No South American DNA in ancient Easter Island – and…?

by Edward Pegler on 4 November, 2017

Map of the southwest Pacific, showing a possible (or impossible?) connection between Easter Island and South America.

Regardless of whether Rapanui ever made contact with South America, is the lack of ancient DNA evidence of South American contact in Easter Island that surprising?

A very recent paper by Lars Fehren-Schmitz, Pontus Skoglund, and others, based on the ancient DNA (mitochondrial and nuclear) of five Easter Island / Rapanui individuals dated before 1700 AD, shows the complete lack of genetic input of South Americans into the Easter Island population before contact with westerners.

Such ancient mitochondrial and nuclear DNA recovered from Easter Island bones is pretty good evidence and I don’t doubt its validity. But in a way I’d be surprised if there were much chance of South American DNA getting to Easter Island.

South Americans to Easter Island or vice versa?

South Americans, who had balsa boats, didn’t really travel the open oceans much. They may well have reached the Galapagos Islands, but a journey of several thousand miles to reach Easter Island would have been beyond them.

Ancient Polynesians, on the other hand, had good ocean-going boats and tended to explore eastward (against the prevailing wind). As long as they had sufficient provisions, its quite probable that Easter Islanders could have made footfall in South America.

But why bother?

Polynesian explorers

The normal pattern for Polynesians would, at a guess, have involved initial exploration by an outrigger full of mostly young, single men. There would be supplies to get them so far and back again, but nothing else would be carried. As an exploration mission, this would have been pared down like the Apollo landings on the Moon.

As Polynesian’s experience of the Pacific would have shown, they wouldn’t be expecting to meet anyone when they found land. What they would expect was the usual weird bird-life on a thickly forested island. There would be no expectation of anyone to trade with.

If the island was inhospitable, it may at least have interesting things to take home (generally birds or their feathers). Better still, if the island seemed suitable for colonisation, the explorers would return home anyway. With their new found fame and the virgin land on offer, they might have made attractive husbands. A second journey of more boats would carry all the things needed (plants, pigs, their new wives, rats etc) for beginning the settlement of the newly discovered island.

Culture shock in South America

The shock of a Polynesian arriving in South America would be huge. After an exceptionally arduous journey, rather than finding a lush, uninhabited island, these tired voyagers would find a barren-looking continent with people fishing the waters and settled on the coast. This would not be a place to settle their own kind. On the other hand, it could potentially be a place to trade with and collect foods from.

So I think that if these explorers chose to return to Easter Island, it would be with the intention of finding trade items, such as bird feathers, to exchange with the South Americans. Future missions to the ‘Big Dry Island’ of South America would be rare (perhaps a few dozen at most) but potentially lucrative for men in bringing back status items (feathers, gold, I don’t know) with which they could wow the ladies and men back home on Easter Island. I don’t believe that they would be taking wives on these long journeys at all.

And their dealings with the local population of South America would be very circumscribed and controlled. The Polynesians, being a small group from a boat or two, would have little power here and would be essentially at the mercy of the locals. There would be no returning with slave women and possibly no option to take daughters away in marriage either. If they were lucky (or foolhardy) they might get a chance to dance a horizontal fandango with a local girl or two while they were there.

In all this, their would be no gene flow to Easter Island.


All of the above is, of course, speculative. I suspect that it’s obvious to any rare reader out there that I think the two cultures might have connected once (see ‘Easter Island – was it really so isolated?‘ for all my sweet potato and feather-related opinions) otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this (‘convince a man against his will…’).

So maybe Easter Islanders never reached South America, preventing any gene flow. Alternatively maybe they did and, given several hundred more years and a change in boat technology, perhaps they might have eventually taken women back and forth from continent to island, revealing a strong genetic connection between the two. But if there were contact, a lack of genetic input from South America in a brief, imagined time of contact unfettered by westerners (say 1300-1600 AD) is not that surprising.

On the other hand, whether any evidence might still be found (and it would be tiny) for some genetic input from Polynesians into coastal South Americans would be probably the only realistic way of genetically testing for a connection of these two fascinating, lost cultures.


Fehren-Schmitz, L. et al. 2017 Genetic Ancestry of Rapanui before and after European Contact, Current Biology 27, 3209–3215.

only abstract seen

Ancient DNA evidence finds no trace of early contact between Easter Islanders and South Americans, University of Bristol News Report, 17 Oct 2017.

summary of paper’s conclusions with comment.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaap November 25, 2017 at 1:19 am

PPSS. Identifying Sredny Stog as the source of CWC rests only on one bloody sample! So really, it’s early days yet, with plenty of room to jump to conclusions.


Edward Pegler November 25, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Me, I very much doubt that Sredny Stog was the CWC source as I suspect that they suffered the same thing as Europe but a little earlier. But, as you say, all of this is futile. We’re probably best to go off and paint for a year or wander the world and then come back to all of this.


Jaap November 18, 2017 at 12:00 am

Well, unsure about pest. Two things that point in opposite directions: First, the strain that was found with Yamnaya was nothing like the later Black Death in destructivity. Second, the Steppe people were comparatively mobile: amazingly mobile! We’re not impressed, because they had no Alpha Romeos (‘Vrroom!), nor even did they go clippety-clop on well-shod horses. At this point it was creaking ox-carts, which to us is snail-pace. But for those times they were very very quick! The speed with which Germanic tribes crossed the Alps took Roman generals by surprise. This was 3000 years later. Don’t ask me where I got that, because my memory-systems are nowhere near fully-functioning anymore … This speed, this abillity to move, not only opened trade-routes, and widened the scale of the horizon. It also exposed them to a much wider array of infections that were going at the time, as opposed to the much more ‘Grandma-on-the-hill’ homebound EEF’s. So the Steppe probably had more resistance to various strains of flu, smallpox, and what have you, while at the same time exposing their unlucky ‘hosts’ to a plethora of germs that the EEF-immune-system may never have heard of. Think of the ‘Spanish Grippe’! Took half of the young generation in 1918 that had not died in the trenches, and hardly bothered the generations seasoned by previous strains!
It doesn’t have to have been as dramatic as all that, perfectly pedestrian infections can wreak havoc on a population that has had no experience of that before. We’re talking times that you could cough or sneeze once, or twice. But three times would be the knell of death!


Edward Pegler November 18, 2017 at 5:29 pm

I agree with pretty much all of this, and understand the reservations about Yersinia pestis, which are widespread. The only thing I’d say in my defense of the last comment I made is the absence of genetics of Yamnaya in the Globular Amphora culture, which means that the change was sudden, not gradual. There was no gradual infiltration but a sudden change across much of Eastern and Central Europe in the space of a hundred years somewhere around 2800 BC. What changed to allow that?


Jaap November 18, 2017 at 9:06 pm

I’m a bit out of my depths here, but for what it’s worth: Isn’t GAC Funnelbeaker + R1a? Presumably from Sredny Stog, being replaced by Yamnaya (R1b)? And didn’t this happen some centuries earlier? For by 2800 BCE the Beaker thing had started in Central Europe, and R1b was in on it. Wikipedia gives a date of 3400 BCE for the onset of GAC. Seems to me this can be smeared out over a handful of centuries …
But I wouldn’t cast Funnelbeaker as particularly susceptible to ‘alien’ infections, as they were seasoned pastoralists themselves. But the English, Dutch and North-Germans may have been fair game to a bout of Asiatic flue, small-pox or whatever. So Plague of a sort …


Jaap November 18, 2017 at 9:41 pm

Something else I’d like to mention. It’s about violence. And about honour. And glory.
The literature of IE is riddled with young IE wolf-cubs who do unspeakable things to neighbouring groups to show their mettle, afterwards to be redressed by the elders via the usual diplomatic channels with reparations that suited the crimes. Wergild!
Let’s look at the Beowulf-poet’s take on this. His story is a mosaic of the old and tested guardians trying to preserve the ‘blaed’ for the good of all (in vain in Beowulf!). It’s an oddly bifurcated take on things that on the one hand doesn’t discourage bloodlust (the entrepreneurial spirit), or even encourages it as an indispensible avenue to glory (‘thaet was god kynig’!). And on the other hand it wants to reward (‘ring-giver’) and to bribe (Ingeld is offered Hrothgar’s daughter in marriage). So basically this is like saying: ‘We acknowledge that we have obliterated your tribe, but we now offer you the highest possible place in our tribe as reparation’. On another note: ‘You’ve lost, but you can still turn this into a win’. Ingeld probably sees the sense of the offer, but finally is true to his own father, and Heorot (the human heart) is burnt. And, implies the Beowulf-poet, enter the Christians! But there’s another sordid story!
But this sort of invites a look into the mindset of ancient IE’s.


Edward Pegler November 19, 2017 at 5:23 pm

But hold on (he said, sounding like he’d gone red in the face)!

Aren’t you talking about legends written down by various people from the 1st millennium here. I know this is going to be a big disagreement (sorry), but this is three thousand years after the events we’re talking about. Sure, people can find words for all sorts of things in their reconstructions of PIE, and some undoubtedly include weapons and warfare and heirarchy, but I don’t buy in to one warrior tradition of IE being transmitted over 3 millennia. People change habits and cultures much faster than this, if for no other reason than technology change.

I hope that this comment finds you well.

love Ned

Edward Pegler November 19, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Dear Jaap

Globular Amphora was thought by David Anthony and others to be a hybrid of farmers/hg and steppe. In fact the samples analysed so far from Poland and Ukraine have little or no steppe genetics, being on average a fairly equal composite of WHG and Anatolian Neolithic. While the mtDNA are an EEF/WHG mix, the Y haplogroups so far shown are purely those of WHGs (all I), perhaps part of the male resurgence in WHG ancestry seen more widely in northern Europe.

You may be right about BB being 2800 BC (I thought it was a little later, but not much). But this is also the earliest date for Corded Ware samples.
Whatever, Globular Amphora was swept away as easily as the rest of the European tradition after 2800 BC.

If this sounds a bit certain then check yourself by looking at the datasheet and plots of Mathieson et al (the as yet unpublished thing on bioarxv) listed in the references. It’s really good. The new Lipson data is good too.


Jaap November 16, 2017 at 9:49 pm

PPSS. Meat (both animal and human), is worth more on the hoof (on foot), than dead. Come on, do the sums! Clever people are not violent. But if they use violence they’re effective and clinical.


Jaap November 13, 2017 at 8:12 pm

Nor can I (make head or tail of Burns). Not without a glossary! ‘Bonny brae’ sort of sticks in my memory, but it doesn’t convey much to me, except for one thing: it’s Scottish!! Same feeling I get when I look at the Tarim Basin mummies with their red hair and their tartans: Scottish! Must be R1b …

It has been puzzling me for ages: the R1a and R1b clans were together in the Kvalisnsk-horizon. When the big migrations began one arm went west (R1a – Corded Ware), and the other east (R1b – Afanasievo). My timing here is 3200 BCE. R1b did turn up in Europe with the Bell beaker phenomenon. Couple a hundred years later. And some R1a bands obviously scratched their heads for a millennium and went back to move east and form Sintashta. Were there no R1b’s in Sintashta? I thought there were, actually. But they didn’t come in on the Saraswati-move. Evidently this went by way of BMAC-country where they somehow muscled in diplomatically. Picked up soma there, plus a number of other useful things, to materialise in the Indus Valley 1900-ish (BCE). Probably on horseback, but no carriages. So? Early Sintashta? It seems the building-activity there is reflected in Rgveda …
Dienekes was conviced that Tarim Basin did not come from Afanasievo, and this guy usually has good hunches. I don’t understand genetics enough to check him there. Sintashta or Androvono was his bet. The earliest Tarim mummies are 1500 BCE, so I imagine the latter fits.
Why is there zilch R1b in India? David answered: same reason there’s zilch R1b in Corded Ware.
So that has me wondering: two clans with different speech? But both implicated in the IE-whodunnit. One gave rise to Early-Pre-Proto-Balto-Slavic, Sanskrit and Avestan? The other to Celtic, Italic? And together forming Germanic?
I must admit I haven’t yet been able to wrap my mind around the North-South Caspian issue … Also I am clueless about Hittite (Anatolian). Lost so many features that I wonder if it only shares a common ancestor with IE. Hence an uncle, not part of the family.

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to cast the sort of people involved here. And it seems to me they had more in their arsenal than just mere violence. They were very religious, and took great pains to preserve certain things in language that was passed on for millennia! Word of mouth only. Made me think of Brehon Law in Ireland, not to mention the training of druids that they say took 25 years. I’ve seen these guys in the 60s in Donegal at pub-closing time (half ten or so). Most of us went around the back into another vestibule to continue drinking. But a few young guys and a few old guys would stay outside forming a circle, heads together, arms around the shoulders. And they’d be there for hours humming the old Gaelic songs and stories … And with this in mind I can imagine old languages to survive for ages, even when they’re not spoken anymore. They were patrilocal, so they had to get rid of their daughters. But that was Capital, surely. The Old Irish sources speak repeatedly of Foster-Fathers. Was it an IE-custom to have elite-children educated alsewhere? And what would be the cultural implications of that? Finally, what about diplomacy? Reading about the battle of Kadesh I can’t help thinking that the Hittites had Faraoh completely cornered when they took out the rear-guard of the collumn. But they let him go back with his glory intact. And there they had a friend for life, that never gave them any trouble afterwards, ever!
Sure, those were violent times, but striking fear into the hearts of neighbours isn’t the only intellgent option. Far from it.
And I haven’t even mentioned metallurgy and trade …

PS The Finnesburgh-fight was an example of diplomacy gone awry, so is the Ingeld-episode. The Beowulf-poet painstakingly depicts the gory details of the funerary-pile: ‘fyres faegm’ the grip of the fire, ‘waes ira blaed scacen’: their glory had passed away. It’s the same world. Makes me wonder about the ‘word-hoard’ of IE-speakers of yore.


Edward Pegler November 14, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Dear Jaap

Oh dear. Making me do research. For what it’s worth, I think it’s important to distinguish R1b from R1b1a1a. R1b has been knocking around in Europe (notably the south, Balkans, Italy and ?Spain) since before farming. R1b1a1a comes from the steppe, as does R1a, both associated with steppe hunter-gatherers.

I can’t find any R1b in Afanasievo (the table I’ve got says no Y chromosomes found at all). However, that is really weird about R1b1a1a turning up in northern Bell Beaker folk several centuries after the Corded Ware horizon. Is it a founder effect? Is it a second introgression? I don’t know.

Run out of time but I’ll see what I can find on the rest. Fascinating.



Jaap November 14, 2017 at 10:47 pm

I’ve seen four samples from Afanasievo, all four R1b, the Steppe one! R1a and R1b, paternal markers of groups of people otherwise indistinguishable, and sharing so much history! Past, present , future! And yet being on their own at key moments. Difficult to fathom what went on there.


Edward Pegler November 15, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Is this the source of your data? Strasbourg PhD Hollard, C. 2014 Peuplement du sud de la Sibérie et de l’Altaï à l’âge du Bronze : apport de la paléogénétique. Page 88 is good. It lists 3 Afanasievo individuals (well, four, but one’s in Mongolia), one is R1b1a-P297 (R1b1a1a) and two are R1b1a2-M269 (R1b1a1a2). Personally, I don’t understand the old numbering system on Y chromosomes.

Either way, for years I haven’t been able to understand any of this at all really. Y chromosomes don’t seem too bad. Mitochondrial DNA just seem a nightmare. I remember trying to read some of the papers and books years ago, and they all seemed to come to polarly opposed conclusions (e.g. what happened to the Spanish Refugium? Or reliable genetic clocks?), so I just gave up. What I like about ancient autosomal DNA is it seems pretty consistent a story and Y-chromosomal and, to a lesser extent, mDNA info, can, like the proverbial cherry on the cake, add lovely detail to it.

As for India, I know David Reich has done a nice study on the modern gene pattern in India (as have others) but I really do think that we need ancient DNA data, and plenty of it, before we decide what happened when. I did a fake analysis of just modern European autosomal DNA for a talk the other day. The conclusions that seemed obvious were that we were a mix of Finns, Caucasians, Basques and Saudis. Ancient DNA autosomal DNA quickly reveals a much more interesting and unpredictable story, and I can’t wait for it.

The same problem has been true of IE languages for years. Largely, what we have is modern languages, like modern DNA, with the occasional bit of ancient language which really doesn’t go back far enough and there’s no chance of getting stuff that’s older. It’s all very well doing family trees and clocks and guessing what changed before what (e.g. Ringe or Atkinson), but what does any of it tell you experts can have totally opposing opinions. I’m with the geneticists in hoping that ancient DNA will help out a bit. It won’t answer everything but there are a lot of ancient bones out there willing to talk.

Sorry, that turned into a rant.

Best wishes



Jaap November 15, 2017 at 11:12 pm

Hi Ned! Please don’t apologise to me for ranting; for I do nothing but! I like to flatter myself by calling it the hypothetical tract, an essential stage for ideas to take form. Young people don’t like this: they want to be on topic and come to the point. I think they don’t realise we need a lot of lateral movement before we can effectively thrust forward. This is old-guy wisdom, I know, but I also know I’ve been places …
I think we’ve got so much info we can’t see the forest because of the trees. And we do have IE-language dating back well over 3000 years. Some Rgveda hymns date to some 1500 BCE! They’ve been orally transmitted down to this day! Complete with phonological details! That’s amazing! Then there’s Mahabharata and Homer, practically contemporary, and with so many parrallels! So we have traces of the work of the finest minds trying to show us (morons) how they made sense of the world, going back into -and even past – the Iron Age. That’s huge! Add that to genetics, Bayesian statistics, archeology and linguistics, and then you’ll have to admit that there’s absolutely nothing we can’t retrieve! Give us time. That’s all …
By the way there’s a scientist you’ll be interested in: Asko Parpola. He may even put you straight on the North-South-Caspian issue. I don’t know, I’m still completely in the dark here. I haven’t seen a single scenario that I could credit.
It’s a bit like the R1bV88 … Pastoralists driving their herds through Egypt all the way to Chad? Get a life, tell your grandma. But the genes are there, undeniably. Just so there’s this language – Hittite – that I can’t fit into a narrative. Common sense tells me that no migration comes out of the blue. Sinewy tracts must have been formed long beforehand. Even when lighting strikes it already ‘knows’ where it is going. And mushrooms don’t grow out of nowhere.

Jaap November 11, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Hey Ned, just read an article from a Dutch journalist who’s been searching for the source of all these myths about the island being exhausted by extensive logging, needed for the transport of these statues. And later turning against each other in a cannibalistic frenzy. Turns out that this was Thor Heyerdahl! And all these negative quotes from Cook etc were just made up by him, to prove his point that Incas had been in Rapanui! People have been going back to the original sources, and couldn’t believe their eyes: it’s all gibberish. The trees were killed by a rat-infestation, but the islanders had plenty to eat, and were a rather peace-loving lot ere they were ravaged by small-pox. And the statues were transported using two long strong ropes and some strong matting. I had worked this out myself some 20 years ago, I’m proud to say. You need three parties of some 4 or 5 guys, and two ropes fastened somewhere to the top of the statue. Then one group pulls so the thing tilts, then the other group pulls so that it pivots. Then the third group replaces the matting underneath. Then back on the ground, and tilt the other way. And so on. Must have been quite a sight to see these things waddle like a duck through the hills. So Jared has been had on this. There are so many agendas out there that will keep us from the truth, often quite shamelessly so.
But as Hitchcock said: ‘Fiction is superior to reality’. His business was to keep people in suspense, and to do that properly you can’t allow mental room for people to ask: ‘Why didn’t they call the police?’ To which Hitch would answer: ‘It’s no fun to call the police!’ So, Hitch argued, you need a good McGuffin. Eh? It’s a term borrowed from a story of two gentlemen travelling by train from London to Edinburgh. One of them asks the other: ‘What’s in this package you put on the luggage-rack, may I ask?’ ‘Surely’, said the other, ‘it’s merely a McGuffin’. ‘And what, may I ask, is a McGuffin?’ ‘It’s a device to hunt lions in the Scottish highlands’. ‘But there are no lions in the Scottish highlands!’ ‘Really? Hmm. Well it can’t be a McGuffin then’. From which you can see, explains Hitchcock, that a McGuffin isn’t really anything at all …
Might I add, Ned, that I find your blog more interesting than most. I’m interested in narrative (more than in in flags hopping through a map I don’t want to understand), so yes, I read everything on David’s blog, and Maju’s, and Dienekes’ … Not understanding 90% of the genetic/statistical gibberish, but hoping to gain narrative info. And like you, I do get my hackles raised from time to time, but what the heck … I had a ‘juvenile’ style as a teacher, so I understand what they’re doing. The bottom-line is serious enough: don’t mistake the posture for the guy! Miss Dienekes! And the commenters, maybe even the commenters more! Another blog I always check is Andy White’s: he’s a good’un! And a worthwhile artist, too! Overworked, though, as all of us are when at our best …
Let me sum up what I find in your posts:
1. Someone who’s better than me at gathering information. He doesn’t think much of it himself, I know, but I find this priceless. I’m a ‘plant’, I see through. But I badly need the contributions of others. If there are no others, there is nothing to see through.
2. Someone who reasons. Someone who documents his tentative claims, someone who exhibits, even exposes the areas of not-knowing. In short, someone who is prepared to be quite wrong. There’s no big ego there, I don’t know how else to put it.
3. Someone running ‘to stop the gaps’. Here I would like to make use of some biological clichés. The alpha male doesn’ bring down the prize! It’s usually the ‘bottom animal with a desire to save the world’ that brings down the prey, and save the world. And then the alpha just muscles in on it. What I’m getting at is that the alpha simply has not the imagination needed to be a hunter. Think ‘banker’ for example.
4. Someone unreligious, someone who wants to talk sense. Sense that can be shared: common sense! This goes deep, make no mistake about it! This is not about academia! Academia still has to deserve her merits, and she often plays truant. There’s no playing truant with common sense!
5. Bottom dog! Delivering the goods. If it’s not good enough, at least it is to be reckoned with! Bottom dog has a strong bite! For prey it’s lethal. But bottom dog has no self-estimation in the sense that it values what it does. Somehow it will always end up apologising for itself. For bottom dog to realise it did nothing wrong and everything right is well-neigh impossible!
Ned, stop wondering if you’re good enough: you’re among the finest! I think you have an inklng of that, anyhow. And if people don’t look back to your previous posts (enough), please remember: the world is not up to you!
Now this looks like a rather negative statement, but in fact it’s very much upside-down or outside-in. Common sense? The world is your partner!


Edward Pegler November 12, 2017 at 2:56 pm

Thank you, Jaap. Much appreciated.

And do tell about the Dutch article. Is it online?

best wishes



Jaap November 12, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Yep, in this week’s edition of De Correspondent.


Edward Pegler November 12, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Thank you. By the way I’ve just started looking at Andy White’s site. Interesting. I’ll get back to you.

By the way, what particular aspects of Germanic and Celtic tales are you interested in. It’s not my forte but I was once an Arthur obsessive.



Jaap November 12, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Long story! I’ll keep it as short as poss. Starting off with Gawain and the Grene Knighte (doing an essay on the issues of humanity it raised) I went back to the source: Chretien de Troyes. Finding all sorts of allegory there that I could not fully explain (tantalisingly so, because I could see all the links!), I went further back to Anglo-Saxon and Irish sources on the one hand, and into the Desert Fathers on the other. Beowulf! The Finn-cycle, CuChulainn … Zoomed in on the ‘cauldron-lifting’ stories, and found Bran and the Daughters of Llyr, and realised it was Beowulf + Nibelungen! Went back to Beowulf, and got sucked in completely! Finished my studies with a paper ‘Early Christian Imagery in Germanic and Celtic Heroic Tales’. In the process I could recite Beowulf as it should sound: ‘Ond tha com of more, under mist-hleathum, Grendel gongan, Godes yrre bear!’ Boom boom boom! Grafted on my mind. I can go on: ‘Ne waes this forma this thaet he Hrothgares ham gesohte’. No idea if I’m still accurate … But somehow the music is still there. I never got to that stage with Old Irish unfortunately, as I could not match spelling and pronunciation. And I loved this sense of humour (intellectual distance) that the Beowulf poet exuded. He was not impressed, he didn’t think it was true. But he knew here was a sort of poetry that people would listen to, and even might get a message. He was a monk, of course, with royal affiliations. And a delight to read!!
But I think I’m the only one that has realised that the cauldron in Branwen is Jerusalem! Cf Ezechiel, ch so much, verse umpteenth.

Jaap November 12, 2017 at 11:16 pm

Hi Ned, I don’t think my previous post was of much interest to you. Sorry! But you asked, so I must answer …
The historicity of Arthur (Arthr: the bear) is attested by Gildas (450, about). Gildas mentions someone who once was his charrioteer. And that strikes me as funny (only now!), as I was not aware that chariots were in use in post-Roman times. Is this because I’m old, and don’t remember things properly?
I have always imagined that the battles that Nennius mentions were just senseless slaughter of Anglo-Saxon families looking for a place to settle, and being found out by the Arthurian police: some 90 warriors on horse, operating from a place like Chester.
But there are holes in my understanding narrative: Mercia emptied of its Celtic-Roman inhabitants after the Plague. When was this exactly? 450 AD, or near; right? Gildas 455? Struggling with my memory, unwilling to consult the computer!
And then there’s another tradition about a British general coming to grief in Gaul, at the hands of Childeric, that has come to us by way of Geoffrey of Monmouth. With a very convincing itinerary.
So to me it seems that the Celto-romanic simply gave up and evacuated to Brittany, leaving Mercia to the Anglo-Saxons to march into a generation later. ‘Apres nous la deluge’! They just kept up their Black Sea trade, which infected them with the plague in the first place! Anglos were not affected.
So I can’t find much glory in Arthur’s story, whoever he was.
The ‘policeman’ would be Ambrosius, butcher of innocent people. The general would be the one striving for the purple in Rome, and getting done in by Childeric …
Our Arthur, the real Arthur, the Arthur of Romance, is a different character altogether! And he is important! Saved England in the early 1940s!
It’s a bit of mess, really, isn’t it?

Jaap November 9, 2017 at 8:48 pm

Hi Ned. Yes, Bluefish Caves is the one I was referring to. Did you see what happened to the first excevator back in the 1990s? Then 3 or 4 years ago some woman repeated the whole thing, connecting the lithics to the cutmarks, and now everything is hunkey-dorey. Date roughly contempory with Malta-boy, so they were already at the door!
Then there’s the Topper-site where ‘a dark stain’ has been reliably dated to in the order of 50 kya. But the lithics are odd, and of course contested. ‘Dark stain’ is of course a campfire, but ‘it might be natural’. Evidently the Americans have no trouble imagining a natural fire on a square meter … Cerutti mastodon was a rescue-dig, but well-documented and well-analysed. It looks extremely human, what with two tusks erected, and hammer-stones where such rocks don’t land naturally … But no cut-marks! So how can this be a butchery? Did they cook the meat off? The hammerstones crushed the bones when they were fresh. So there’s an enigma there. And yes, Cactus Hill (Louis Leakey, right?) is also on my list. Also very odd, the very abundance of lithics is odd. The Americans make a case for the lithics to be sharpened by water, for Chrissakes! And with Mary Leakey apologising for her excentric husband …
So Ned, your mind turns out to be firmly set on people getting stuck in Beringia pre-LGM-Maximum. This says to me the journalese clacque I mentioned before have done an excellent job engraving a picture in your mind. But South-American evidence (not just Dillehay’s) alone is amply sufficient that this is not the whole picture, or even plain wrong.
‘The Americans’ (I apologise for this oversimplification) even claim a genetic picture of the Clovis-people on the basis of the Montana-boy. But one glance at the excavation-history shows this complete conjecture. The Montana-boy was related to the Malta-boy, but was post-Clovis! A tractor disturbed his grave and another. One near-clovis, the other some 7000 BC. Very extensively RC-dated to a few centuries after the Dryas-Event that wiped out Clovis. Two burials on top of Clovis artifacts. Either the Clovis lithics were grave-goods, or they were simply not connected at all …
So for me the truth of the matter is wide open!! And intensely intriguing. And as yet mysterious. And at this point it simply doesn’t do to say: ‘Well, that’s the science.’ Because science still has to come to grips with the entire issue! And it’s high time the ‘Americans’ came to their senses, and shifted their eyes!
Really, a campfire and a lighning strike can be told apart! And capucine monkeys do not start fires in caves … If that is science, I prefer common sense.


Edward Pegler November 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Dear Jaap

You must forgive my ignorance. I don’t know much about the field. My interest appears to be post 12,000 BC generally, I’ve not really given much thought to the peopling of America. It’s not that I have particular blinkers (although I know I do for many things) it’s just a lack of analysis by me to make up my own mind.

It’s funny thinking about it because it makes me realise just how little interest I’ve ever shown in the evolution of humankind and Palaeolithic archaeology in general. Because my angle was always about trade and human interaction, largely connected with farming, I’ve just never read about it. Maybe I should try.

However, I think it’s easy for us to get belief-based on our understanding of stuff. The evidence of the more recent pre-Clovis levels at Topper appears to be generally accepted now. The evidence of the fire marks is much more interesting. Any radiocarbon date of 50,000 BC would need to be based on a large sample, but the depth tells of considerable time passing, so the radiocarbon date itself is not that important. However, I cannot find a paper detailing the story, only articles. The best I’ve found so far is this ( I don’t understand why an extension to the dig shouldn’t have revealed more evidence of the arrangement of the carbon layer (and the pictures I’ve seen show simply a layer).

Again, I promise I’ve got no angle on this. Pre-Clovis is clearly true. How old it is seems far harder to get an answer on.

best wishes



Jaap November 10, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Hi Ned, don’t know much about it either. My field of interest as a student is early Germanic and Celtic heroic tales and a bit of Arthurian stuff. But I have been reading up on this subject for the past 3 years, and it’s been getting curiouser and curiouser. It’s changing now, though. People are waking up to the probability (now turned fact) that when the Amerindians arrived, first a trickle, then group after group between 25 and 10 kya BP, there were already people there, most of them in the south. How and when and whence they got there is anybody’s guess. The traces we have are difficult to read to the extent that one must wonder if they’re traces of anything at all. These people were not numerous and scarcely left a genetic signal. But that signal has now been found. And one wonders who else there may have been that have gone quite extinct … The plot thickens.


Edward Pegler November 11, 2017 at 2:51 pm

I must say, just looking through the literature, I see what you mean. It looks like it’s been a closed shop for a while. Well, maybe that’s just how academia works generally – often full of men being rulers of their roost and making in-groups and out-groups. Human nature and science are uneasy bedfellows.

Take this blog, for example. As far as I can tell no-one but you reads anything I’ve written for about the last four years (I get more hits for the worst, more opinionated, stuff I wrote early on). Thank you for taking the time, by the way. I don’t think I’m very good at selling the blog, but I would genuinely like to be part of a bigger conversation. However, blogs are generally full of ranty crap (mine has been too), so I can see why people wouldn’t bother.

I find blogs like the highly popular ‘Eurogenes’ interesting but also disturbing. Here is a man, David Wesolowski, keeping us abreast of new developments in genetics but also massively unscientific in his behaviour. He knows he’s right (and he may well be right, but that’s not the same thing) and appears to abuse or ignore anyone who comments with contrary opinions. I suspect that he might have grown in confidence and arrogance as time has gone on, but it makes one more set on one’s views.

Anyway, this was a rant of a sort, so I’d better stop.

love Ned


Jaap November 6, 2017 at 11:46 pm

It seems to me masons from the Andes were involved in some of the stonework on Rapanui. Parts of these walls had later been taken apart and reconstructed with shoddy results: the islanders couldn’t do it by themselves. I must now learn that these Andeans didn’t make whoopee on Rapanui. If they did they took their off-spring with them …
I’ve looked at a long list of evidence of links between Oceania and the Americas, the sweet potato being the least contested, and complete with its name on both sides. It tells me America has been visited by many people from all over for a very very long time. Hard evidence? Schmevidence! Science? Schmience!
It seems in the US science is a business, a career. Follow the money. They’re still stubbornly maintaining humans first entered via Beringia (it’s Kelp-route now, of course), and then paddled feverishly on to make it in time for the tryst with Tom Dillehay at 14+ kya. When looking at the Wiki-maps I notice that the unwelcome dates are carefully avoided. Tom Dillehay’s charcoal finds of 30 kya should at least have registered on their minds! Human presence in the Americas is obviously much much older. But that’s wurst to the ‘scientists’ and their journalese claque.
There is so little evidence. Sky-burials, probably. And when evidence does crop up one would expect the scientific community to stiffen to attention and join the hunt. Not so. On top of this an ideal situation for pranksters has been created! And even worse …
In the meantime the professional integrity of good researchers has been smeared and booby-trapped, absolutely wasting honest human efforts for the sake of what exactly? And destroying valuable rare evidence into the bargain! ‘Ve ‘ave our vays’ … The Brazilian iron lady Niède Guidon went about her business regardless, coming up with excellent results. For her, too, this is a business. But what a difference! Education and regional development are her agenda. Inclusive! In an interview she said she wouldn’t be surprised by a date of 130 kya for the first people in America. Her conjecture, of course. But one I’ll gladly keep in mind.
I don’t call this science, or even reason. Common sense is my name for it. Why should Homo Erectus stop in China at a time that America was wide open? ‘Uh-uh, too many academic interests at stake here!’ (Homo Erectus were intelligent, you know! And their shamans could see far into the future.)
My sense here is that academia in Europe as well put too many no-no’s in the way of following the evidence. Genetiker finds European genes in Mocho-mummies! Whacko!! Solutrean moved to America? Not poss!! The Neandertals had seafaring capabillities? You’re kidding me! No, they regularly visited Krete to hunt the pygmy elephants. Nah, there must have been a landbridge. Homo Heidelbergiensis crossed at Gibraltar? Nah, don’t want to think about this. If they did something must have made it easy … And so it goes on, endlessly.
Even in very ancient times, obviously there were ways open for humans and hominims. But what if you can’t look at the evidence without refusing the blinkers? I realise there are grey areas. I realise bounds must be set. But bounds and blinkers shouldn’t boil down to the same thing.


Edward Pegler November 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Well Jaap, that’s a big comment. I shall try to take it in chunks.

First, there’s a lovely example of a patched-up mosaic in Fishbourne, England. The mosaic was made by professionals in, perhaps, the fourth century. It was probably patched (badly) 50 to a 100 years later. This reminds me of your stonework comment. However, I suspect that the reason it was so badly patched is that the profession of mosaicing didn’t exist anymore in Britain. It doesn’t necessarily say that the people who did mosaics had all left Britain. They might but they might not. It’s just no longer a big enough industry to make a living by, so people forget how to do that kind of thing.

Personally, I think that the links between Oceania and the Americas before the modern era were very rare (although not perhaps non-existent). Both Hawaii and Easter Island are a long way away from America (both about 3000 km) and it must have been a right schlep to get there. However, as you say, the sweet potato evidence suggests that it must have been done.

Currently, the biggest debate in American genetics is why a Melanesian genetic signal is weakly showing up in the Amazon Basin (don’t ask me, I haven’t got a clue). The rest of the genetic story is quite dull and has essentially two migration events, one early (say 15000BC or something) and one late (Inuit-eskimo related). This is the science, whether we like it or not.

It’s a shame, as there was a lovely theory quite a few years ago of Chinese-ish influence on Meso-america. Given the similarity of art and a taste for nephrite/jade it looks great. It’s just that there’s no evidence for it yet.

The only thing I know about Tom Dillehay is what I just looked up, which is that he excavated the Monte Verde Site in South America and put a date on it of about 12,600 BC, which, as far as I can tell, is generally accepted. I don’t know anything about a 30,000 BP charcoal date. Have you got more info on this?

Overall though I think it’s good for people to keep looking and hoping for older evidence of hominids in the Americas. You’re point about why they shouldn’t have gone further than East Asia is well made and needs really to be answered with an refuting theory (e.g. early hominins didn’t do cold) which can be tested in some way.

There has also been an agenda amongst some (not all) archaeologists over the last thirty or so years to downplay technological innovation in the past. My guess is that this relates to a ‘Rousseau’ian argument. In a Rousseau world people of the past were innocent and free and certainly didn’t work hard at anything. Technological developments that involve forced labour or suchlike do not fit with such a worldview, and are often denied for the distant past. It seems to go hand in hand with a lack of belief in violence or migrations. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

Sorry if some of this sounds a bit negative. I think we’re just about to go into a ‘Science is everything’ phase in archaeology, which is good in some ways but leads to frustration when it doesn’t work – frankly, most of the time. There are only so many things that science will ever be able to answer about the past. It will never tell us what people thought.

love Ned


Jaap November 8, 2017 at 9:35 pm

Hi Ned. Let me just quote Wilhelm Reich on the genetic issue: ‘We were plain wrong!’ So that was the science, but now other thing are looming. There’s a plethora of much older sites that are all contested, of course. Only one 25 kya – site finally stands (some 30 years after the first excavations!), but this is north of the icesheet, and may be argued to support the Beringia Standstill. The Clovis horizon has now obviously been moved back to include the ‘pioneer-period’ (Some 3000 years). Everything older than that is just Bigfoot …
PS, Still looks Andean to me! 😉


Jaap November 8, 2017 at 9:52 pm

PPS. Tom Dillehay found a field with the remains of some 30 campfires, one of which was RC-dated to 30 kya. Can’t find where I read that anymore. He clearly was focusing on settling for a pre-Clovis date, and didn’t press the more daring stuff. He had his students and assistants to think off, who in the 1990s couldn’t get jobs …


Edward Pegler November 9, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Dear Jaap

I think I may have over-guessed the oldest dates. The earliest I can find in the main part of the Americas is 13,500 BC (Buttermilk Creek Complex), but there will be older dates I guess (such as Cactus Hill?). Apparently (and I didn’t know this), there’s a site called Bluefish Caves, in NW Canada, which is 24,000 years old (22,000 BC) (is this youre 25ka site?), and indicates a stuck population at the edge of America before any subsequent expansion. As for the genetics, I think that there must be new stuff waiting to come out, but currently it’s not clear what happened in the colonisation. This appears to be due to a lack of human bone in the early sites.

Edward Pegler November 13, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Do you know, there is such pleasure in doing what you’ve done that I could quite get carried away with it myself. That I never did sounds potentially lucky. I remember reading some nonsense that got me analysing Flight at Finnsburg. I didn’t get far. I never studied language past Latin at school, and while I was happy with all the rules I just couldn’t hold on to it. The nearest I’ve got is an detailed analysis of Bewlay Brothers by David Bowie, and that was obsessive enough. But no, what you’ve done sounds great and your conclusions sound perfectly reasonable. Did it help to speak Nederlandse? We’ve lost so many germanic words and grammatical forms in English that AS is challenging.

There was an old actor, Julian Glover, in Britain a few years back who went round reciting Beowulf in the original to audiences of English speakers. They loved it though how much they understood I don’t know. I know I’ve tried Robbie Burns on people in England and they can’t make head nor tail of it.



Edward Pegler November 13, 2017 at 5:32 pm

I spent some time visiting Sierra Leone and Angola while reading about Arthurian ‘history’. At the time the parallels seemed striking. Warlords adopting cool names and being a pain in the arse to everyone, while trying to control the limited trade to the rest of the world (diamonds or coltan versus tin). There are still good parallels but I get the impression that plagues of different forms were an important factor in the anarchic and vile mess that Britain became after about 350 AD, not just economics. I never want to visit those times in a time-machine. What I think I would see would be unedifying. Yes, stick to the more useful fantasy Arthurs, Emryses, Maxens or whatever.


Edward Pegler November 16, 2017 at 6:36 pm

What I want (and can’t have) is a glimpse of what PIE actually looked like (and the languages next to it). If someone were to find this I think a lot of linguists would say ‘aah’ quite a lot, as light dawned, and ‘oh!’ quite a lot as they were confused. I think that linguists have done a great job, but I don’t believe that they’ve reconstructed the language spoken in the steppe (or whatever) 5000 years ago. Maybe they’ve got 10% right if they’re lucky.

And the Rig Veda is great but it’s from 1500 years later, and that’s ignoring all the loss of its sound in transmission (think family reciting an Anglo-Saxon poem that’s been handed down for 1000 years and the distortions to the sound that would happen).

As for archaeology it doesn’t do history. You can make out ‘cultures’ which, if you’re lucky map on to people speaking related languages, but this wouldn’t make much sense to the people who discarded this stuff. Take the Andronovo horizon for example. We’re they all speaking the same language? This is largely before nomadism and people moved slowly. The pioneers of the Americas spoke German, Swedish, French, English…

I think our best hope is better and better genetics and better and better radiocarbon dating. It’s not me or a bunch of arts-based archaeologists who are ever going to answer these questions. They’ll just argue, like we are. It has to be more data. If Elena Kuz’mina thought this and Viktor Sarianidi thought that it didn’t really matter. As long as they enjoyed it, because their archaeological efforts didn’t stop people disagreeing.

I’m in full flow now.

To return to something a bit more concrete. R1b1a is seen in a Samara individual (Mr Khvalynsk II, Saratov Grave 12) from about 4600 BC, and that’s my biggest problem. He doesn’t seem to me to be at all relevant to the Bell Beaker expansion 2000 years later, which is almost all R1b1a1a. R1b1a looks like a bit of a Balkan/Ukraine thing which never really caught on.

On the other hand R1b1a1a is big. Notably, its earliest appearance is in Baltic EHG types, from there reaching Yamnaya as R1b1a1a2. As you say, it dominates the eastern Afanasievo expansion of 2800 BC. To the west it appears in Eastern Europe in small numbers by 2700 BC, so part of the first expansion from the steppe. However, it looks like founder effect may have caused its explosion a few hundred years later in the form R1b1a1a2a1, particularly in the west. This suggests to me that populations were quite small in the west for several hundred years between about 2800 and 2400 BC.

A comment of two halves that one.

I’ll come back to India later and the Hittites later when I’ve thought about those. However, this is a lot of fun as you’re making me think.



Jaap November 16, 2017 at 8:56 pm

So you’re saying that the R1b that took over the British Isles was not Steppe, but from the Baltic? As the relevant Steppe-variant had a mutation that’s lacking in the Bell Beakers? That’s interesting. And a bit funny, as Corded Ware has very little R1b. I suppose the R1a in Corded Ware is from Sredny Stog. IE. The R1b in the BBC then were likely Uralic speakers originally … One of the riddles is when Celtic arrived on the British Isles: 2000 BCE or 500 BCE? If the latter it was a cultural rather than a demographic shift. Replacing probably a product of the Uralic-IE Sprachenbund … And then there’s also the Goidel-Cymry split. Would apples (cider) have anything to do with this? Not as a cause, of course, but as a marker? I guess this goes boringly back to Roman times.


Jaap November 16, 2017 at 9:44 pm

PPS Just as the Steppe-people, whoever they were exactly, were moving in the original EEF-population were in dire straits from something. Persistent cropfailure? Plague? Whatever … And in moves a flashy, tall, yellowhaired bunch with plenty of food on the hoof, with all the latest mod-cons in metallurgy, wheels, etc! Blimey! What do you do?? The girls are not interested in the local swarthy good-for-nothings anymore, so first we resist (a bit) when the others aren’t looking. So we kill. Ow! Not a good idea! They know how to look after their own! And militarily we are no match for them. So quickly apologise and back to the diplomatic sphere. Meaning hostages! Etcetera.
It’s easy to see how people tend to cast the IE as invaders who come in from the Steppe whooping and hollering and killing off everything in sight. That’s little boys’ intelligence, child’s play. It’s also an echo of later times when maurauders didn’t need local support to establish themselves. These were people experts at surviving! People who know they need other people. To bond. To marry. To network. To trade. To fight others. And the Steppe-invaders were so good at that that they replaced populations in only a few generations. Not by bloodthirst, but by providing all the right solutions at exactly the right time, thus absorbing completely the remnants of the old and tested EEF-populace.


Jaap November 16, 2017 at 9:08 pm

PS. There is a link that looks tantalisingly like a very early trade route: Asturia – Armorica – Devon. Bagpipes and cider and rumoured Celtic affinities. Must be Roman, as Ireland doesn’t play ball here … Or even younger …


Edward Pegler November 17, 2017 at 5:46 pm

Ah, no. R1b1a1a is definitely from the steppe. The important part of the autosomal DNA is that it shows the expansion not of EHG but of EHG/’CHG’ hybrids into Europe, so it can’t be Baltic. It’s just interesting that Baltic EHG has it in large quantities much earlier on. Again, it just needs one man coming from the Baltic to the Caspian steppe with a way with women (violent, charming, you pick) to make a Y-chromosome take off (or his sons, etc).

Certainly I haven’t seen any R1b1a1a in Corded Ware, but there is R1b1a1a in an 2700 BC individual from Poland called Bell Beaker (but sounding a bit too early for Bell Beaker), so it must have been around, even if only in a small number of individuals.

I must say the evidence seems to suggest that IE arrived in Britain my 2500 BC. If you read any Andrew Garrett you might be less sure that it could be described as Celtic or anything else for some time. According to him (and I see his point) Celtic is likely to be a convergent development of the 2nd or even 1st millennium BC. There may also have been a number of immigration events (carrying different IE dialects?) between 2500 and 100 BC, as plagues tend to come round, and people get restless when they see spare land. At the moment how would you tell any of this genetically when many people in Europe were so genetically similar? In fact the genetics of Britain became notably more WHG between Bell Beaker and Roman times (at least on the PCA plot) so I don’t know what that tells you (people coming out of the mountains perhaps).


Edward Pegler November 17, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Yes. I think that a west Atlantic connection is quite likely. After all, even many of the Neolithic settlers to Britain, 2000 years earlier, appear to have genetic affinities to Spain (as do the snails). It’s possible that Ireland’s role shrank after BB times as arsenical bronze became less important and tin bronze became more so. Maybe there’s an interesting debate about the Goidelic/Brittonic speechzones. That would certainly put Celtic affinities back to 2000 BC if that was the cause of the difference.


Edward Pegler November 17, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Very interesting! Shennan and Edinborough put forward an idea a while ago, based on radiocarbon, that populations in Northern Europe were in decline after their respective Early Neolithics and didn’t really recover. My personal view is this is to do with economic stagnation (i.e. dropping out of the ancient ‘global economy’) after their Early Neolithic booms. It could however be just land exhaustion by existing agriculture. Either way, they weren’t ready for what hit them.

As for the technological advantage of the steppe people, this is an idea promoted by David Anthony. Half of it I’m ok with (which is that steppe people’s might have had some agricultural systems that were better than European Neolithic farmers had). The other half, about horses and carts I don’t buy. For example, the Globular Amphora culture is a European Neolithic culture that adopted these technologies. However, it still got sunk by steppe migration.

My personal favourite is David Reich’s favourite, which is disease and disease resistance. The extraordinary spread of steppe cultures from one small area of the steppe (north of the Caspian) first to the Black Sea steppe and Balkans around 3300 BC, then to the Altai and Europe 500 years later is weird. These were not nomadic cultures riding horses at speed, they were slow pastoralists with a bit of agriculture. I think that population collapse probably allowed them to stroll into places that were opening up. I don’t doubt that they were occasionally violent because people often are when coming up against strangers, especially when they outnumber them. Whether it was just Yersinia that helped them is a further matter of speculation. Why the area around/to the north of the Caspian Sea was so full of disease and disease resistance would also need to be answered.

I should say I’ve had a prejudice toward plague and other disease vectors as causes of population collapse and ‘volkwanderung’ through prehistory and early history for some time, so I was delighted when Rasmussen et al gave a reason for explaining the IE expansion using this. Urnfields next!


Jaap November 19, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Yes, it found me well. But I think some things may have a very long life, and/or a very ancient common source …


Edward Pegler November 22, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Dear Jaap

Had some brief thoughts on India. As you say R haplogroups of steppe kind are common. However, admixture analyses of Indian populations are a predominant mix of what might be termed Indian Indigenous (for want of a better phrase) and CHG type genetics, sometimes with a smaller mix of Near Eastern and EHG genes. However, the inconsistent presence of EHG genes makes it difficult (on the basis of modern data) to argue for a major steppe influx. For example, the Kalash (an Indo-Iranian people of Pakistan) show CHG and Aboriginal Genes but little else, which means that a steppe-type population (i.e. with CHG/EHG mix) are not represented. The Y haplogroups are about 18% R1a (undivided).

All of this makes it look like there’s probably something like male invasion of India from the steppe by a small number of men at some point, but a more more significant influx of people from Iran.

All this is based on modern people, so ancient DNA is likely to blow this out of the water.

Unterlander 2017 (supp) page 20 is a really good place to look at the admixture. It suggests that the green component in K=15 (associated with CHG) is often, though not universally, associated with IE speakers. A nice example of this is the difference between Basques and other Spaniards (who have more green).

I’m not sure that I have much more on this although a post would be good. Next to look at Hittite.



Jaap November 22, 2017 at 11:31 pm

Yes Ned, I have been long speculating about this so-called mass-invasion that left hardly any archeological tracks, but an awful lot of genes, hg R1a, a language as well as a cultural legacy, was very likely a small group initially. Some 200 men? If that. But what a splash they made! Quite a likelyhood of military assistance in a local quabble in the Indus Valley. Compare the inroad of the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ in England, starting in the second half of the fourth century. Probably from ‘Holland’. Lower Rhine. North-Holland, or better said Western Frisia was being inundated during this time, and the population moved out, and were evidently/possibly allowed to settle in Kent and Surrey. On the clayish soils that they knew how to work, Celtic field are always on higher ground. To do with ploughing I seem to remember. Later more Germanic auxilliaries were brought in, and once that grapevine was buzzing there was no halting it. And then they came from all over Frisia and Jutland, and probably further afield – all those connected to the North Sea trade.
The Indus Valley had intensive trade connections with the cities of BMAC. This describes what I like to call a ‘sinewy tract’ that must be in place before any such migration can occur. That first group must have married locally, and exploded! Like the AS in Britonnia they made different claims on the soil, and may have blended in without much friction. But there was a lot of in-fighting with the groups that came later, as Rgveda attests. And where they all came from?
And here there’s a hitch. Sanskrit is older than Avestan. And the gene-flow was probably in the opposite direction. They’re closely related, so we may say that Avestan came from India, but the genes in India came largely from the Iranian Plateau! Wrap your mind around that, but that’s how I now think it was. It doesn’t have to be a contradiction if that first group was firmly settled and meanwhile a lot larger, and didn’t take any nonsense from the new-comers, as well influenced and dominated them culturally all the way back to Iran.
Hittite is quite a bit older, and part of a demographic dynamism that I can’t read yet in any way.
One thing puzzles me greatly. Why has ‘Indian IE’ been solely mediated by R1a? Not a R1b in sight! And they obviously came from all over the place! But not a single one of them red-haired bunches sneaked in, even though they were all over Yamnaya, Afanasievo, Sintashta and Andronovo. Obviously they somehow moved in different spheres at key-moments. But I can’t see the story there.


Edward Pegler November 24, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Dear Jaap

Just trying to get my head around Haplogroup R. It’s present in Europe from long ago. R1b1a makes its first appearance in Pleistocene hunter gatherers (12000 BC) of Southern Europe. It spreads, adding mutations, until it’s present as the future steppe menace R1b1a1a in the Baltic by 7300 BC. It somehow gets from there to the Yamnaya by 3100 BC (R1b1a has reached Samara by at least 4600 BC).

R1a, on the other hand, makes its first appearance in the Ukraine at 8700 BC. It’s apparently present as R1a1a1 in deepest Siberia by 6000-5000 BC, which is much too early for steppe migrations, so could already be indigenous to the steppe.

(There are also rare examples of Haplogroup Q1a carried by steppe peoples into Europe from the 6th millennium BC).

The only thing I’d say is that there may be a natural bias in the eastern steppe toward R1a over R1b as it was already there before the migrations. On the other hand, it’s possible that R1b is partly related to existing European haplogroup presence (though I wouldn’t push this).


Jaap November 25, 2017 at 1:14 am

Yes, R1b is a major puzzle for everybody. R1a seems to be local forest steppe. I probed Davidski about this several times, and he doesn’t get beyond the observation that patrilocal clans are prone to stochastic founder effects. Funny thing is that both R1a and R1b are found with (forget the name of the culture, but just north of the Caucasus) 4200 BCE, but later thus far only Sredny Stog for R1a, while in Yamnaya no R1a has yet been found, but plenty of R1b. Yamnaya replaces Sredny Stog somewhere 3200 BCE-ish, who then turn up north (Baltic CWC and in the Ural, not in GAC as I thought). Both paternal markers are Steppe, and autosomally very similar as to be indistinguishable, and both are central players in the IE-question. I really wonder what you’ll come up with!! Fascinating.
Two subjects that are now being discussed that I want to make sure you’ve seen. First the origines of Uralic. I must admit I’d always cast the EHG’s as the source of this. Simplistic! CHG-mothers and Uralic fathers. Sprachenbund. Children first learn a language from their mothers, but later aspire to the father-sphere. Liturgic language? The language of tribal memories? But no, it seems Uralic arrived later at the scene altogether, and the unmistakable Sprachenbund must date back to the Iron Age.
Second the migration from Anatolia into Greece and the Iron Gates and beyond just prior to the Steppe-migration(s), halting or slowing the Steppe-genes-infusion to Southern Europe. Plus the speculations as to the pushing agent in Anatolia (pre-proto-what have you-Hittite?). Cf BBB-blog, with interesting comments. That Anatolia and Greece underwent a sea-change somewhere around that time was well-established, but now there’s a zooming in on this.
It’s a bit like a Sudoku-game: the map gets ever fuller with information, and very soon now the whole mosaic will emerge. So you’d better be very quick with your wrapping! I’ll be sitting here leaning back and watching ;).
PS. Indian papers stalled by correctness-issues. That should give you at least three months to order the Iranian-plateau thing, and possibly the Hittites ;).
PPS. Did you see the paper on the wolf- and dog-bones in what they conjecture to be IE initiation-rites? I’m not sure, but these data are odd imho!


Jaap November 26, 2017 at 5:21 am

‘On the other hand, it’s possible that R1b is partly related to existing European haplogroup presence’. Don’t quite understand this bit. Surely local drift will enable to tell things apart, won’t they? It’s the V88 that really gets my goat. What’s this, for crying out loud! Slave-trade? Conducted by whom? I can’t imagine a migration. Unless of course they can also show the cattle migrating. Then it simply happened, even if this was quite a feat!
IMO migrations need conceptualising. One must know where one is going. No one migrates into the blue! From the Balkans to Chad! Forgive me, but I cannot credit that!


Edward Pegler November 25, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Oh Dear. I feel a bit inadequate trying to get my head around the data.

It seems to me that R1a could have a wide forest steppe distribution, although this is based on about three samples. We may just have to wait for more samples to come from Russia. As Mr Eurogenes says, Yamnaya apparently do have R1a, but only one so far (R1a1a1b?2a).

Because my guess is that all of this depended on very small numbers of people (due to falls in population perhaps) and considerable founder effects, I also don’t have a major problem with what’s showing up so far.

As for Uralic, if there’s going to be a haplogroup association, I’d guess at N, so I don’t have any problem with a late arrival of Finns etc. In fact much of northern Europe has moved N-ward over the last three (or four?) thousand years. However, it does make me reflect on David Anthony’s strong assertions of PIE-Uralic contacts before PIE dispersal in his big book of horses. Me, I again find the views of Gamkrelizde and Ivanov interesting here, as they argue (as have others) for the case that loanwords into Uralic are not even Indo-Iranian but in fact Iranian. Maybe this is wrong and I don’t like it when there’s such strong disagreement as it makes me doubt everybody.

I didn’t know that there was an Indian paper so that’s very interesting. No, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were problems with getting it out as nations like nationalist stories. Han China may have to face the same thing at some point soon.

No I didn’t see the dog paper. I remember David Anthony mentioning something like it for the Sintashta or something.


Edward Pegler November 26, 2017 at 6:04 pm

All I meant was existing Baltic presence of R1b1a1a in Europe, but that’s likely to be rubbish unless the same mutation happened twice so fair enough.

I don’t see a major problem with V88 if it’s R1b1a2. This is not Steppe but WHG (R1b1a) plus separate mutation. Seeing as EEF in Spain was part WHG, and Moroccan Neolithic cultures had EEF Spanish genetics (see Fregel) then it just enters the Sahara and Sahel through there. After that maybe founder effect (again?). What I find so wierd is what was so great about R1 haplogroups?


Jaap November 26, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Yes, my thinking exactly! Also why this trek from the Balkans to Chad? I seem to remember they were pastoralists from the Balkans, who one day packed it in and never stopped … Well, occasionally, in Africa …


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