True Names

Now that Willerslev’s article is out in Nature,  there are a number of pieces discussing about it.  The gist is that there was a population that ranged from France deep into Siberia, one that accounts for part of the ancestry of Europeans (especially to the north and east) and also part of the ancestry of Amerindians.  I’ve talked about this earlier.

The way in which this seems to have happened in Europe is rather interesting: first you have the old Mesolithic hunters. They are then largely replaced by farmers from the Levant, some settling the southern coast of Europe and others moving up along the Danube –  genetically  similar to modern Sardinians.  A new wave [Indo-Europeans, surely] mostly replaces those farmers, and this new wave has a fair amount of ancestry from a group very similar to those original Mesolithic hunters.  So the amount of Mesolithic hunter ancestry among Europeans first goes way down and then goes up again. The return of the native strikes back.

Those Mesolithic hunter-gatherers aren’t exactly a lost race, since they had plenty of descendants, but it seems that there are no longer any unmixed examples – although we really need to check out the Lapps.

The problem is, they need a name.  “Ancestral North Eurasians” just doesn’t sing.  Neither does “Ancient Siberians”.  Personally, I like “Hyperboreans”.  Ginny likes “Sibermen”.

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38 Responses to True Names

  1. reiner Tor says:

    Those Mesolithic hunter-gatherers aren’t exactly a lost race, since they had plenty of descendants

    That’s because of Hyperborean privilege.

    A new wave [Indo-Europeans, surely] mostly replaces those farmers

    It doesn’t mean they were better than the Levantine farmers. They were just lucky.

  2. That Guy says:

    Icemen 😉

  3. JS123 says:

    Did the new wave definitely come from the south? Could it have been the descendents of those Mesolithic hunters counterattacking from where they had been pushed to?

  4. JS123 says:

    Also, are there dates for these waves?

  5. IC says:

    “there are no longer any unmixed examples ”
    End of pure race. Or pure race was just a fiction.

  6. jamesd127 says:

    How do these population changes line up with the change from stone to bronze, and from bronze to iron?

  7. jamesd127 says:

    From a few fragments of dating googled up here and there, I form the following wild assed conjecture.

    Farmers, new stone age, middle easterners, come from the south, pushing the old stone age hunter gatherer hyperboreans into the bleakest lands, unsuitable for farming. The surviving hyperboreans, mingled with their new stone age conquerors, in land unsuitable for planting crops, become horse herders and cattle herders in the bleak wide open steppes, transformed from hunters into cowboys by their conquerors. They also mingle with the ancestors of native Americans, and other west asians, the original inhabitants of these bleak lands. Then they learn the use of bronze.

    Around five thousand years ago they return to the more clement lands as aryans, bringing back the genes of the original hyperboreans, together with large touch of asian. Where they encounter peoples still in the new stone age, they pretty much exterminate them.

    As they head southwards, they eventually encounter people with bronze weapons heading northwards.

    Where they encounter peoples that also have bronze weapons, they for the most part substantially conquer them, imposing their language, but do not apply near genocidal replacement.

    • reiner Tor says:

      Sounds like a plausible explanation to me.

    • reiner Tor says:

      transformed from hunters into cowboys by their conquerors

      This transformation might have been underway before or at least independent of the conquerors. I read about the Lapps that they are (or were several centuries ago) in between the two, insofar as their bands are (were) following reindeer herds (which are considered the band’s property) and half domesticating them, castrating all bulls except the tamest (because wild bulls would leave the herd), effectively having created a very tame breed of reindeer. I guess cattle and horse domestication must have started in a similar way, hunters following and considering their property a herd, which was then managed by them, killing or castrating the wildest bulls (or all bulls except the tamest), etc.

    • Matt says:

      They also mingle with the ancestors of native Americans, and other west asians, the original inhabitants of these bleak lands

      The thrust of the new discovery seems to be that the Old Stone Agers seem to already been present in West Central Asia up to Siberia. From long before the agricultural revolution.

      And that have had affinities with Native Americans, largely through donating genes to them as an ancestral population.

      Presumably this may also be true for relationships between the Old Stone Agers and West Asians.

      So the idea that the Old Stone Age Europeans and the people of the West Eurasian steppes were distinct people who mixed to create the Indo-Europeans, following a migration out of Europe, seems dubious to me.

      Greg’s idea seems to be of the Indo-Europeans as a mix of Old Stone Age populations, who lived in Europe and other places, and new farmers. This could well have happened outside of Europe with no need for migrations outside of Europe, as the Old Stone Age “Europeans” seem to have lived well outside of Europe and Fertile Crescent farmers expanded into this zone as well. This seems more likely.

      I think something like Greg’s idea the above is part of the story, but I don’t think that Indo-Europeans are enough to explain an increased similarity of present day Europeans to Mesolithic Europeans compared to Neolithic samples.

      For one, when cluster analysis is carried out, the kind of Mesolithic associated ancestry in European seems similar to, but distinct from the West Eurasian (Indo-European?) associated ancestry found in South Asians (and which is also found in a minority in every European Indo-European speaking population).

      For another, there are indications of Neolithic collapse and difficulties adapting Neolithic packages to Europe (“A recent database analysis of Neolithic Ireland illustrates the extreme western edge of Neolithic dispersal from western Asia … One can ask the question as to what extent some the westernmost spread of cereals in Europe was as much about preferred foodstuffs rather than subsistence necessity when wild sources like hazelnuts were still so readily used and available?… Northern Europe certainly presented great challenges to agriculture, highlighted in its extreme margins such as Norway, but also in Britain by the apparent abandonment of cereals in the later Neolithic, perhaps as temperature retreated somewhat (Stevens and Fuller 2012).) It seems possible to me that, rather than any fusion at an extra European frontier, the farmers in Europe had their apocalypse, and their daughters (and perhaps some of their sons as well) mixed with foragers, giving rise to a new people, who replaced both farmer and forager, in time.

    • gcochran9 says:

      to jamesd127:

      The Hyperboreans extended from France deep into Siberia before any agriculturalists pushed them anywhere – before any agriculturalists existed. They contributed to the ancestry of Amerinds before agriculture was invented.

      The second wave of replacement in Europe occurred around 3000 BC – before the Bronze age. And the Indo-European languages pretty clearly split before bronze.

      So no.

      • jamesd127 says:

        In England, we see bronze agers replacing new stone agers around 2500 BC. That is rather close to 3000BC. The genetic replacement seems rather close to the weapons technology replacement.

        Aryan conquerors were aristocratic. This would suggest that the heroes had bronze weapons, and their minions generally did not. Thus archaeology of early bronze age conquerors would be often be hard to distinguish from late stone age conquerors, much as archaeology of the middle ages does not turn up too many suits of armor.

  8. dearieme says:

    “archaeology of the middle ages does not turn up too many suits of armour”: iron rusts. Does bronze do better?

  9. Zod says:

    Pure Hyborians are tall, tawny-haired, grey-eyed. The ancient kingdom of Hyperborea is more aloof than the others, yet there is alien blood in plenty in its veins, from the capture of foreign women — Hyrkanians, Æsir and Zamorians. They are tall, gaunt, big-boned.
    People are of slow speech and taciturn, but vigorous and warlike with violent natures.

    The ways of Hyperborea are described as weird. They are civilized and dwell in cities. Even two thousand years ago they had a well-defined artistry and poetism of nature.

    Hyperborea was ruled by wizards and witches, a group known as the White Hand. Its tall, gaunt lords and ladies tend toward white hair and emerald eyes. The lower classes can only look up from their huts and wonder what is occuring behind their cyclopean walls, where lightning plays about dark towers.

  10. anon says:

    The problem is, they need a name


  11. It looks like the ‘Hyperboreans’ were members of the Europeoid line, although MA-1 is displaced towards the Amerinds. TreeMix nonetheless finds the Karitiana to be on the Pacific branch despite recieving an admixture edge from MA-1.

    The theory of Mongoloid origins in Siberia is therefore refuted and their place of origin must be in another cold, Asian environment. The Himalayan range and the Tibetan Plateau stand out as candidates, and a variety of animals such as woolly rhinoceroses and (probably) the Panthera cats are known to have evolved high up prior to the expansion of their populations.

    • jamesd127 says:

      Siberia is large. Plenty of room, and plenty of time, for both aryans and chinese to come out of there.

      General scenario: Stupid people get pushed into the harshest lands. Foresight and smarts are selected for. Smart people develop weapons and organization to use them, then decide, “Let us go some place warmer.”

      • But racial origins are about zoogeography not the size of an area.

        After Raghavan et al, its now pretty clear than Mongoloid Siberians represent a replacement of an older, indigenous race by more southern peoples moving north, with the Upper Paleolithic Siberians leaving their admixture only in peripheral Siberians ie. Eskimo-Aleuts and Chukchi.

        Actually the talk of ‘Hyperboreans’ and the ADMIXTURE run finding the MA-1 boy to have slightly more South Asian than he does European reminds me of this paper about dental anthropology.

    • Matt says:

      That seems a bit hard to fit with Tibetans looking like a mixture between a Chinese like and introgressing high altitude adapted population (previously discussed on this blog).

      You could have a scenario where ancient Tibetans leave Tibet and go on to become Chinese like in China, keeping at least a skeletal relict of their “cold robustness” adaptations but losing their altitude adaptations entirely (as an unnecessary extravagance in the lowlands) and then eventually backflow to Tibet, giving rise to modern Tibetians.

      Or you could have population structure within Tibet, where there could be a very old population that only recently mixed with younger, more recently migrating Chinese like Tibetan population, with both coexisting without mixture for a long time .
      It just seems rather complex compared to having the two populations that give rise to modern Tibetans being very spatially and genetically separate all along.

      • Human migrations are complicated and once Siberia is disqualified from consideration we are left with only one plausible candidate for the urheimat of cold adapted, Mongoloid Asians. And we should remember that the Tibetal plateau was likely inhabited so sparsely that the descendants of the first Paleolithic(?) Mongoloids who stayed behind left very little DNA in living populations after being swamped out and replaced by outsiders (including a backmigration of Mongoloids from Asia.)

        Incidentally I agree with Roger Blench about Sinitic being a culturally aberrant branch of the Sino-Tibetan speaking peoples. In his Trans-Himalayan theory of Chinese origins, Late Pleistocene Appropriate populations up on the plateau were modified by contact with food producers before migrating into what is now Mongolia and then eventually entering China.

        Click to access EURASEAA%2014%20paper%20Blench%20NE%20India.pdf

  12. (1) “They are then largely replaced by farmers from the Levant” … “A new wave [Indo-Europeans, surely] mostly replaces those farmers” (2)

    In my opinion, no to (1) and no to (2). Those replacements, if they were so, were very regional, centered around central Europe. The overall picture for the whole of Europe doesn’t show those replacements.

    The best account I’ve ever found of the formation of the modern europeans and the debate between “indigenism” and “migrationism” is this one from Martin Richards, right now in the University of Leeds:

    “The Neolithic Invasion of Europe”:

    Here you can check the biography and works of Mr. Richards:

    Don’t be fooled by its title: the article clearly demonstrates (in my opinion) that most of the lineages of modern europeans descend from Paleolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers (mainly from the second ones). Conflating the male and female lineages, the better estimate is that under a 18% of the european lineages come from Neolithic levantine farmers. More than an 80% of modern europeans’ ancestors are ancient foragers.

    The text is from 2003, but it is quite convincing. This post reminded me of it and I’ve spent the last hours re-reading it. It’s really worth the time. Fascinating indeed.

    • gcochran9 says:

      We have a lot more data now, ancient DNA. You’re wrong. Utterly wrong.

      We now know that in the mesolithic, hunter-gathers with U-type mtDNA occupied Europe and ranged as far east as Lake Baikal. Those mitochondrial lineages aren’t too common today.

      Using 2003-vintage data is not the only problem. Just looking at artifacts and skeletons, researchers managed to come up with a better approximation of European prehistory 70 years ago. But sometime in the 1960s, most people went crazy, and that was no longer possible. The pots-not-people paradigm was based not on some kind of evidence that population replacements didn’t happen, but on distaste for that possibility. Somehow, wishing could make it so, even retroactively.

      Frankly, the people who bought into that argument belonged in lunatic asylums, rather than universities. Assuming that there is a difference.

      • SpaghettiMeatball says:

        So greg, are europeans a stabilized admixed population like south asians, or are they pure representatives of some ancient population?

      • First of all, I cannot understand, no way, the agressiveness of your response. It’s completely beyond me why it is so “offensive” for you the possibility that over the 80% of european lineages come from native hunter-gatherers, with a 20% of levantine admixture. I cannot get why it is so important to be a “newcomer” to the continent, really.

        Anyway, here you have more data, this time from **2010**:

        “The Archaeogenetics of Europe”

        The paper references 144 different studies and was arranged by eight different “lunatics”, of the kind many people call “scientists”.

        A snippet, at the end of it, just before the conclusion:

        ” Studies of western European mtDNA and
        Y-chromosome variation supported this picture, with a
        largely Mesolithic ancestry not only for the Basques — tradi-
        tionally regarded as isolated from any Neolithic ‘wave of
        advance’ as they speak a non-Indo-European language
        [99,100] — but throughout Iberia, the British Isles and Scan-
        dinavia [67,68,74,101,102]. These regions may still have
        received Neolithic immigrants, but of autochthonous Euro-
        pean rather than Near Eastern ancestry. Though not directly
        contradicting classical analyses [99], these results imply
        a lower level of Near Eastern immigration. Some analyses
        based on simple admixture models suggested much higher
        levels of immigration, especially into south-western Europe
        [103–106]. However, these models departed from untenable
        ad hoc hypotheses (effectively assuming a pre-Neolithic
        genetic homogeneity across Europe), and accounted neither
        for back-migration from Europe into the Near East (known to
        be high from the mtDNA results, as well as from archaeolog-
        ical and literary evidence) nor for subsequent post-Neolithic
        immigration, lumping all similarities between Europe and the
        Near East as Neolithic [75].

        The low Near Eastern genetic input during the early
        Neolithic does not imply that there were no large-scale dis-
        persals within Europe acting to spread the Neolithic [107].
        There was a pause of several hundred years in the Balkans
        after the arrival of the Neolithic from Anatolia, before the
        very rapid spread of the Linienbandkeramik farming culture
        across the North European Plain, leading to a major popula-
        tion increase [108]. Possibly, people who adopted the
        Neolithic package in south-western Europe then dispersed
        into central Europe. Strontium isotope analysis has sug-
        gested a combination of immigration and contact [109], but
        the different scenarios can only be tested by much more
        detailed analysis of genetic patterns within Europe itself.
        Analyses of ancient mtDNA from Linienbandkeramik
        sites in central Europe suggest that these populations —
        which indeed did not show clear evidence of Near Eastern
        ancestry — did not survive or did not get fully integrated
        into succeeding populations, a conclusion supported by
        a drastic population decline inferred from site density and
        the atypical exploitation system of the Linienbandkeramik
        which was not passed on to its successors [108,110,111]. It
        seems that the pioneer farming communities of central
        Europe, however they emerged, left few descendants
        beyond the Neolithic.”

        I used to really respect your opinions, but given the level of blind agressiveness you showed, I will be much more careful with everything coming from you in the future. My confidence in your objectivity has been really damaged by your “burst of rage”.

  13. Greg and Spaghetti,

    Jantz and Owsley found all Upper Paleolithic Europeans to be Caucasians, except for Markhina Gora and Grimaldi. We all know that Grimaldi Man has been controversial in the past but less people realise that Markhina Gora was in the past formerly regarded as Australoid and close to Melanesians. Bizarrely they found Grimaldi to have most similarity not to Africans but to Pacific populations including Japanese from Kyushu.

    Greg what are your thoughts about them?

  14. Greying Wanderer says:

    “The word “Hyborian” is a transliterated contraction by Howard of the Ancient Greek “hyperborean”, referring to a “barbaric dweller beyond the boreas (north wind).”[1] Howard stated that the geographical setting of the Hyborian Age is that of our Earth, but in a fictional version of a period in the past, c. Upper Paleolithic (40,000 to 10,000 B.C.).[2]”

    Nice bit of synchronicity.

    “Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas…”[4]”

    Especially if “Atlantis” represents an outcrop of neolithic eastern med. civilization that spread along the Atlantic coast from southern Portugal upwards.


    I think
    1) Hyperboreans
    2) Displaced by Levantine farmers in the south, along the Danube (and also imo along the Atlantic coast where farming could be supplemented by fishing) creating a mostly Levantine high density admixed population in suitable areas and a mostly indigenous low density population in the surrounding mountains, swamps and forests.
    3) Some kind of population collapse among the mostly Levantine farmers leading to a folding in from the periphery shifting the mix back towards the Hyperboreans but dominated by the Indo-European branch i.e. expansion from Denmark and Iberia into the core meeting with and eventually becoming subsumed within the Indo-European expansion into the core.

    • reiner Tor says:

      Some kind of population collapse

      I wouldn’t completely rule that out, but other than the pathogen-caused population collapse in the Americas, I don’t think it happened too often. I think a more typical population replacement was conquest, subsequent which resources were redistributed to the conquering upper classes, who slowly became more and more numerous, whereas the conquered lower classes struggled and their numbers slowly declined, as per Greg Clark’s “survival of the richest” theory.

      • jamesd127 says:

        To test this hypothesis, when we see an abrupt change in the pots, do we see an abrupt or gradual change in the people? The overwhelming evidence is that an abrupt change in the pots is accompanied by an abrupt change in the people. Thus, for example, in England round barrows, round skulls, long barrows, long skulls.

        Over a timescale of centuries, genocide is unusual and shocking. Over a time scale of millennia, standard operating procedure. I would say we see about one abrupt total replacement every thousand years or so.

        The best known and understood total replacement is the settlement of Tasmania, though what actually happened, and how people thought about what they were doing and why they did it, is now so clouded in lies and PC as tp make it almost as inaccessible and unknowable as the transition from palaeolithic to neolithic.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “but other than the pathogen-caused population collapse in the Americas, I don’t think it happened too often”

        I think it probably happened quite often in the early days of agriculture before people had figured out things like crop rotation.

        population expands -> soil exhaustion -> population collapses

  15. Greying Wanderer says:

    As to why the Hyperboreans were spread from France to Siberia to North America and then displaced from Siberia.

    I still wonder if the shortest route was along the Atlantic and then crossing to Siberia across the top of the globe. If so a low density northern route population might have arrived first but eventually displaced by a higher density southern population that had taken the longer coastal route all around Arabia, India, SE Asia etc.


    Sibermen is a good name also.

  16. Steven C. says:

    Old suits of armour were usually recycled; unless specially preserved or lost. The same is true of weapons and tools.

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