Europe's special northeast

By Razib Khan | February 19, 2012 8:29 pm

The Fennoscandia Project has now gone through chromosomes 1 to 6 with Chromopainter/fineSTRUCTURE. The conclusion:

If we looker at the bigger picture we see that most of continental Europe is tied to each other more trough mutations than others making them harder to seperate even at this level (6 chromosomes). We see that Lithuanians seem to have stronger affiliation to the large continental European cluster including Scandinavians but this affiliation is weaker for Vologda Russians. This connection is even weaker for Finns and almost non-existing for Saamis. This is in accordance with the MDS plot.

Here is the relevant plot (I have added some labels):

The Vologda Russians from the HGDP data set clearly have a substantial Finnic ancestral component. That’s because Russia, as the domains populated by Russians, has been expanding north and east for nearly 1,000 years. Much of this occurred via assimilation and acculturation of non-Russian Uralic and Altaic populations.

As for the relatively close affinities of the various Finnic peoples, why? There are parts of Finland where it seems that there has been very strong founder effect due to recent expansion of settlement north. But I do not understand how this would relate to the connection with the Sami and other Finnic and Finnic-origin peoples to the east. My own earlier supposition has been that northeast Europe served as a repository of peoples who adopted agriculture late, and were resistant to the expansion of Indo-Europeans. This certainly comports with the fact that there is a rather sharp difference between Finnic and Scandinavian peoples in Norden. Yet the Finnic people are not an archive of deep ancient genetic diversity, as is in the case of African populations such as the Pygmy and Bushmen. But perhaps the African model is not appropriate, as Eurasian populations start from a far lower baseline of genetic diversity? In that case one can imagine that the retreating hunter-gatherers on the boreal fringe may always have been subject to strong genetic drift because of the marginality of their local ecology.

(tip Maju)


Comments (12)

  1. Finnic peoples probably compare best with Native Americans, so to say, which display the lowest genetic diversity of all major human populations (partly excepted Melanesians, cf. Tishkoff 2009 fig. S2): the arctic latitudes did not allow many of them to exist simultaneously at any time, much less before reindeer herding became established (but even after it).

    But they are not either a remnant nor particularly representative of the retreating hunter-gatherers of Europe: their Y-DNA signature (and to some extent their autosomal genetics as well) clearly points to a Siberian origin, at least largely. The (retreating???) hunter-gatherers of Europe should have West Eurasian genetic signatures, not exotic Siberian/East Asian ones.

    Rather than “retreating” European huntergatherers, they seem expansive Siberian ones, absorbing pockets of pre-existing Northern Eastern European foragers in their march or from contact peoples like Proto-Indoeuropeans themselves, then becoming herders and continuing with their Westward expansion. But always specialized in their near-arctic ecology, which, as you say can’t support much people.

  2. Onur

    Both Proto-Uralics and Proto-Altaics probably lived in Siberia (the former in western and the latter in eastern Siberia).

  3. pconroy

    What is that high matching (red) section among “France & Italy”, is it Sardinia?

  4. their Y-DNA signature (and to some extent their autosomal genetics as well) clearly points to a Siberian origin, at least largely.

    what’s the most recent cite you have on this? i’ve seen conflicting things on the origin of tat-c (i assume that’s what you mean).

    #3, yes, i think it is sardinians.

  5. Dwight E. Howell

    I tried to do a little fast research and it isn’t clear to me when reindeer herding started or what the connection might be between the various groups who herd reindeer. The limited data suggests that it started rather late but since reindeer herders live off the beaten path that may be a false assumption. History reached these regions rather late and I don’t think what archeology has been done is definitive.

    Since it is a complex and demanding way of life demanding semi domestic animals to work at all well rather than pure wild stock it would seem likely that domestic reindeer would all be more related to each other than to wild stock and the the herders might well be the same…

    It might be wise to take a look at all the Eurasian reindeer people if you can. Their ties to tundra/taiga and the long distance that they can travel suggests they should have a heck of a lot in common.

    There is another semi domestic animal that may have played a role in the movement and culture of these people. If I recall correctly some of the northern people domesticated what they called elk and Americans would call moose. Again this is an animal that would appear to have offered its pre-machine transport owners some huge advantages including the ability to travel large distances in fairly short amounts of time in locations where horses would have been more or less impossible to keep and rather south of reindeer country.

  6. bolek

    Razib, there is a mistake on your heat map. You marked both Belarusians and Lithuanians as Lithuanians. Belarusians are Slavs and Lithuanians are Balts, Belarusians are very high in R1a1 and Lithuanians are very high in N1c. They are also different populations on PCA maps.

  7. Onur


    In addition to that, there is another mistake on Razib’s heat map: he marked both Romanians and Hungarians as Romanians.

  8. bolek

    Hungarians and Romanians belong to one cluster Pop. 2. But Lithuanians and Belarusians belong to different clusters Pop.1 and Pop. 4.

    It is interesting that two Estonians cluster with Belarusians and not with Lithuanians or Finns. I guess Slavic influence in Estonians may be stronger than in Lithuanians. Or Lithuanians originated from more Eastern area than Estonians. Estonians speak Ugro-Finnic language but on PCA maps are far away from Finns and close to Slavs. Interesting.

  9. #4 Razib: it’s so easy as to read Wikipedia: all N is oriental except N1c1 (N-M178), which is the Finnic-plus NE European clade. Hence N1c1 arrived (at least at the N1c level) from the East.

    Also, even some European Uralic peoples (Nenets) look mostly “Mongoloid” and Finnic peoples invariably show some degree (c. 15%) of Siberian/East Asian admixture when compared in Admixture and the like.

    The distribution of N1 (at least N1b and N1c) is very much concentrated in Northernmost Eurasia. Assuming that Yakuts may have been assimilated to Turkish identity recently (what I understand is widely accepted), it’s not hard to imagine/reconstruct an early Uralic scatter of this clade in the very specialized ultra-Northern ecology, after a previous migration northwards from, probably, China, where NO and the earliest N surely coalesced (judging from modern scatter).

    I do not feel obliged to base my inference on Finnic origins on whatever someone else may think (possibly wrongly – owning a doctorate is not guarantee of being right). I think I can make up my mind on my own and justify it easily, as I just did here. Resorting to cites (authority) alone is weak thinking and more proper of religious zealots than of free thinkers.

  10. #9, for an egalitarian you come off as extremely patronizing (though that may be the nature of your english). though as a whole your model does seem plausible to me (though i remain not entirely convinced).

  11. #10: Sorry if I was patronizing but I found your request of a cite (instead of a direct question: “why do you think…?”) somewhat annoyingly scholastic: all the data (haplogroup diversity at each phylogenetic level) points to East Asian origins of N (and NO as a whole) and the NE European variant is just a derived sublineage.

    Naturally Uralic/Finnic peoples upon arrival to Europe, surely in the Neolithic age (I just don’t know enough about the archaeology of far NE Europe to be more precise) absorbed native European individuals, specially women but also men, becoming more and more European in overall genetics and phenotype (as they were surely very few all the time, it’s possible that this process of Europeization was quite fast).

  12. Vitasta

    #4 – Not sure what #1 had in mind but I know of a couple of studies that were interesting wrt Y-DNA Hgs, Siberia and farther East Eurasia: A counter-clockwise northern route of the Y-chromosome haplogroup N from Southeast Asia towards Europe and Human evolution in Siberia: from frozen bodies to ancient DNA. The first study did consider TATC.


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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


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