February 23, 2015

Scandinavian team looking for Indo-Europeans in Kazakhstan

An article in the Astana Times. If anyone has any additional information via Kazakh or Scandinavian media, or can find the press release referred to in the article, feel free to share.

  Scandinavian Team Searches for Indo-European Homeland through Kazakhstan DNA

A Scandinavian team has come to Kazakhstan in search of the common homeland of all Indo-European peoples, collecting bone fragments for analysis in the Centre for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen.

The researchers are looking for a genetic connection to match the linguistic connections that have already been drawn, Norwegian historian Sturla Ellingvag of the Explico Historical Research Foundation told The Astana Times on Feb. 20. “We’re trying to find a connection in science, in our DNA, to prove that there is indeed a connection, between, for example, Norwegians and the people in Kazakhstan. And also we are looking for a homeland, which is somewhere on the Caspian steppe, or in Russia, or some say it’s in Armenia or Ukraine. There are many different theories.”

The researchers collected about 120 Bronze and early Iron Age bone samples in total from Pavlodar, Kostanai and Karaganda during their week-long trip to Kazakhstan, from Feb. 14 – 21. Kazakhstan is fascinating, the researcher says, because it contains human remains that are “so far back on the DNA map.”

The 4,000 year old samples they’ve found have been very well preserved, Ellingvag said. “I can only speak from meeting archaeologists in Astana and here in Karaganda, but I’m very much impressed by the professionalism and also by the exhibitions they have,” he said.

The project to search for the ancestral homeland of the Indo-European peoples falls under the umbrella of a large grant from the Danish government and is being supported by the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Gotenburg University in Sweden and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, which has one of the best historical DNA analysis labs in the world and which is where the analysis on the Kazakh remains will actually be done. Universities in Karaganda, Pavlodar and Kostanai are also involved.

The Kurgan hypothesis posits that the speakers of proto-Indo-European, the hypothesized common ancestor of the massive Indo-European language group, originally lived on the Pontiac-Caspian steppe, an area of land stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and including parts of Russia, Ukraine and northwest Kazakhstan, beginning around the fifth millenium B.C. The hypothesis describes the spread of the language family from the steppe in every direction. “Kurgan” is a term for a type of burial mound common in the Caucasus, across Kazakhstan and beyond.

“Two thousand years ago, we started having Kurgan graves in Scandinavia,” said Ellingvag. The commonalities between burial mounds in Norway and Scythian/Saka mounds in Kazakhstan are striking, he said. “[The Scythian people] had these ornaments, these animal ornaments, which are very, very important in Scandinavian art … and the ornaments are actually quite similar, which is striking, it’s very special.”

The Kurgan hypothesis has been somewhat substantiated by genetic evidence so far, according to a press release by the Kon-Tiki Museum on the project, and advances in the technology for doing historical DNA research over the past few years means it is now possible to get closer to finding this genetic and linguistic starting point for most of the peoples of Europe.

“During the past 15 years, the Y-DNA R1a haplogroup has been characterised as a genetic signal of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. The theory now looks more plausible than ever, thanks to recent discoveries about its structure and phylogeography. Moreover, the Y-DNA R1a haplogroup has been found in numerous ancient remains supposedly belonging to early Indo-Europeans,” the press release explains.

A separate but related project is looking into the DNA of ancient horses. The Kurgan culture is credited with being the first to domesticate the horse.

The research team includes Ellingvag, Danish DNA-scientist Peter Damgaard and Bettina Heyerdahl, daughter of Norwegian archaeologist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl. They are also working with Kazakh researcher Emma Usmanova.
I could also find this Youtube video from this expedition.


rozenblatt said...

I've found the brief news about this project at the site of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstn: http://www.mfa.kz/index.php/en/last-news/3164-norwegian-scientists-kazakh-and-norwegian-ancestors-had-a-common-homeland-thousands-years-ago

Nirjhar007 said...

Great News! will be vital to know the SNP Mutations of R1a and R1b from there and also the Autosomal structure!

Thugnacious said...

Before the Turkic invasion all the Central Asian -Stans are inhabitaded by Iranic people.

Davidski said...

This effort appears to be part of the Rise project, headed by Kristian Kristiansen.


MOCKBA said...

More researchers names, dig locations, and analysis methods in this report from a press-conference in Kostanai

pconroy said...

BTW, on 23andme my mother shares a 12 cM segment with an ethnic Kazakh - making him a predicted 4th cousin, in the 3-10 range?!

arch said...

Oh Boy..
Can we at least use the term Goths when that is what we are talking about?

You need remains from pre-Genghis because any GOTH populations remaining in that region post mongol incursion would have had their male lines curtailed and supplanted.

What they will find is western euro population genetics of slaves trucked back to western / central asia by Mongols and Turkic raiders and while there will be germanic matches to modern Norwegians Swedes and Danes, its because of the large scale enslavement of overrun populations, including Germanics, who are a ancestral population to these Scandinavians.
Not to mention pre-Soviet german colonists, post war deportees from central europe..etc..

They will find genetic links but not really ancient ones or links dating to the great migrations.

Diomedes said...

@pcconroy did you take a 23&me test? Did it say you also had a segment match? I'm american with irish, German, British ancestory. When I did 23&me I had 50% british/irish,around 10% german/french and the rest Southern European and non specific. I shared large segments of dna with British/irish but the next largest was Portugal. I have a cousin there apparently also. Kazakh is strange though, would have to imagine that's a random ancestor ending up over there.

Gary said...

I am frankly skeptical of notion that Y-DNA R1a is a "genetic signal of the Proto-Indo-Europeans". I think that anyone is on shaky ground when they attempt to extrapolate the ethnicity or linguistic affiliation of a population by DNA or even cultural artifacts alone.

A historical example would be Plains Indians of North America. With the introduction of the horse to Native Americans, many populations rapidly moved out onto the Great Plains where they adopted a similar lifestyle and produced similar artifacts. All these populations were characterized by similar varieties of Y-DNA Q and C as well as mtDNA A, B, C, D, and X, yet spoke a wide variety of languages from several distinct families. I don't think there is a compelling argument that the populations of the Eurasian steppes were any different. If you look at DNA of modern Turkic-speaking populations, you will see that it is all over the place.

Regarding the association of Kurgan culture, Y-DNA R1a is not the only Y-DNA type in Scandinavia. Below is a link is to a map of Y-DNA Q in Europe. Note that this type reaches a peak in southern Sweden.


From the Europedia article, here's a breakdown of some of the Y-DNA Q found in Europe:

"Q1a2a1 (L54)
Q1a2a1a (CTS11969)
Q1a2a1a1 (M3): the main subclade of Native Americans
Q1a2a1a2 (L804): found in Germany, Scandinavia and Britain (possibly Hunnic)
Q1a2a1a2a (L807): observed in Britain
Q1a2a1b (Z780): found among Native Americans, notably in Mexico
Q1a2a1c (L330): the main subclade of the Mongols, also found among the Kazakhs and Uzbeks, as well as in Ukraine, Turkey and Greece (probably Mongolian and Turkic)"

"Possibly Hunnic", indeed! A comparison of some common words in an eastern Swedish dialect and Native American languages might shed some light on this issue:

Eastern Sweden (Vi) Cherokee/Mohawk Siouan

‘this’ a hana hina (Cherokee) hinné (Crow)
‘that’ a dana na (Cherokee)
‘here' har, hena, henan ahani (Cherokee) den (Dakota)
‘there’ dar, dena, den an nahnai (Cherokee) hen (Dakota)
‘who’ vam, hokan ónhkha (Mohawk)

'and' Swedish: 'och', Other Scandinavian languages: 'og', Lenape (Algonkian), 'òk' Mohawk 'nok'

Grey said...

"They will find genetic links but not really ancient ones or links dating to the great migrations."

I wonder about a mega Bantu expansion of pre-PIE foot herders out of modern southern Kazakhstan near Almaty and the Tien Shan following the routes that later became the Silk Road into India, Iran and the Near East and from there into Europe (and eventually onto the steppe where they acted as a catalyst for the PIE while not being the PIE themselves).


(but blocked from China by geography.)

So I think the researchers might find ancient links but from before PIE.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure any Kazakh segments that can be found now would be more recent. Some Irish tourist or soldier seems more likely.


I would be looking to the Wild Geese for a connection. Perhaps someone like Peter Lacy of Limerick who was a Field Marshal in the Imperial Russian Army. But even that might be a bit far back.

Bulan Goldstein said...

Then please show us Iranian kurgans and Iranian religions behind the kurgan burial tradition. I am pretty sure that also Dienekes is awaiting to ses some Iranian kurgans.

Simon_W said...

Arch, there were never any Goths in Kazakhstan. Also, according to the blog entry by Dienekes, they are going to test ancient DNA from the Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Sure as hell predating Genghis Khan by millennia.

szopeno said...

@arch note that germanics are probably not the best candidate for ancient indoeuropeans. I've heard people saying that Germanic languages seems like a hybrid language, with about 1/3 words of non-IE origin

Derrick Bonsell said...

The Sarmatian and Skythian languages are part of the Iranian language family.