The Giant Rat of Sumatra

A while ago, I said that it sure looked as if David Reich and Nick Patterson were working out the origin and scope of the Indo-European invasion of Europe. They have more to say on that.

The abstract for their upcoming talk (SMBE 2014) makes several points.

First, they looked at a drudge of skeletons from Samara, in Russia, dating between 3,000 to 9,000 years before present. These samples had the Ancient North Eurasian admixture (Sibermen), and thus are a possible source for that late-arriving genetic component in Europe.   There was population turnover here too: the oldest skeletons had U4 and U5 mtDNA, while the later ones included W, H, T, I, K and J.

They go on to model how the steppe samples may relate to ancient and contemporary DNA samples from Europe, the Caucasus, and South Asia – sounds like a model of Indo-European dispersal. And, probably a model of the Sibermen dispersal.  Details are not in the abstract.

I would guess that their evidence indicates that the Indo-Europeanization of Europe entailed massive population turnover in northern Europe, less in southern Europe, none in Sardinia and among the Basques.  I think that you see this genetic trace of the Indo-Europeans in the Uighurs, but very little in Iran/Pakistan/India: that late expansion of charioteers may have involved elite dominance, or  perhaps a multistep process that diluted away much of the original genetic signature.  Maybe not quite diluted to zero: we do see the European lactase-persistence allele in India.  Of course a wildly advantageous allele like that could be transmitted by the smallest bit of admixture.

I suspect that the SNP next to KITLG that causes blondness was fairly common in that invasion: today it is quite rare in the Basques and Sardinians, fairly common in northern Europe and the Uyghurs, very rare in India.



This entry was posted in European Prehistory, Indo-European, Linguistics. Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to The Giant Rat of Sumatra

  1. Steve Sailer says:

    I’ve never heard anything about what Sardinians are like. Does anybody know any interesting stereotypes?

    • Daniel says:

      They’re furriners. Therefore they’re automatically inferior and need to be kept out, lest they cause increase in property values and more regulations.

    • dearieme says:

      Some of the girls are very beautiful (to my Northern European eyes). But then I travelled by Air Ethiopia once, and found their stewardesses beautiful. Maybe I have catholic tastes in feminine pulchritude. Though I admit that I find the harsh skin tones and lumpish features of many Northern European blondes rather unattractive.

      I have little idea what Sardinian males look like. Gianfranco Zola, perhaps? His football, it must be admitted, was beautiful.

      • Sandgroper says:

        No, you sound like you are weird like me – you don’t find darker skin less attractive. We are not normal, apparently. Like I give a f*ck.

        Yes, some Sardinian girls are absolute crackers. Unfortunately, I suspect that, like southern Italians, they go fat and hairy pretty early.

        • Since when sardinians are southern italians? Sardinians don’t look phenotypically and they are not genetically southern italians.
          Sardinians together the ryukians of Japan are the people with the highest rate of centenarians and healthy aged people in the world. Meeting fat people in Sardinia is extremely rare!

      • dearieme says:

        “you don’t find darker skin less attractive.” I suppose that’s true. But I do find many women who happen to have dark skin remarkably unattractive: it’s the features that count I think. Hey ho; it takes all sorts.

      • gcochran9 says:

        The Sardinians probably originate from an old Levantine population that also accounts for about 45% of highland Ethiopian ancestry.

      • Sandgroper says:

        That’s my point really – with us it’s the features, not the skin colour. That makes us unusual, allegedly. Show me any number of really pale skinned K-pop girls – not interested, they’re plastic idiots.

        With me, scent counts for a lot too, and behaviour, and intelligence. It’s a package, not just the colour of the wrapping paper.

        OTOH, if someone is just looking for a warm hole, why would the colour matter? Demonstrably, it doesn’t, for many.

    • A2M says:

      The tipical ones of sheep rearers, those of insular population, those of highland peoples. Also short in height and with tendency to “push” the konssonnants. Just think a short, dark haired, dark eyed scottish. In Italy the Simpsons’s character Willie the groundskeeper was potrayed as Sardinian.

    • Flinders Petrie says:

      I’m puzzled by the fact that Sardinians avoided a lot of the gene flow spreading through Europe and North Africa. It seems that there would be a lot of genetic similarities between Sardinians and Tunisians, given the historical ties of Sardinia with the ancient Carthaginian empire.

      Sardinia was also occupied by the Romans, Arabs, Iberian tribes, and even by the Vandals. I don’t get the sense that the Vandals, during their occupation of Sardinia for nearly a century, would have been shy about spreading their Indo-European genes to the lovely inhabitants of this island. And then the Sardinians had to suffer the Barbary pirates.

      Given their history and location, wouldn’t it make more sense that Sardinians would be one of the most genetically mixed populations?

      • minoritymagnet says:

        Sardinia is montainious and fissured. Easy for the mountaineers to keep for themselves. The coast-dwellers should show higher admixture. There is even a Catalan colony town to this day on the northern coast.

      • It’s so disgusting to read so much idiots here specualting about history and origin of my people. Study or avoid to write bullshits. Historical invasions in Sardinia hasn’t contribute in the genetics of local populations, arabs have never conquered sardinia, Carthage was a phoenician colony in north africa and not inhgabited by tunisians (north africans), carthaginians settled in a small area in the south west sardinia only.Sardinians rejected every invasors, the island is also nicknamed “the unconuered island”.

    • Chris B says:

      They eat maggot infested cheese (Casu Marzul) and get swamped by Italian tourists every year. According to this mysardina site, they like to indiscriminately shoot guns when bored, have stereotypical bandits, and have sheep rustlers who kidnap people. – I’m booking my next holiday now – sounds fun.

    • Bones and Behaviours says:
  2. j3morecharacters says:

    We are not ready for that story.

  3. I tre giorni sardegnoli: oggi, domani, e sempre, or three Sardinians days, today, tomorrow & forever = a life sentence.

  4. Ereade says:

    I get that a package of horse + metal + lactase persistance is good for expansion, but where did they get all the people to replace the population in Northern Europe? Was there a gigantic population expoltion, or maybe an enviromental disaster, prompting migration?

  5. Sandgroper says:

    That seems to be to be a significant find – the West Eurasian nomadic people who migrated east to the Tarim Basin 3,000 to 4,000 years ago were riding horses, based on the evidence of trousers. Previously, the earliest known trousers were from the Scythians, who were horse riders.

    My mtDNA is U5 – I am told that comes from HG people re-entering Europe from refugia after the LGM, that they were always at low population density, and that they occupied and abandoned areas as regional climate changes made areas more or less habitable. U5 is now rare but not absent among modern Europeans – it occurs at a frequency of 50% among the Saami, and at much lower frequency among the Basques and Berbers.

    So, I interpret that as meaning that incoming waves of invasion either largely replaced the old European HGs, or they killed off the males and assimilated (i.e. f*cked) the females, who were always there only at low frequency anyway. The pattern could suggest that in southern Europe they were completely displaced northwards by incoming EEFs, but in northern Europe the females were assimilated by incoming Siber-persons, while the males were suitably dealt with.

  6. stalin says:

    Very interesting but do not understand title.

  7. Matt says:

    First, they looked at a drudge of skeletons from Samara, in Russia, dating between 3,000 to 9,000 years before present. These samples had the Ancient North Eurasian admixture (Sibermen), and thus are a possible source for that late-arriving genetic component in Europe.

    I would guess that their evidence indicates that the Indo-Europeanization of Europe entailed massive population turnover in northern Europe, less in southern Europe, none in Sardinia and among the Basques. I think that you see this genetic trace of the Indo-Europeans in the Uighurs, but very little in Iran/Pakistan/India: that late expansion of charioteers may have involved elite dominance, or perhaps a multistep process that diluted away much of the original genetic signature.

    The proportions will be the interesting bit ; were the mostly Loschbour / La Brana like and slightly Mal’ta like, or mostly Mal’ta like, ascertained against that axis?

    You’ve discussed the finding of a “West Asian” ADMIXTURE component before on this blog, as found by Dienekes and others. The attraction of identifying this “West Asian” ADMIXTURE component with Indo-European was that they were as high in also Indo-Europeanised South Asia as compared with Europe, and that they were apparently a new component on the scene in Europe absent from Oetzi.

    ( for a graph)

    And to a lesser extent because “West Asian” is, when FSTs are plotted, most similar to the European modal components which peak in Lithuanians, dubbed “Atlantic-Baltic” by Dienekes.
    If these steppe samples don’t show much admixture into South Asians, then they don’t map so well to the “West Asian” component (and “West Asian” doesn’t map to our speculative Indo-European group).

    Maybe the Indo-Europeans were a mostly West Hunter and partially Siberman population. And a partially “West Asian” and mostly “Atlantic-Baltic” population. And it would make more sense to me that the Indo-Europeans would have more replacement and success in more thinly populated and more steppe like climates, more the more hilly, arid and riverine early agricultural climates.

    But then what’s up with why is the present day distribution of “West Asian”? Its distribution in South Asia doesn’t seem well explained by either Indo-European expansions and replacement or the early Neolithic people (presuming they were Oetzi like with perhaps less WHG). Is there a post-Neolithic event here?

    Uyghurs, by the way, are mainly “West Asian” rather than “Atlantic Baltic” in their ancestry.

  8. Cplusk says:

    So what was that West Asian Indo-European signature Dienekes found?

  9. hbd chick says:

    somebody’s a sherlock holmes fan. (^_^)

    • AppSocRes says:

      More likely a Firesign Theater fan

    • A Sherlock Holmes fan with an anthropological bent would have cited A Sign of Four.

      • engleberg says:

        According to Conan Doyle, the world is not yet ready for the story of the giant rat of Sumatra. Greg is a fan of Saberhagen’s The Holmes-Dracula File; disease vectors spread by a mad genius (of whom ol’ Vlad disapproves).

        Sardinia malaria: accident, or Iron Age biowar? For that matter, what if Sibermen spread the Black Plague to take Europe? Or is Greg saying The World is Not Ready?

    • Paul Conroy says:

      As regards R-ats in Sumatra…

      I’ll hazard a guess that Greg is referring to the fact that the recent Haplogroup K phylogeny paper made clear that haplogroup P (the father of R, R1a, R1b and Q etc) had its own father in South East Asia… Sumatra possibly?

      The question is how did P get from SE Asia to NW India (my speculation for its dispersal point) and leave little trace in between? A possible answer would be by boat, as after-all some of the other K branches needed “open sea” boating technology to get to Sumatra in the first place.

  10. xenonman says:

    “while the later ones included W, H, T, I, K and J.”

    Anyone have any info about X2 in Eurasia, interesting theories about how it spread, and relationship to these population groups being discussed? Somehow it must have spread from Eurasia to the New World but not left a trace in Siberia? How is this possible? Why doesn’t the signature at least turn up in these older samples?

    I am X2 from Europe. My mother is a blonde and blue eyed woman with “NE Baltic” major component as far as I can tell from a reanalysis of my 23andme data. So, not Druze or from the Near East. Am curious about the history of X2 in temperate Europe and among European peoples. When did it arrive, what are the interesting theories (not Atlantis please…I’ve heard that before).

    As for the article, these things are tricky. You have to be cautious. It could be that a characteristic genetic signature of the kind described spread from Siberia into the relevant regions, but that it had nothing to do with the spread of IE languages. Very hard to go on just genetic data, must be integrated with lots of other evidence.

    Please remember that Gamkrelidze-Ivanov is the latest and most comprehensive linguistic study of the IE phenomenon (of which we know of from languages to begin with) and that they show contacts with both Finnic and Semitic in development of IE.

    • Paul Conroy says:


      On this blog a few months ago, I guessed that the most likely culture to have spawned the Indo-Europeans was the Khvalynsk Culture, which is just South of Samara, from where the samples were taken. (5,000-4,500 BC)

      I guess if Reich chose to sample from Samara, then maybe he predicts that the slightly earlier Samara Culture is the source of the Indo-Europeans. (5500–4800 BC)

      The reason I prefer the Khvalynsk Culture more, is that it’s territory included the North Caucasus… and this IMNSHO is the most probably source of metal weapons and some of the newer mtDNA haplogroups you mention, especially T and W. I’m mtDNA T1a1, which has been found in the Tarim basin mummies, but most T in Europe is T2 and concentrated mostly in Central Europe/Germany. Haplogroup W is found in Western Pakistan, but also among Irish, Welsh and Cornish people.

      In terms of mtDNA X, both my parents (Irish) have relatives with just plain X, and both have relatives – with Native irish and Scottish names – who are X2, and a lot of other varieties of X, but mostly X2b and Irish, Scottish, French and German names.

  11. Bones and Behaviours says:

    Henry Field briefly mentioned a ‘pseudo-Australoid’ element among early steppe Europeans. I can’t help but wonder if this is your ‘Sibermen’ in solution – a population neither phenotypically western Eurasian nor Mongoloid yet contributing its genes to later populations.

  12. Ereade says:

    Then again, there was a recent paper saying that the Kurgan people were pretty dark overall. The paper says that there was massive selection for light hair, eyes and skin, but methinks a population turnover might be more likely here. There is also the fact that Europe saw massive migration in the middle ages from north to south, from the germanic and slavic peoples. I think some of the patterns we see in Europe today stem from these migrations rarther than the original Indo European expansion.

  13. eurogenes says:

    Some of the highest levels of ANE in Eurasia today are probably carried by the Pashtuns and Kalash of South Central Asia.

    The so called West Asian component is an artefact of ADMIXURE more than an actual ancient ancestral componnet. I’d say it’s caused by the rapid fusion of ANE with EEF across a very wide range during the Copper Age, but today peaks in the Caucasus and the Hindu Kush because of isolation and drift.

    The paternal signal of these ANE-rich Indo-Europeans who moved into South Asia was most likely R1a-Z93, which is a close cousin of the European R1a-Z282 (sharing the Z645 mutation which is only around 4,500 years old). Maps here…

    • gcochran9 says:

      Unless you can show that with D-statistics, I doubt it.

      • eurogenes says:

        Well you can doubt it all you like for the time being. I’m sure Reich et al. will soon publish the d-stats from the paper mentioned above and then we’ll talk.

        And don’t ignore what I just said about R1a. There’s a lot of that in Central and South Asia, and all of it falls under R1a-Z93, which is a young, probably Bronze Age, subclade and a twin of the European R1a-Z282. It makes sense that it was mostly spread by ANE-rich populations.

    • Matt says:

      A test:

      If you disregard the shift created by what ADMIXTURE finds as South Asians ASI (Ancestral South Indian) type ancestry, is the remaining ANI fraction more similar to populations high in EEF (Sardinians, Bedouin minus known African Ancestry) than the populations of Northeast Europe are?

      If not, how would that reconcile with them having any significant amount of EEF relative to NE Europe?

      Part of the difficulty here is sifting the “true” Levantine early agriculturalist from any WHG admixture in present day Sardinians and Basques and ancient samples like Oetzi, which is currently an unknown.

    • Paul Conroy says:

      IMO, the ANE component originated in the area just South of where the Pushtuns/Kalash live – in the ANI homeland area – and migrated West from there to the Middle East, but also North to Central Asia/Siberia, then NE to coastal NE Asia, where by boat they first arrived in the Americas, bypassing the Beringian population – the possible source of the East Asian phenotype – and that’s why there is more ANE-like ancestry in South America than North America.

      IMO, R1a-Z93 was a back migration to India from Central Asia/Siberia, and the original ANE-like migration North has more basal haplogroups of R.

      I happen to be a cartophile, and there are some very good maps here which helped me form some of my opinions on this subject – in particular check out the ones labelled:



  14. eurogenes says:

    Karitiana Indians = best living proxies for ANE. See here…

    That paper is now somewhat outdated, but before the Mal’ta genome came along all we had were the Karitiana Indians. They show about 40% of ANE, which is twice as much as North Europeans, over 10% more than North Caucasians and, based on what I’ve seen, almost 10% more than Pathans and Kalash.

    • Sandgroper says:

      Thanks Davidski.

    • Matt says:

      Karitiana and Samaritans might particularly make sense as a approximation of Pathans due to the East Asian in the Karitiana acting as a proxy for the ASI / Onge related admixture in Pathans, and as Samaritans themselves register as high in the “West Asian” component in DODECAD (dissimilarly from the Early European Farmer samples we have).

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