April 10, 2006

mtDNA of ancient Cumanians

A few years ago, I had proposed a mechanism for the arrival of Mongoloid genes into Europe. A paper on the Cumanians illustrates how these Mongoloid invaders turn out to be Caucasoid in terms of their mtDNA:
This study is the first aDNA characterization of one of the many historically attested eastern pastoral nomad populations that migrated into Europe—in this case, into the Carpathian basin during the 13th century. These archeological Cumanian samples belong to six haplogroups. One of these haplogroups belongs to the M lineage (haplogroup D) and is characteristic of Eastern Asia, but this is the second most frequent haplogroup in southern Siberia too. All the other haplogroups (H, V, U, U3, and JT) are West Eurasian, belonging to the N macrohaplogroup. Out of the eleven remains, four samples belonged to haplogroup H, two to haplogroup U, two to haplogroup V, and one each to the JT, U3, and D haplogroups. Modern Hungarian samples represent 15 haplogroups. All but one is a West Eurasian haplogroup [the remaining one is East Asian (haplogroup F)], but all belong to the N lineage. Four haplogroups (H, V, U*, JT), present in the ancient samples, can also be found in the modern Hungarians, but only for haplogroups H and V were identical haplotypes found. Haplogroups U3 and D occur exclusively in the ancient group, and 11 haplogroups (HV, U4, U5, K, J, J1a, T, T1, T2, W, and F) occur only in the modern Hungarian population. Haplogroup frequency in the modern Hungarian population is similar to other European populations, although haplogroup F is almost absent in continental Europe; therefore the presence of this haplogroup in the modern Hungarian population can reflect some past contribution.

Our results suggest that the Cumanians, as seen in the excavation at Csengele, were far from genetic homogeneity. Nevertheless, the grave artifacts are typical of the Cumanian steppe culture; and five of the six skeletons that were complete enough for anthropometric analysis appeared Asian rather than European (Horváth 1978, 2001), including two from the mitochondrial haplogroup H, which is typically European. It is interesting that the only skeleton for which anthropological examination indicated a partly European ancestry was that of the chieftain, whose haplotype is most frequently found in the Balkans.

Added to the Ancient DNA Compendium.

Human Biology
Volume 77, Number 5, October 2005

Bogácsi-Szabó, Erika. et al.

Mitochondrial DNA of Ancient Cumanians: Culturally Asian Steppe Nomadic Immigrants with Substantially More Western Eurasian Mitochondrial DNA Lineages

The Cumanians were originally Asian pastoral nomads who in the 13th century migrated to Hungary. We have examined mitochondrial DNA from members of the earliest Cumanian population in Hungary from two archeologically well-documented excavations and from 74 modern Hungarians from different rural locations in Hungary. Haplogroups were defined based on HVS I sequences and examinations of haplogroup-associated polymorphic sites of the protein coding region and of HVS II. To exclude contamination, some ancient DNA samples were cloned. A database was created from previously published mtDNA HVS I sequences (representing 2,615 individuals from different Asian and European populations) and 74 modern Hungarian sequences from the present study. This database was used to determine the relationships between the ancient Cumanians, modern Hungarians, and Eurasian populations and to estimate the genetic distances between these populations. We attempted to deduce the genetic trace of the migration of Cumanians. This study is the first ancient DNA characterization of an eastern pastoral nomad population that migrated into Europe. The results indicate that, while still possessing a Central Asian steppe culture, the Cumanians received a large admixture of maternal genes from more westerly populations before arriving in Hungary. A similar dilution of genetic, but not cultural, factors may have accompanied the settlement of other Asian nomads in Europe.


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