January 26, 2010

Ancient DNA from frozen Yakuts

From the paper:
Sixty one percent (8 out of 13) of the haplotypes (Ht1, Ht2, Yaka56, 65, 71, 80, 81, 86) were affiliated to the N1c (TAT-C) haplogroup on the basis of the SNP analyses. This haplogroup is considered as the most frequent in the Yakut population, and its frequency varies across studies from 75% [12] to 100% [13]. Sample YAKa26 was affiliated to haplogroups K . The SNP typing was inconclusive for 5 individuals (YAKa17, 19, 47, 49 and 57); nevertheless the affiliation to N1c was excluded on the basis of the absence of the TAT-C mutation.
The origin of the most frequent Y-chromosomal haplotypes (Ht1 and Ht2) was difficult to establish on the basis of genetic information. Indeed, these two lineages belonging to haplogroup N1c seem to be restricted to Yakut populations, and were probably present since the period they were first located in Central Yakutia. Interestingly, the comparison with archaeological data revealed that the male individuals (YAKa34, 39, 40, 69, 78) at the beginning of the 18th century, identified as Clan Chiefs (or tojons) on the basis of their grave goods (weapons, jewelry, silk clothes, richly ornamented saddles and signet rings), belonged to these two haplotypes. Therefore, archaeological data could bring interesting information in tracing back the origin of these enigmatic male lineages. Indeed, the grave goods of the 15th/17th centuries (weapons and horse harnesses) and the construction of coffins with an empty trunk from the 18th century are similar to the burial customs of the Cis-Baïkal area [44] and of the Egyin Gol Necropolis during the 3rd century BC [45-47]. This suggests that the male ancestors of the Yakuts were probably formed of a small group of horse-riders originating from Northern Mongolia or the Baïkal Lake.
Based on the analyses of the maternal and paternal lineages of ancient Yakuts, we were able to demonstrate that the formation of this population started before the 15th century, with a small group of settlers composed of horse-riders from the Cis-Baïkal region and a small number of women from different South Siberian origins.
BMC Evolutionary Biology doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-25

Human evolution in Siberia: from frozen bodies to ancient DNA

Eric Crubezy et al.

Abstract (provisional)

The Yakuts contrast strikingly with other populations from Siberia due to their cattle- and horse-breeding economy as well as their Turkic language. On the basis of ethnological and linguistic criteria as well as population genetic studies, it has been assumed that they originated from South Siberian populations. However, many questions regarding the origins of this intriguing population still need to be clarified (e.g. precise origin of paternal lineages and admixture rate with indigenous populations). This study attempts to better understand the origins of the Yakuts, by performing genetic analyses on 58 mummified frozen bodies dated from the 15th to the 19th century, excavated from Yakutia (Eastern Siberia).

High quality data were obtained for the autosomal STRs, Y-chromosomal STRs and SNPs and mtDNA due to exceptional sample preservation. A comparison with the same markers on seven museum specimens excavated 3 to 15 years ago showed significant differences in DNA quantity and quality. Direct access to ancient genetic data from these molecular markers combined with the archaeological evidence, demographical studies and comparisons with 166 contemporary individuals from the same location as the frozen bodies, helped us to clarify the microevolution of this intriguing population.

We were able to trace the origins of the male lineages to a small group of horse-riders from the Cis-Baikal area. Furthermore, mtDNA data showed that intermarriages between the first settlers with Evenks women led to the establishment of genetic characteristics during the 15th century that are still observed today.

Link (pdf)


  1. Not sure if I'm ranting but, if Y-DNA N1c is found almost only among Yakuts and Uralic peoples, wouldn't make some sense to consider that the male ancestors of Yakuts could be essentially Turkified Uralics?

    They argue for a cis-Baikal origin but present no clear arguments for that supposition. The other places where I could find that N1c has been spotted (besides Yakuts and Uralics) is Korea and Japan, in both cases at low frequencies.

  2. The Yakuts and the Mongolians are genetically closer to Europeans than some SW Asians. On my deCODEme genetic atlas they come in at 23rd and 24th in genetic affinity.

    SNPs are more informative about genetic ties with Caucasoids than haplogroups.



  4. Maju:
    "Not sure if I'm ranting but, if Y-DNA N1c is found almost only among Yakuts and Uralic peoples, wouldn't make some sense to consider that the male ancestors of Yakuts could be essentially Turkified Uralics?"

    N1c seems to be older in the non-Uralic areas and peoples than in the Uralic ones. Besides, we cannot predict the language from the genes, it's impossible. Not all Uralic speakers are N1c, nor all N1c are Uralic speakers.


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