September 18, 2009

Craniometric evidence for Slavic-Finnic admixture in medieval Novgorod

The two main sources of the Russian population are well known by genetic evidence, but it is nice to see the historical process of admixture between Slavs and Finns visible in the anthropological record as well. The evidence for the presence of a Baltic component is more surprising in the light of genetic evidence, but at present diagnostic markers of Baltic admixture in uniparentally inherited markers do not appear to be available. Certainly, the high-resolution study of variation in the common N1c an R1a1 Y-chromosome haplogroups may reveal whether differences between Slav, Balt, or Finn (a) still exist, (b) do not exist because of a common substratu, (c) do not exist due to gene flow between the three linguistic groups.

From the paper:
Groups from 13th–14th century burials at Slavenka and Konezerie, and from 14th–16th century burials in Pskov are morphologically heterogeneous, and the variation exceeds that seen in non-admixed groups. Certain crania are markedly Caucasoid, displaying large and dolichocranic braincases, a sharp horizontal facial profile, a high face and a sharply protruding nose. Others are gracile, brachycranic, and have flattened low faces and flattened noses. The former are far fewer than the latter; most individuals are intermediate. The correlation coefficients also attest to heterogeneity; some of them, while concerning morphologically independent traits, are highly significant, and the same heterogeneity is revealed by the principal component analysis (Sankina, 2000).


According to the Mahalanobis distance values, Baltic parallels are especially marked for early Novgorodian groups, whereas Finnic parallels are typical of late groups. While the early and the late groups are very different, continuity between them is evidenced by a combination of intercorrelated traits discovered in the late groups from the upper Luga, Pskov, and the Ingrian Plateau. Speaking of the resemblance between the late Novgorodians and the Finns, it should not be overlooked that most of the former either had absorbed the Finnic substratum or were assimilated descendants of the local Finns. This concerns a group from Slantsy district, certain late groups of the Ingrian Plateau, and many others which, judging by archaeological evidence, were influenced by the traditions of the Baltic Finns.

While the presence of the Finnic element, which manifests itself in late Novgorodian groups, which cannot be disputed, the “Baltic” tendency of early Novgorodians is more difficult to explain. Large-scale Baltic presence in the Novgorodian territory during the pre-Slavic period (Early Iron Age) is evidenced by both archaeological and toponymical data. Recent archaeological and linguistic findings suggest that by the time of the Slavic colonization (7th century AD), Balts and Finns lived in the territory of northwestern Russia side by side, and the Balts which were numerically predominant, migrated to this territory several times, both from the east (the Dnieper basin) and from the west (the Vistula basin) (Vasiliev, 2008). Certain Baltic groups were apparently assimilated by the Slavs. Notably, among the fourteen 10th–13th century eastern Slavic groups from other territories, only three resemble the Balts. Another explanation may be that Balts, Slavs and Finns had absorbed the same ancient European substratum, which had been widely distributed in the past.

Of course, some non-Slavic elements may have participated in the population history of medieval Novgorod in more recent times. For instance, it is hardly accidental that the early group from Pskov is similar to populations of southeastern Estonia, which borders on the Pskov region.
Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia
Volume 37, Issue 2, June 2009, Pages 119-134


S.L. Sankina

Cranial series from cemeteries on the territory of the medieval Novgorod Republic were subjected to multivariate analysis. Northwestern Russia is the region where important population changes occurred in the early 2nd millennium AD. As a rule, earlier groups (11th – early 13th centuries) are dolichocranic and exhibit a sharp horizontal facial profile. In those series whose lower chronological limit is 11th–12th centuries, diachronic morphological changes can be traced. In later groups (13th–14th centuries), the cranial index is higher than in earlier ones (11th – early 13th centuries), whereas cranial height and nasal protrusion angle decrease, and the orbits become narrower. Series from the 13th– 16th century cemeteries apparently attest to an admixture. A combination of traits, correlated mostly at the between- group level (orbital breadth, nasal height, and nasal prominence angle), points to the presence of two components. This combination separates early and late Novgorod groups, at the same time opposing neighboring non-Slavic populations. While early groups (11th–13th centuries) resemble the 10th–18th century Balts, late ones (late 13th – early 20th centuries) resemble various Finnic groups of the same period.



Polak said...

Hey, nice find, but the link doesn't work.

Btw, I think the Vologda Russians sampled in the HGDP project are probably a good example of the processes described here.

Unknown said...

There is something fishy about this study.

History and people of Veliky Novgorod are well known from archeology.

Early city (10 - 11th century) had 3 "ends" or kontsys. Atleast 1 of those was inhabited by Finnic Nereva/Nerova-people, district is even known as Nerev's End.

All of the toponyms around the city are also from Finnic languages. So we have Finnics inside the city and in the surrounding regions during 10 - 11th century.

Conclusions of this study dont seem logical nor plausible in the light of archeology or linguistics.

I wonder what are the Finnic cranial references ? Link doesnt work.