind of a Roman author (Tacitus, in this case) is not productive.”

    Did ducks call themselves ducks?

    Of course there were Germans. Any population behind any kind of marriage incline whether geographical, cultural, linguistic or religious will eventually develop separate physical characteristics even if very slight. To a Roman the people on one side of the Rhine looked a bit different and spoke a different language to the people on the Gallic side so he gave them a different name. Even if the two populations had been genetically identical as soon as one part crossed the Rhine and created a marriage incline they would have started to drift apart. That means there will be (or at least would have been) genetic markers that distinguished the two populations – even if very slight.

    Although personally i think the signature is more likely to mirror the recent research on male and female personality differences i.e. a consistent pattern of small differences rather than a big single thing like a haplotype.

    If these signatures can be found then it might be possible for history to be pushed back way into prehistory which is very productive if you like that sort of thing.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    “ukraine has a contested identity between the uniate and the orthodox”
    Not really. Only 14.1% of the population are reported to be Greek Catholics. They are outnumbered by both the Moscow and Kiev orthodox patriarchates.

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

    #30, yes, but

    1) closer to 20 percent of ethnic ukrainians

    2) the uniates punch somewhat above their weight in ‘nationalism’ because they’re more invested in a separate ukrainian national identity distinct and diverged from the great russian identity

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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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