Continuing the search for Indo-Europeans

By Razib Khan | July 15, 2012 2:53 pm

Dienekes P. is often rather laconic in commentary on the papers he links to, but of late he has “come out of his shell.” He has two posts which are important “weekend reading”:

Population strata in the West Siberian plain (Baraba forest steppe)

Hints of East/Central Asian admixture in Northern Europe

I freely admit that much of the conjecture here is above my pay-grade in terms of evaluation. But I do think it’s important think through. My “gut” tends to lean toward a “revenge of the Mesolithic” scenario promoted by some of Dienekes’ critics, but I don’t have a strong position.

MORE ABOUT: Indo-Europeans
  • qohelet

    Revenge of the Mesolithic with regard to Asian admixture in Europe, or more broadly in terms of general European origins?

  • Raimo Kangasniemi

    It might be best to drop the hunt for genetically identifiable Indo-Europeans and just consider it to be essentially a linguistic group with some shared cultural traits at the beginning.

    One could certainly expect some amount of genetic similarity in the early stages, but after so many other migrations in the same geographical areas etc it’s perhaps optimistic to the extreme to expect to be able to pick up a clear genetic signal of the Indo-Europeans, whose spread would then fit the spread of the linguistic groups and the cultural traits.

  • Razib Khan

    #2, your previous comments don’t indicate that you’re at all familiar with the genetic research, so stop talking about things you don’t know about. your skepticism is warranted, but you don’t have a basic level of knowledge to be skeptical for reasons besides happenstance. secondarily, ancient DNA will be the killer app.

  • Raimo Kangasniemi

    3. First of all, I am a trained historian. I could say that people with background in genetic research can’t say anything about the historical spread of groups like Indo-Europeans because they don’t have background in history, archaeology and/or linguistics which could help them to reconcile their own research with the evidence from other sources.

    But I don’t say that, because that wouldn’t be a)very polite and b)because today it is impossible for any person to be a jack of all trades.

    I don’t know what your exact problem is, perhaps you just have bad social skills, but… try to be a bit more polite and open to other’s ideas, it will help you in the long run.

  • Razib Khan

    #4, i know a lot more history than you know genetics. of course historians can talk about genetics. i said your previous comments indicate you aren’t fluent in the genetics, so why should we take your judgments seriously? i judge you not by your credentials, but by your proven fluency. i have no issue with your on discussion topics you know about, but you don’t add value on what you don’t know about.

    I don’t know what your exact problem is

    you talk too much and say too little on areas outside your expertise.

  • Dwight E. Howell

    I would say that Indo-Ayron is more than a language group. It was to a large degree a reasonably coherent culture at least at one time. They need to be using more than mtdNA. It can tell you about mama but it can all to easily lead one to make false assumptions. It is of course true that genes aren’t culture and nothing we are looking at genetically seems to clearly define a group as Indo-Aryon. History is not going to provide use with much new information unless some long lost records show up so maybe archeology along with more complete DNA studies can shed a bit more light on the situation.
    To poster #4. He has no interest in people he does not deem to be “smart”. Poster #2 is essentially correct as Khan admits. I noted nothing which indicated what he knew one way or the other about genetics other than he obviously knew enough to draw a reasonable conclusion.

  • Brel

    “It might be best to drop the hunt for genetically identifiable Indo-Europeans and just consider it to be essentially a linguistic group with some shared cultural traits at the beginning.”

    Surely the best way to know for sure is to look and see what we can find. You don’t seem to be particularly keen on scientists actually doing science.

  • Razib Khan

    #6, they use mtDNA because of technical considerations.

  • Razib Khan

    History is not going to provide use with much new information unless some long lost records show up so maybe archeology

    i have some hope for data-mining and other analytics applied to textual archives, etc.

  • Sandgroper

    “You don’t seem to be particularly keen on scientists actually doing science.”

    There seems to be a lot of that going around.

    “I don’t know what your exact problem is.”

    Maybe I can help you define it precisely. Razib’s exact ‘problem’ is that he has been writing brilliant blog posts for more than 10 years, contributing a huge amount of very highly informed and informative content and analysis. I’m not the only person who thinks that this blog is the best one around, and has been for an impressively long time. Going on to someone’s and trying to psychoanalyse him or give him lectures on his online manner because he does not immediately recognize your genius is not my idea of ‘polite’.

    Saying “skepticism is warranted” does not amount to ‘admitting’ (bit of strangely LCD journalistic language there) that a statement as strong as “optimistic to the extreme to expect” is an accurate and informed comment.

    Me, after 10+ years of reading and learning hugely, I prefer a few people coming in with lasers than a random crowd barging in firing shotguns. If you don’t recognize the sheriff has a right to exercise some quality control and direction, then you don’t.

  • Raimo Kangasniemi

    5. You go outside biology and biochemistry yourself. I can hardly “talk too much” and “say too little” at the same time.

    7. I’m very keen to find out, but you have to understand that different branches of science have been hunting clues to the past of the Indo-Europeans for basically several hundred years. A certain scepticism does come from knowing that.

    It’s not realistic to expect genetics to come up as an Alexander that solves this Gordion’s knot with one strike of his sword. Genetic research will certainly add to the picture provided by other branches of science, but at the end of the day Indo-European is a linguistic group foremost and a cultural group secondarily. Genetic research can’t tell us what languages people possessing certain genetic traits spoke or details of their material culture. At best it can offer support to some theories if evidence from different branches of science can be made to converge and support each other.

    10. I’m all for scientists concentrating on doing science (not that I am against scientists’ non-scientific ambitions).

    I haven’t criticized Razib Khan’s posts in the areas of his expertise, because when it comes to that, I’m an ignorant amateur on a foreign territory. I just read the posts with interest. But when it comes to things outside that area, when he moves on subjects where he is no longer any more authority than I am or in some cases, less than I, then I certainly consider that I can say my own opinion and views on the subject and disagree with him if I feel so.

    When it comes to the sheriff stuff, I consider all bloggers to be the captains of their blog and entitled to do whatever they want with comments and commentors. So at that point we don’t disagree.

  • Razib Khan

    #11, you just said a whole lot of nothing. i’m pissed because you seem to enjoy typing a lot. that’s basically the problem. what fucking moron thinks that “realistic to expect genetics to come up as an Alexander that solves this Gordion’s knot with one strike of his sword.” can you go post on that moron’s blog?

  • Ryan G.

    Most of the Indian subcontinent’s population speaks an Indo-European language (Bengali, Gujarati, etc.-derived from Sanskrit). I DO know that the genetic history of the Indian subcontinent is notoriously complicated. However, I was curious: how do Indians relate to Indo-European speakers in, say…Europe. I mean, are Gujaratis and Bengalis related, genetically, to Germans and Russians? You’ve blogged a lot on Indian genetics, but could you either a) summarize their relationship in a short blurb, or b) direct me to articles that could summarize it for me, since there seems to be so much information.

    Is the presence of Indo-European languages in the subcontinet mainly a cultural feature, or is there a genetic component too? (I realize that such a question is probably colored by politics as much as anything)…

  • Martin M.

    Perhaps you might write above the comment section: “He who enters here does me an honor; he who does not-a favor” Cf. Nietzsche’s Gay Science, Book I, Sec. 22

  • Razib Khan

    #14, lol

  • Justin Giancola

    Martin M just got commenter of the month!

  • Raimo Kangasniemi

    12. Based on your answer, I think I already did.

    Now, after we have exchanged unpleasantries, I would suggest you calm down.

  • ryan

    >I can hardly “talk too much” and “say too little” at the same time.

    You really are daft.

    Anyway, in reference to 6 & 9, I’m hopeful that new cuneiform archives will turn up that may offer more insight. There are a fair number of tells, hoyuks & tepes awaiting excavation.

  • Raimo Kangasniemi

    How delightful to read the “enlightened” comments here…

  • Raimo Kangasniemi

    18. You are impolite, and probably not half as smart as you think. Otherwise you might be able to write “Ryan” instead of “ryan”. See, I can throw such things around too. And unlike a coward like you, I am doing it using my own real name. But you don’t have guts to do that, don’t you, “ryan”?


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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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