Publication Delays

Colin Renfrew (and others, like Peter Bellwood) have argued that the first farmers in Europe originated in Anatolia and spoke Indo-European languages, thus placing the Indo-European homeland in Anatolia.

I think that recent genetic results pretty clearly show that this hypothesis is wrong, but I would not call it at all crazy, at least not in its initial phase.  Today it looks as if the first farmers originated in the very heartland of Middle Eastern agriculture, along the Turkish-Syrian border where we find the wild ancestors of most of the first domesticated plants.  I don’t think that they went directly through Anatolia – it seems more likely that they settled  Cyprus and various Aegean islands, on their way to Europe. That makes sense, when you think about it – their next-door neighbors  probably weren’t far behind them, and it was easier to go around them and find areas that were either uninhabited or contained only hunter-gatherers, just as it was a lot easier for the Brits to conquer and settle North American and Australia than France.

Those early farmers probably spoke something distantly related to Basque.  By 4000 BC, they’d occupied all of southern Europe (including Mediterranean islands like Sicily and Sardinia) and the central and western parts of northern Europe, as far as southern Sweden and England.  If you had evaluated Renfrew’s hypothesis back then, you would have said that he was almost entirely correct.  The problem is probably publication delay – the thesis was fine when first submitted.

Starting around 4000 BC,  Old Europe suffered from new population movements that led to a huge population turnover in northern Europe and to lesser but still dramatic genetic and cultural changes in the south. Any turnover that big (at least 50% of the population in northern Europe is descended from people who hadn’t been there  before 4000 BC) is likely to introduce a new language, all the more so since the process seems to have been  ultra violent.

Anyhow, many people in the soft sciences are prone to be wrong because they’re crazy* – like those who know that there can’t have been conquests and migrations and ethnic cleansings in prehistory because the idea bothers them.  But some are basically respectable people who just happen to be wrong.  We’re all wrong some of the time.


* some are dumb, too, but that’s another story.

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

27 Responses to Publication Delays

  1. JayMan says:

    “Anyhow, many people in the soft sciences are prone to be wrong because they’re crazy*
    * some are dumb, too, but that’s another story.”


  2. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    at least 50% of the population in northern Europe is descended from people who hadn’t been there before 4000 BC

    So, what you are saying is that diversity increased after 4,000 BC. That should put a pleasing spin on it, surely.

  3. Greying Wanderer says:

    “at least 50% of the population in northern Europe is descended from people who hadn’t been there before 4000 BC”

    If the LBK farmers got squished and yet 50% of modern northern European DNA comes from those farmers and those farmers had some particularly useful DNA that has been strongly selected for (e.g. light skin) doesn’t that mean the percentage must have been a lot less than 50% at the time of admixture followed by selection in place?

    (as you can’t marry 5% of a person to get the important genes you have to marry the whole person and so the autosomal DNA will be 50/50)

    (possibly related to changes in frequency of mtdna haplogroups)

    If the populations were 50/50 at the time of admixture and yet the farmers had some genes that were strongly selected for wouldn’t the final farmer autosomal have to be > 50%?

    I’m wondering, assuming strong selection on some of the farmer DNA, if the final autosomal percentage of a population could give a clue as to whether that population had a Rome type founding event (ship full of males) with an initial 50/50 split or a squishing with some survivors type founding event.

    • eurogenes says:

      The pre-Copper Age DNA west of Russia isn’t all from LBK farmers. A lot of it is certainly from native hunter-gatherers, otherwise how come WHG-specific uniparental markers like I2 and U5b are still found all over Western, Central and even Eastern Europe?

      Also, the Copper Age/Bronze Age invaders from Russia weren’t 100% ANE, and it’s very unlikely that they were dark skinned. That’s because their descendents in South Siberia and the Altai during the Middle Bronze Age seemed to have been fair skinned and even blond haired and blue eyed.

      So it’s not a simple scenario of EEF Europeans being overrun by ANE hordes from the east. It’s more like EEF/WHG Europeans being overrun, outcompeted and outbred by highly patriarchal and patrilineal EEF/WHG/ANE hordes from the east.

      Selection might have something to do with the current EEF/WHG/ANE ratios across Europe, but I’d say they’re mostly the result of the numbers that mixed from each side during the metal ages and how efficient the invaders were at snuffing out the male competition and stealing the women.

      • Matt says:

        All this said, although in the metal ages technically (in the sense that metal was beginning to be in use) the expansion of the Corded Ware culture that seems associated with the IE* expansion, has stone battle axes and is non-metal using and non-chariot.

        They had oxen drawn wagons, but so did the Funnelbeaker (TRB) people who seem so far to be EEF with an additional dash of WHG compared to Oetzi and Stuttgart (the Corded Ware *may* have had more horses).

        Mainly climate fluctuations harming a more grain dependent, and sparsely populated group plus a culture of feud from the steppe (maybe plus a bit of genetic adaptation to all this, or maybe not)?

        Corded Ware stops at the Atlantic system area (around west of Luxembourg) implying a barrier where they no longer had an advantage to retain their expansion.

        The Bell Beaker and Urnfield cultures are more associated with metal use (AFAIK getting their metal use from Iberia via the Mediterranean sea or the Caucasus via isolation by distance, respectively), but their genetic affiliations and impact still seem more shadowy at the moment. By the time Bell Beaker and Urnfield are on the scene, it seems that the major genetic imprint by the Corded Ware across the main area of actual replacement in Eastern and Northern Europe could already be in place.

        *For example, Corded Ware is associated with a switchover to a more Northeastern European mtdna profile, and individual burial.

        That’s because their descendents in South Siberia and the Altai during the Middle Bronze Age seemed to have been fair skinned and even blond haired and blue eyed.

        This stuff still does seem kind of low power at the moment. That’s the disclaimer in the pigiment prediction data in the Skoglund 2014 supplements, which seems variable

        Greg and all, regarding the “survival” of the Sardinian EEF, do you think the development of the Nuragic Civilization had any part to play in all this? Of initial Beaker inspiration, it seems of a kind of warlike enough separate culture to have repelled invasion.

      • eurogenes says:

        Yes, the Proto-Indo-European expansions began in the late stone age, but the large scale mixing with the newcomers from the east across Northern Europe mostly took place during the metal ages. Samples from the Bronze Age Unetice Culture of Central Europe, for example, show a very eastern mtDNA profile, basically as if the women parachuted into the area from near the Volga or beyond.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “The pre-Copper Age DNA west of Russia isn’t all from LBK farmers. A lot of it is certainly from native hunter-gatherers, otherwise how come WHG-specific uniparental markers like I2 and U5b are still found all over Western, Central and even Eastern Europe?”

        Yeah, that’s my point really.

        There are two things that don’t seem consistent:

        1) farmer DNA in northern Europe being c. 50% (and c. 60%+ elsewhere)
        2) some elements of farmer DNA apparently being very strongly selected for (e.g. SLC24A5)

        Given what seems to have happened – LBK farmers getting squished from the surrounding regions – for those two things to be consistent it seems to me the initial surviving LBK percentage would need to have been lower followed by selection in place (or via bride trading) that increased the percentage of farmer dna over time.

        (Basically i’m wondering brains vs brawn with brawn winning the initial war but brains expanding anyway.)

  4. reiner Tor says:

    The Cavalli-Sforza et al 1994 book just turned twenty this year, so I guess many things are now obsolete in it.

    I found many things surprising, and it’s often difficult to find the answers them. Like, are “elongated Africans” really nonexistent, genetically speaking? Do Southeast Asians still show up totally separated from Northeast Asians, or do they cluster together now that we have much better data? Was Celtic unity really based on culture and language rather than kinship? Are Hungarians still clustering with Poles and Russians? Are there traces of Viking admixture in Greenland Eskimos as Cavalli-Sforza et al had thought it possible?

    And many more questions like that. Someone needs to write another book (or update the old Cavalli-Sforza one) so that laypeople could find the answers to all these and many other questions.

    • eurogenes says:

      All of this stuff is online. You can even get genotype data from a wide range of populations and run your own analyses to see who clusters where. Here’s an example of a PCA of West Eurasia in large part created with publicly available genotype data.

      Just download it if you can’t see it properly.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Eurogenes, thanks for this PCA.

        My problem is that I’d have to search for everything separately. I started writing down things which I thought might not hold up two decades later, I have a very long list of questions, and so far I’ve been too lazy to search them one by one.

  5. Jim says:

    Greg – What is known about the genetics of the Minoans? Are they likely to have been speakers of Indo-European languages?

  6. Greying Wanderer says:

    “The admixture estimates depend almost entirely on neutral genes: selection isn’t going to affect the result.”

    Yeah but the selected gene can’t be spliced in isolation. Getting the selected gene requires marrying a whole person including their neutral dna and so if there’s strong selection won’t a lot of neutral dna be carried on the coat-tails of the selected gene?

    Say you have two populations A and B where B has a magic gene that is very strongly selected for.

    option 1) admixture is all males from A and females from B, their offspring will be 50/50 autosomally and a random half will have the magic gene so with selection in place favoring that gene over time future generations could all stay 50/50 autosomally while generational shuffling brings the magic gene to fixation. fair enough but that implies certain things regarding y dna and mtdna

    option 2) admixture is equally males and females from A and B – implies blah

    option 3) admixture is males from A, 50% females from A and 50% females from B – implies blah blah

    option n) etc

    I’m wondering if you can deduce the starting mixture from the final percentages of y dna, mtdna and autosomal dna especially if one of the admixed populations had a gene that subsequently became fixed?

    • gcochran9 says:

      “won’t a lot”?


    • eurogenes says:

      Selection can affect admixture results, but it won’t have a huge impact. For example, Tibetans seem to have acquired their adaptation to high altitude from Denisovans, so as a result they probably now have a higher level of Denisova admixture than Central Asians who don’t live as high up. But the difference is bound to be small.

  7. ironrailsironweights says:

    Why Cyprus? It appears to be too far out to sea to be visible from any point on the Anatolian mainland.


    • gcochran9 says:

      It is visible from the mainland. Mountains. In general, the distance you can see features on the Earth’s surface goes up as the square root of your height. If you’re 5500 feet up, you can see about 30 times farther than what you’d see standing on a perfect globe. Not counting refraction.

    • Jim says:

      When I lived as a boy on Guam we use to visit Tarague Beach on the North Coast. We would park our car at the top of the cliffs above Tarague and walk down a path to the beach. Starting at the top of the path, Rota, the next island in the Marianas could clearly be seen on the far horizon. When you got to the beach and looked north it was no looger visible.

    • Jim says:

      This would make a nice first year calculus problem.

  8. Pingback: linkfest: 06/30/14 | hbd* chick

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s