September 05, 2012

East to West across Eurasia

A couple more interesting abstracts from the DNA in Forenscics 2012.

Genetic journey of the N1c haplogroup
Pamjav H, Nemeth E, Feher T, Volgyi A
Binary and Y-STR polymorphisms associated with the NRY region of the human Y chromosome preserve the paternal genetic legacy that has persisted to the present, permitting inference of human evolution, population migration and demographic history.The NRY region of the Y chromosome acts much like mtDNA to reveal the structure among human populations and possiblyto infer the order and timing of their descents. In the present study, we have investigated the originof haplogroup N1c-Tat phylogeographic structure and the genetic relationship of Eurasianpopulations by examining STR variation in a large number of individuals. We have identified 54samples as the haplogroup N1c-Tat from 5 population groups (N=632). To place the results into awider geographic context, we included 209 samples from published sources and 296 samples from the FTDNA public database into the phylogenetic analysis. According to previous studieshaplogroup N-M231 is of East Asian ancestry. Our results suggest that N1c-Tat mutation probably originated in South Siberia 8-9 thousand years ago and had spread through the Urals into the European part of present-day Russia. Its distribution is not fully correlated with the spread of Uralic languages. Turkic-speaking ethnic groups in South Siberia have high N1c-Tat presence and STR variance, while the N1c-L550 subgroup largely occurs among non-Uralic-speaking Europeanpopulations. Only the European N1c-Tat (xL550) subgroup can be linked to the spread of Finno-Ugric languages from the Kama-Urals area ~6,000 years ago. The subgroup N1c-L550 cannot be considered Finno-Ugric origin and its carriers might have been assimilated by Indo-European groups, resulting in their spread across Europe in historical times with Vikings and Balto-Slavs. Based on the present study Buryats were dominated by a young, about 800-years old N1c-Tat cluster, which suggest that this ethnic group could be a relatively recent admixture of Mongolian conquerors with a Paleo-Siberian population groups.
Of course these ages should be taken with a grain of salt because it is unclear how they were derived (i.e., whether the "evolutionary mutation rate" was used). Hopefully, someone will treat the  subject of N1c ages with Y-SNPs that do not have the problem of saturation that affects microsatellites. This is an interesting test case, because a ~3-fold change in ages will have important consequences for our understanding of the spread of Finno-Ugric languages into Europe: an earlier date would associate them with the Comb Ceramic, while a later, Bronze Age date would associate them with the Seima-Turbino phenomenon.

Huns in Bavaria? Genetic analyses of an artificially deformed skull from an early medieval cemetery in Burgweinting (Regensburg, Germany)

Schleuder R, Wilde S, Burger J, Grupe G, Forster P, Harbeck M
The morphological examination of an early medieval burial site in Burgweinting, which is dated to the end of the 5th century, revealed one female with an artificially, circularly deformed skull, a practice that is thought to be associated with the arrival of Nomads of the Eurasian steppe, particularly the Huns.    

Individuals with such artificial cranial deformations also can be found in other Late Roman and Early Medieval cemeteries in Europe mostly in the Carpathian basin but only as few isolated cases in Western Europe, where mostly women show such deformations.  
Regarding the artificial cranial deformations it is unclear whether a foreign custom was taken over by Germanic tribes or whether the individuals were members or descendants of Eurasian nomads.  
With the help of the find of Burgweinting, we exemplarily investigated this question.To identify the possible foreign origin of this female with alleged “Asian” skull deformation we sequenced the HVRI and HVRII region of the mitochondrial DNA.  
Our results show that the ancestry of a woman with artificially deformed skull can be linked to an at least partly Asian origin. So this indicates that at least some of the few individuals with skull deformation had not adopted the costume but can be seen as former members or descendants of the hunnish tribal community.   
It will be worthwhile if geneticists can co-operate with physical anthropologists and/or archaeologists more broadly in cases where morphology, or burial customs indicate that a possibly heterogeneous population exists at that site. The above is a good example of that synergy in action.


Jim said...

"The subgroup N1c-L550 cannot be considered Finno-Ugric origin and its carriers might have been assimilated by Indo-European groups, resulting in their spread across Europe in historical times with Vikings and Balto-Slavs."

This begs the question. It can indeed have been associated with a Uralic population that language shifted to Slavic and then moved west. That migration may be how it became a subgroup.

Jaakko Häkkinen said...

L550 is far too western to be connected to the Uralic languages: it comprises Spanish, Scandinavian and Balto-Polish groups.