Monday, September 3, 2018

800 CE Po-pa-li is not Somalia but 1100 CE Pi-pa-lo is?

Over a year ago, in a post, I delved into a Chinese account by an author named Duan Chengshi (died around circa. 863 CE) where he mentioned a region called Po-pa-li which is often assumed, by various authors, to be a predecessor to Berbera or to be talking about North-Central Somalia as a whole:

It seems the author the above text comes from believes this to correspond with the Greek's more southerly "Barbaroi" region (North-Central Somalia) rather than, like some authors, tying it simply to the settlement of Berbera in particular. And honestly, after giving this a good read, it does not seem to be to be a description of people from North-Central Somalia during the 700-800s CE for the following reasons:

  • Main exports: This country of Po-pa-li seems to mainly export Elephant's teeth (ivory) and ambergris, as these are the only products mentioned as exports by Duan Chengshi. However, both products are mentioned by earlier Greco-Roman sources to be minor exports when dealing with North-Central Somalia. Ivory being exported in abundance, for example, would fit more with Southern Somalia (or areas more south of it) so it would make no sense for this to be Berbera or North-Central Somalia based on these seemingly being the main exports. Where's the Frankincense and Myrrh?
  • Etymology: The author seems to be connecting Po-pa-li to "Barbaroi/Barbara/Barbar" via "Put-Pat-lik" in what appears to be Cantonese and proposes that this corresponds with "Barbaric". This makes no sense at all. "Barbaric", despite ultimately coming from the Greek word "Barbaroi", was not a word used in that English form at that time & place at all so the Chinese couldn't have derived "Put-pat-lik" from that. I'm actually wondering if I'm reading them wrong because it's odd that they'd make such an argument.
  • Arms & Armor: For the weapons present, the account says these people used ivory and oxen horns for bladed weaponry like halberd-type weapons whilst wearing armor (other translations write "armor" specifically as "cuirass") and utilizing bows and arrows seemingly in abundance. This implies that these people, even if they were familiar with metals, had ivory and oxen horns available in such abundance that they probably found them to be cheaper materials to use for making things like spear-heads. This does not sound like people who lived around modern Berbera or even North-Central Somalia who wouldn't have had such an abundance of Elephants in their general area.
  • Presence of Slaving: In North-Central Somalia, we do have Greco-Roman sources such as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea which stipulate that the exporting of slaves was present as a practice, albeit it was noted to be rare. But this indicates the state of such trade prior to the advent of Islam in the region by roughly the 7th to 10th centuries CE. Later on, around 11th-13th centuries, it's mentioned by Islamic/Arab sources that the people on the Somali coast did not trade themselves out as slaves because they were Muslims, unlike a good number of the people in Bilad al-Zanj to the south. Yet, this account by Duan Chengshi mentions that these pastoralists sell some of their countrymen whom they capture as prisoners. Now, it's possible that the 800s CE is rather early and Islamization had not fully taken root in various areas so some slaving was practiced by the locals but if Islam was present; this is rather odd as the Muslims present presumably wouldn't have sold fellow Muslims, at least not notably. 
  • Type of Pastoralism: All we get from this description is that these people have cattle and practice what has been documented as a historic custom among Erythraeic (my preferred term for "Cushitic") speaking semi-nomadic pastoralists (the drinking of cattle blood with milk). There's no mention of sheep, goats or camels. Camel domestication would have been present around Berbera or North-Central Somalia at this point in history but this description sounds like it's one of a people who were mainly cattle-pastoralists, like the Maasai.

This is all makes me think "Po-pa-li" was a region farther south of the Horn of Africa or perhaps even far south into Southern Somalia rather than at all indicating that what we're reading about is a predecessor to modern Berbera or North-Central Somalia as a whole.

What's even more damning is that this same author shares a different Chinese account of later origins (1100s CE) owed to Zhao Rugua which speaks of a country on the East African coast called "Pi-pa-lo" (assumed to be the Somali coast) and it fits with not just one part of but being nearly the whole of the Somali coast much more than the "Po-pa-li" of the 800s CE:

Let's take into account all of the things this country has together all at once:

  • Abundance of pastoralist livestock such as camels, goats, sheep and cattle.
  • A people with a mainly pastoral diet which consists of meat and milk with "cakes" on top (perhaps their way of referring to something like Canjeero/Laxoox/Injera?).
  • Presence of Rhinos, Elephants, Giraffes, Ostriches and what sound to possibly be Somali Wild Asses ("mule" with black, white and brown stripes on it).
  • There is Myrrh and Ambergris in this country.
  • Some semblance of pre-modern urbanism was to be found (four prominent cities/towns are mentioned by the Chinese source).
  • The people "worship heaven" which, I suppose, would refer to a heavenly God which fits with the worship of Allah by Muslims and, oddly, even the worship of the Sky-God Waaq [3].
The Somali coast, or what Medieval Arab/Islamic sources knew as "Bilad al-Barbar" (Somali coast roughly from Zeila down to Mogadishu or areas somewhat south of Mogadishu like the mouth of the Jubba river) is perhaps the only place on the East African coast where all of these things can be found together. 

For example, the Eritrean coast once had some Rhinos present and, to this day, has several semi-nomadic pastoralist peoples who herd camels, sheep, goats and cattle present on its coast whilst having, to this day, a small Elephant population but it didn't have Giraffes

Also, Tanzania and Kenya might have had most of the animals mentioned but they didn't really have camels except for some areas of Kenya, I suppose. But also, these regions' coastal inhabitants did not practice a semi-nomadic pastoralist way of life or have that sort of diet so the description of the people's diet and the emphasis on their livestock conflicts with these being people on the Zanj/Swahili coast who would have mostly been sedentary farmers and fishermen.

Historical and 1987 range of Rhinos

The author is quite right, in my humble opinion, to tie this "Pi-pa-lo" region with the Berbera/Barbar/Somali coast. It mostly fits very well as a description of that region of East Africa although certainly not as a description of solely North-Central Somalia or the area where we now find the city of Berbera, given the mentioning of Giraffes, for example.

The etymology also makes somewhat more sense this time. "Pi-pa-lo", according to the author, comes from "Pat-pa-lo" in Cantonese which makes better sense as some sort of bastardization of "Barbara" or some such (he roughly picks up on this too).

Range of various Ostrich species
At any rate, I'm currently rather skeptical that "Po-pa-li" was actually a description of the Somali coast. I'm particularly sure it wasn't referring specifically to the area where modern Berbera now sits, or even North-Central Somalia. Perhaps it was referring to people somewhere along Southern Somalia given the Elephants, however? A people who had yet to become Muslims, hence the slaving? A people who possibly had not yet adopted camel domestication given the lack of camels in the description (they sound like they were mainly cattle-pastoralists)?

I don't know and can't be sure that this region wasn't really where authors traditionally think it was but that's just my personal view after reviewing the Chinese account again. However, the the "Pi-pa-lo" region described much later (1100s CE), sounds much more blatantly like it fits with what the medieval Islamic/Arab world knew as Bilad al-Barbar.



1. This is actually an old post I 90% completed during early 2017. I got busy back then and it just sort of fell into the back-burner until I forgot about it. Noticed it again recently and just cleaned up a little for posting...

2. Feel free to point out any mistakes I may have made in the comments (or point out something I may have missed), this is an old subject I'm still a little intrigued by.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Southeast & Southern African Ancient DNA

Alright, this post is long overdue and I've hopefully got some interesting data to share based on these now relatively new samples from Skoglund et al. 2017.

First, I'd like to take the time to compare modern Horn-Africans to the Tanzanian-Pastoralist sample of most likely South-Erythraeic speaking origins and then I'll address this intriguing "East-South Hunter-Gatherer cline" then finally dig into what this says about South-Erythraeic speaker admixture in Southeast and Southern-Africa. (if you're confused by the word "Erythraeic" go here)

The Horn's later genomic tack-ons

One thing a person might catch right off the bat when reading the study is that it points out that modern Horn-Africans, Somalis included, based on formal-stats, seem to share drift with both Neolithic Levantines and Iranians whereas the Southeast African Pastoralist from 3,000 years ago only seems to share drift with Neolithic Levantines:

We found that the 3,100 BP individual (Tanzania_Luxmanda_3100BP), associated with a Savanna Pastoral Neolithic archeological tradition, could be modeled as having 38% ± 1% of her ancestry related to the nearly 10,000-year-old pre-pottery farmers of the Levant (Lazaridis et al.,2016), and we can exclude source populations related to early farmer populations in Iran and Anatolia. 


While these findings show that a Levant-Neolithic-related population made a critical contribution to the ancestry of present-day eastern Africans (Lazaridis et al., 2016), present-day Cushitic speakers such as the Somali cannot be fit simply as having Tanzania_Luxmanda_3100BP ancestry. The best fitting model for the Somali includes Tanzania_Luxmanda_3100BP ancestry, Dinka-related ancestry, and 16% ± 3% Iranian-Neolithic-related ancestry (p = 0.015). This suggests that ancestry related to the Iranian Neolithic appeared in eastern Africa after earlier gene flow related to Levant Neolithic populations, a scenario that is made more plausible by the genetic evidence of admixture of Iranian-Neolithic-related ancestry throughout the Levant by the time of the Bronze Age (Lazaridis et al., 2016) and in ancient Egypt by the Iron Age (Schuenemann et al., 2017)

Seems somewhat sensible but also surprising to me. I'd have expected, based on previous data (both formal-stats and ADMIXTURE based), that Somalis didn't have Iranian-Neolithic admixture which, based on my past opinions, would've possible come to the Horn with two-waves; a wave a little before 3,000ybp from Sudan tacked-onto Highlander Erythraeic speaking populations like Agaws and a wave around 2,500-3,000ybp owed to the Proto-Ethiosemitic speaking community. 



Dinka 54.1
Natufian 40.2
Iran-Chalcolithic 4.4
Mota 1.3



Natufian 46.7
Dinka 35.3
Mota 9.3
Iran-Chalcolithic 8.7 



Natufian 41
Mota 33.5
Dinka 25.5
Iran-Chalcolithic 0

But now, as you can see above, both formal-stat methods like those of this study and nMonte utilizing PCA positions (Global10 in the case above and all cases below) find that Somalis, Habeshas and Agaws have ancestry related to Neolithic Iranians and Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers (about 60-70% of the ancestry in Chalcolithic Iranians).

Albeit, I'd say these nMonte results are vastly more sensible than the study's findings. 16 ± 3% is frankly senseless for Somalis. It would require being so Bronze-Age Levantine-like in ancestry that there is simply no way past formal stat runs like those of Pickrell et al. 2013 or ADMIXTURE runs like those of Hodgson et al. 2014 wouldn't have significantly picked up on it nor would models like these fail so miserably with nMonte:



Dinka 57.8
Levant Bronze-Age 42.2
Mota 0



Dinka 55.6
Yemenite-Jew 44.4
Mota 0

There's also no way we wouldn't have an abundance of very recent looking Y-DNA and mtDNA ties with populations like Arabians and Levantines which we largely don't, as I've outlined in the past. So, I'd say something like 3-5% Chalcolithic-Iranian-like ancestry owed, most likely, to being about 8-10% derived from a likely ancient Arabian population- :



Dinka 53.7
Natufian 34.6
Yemenite-Jew 9.7
Mota 2



Dinka 53.6
Natufian 33.7
Saudi 10.4
Mota 2.3

-is much more sensible. I say likely ancient Arabian because I managed to send Davidski over at Eurogenes 3 Copts to average out then put into Global-10 PCA so that we could see how well they fit, in comparison to the Saudi and Yemenite-Jewish samples, for Horners like Somalis and Tigrinyas:



Dinka 52.7
Natufian 35.3
Egyptian-Copt 9.3
Mota 2.7



Natufian 36
Dinka 32.4
Egyptian-Copt 19.7
Mota 11.9



Dinka 34.5
Natufian 34.3
Yemenite-Jew 20.7
Mota 10.5



Dinka 34.5
Natufian 31.6
Saudi 23.1
Mota 10.8

The better fitting is only slightly in favor of the Arabian groups but is still there, and nMonte will consistently choose them over Egyptian-Copts if both are present. This has me wondering if my long-time friend and I were incorrect about the "earlier wave" I mentioned before and if Southwestern Arabians speaking Proto-Ethiosemitic are responsible for all of the later MENA admixture in the Horn.

As for how Somalis got it... I honestly can't say with any certainty. We need more ancient DNA from the Horn, Egypt, Sudan and Arabia. From the northern Ethiopian-Highlands, from the northerly areas of the Somali Peninsula, from Yemen, from Sudan, from Egypt... Only then can we be definitive about all of this.

More of this...
Nevertheless, I suppose it's possible, given the presence of Musnad inscriptions across northerly areas of the Somali Peninsula [5], that, despite not linguistically shifting, our ancestors too were affected by migrants from Southwestern Arabia or perhaps this is a sign of inter-mixing within the Horn itself? I doubt the latter more because we don't show all that much Mota-related ancestry.

But on that note, you maybe wondering why the 3,000ybp pastoralist has so much Mota ancestry and, in truth, I don't believe that is Mota-related ancestry from the Horn itself but more likely admixture from Hunter-Gatherers found in Southeast & Southern Africa:



Dinka 47
Natufian 44.9
South-Africa-2000ybp 8.1



Dinka 44.4
Natufian 43.9
Malawi-Hora-Holocene 11.7



Natufian 41
Mota 33.5
Dinka 25.5

For one, I think the sheer magnitude of Mota-like ancestry is a bit hard to sell, especially considering how much Natufian-like ancestry is still left over. nMonte probably just prefers Mota because he has far more Dinka-like ancestry than the Southeast and Southern African HGs. In reality, my bet, especially given the presence of mtDNA L0f (often found in groups like Southeast African HGs) even among modern South-Erythraeic speaker descended peoples, the scenario went something like this:

  • South-Erythraeic speaking pastoralists made up of mostly Dinka-like ("East-African") and Natufian/LNF-related ancestry began migrating into Southeast Africa before 3,000ybp.
  • Once they got to areas like Southeast and Southern Africa, they not only started contributing ancestry to some local Hunter-Gatherer populations but acquired admixture from them as well.

Thus explaining why the 3,000ybp pastoralist sample is about ~20% or so less Dinka-like than Somalis according to Skoglund et al. 2017 (~10% in nMonte runs). Time and more ancient DNA will either affirm or refute the above... And as for why ancestry owed to Southeast and Southern African HGs could be mistaken for Mota-like ancestry, that will be addressed in the next section of this post.

But, I'd conclude this section by pointing out that the story of the Horn's admixtures looks like this so far to my eyes:

  • Most likely somewhere in the Egypt-Sudan area Dinka-like and Natufian-like people intermix over-time to form the peoples who, to this day, make-up the most significant portion of most Erythraeic and Ethiosemitic speaking Horn-Africans' ancestry. (I'd say this is what the Tanzanian Pastoralist is overwhelmingly descended from)
  • These eventual people happen to be, in my humble opinion, a part of the Sudanese-Neolithic and begin moving into the Horn sometime around 5,000-7,000ybp. They eventually also acquire admixture from the earlier inhabitants of areas such as the Ethiopian Highlands (some of whom were most likely Omotic speakers) at levels of 1-25% over the last several millennia.
  • Also, around 2,500-3,000ybp, the Horn begins to see some slight incursions from Southwestern Arabia bringing in new layers of Anatolian and Iranian Neolithic related ancestry into the region (as well as Ethiopian-Semitic). And, to my complete surprise, even Omotic speakers such as Aris were not spared eventually acquiring this sort of ancestry:


Mota 62.8
Dinka 18.1
Natufian 10.8
Saudi 8.3



Mota 60.7
Dinka 19.9
Natufian 11.7
Saudi 7.7 

I'm still a little taken aback by this and for months was skeptical (still slightly am) but if various distinct analyses methods are finding these same sort of results on a base level which is that modern Horn-Africans (including Somalis and Aris) have post Chalcolithic influences from the Middle-East whilst the 3,000ybp pastoralist lacks these elements; it must indeed be the case.

The East-South Hunter-Gatherer cline

Now this concerns why the Malawi Hunter-Gatherer ("Hora-Holocene") from about 8,100 years ago can prove, to some extent, a stand-in for Mota. This is because the study has discovered something quite intriguing which is that there once existed a cline between Southern African HGs (a more "pure" version of the modern San) and East-African HGs (essentially the "East African" cluster I've always been on about):

The genetic cline correlates to geography, running along a north-south axis with ancient individuals from Ethiopia (~4,500 BP), Kenya (~400 BP), Tanzania (both ~1,400 BP), and Malawi (~8,100–2,500 BP), showing increasing affinity to southern Africans (both ancient individuals and present-day Khoe-San). The seven individuals from Malawi show no clear heterogeneity, indicating a long-standing and distinctive population in ancient Malawi that persisted for at least ~5,000 years (the minimum span of our radiocarbon dates) but which no longer exists today.

Some of the later individuals along this cline do seem to have Erythraeic speaker related admixture alongside the deeper layer of SA-HG and EA:



South-Africa-2000ybp 46.5
Dinka 29.1
Tanzania-Luxmanda-3000ybp 18.2
Onge 6.2

With even later individuals acquiring admixture from the Bantu-Expansion such as the Kenya-500ybp and and Tanzania-Pemba-700ybp. But more on that with the next section... In this section what's most interesting for me to note is that it seems like, before the arrival of South-Erythraeic speakers and the eventual arrival of Bantu speakers; Southeast Africa was once a sort of nexus point between ancient peoples rich in ancestry related to East-African cluster and ancient people rich in South-African HG-related ancestry.

And before what was likely the Proto-Agäw-East-South Erythraeic speaking community swooped in, the Horn too, based on Mota and modern Omotic speakers like Aris, was probably also a part of this nexus point. I'm also reminded of longstanding reports and archaeology purporting that the indigenous population of Southern Somalia were "San-like" Hunter-Gatherers. [5]

What's interesting about this is that it implies, at least to me, that just north of the Horn, in areas such as Sudan (North & South) and the Chad, was likely a much more pristine "East-African" population given how you can find a more pristine South-African HG population once you go deep enough into Southern Africa's pre-history and, of course, given the presence of populations (Dinkas et al.) very rich in such ancestry in that general vicinity even today.

So, Southeast Africa and the Horn were probably once genetically sandwiched between these two clusters, one probably around Sudan and Chad and one mainly stationed around Southern Africa and it was the introduction of Natufian-like ancestry from North-Africa (discounting areas of Northeast Africa south of Egypt) and West-African related ancestry by the likes of Bantu and Nilotic speakers that broke up this zone's prior genomic diversity.

But, if you're wondering about at the "Onge" the ancient Zanzibar sample is showing, it seems to also pop up in Mota as well as the Malawi HG from 8,100ybp:



Dinka 58.2
South-Africa-2000ybp 24.9
Onge 9.5
Natufian 7.4


         Malawi Hora-Holocene

South-Africa-2000ybp 68.5
Dinka 18.8
Natufian 5.4
Onge 5.3
Tianyuan 2

It's not real Eurasian admixture as these individuals would seem unadmixed if analyzed using formal-stat methods like qpAdm (plus, it's way too broad to be real. I mean, Natufian, Onge and Tianyuan?!). It just seems to me that the Global10 PCA is probably picking up on how the ancient East-African cluster related ancestry in them has some mild sort of affinity for Eurasians. What to actually focus on are the Dinka-like and South-Africa HG-like elements.

South-Erythraeic speaker admixture in Southeast and Southern Africa

As some readers may know, I've pointed out several times in the past, based on modern DNA, that there was Horn-African related admixture in Southeast Africa (admixture similar to most of the ancestry in ethnic groups like Somalis and Oromos), something past academics have also argued using modern DNA and even linguistics as well as cultural anthropology.

And it's now quite nice to get to say that ancient DNA backs this up. The Savanna Pastoral Neolithic brought pastoralism to Southeast and Southern Africa as well as certain cultural elements (i.e. mat-tents as mentioned here) and, intriguingly, some admixture as well. 

The Tanzania-Luxmanda sample unfortunately has significant Southern-Africa HG related ancestry so she may not prove a pristine enough example of the early population that moved in Southeast Africa from the Horn and eventually contributed to groups such as the Maasai, Tutsis, Datoogas and so on but she'll have to do for now:



Tanzania-Luxmanda-3000ybp 50.8
Dinka 48.9



South-Africa-2000ybp 89.3
Tanzania-Luxmanda-3000ybp 10.7


Dinka 46.4
South-Africa-2000ybp 25.2
Tanzania-Luxmanda-3000ybp 22.7
Onge 5.7

And it seems like the Hadza are, similar to Aris, a modern relic of the old East-South cline, albeit with some admixture from Erythraeic speaking people from the Horn similar to much of the ancestry in Somalis and the Tanzanian-Luxmanda sample. So, in the end, Southeast Africa is quite the demographically interesting place, having been contributed to by the East-South cline, later Erythraeic, Nilotic and Bantu speaking migrants, some minor post Iron-Age MENA elements in groups such as coastal Swahilis and, on top of this, we're probably underestimating the effect Mambuti (Mbuti) related Hunter-Gatherers had over-time as well as I personally wasn't able to even put them in my runs given that they aren't present in the Global10 datasheet.

But at any rate, I think I'll leave it at that for now regarding this paper's myriad of intriguing findings. Hope this was interesting for anybody reading. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

3,000ybp Pastoralist proves an old point

Well, a while ago now I pointed out that, simply using modern DNA, various Southeast Africans clearly looked partly descended from peoples closely related to modern Somalis and other Horn-Africans of Erythraeic and Ethiosemitic speaking origins (see here and here) and it seems ancient DNA is now backing this up:

[1] "distance%=0.3802 / distance=0.003802"


Tanzania_Luxmanda_3000BP 50.7
Dinka 49.3

That's an nMonte model above utilizing a new 3,000 year old pastoralist sample from Tanzania belonging to the Savanna Pastoral Neolithic culture strongly tied to South-Erythraeic speaking people who began leaving the Horn of Africa for Southeast Africa some 3,000-4,000 years ago. You can see the fit is decent, showing significant Savanna Pastoral Neolithic related ancestry in this average for the Maasai Kinyawa samples in the Global-10 PCA.

We owe this new sample to a study headed up by Pontus Skoglund and it comes with a lot more details I'll be poring over to some extent quite soon but for now; I'm just putting this paper out there and sharing that we finally have some aDNA backing for what modern DNA, archaeology and linguistics have been positing for quite a while now regarding South-Erythraeic speakers and their influencing of Southern and Southeastern Africa.

Do read the study in the meantime, though.


Reconstructing Prehistoric African Population Structure, Skoglund et al.

Kostenki-14's Craniofacial Morphology

Saw this post over at Eurogenes and felt I had to read the study being shared. The study Eurogenes' author shared makes two main claims:

  • That Kostenki-14, a 36,200-38,700 year old European, does not look like Papuans and Melanesians (Australo-Melanesians) as previously claimed by authors such as M.M Gerasimov and G.F. Gebets.

  • That Kostenki-14 supposedly fits with what they call the "Caucasian complex".

The first statement would make some sense and, as far as I recall, craniometric data on other Upper-Paleolithic Europeans didn't tend to imply a strong similarity to Papuans or Melanesians or the like.  So, it would be rather odd if Kostenki-14 looked a lot like those populations. He'd be something of a strange outlier, I believe. Gerasimov and company seem to have just exaggerated the affinities based on certain traits Kostenki-14 has like marked alveolar prognathy which this new paper, for the record, finds he does actually have going.

M.M. Gerasimov (left) and A.N. Rogachev during work at Kostenki 14 site (Markina Gora), 1954.

The second statement, however, is what's suspect. Firstly, if we're talking about a so-called "Caucasian complex" where Kostenki-14 seems overall more similar to various pre-historic Europeans than to Southeast Asians, Ryukuans, Papuans and Melanesians then it seems clear that he would fit within such a complex and prove to, overall, share more craniofacial similarities with fellow pre-historic (and probably even modern) Europeans but it's otherwise clear that he does not actually fit into the more modern definition of what constitutes being "Caucasoid" in cranioform:

The position of the Kostenki 14 man in the CV I–II space is illustrated by a graph (see Fig. 1a): this individual, by the sum of craniometric indicators, is unambiguously characterized by the European complex of characters and shows no noticeable deviation toward tropical groups. Note that we are not speaking about its full similarity to any individual ancient European series. On the contrary, the results of our analysis show a sufficiently noticeable anthropological distinctness, which CV IV demonstrates (see Table 1). It separates the Kostenki 14 individual from all the series included in the analysis (see Fig. 1b). The size of differences is very great, amounting to 43% of the total variability range according to CV IV. This vector practically fully depends on one character, namely, the nose height, which is extremely small in the Kostenki 14 individual. Interestingly, the face height in this case is of little significance.

As someone who was once quite interested in craniometrics (and still somewhat am); I'd seen Kostenki-14's skull years ago and how low his nose height in particular seemed even at face-value was never lost on me:

Simply compare that to this archetypal example of a modern male "Caucasoid" skull of European origin from Bone Clones Inc., Osteological Reproductions:

Just so some are following, having just this much of an outlier nose height would would disqualify him from being an actual "Caucasoid" in the more traditional and modern craniofacial sense of the term, and this without even going into other ways in which he looks distinct such as his marked alveolar prognathism and likely rather paleolithic robusticity.

Kostenki-14 reconstruction by M.M. Gersasimov

Now, finally, there's one other statement that really stuck-out to me in the Eurogenes post and that's that Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gerasimov's reconstruction of Kostenki-14 is wrong. This is not true, as far as I know. The Russian paper doesn't even touch upon the reconstruction's validity (they actually display it without any sort of refutation against it in their study); all they seem to refute about Gerasimov's previous work on Kostenki-14 is the morphological affinity Gerasimov and company noted toward groups such as Australo-Melanesians.

The types of reconstructive techniques Gerasimov employed have been reportedly rather accurate. And reconstruction itself, when done right, can definitely be more of a science than an art.

Kostenki 14's location on map
But also, reconstruction is a different matter entirely from the sorts of craniometric measurements conducted in this new paper or that were once put together by Gerasimov and others. Their measurements or findings in that respect being off and overstating an affinity toward Australo-Melanesians does not actually play into how accurately they reconstructed Kostenki-14's looks. Though I would be interested to see other anthropologists take a crack at reconstructing Kostenki 14 in the future.

But all in all, he wasn't "Caucasoid" in the traditional sense and yes; that reconstruction, as far as we know, was roughly what he looked like in terms of facial features.


1. The Upper Paleolithic Man from Markina Gora: Morphology vs. Genetics?, Khartanovich and Zubova 2017

2. Facial reconstruction – anatomical art or artistic anatomy?, Wilkson 2010

3. Facial Reconstruction, Jenny Omstead 2011

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Lowdown on the recent Minoan and Mycenaean samples

I've had some ask me questions on how things seem regarding the new Minoan and Mycenaean samples and since I've slowly been getting back in the game lately, I figured I'd wade into things simply and swiftly.

I often tend to think PCAs (principal component analyses based on autosomal SNPs) are more straight-forwardly telling and useful for getting a point across and the one above really helps summarize how these new samples generally look.

The Minoan samples

In the PCA, the Minoans nearly join what I'd dub the EEF/ANF/LNF/LHG continuum. A continuum formed by populations seemingly rich in VHG-related ancestry and Basal Eurasian ancestry with Natufians (LHGs/Levantine Hunter-Gatherers) so far proving the most Basal Eurasian and Early-European-Farmers (EEFs), descended from a mixture between Anatolian Neolithic Farmers (ANF) and European Hunter-Gatherers of the so-called Villabruna-cluster, proving the most VHG-related.

This continuum's source is ultimately West-Asia with its most VHG-related end (various EEFs) acquiring more VHG-related ancestry in Europe after their ancestors migrated to the region from Anatolia, bringing agriculture along with them to the formerly Hunter-Gatherer dominated region.

The Minoan samples from Lasithi and Odigritia practically do fall within this continuum and would seemingly sit right in-between Anatolian-Neolithic-Farmers and Levantine-Neolithic-Farmers (LNF) if not for a clear eastern-pull being present within them which implies ancestry outside of this continuum giving them an elevated Ancient North Eurasian-related affinity and the study does address that in its abstract alone:

"Here we show that Minoans and Mycenaeans were genetically similar, having at least three-quarters of their ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers of western Anatolia and the Aegean and most of the remainder from ancient populations related to those of the Caucasus and Iran."

Basically, they've found that the Minoans have ancestry from what I'd call the aforementioned continuum's opposite continuum: a continuum of sorts between Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers, Iranian Neolithic Farmers (INF) and a Hunter-Gatherer sample from the Hotu cave in Iran. These particular pre-historics seem to be largely composed of Ancient North Eurasian-related ancestry and Basal Eurasian ancestry as well as perhaps some Villabruna-related ancestry as in the case of CHGs.

And the paper shares some formal-stat based models in its supplementary information to back what its abstract says up:

The models above basically show that the Minoans can be modeled as part something related to Neolithic Anatolians and part something related to Neolithic Iranians and Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers with those models, as you can see with the second set, showing the lowest standard errors/fitting the best. The paper basically summarizes the nature of the Minoan samples in the researchers' opinions with this bit in the supplementary information pdf:

"The Minoans themselves could be modelled as a mixture of Neolithic Anatolians and Caucasus hunter-gatherers, but they could not be successfully modelled as mixtures of later populations."

The emboldened bit is somewhat interesting as I doubt, for obvious reasons, that these Minoans are really a direct intermixture between Neolithic Anatolians and Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers or Neolithic Anatolians and Iranian Neolithic Farmers. It's obviously much more likely that they got such ancestries and affinities by way of proxy from later populations. I.e. from neighboring populations in Anatolia carrying something like Chalcolithic Iranian-related ancestry:

[1] "distance%=0.5658 / distance=0.005658"

Greece_N:Klei10   68.8
Anatolia_BA:I2683 31.1

In the above nMonte model using Global-10 PCA positions, a population akin to Bronze Age Anatolians that intermixed with the earlier ANF/GNF type inhabitants of Crete would have been responsible for the more eastern-pull carrying CHG/INF/IHG related ancestry. And I'd say it's more sensible to assume this sort of way is how the admixture made its way to the area (by way of proxy) but I'm of course not at all detracting from the authors' findings which is that these Minoans look to carry ancestry related to the CHG/INF/IHG continuum. [Important Note]

That being said, I'd also say the lowdown is that these Minoans are visibly distinct from modern Cretans and neighboring mainland Greeks. They're notably more ANF/GNF-related and seem to lack the steppe-related influences in later inhabitants which makes good sense given that they are generally accepted by scholars to not have been Greek/Indo-European speakers and, as a result, seem to trace the majority of their ancestry back to pre-historic West Asia.

However, given that you can model even modern mainland Greeks as being close to a 60% Minoan population - :

[1] "distance%=0.0682 / distance=0.000682"

Minoan_Lasithi   48.25
Ukrainian_West   20.05
Yamnaya_Kalmykia 16.25
Minoan_Odigitria 13.90
Polish            1.55

[1] "distance%=0.0499 / distance=0.000499"

Minoan_Lasithi   59.40
Srubnaya         30.75
Ukrainian_East    4.25
Minoan_Odigitria  3.65
Srubnaya_outlier  1.95

- we're not remotely talking population replacement here. We're just looking at a shift over-time toward Europe caused by various migrations (like that of early Greek speakers and medieval Slavic speakers) bringing in elements such as ancestry from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe.

The Mycenaean Samples

As both the PCA and the study impart, there's not a huge difference at all between the Minoan and Mycenaean samples but there is a difference.

The Mycenaeans come quite close to entering yet another continuum of sorts. This continuum, however, is much more modern. It's been dubbed by some, including myself, as the Eastern Mediterranean continuum and is essentially a cluster inhabited by Sicilians, the Maltese, Western Jews, various Greek islander populations such as modern Cretans, and, finally, Cypriots. 

This is essentially a continuum for populations that serve as a sort of bridge between mainland Southern Europe and the Levant with Cypriots being the most Levantine shifted population:

[1] "distance%=0.4026 / distance=0.004026"

Lebanese_Christian 71.2
Greek              28.8

And Sicilians being the most mainland Southern Europe shifted population:

[1] "distance%=0.5027 / distance=0.005027"

Italian_Tuscan     65.7
Lebanese_Christian 34.4
These Mycenaeans look to lie somewhere in-between the two and have, as the PCA implies, something of a lower eastern-pull than usual, bringing them just a smidgen closer to the EEF/ANF/LNF/LHG continuum. The study itself imparts the following:

"We have successfully modelled Mycenaeans as a mix of (i) Neolithic populations of Anatolia, Neolithic Iran or Caucasus hunter-gatherers, and eastern European huntergatherers or Upper Paleolithic Siberians, (ii) Neolithic Anatolians and Chalcolithic-to-Bronze Age people from Armenia, or (iii) Minoans and Bronze Age people from the Eurasian steppe (or from mainland Europe after the arrival of steppe ancestry there)..."

This is indeed quite easily noticeable via means such as nMonte when a non-academic like myself takes a look:

[1] "distance%=0.2597 / distance=0.002597"

Minoan_Lasithi   85.0
Sintashta         8.4
Yamnaya_Kalmykia  6.6

[1] "distance%=0.2985 / distance=0.002985"

Minoan_Lasithi      84.1
Srubnaya            15.9

The general picture just seems like they're basically close to a majority Minoan-like population that just had some steppe admixture (~10-15%) tacked onto it. This makes sense given that the Mycenaeans were Greek speakers, they were in fact the first known culture to have written Greek down, and the Indo-European language they were speaking would have most likely been brought to Greece by people substantively descended from Bronze Age Steppe pastoralists very similar in ancestry to the pre-historic peoples of the Yamnaya, Srubnaya and Sintashta cultures.

Although, I wouldn't simply interpret this as "The Mycenaeans are descended from the Minoans and are just them + some steppe ancestry." I'd say it's more sound to assume there were Minoan-like peoples in the areas of mainland Greece that these Mycenaean samples are from and it was these people who acquired early Greek alongside steppe admixture intermixed with a complex cultural framework that was already present via being influenced by the likes of the Minoans to herald the first true pre-modern Greek civilization.

Now, there's more information to be had like the uniparental (Y-DNA and mtDNA) results of some of these new samples or some phenotypic data acquired via genomic analysis but this post was ultimately just concerned with summarizing the autosomal affinities shown by these Minoan and Mycenaean samples so I'll leave it at that for now. I also advise reading the full study + its supplementary materials if you wish to know more, of course.


1. Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans, Lazaridis et al. 2017


1. You can understand how nMonte works by going here. And my thanks go to the author of the Eurogenes genome blog for the PCAs used for nMonte and the one shared visually in this post.

2. I've noticed that some people are making a big deal about the lack of either R1a or R1b subclades found among the Mycenaeans given that they, unlike the Minoans, would have been Indo-European speakers, and I'd just like to point out that the Y-DNA sample-size here is literally n=1. 1 sample that's J2a1, that's it. I'm sure once we have more samples some R1b and the like will pop-up given the obvious steppe ancestry these Mycenaeans carry.

3. This is a somewhat decent discussion on the study to check out, though it slightly goes off the rails at times later into the thread.

4. For those wondering why I haven't made a post on the recent African papers; this post was mostly done several weeks ago, I just made some minor edits today and posted it. I'm a little busy lately but will try to make posts on those African studies soon.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Some interesting nMonte models for Oromos

So I recently got around to utilizing nMonte with David's Global 10 PCA and have been able to run models for several global populations and I might share some of these in due time but, in the mean time, I've been working on running models for several Horn & generally East African populations but don't want to crowd this post up with models for all of them so I'll be focusing on Oromos with this post just to sort of introduce people to how I might conduct future nMonte related posts.

You can understand how nMonte works by going here.

At any rate, let us begin:

At first, the global 10 PCA didn't have Ari samples but did have the ancient Mota sample present whilst also lacking Yemenite Jews and Copts so I tried to create a model for the Oromos utilizing Somalis, Negev Bedouin-Bs and Mota where I essentially got this:

[1] "distance%=0.298 / distance=0.00298"

Somali   78.25
Mota     14.20
BedouinB  7.55

Quite a strong fit there and with arguably sensible Mota/Ari-related ancestry most likely owed to Omotic speakers alongside nearly 10% later West-Eurasian ancestry shown through via the model's need to utilize the Negev Bedouins but with quite a lot of Somali-like ancestry being present. This model would basically impart that a 78% Somali, 14% Mota and 8% Bedouin-B population would be very close to being identical to this Oromo average.

Now, in the following case, I utilized Somalis, Ari-Blacksmiths and Yemenite Jews since Aris and Yemenite Jews are more historically sensible. Remember always that a model should make sense (i.e. historical sense) and fit with other analyses and not just statistically fit well:

[1] "distance%=0.3255 / distance=0.003255"

Somali                   74.8
Ethiopian_Ari_blacksmith 19.4
Yemenite_Jew              5.7

A noticeably poorer, but not all that much poorer at all, fit with a climb in most likely Omotic-speaker related admixture which makes sense since Mota is quite an ancient individual who seems to have little genuine Eurasian ancestry unlike the probably more Ari-like population to have admixed with the ancestors of various Oromo speaking subgroups.

The later West-Eurasian ancestry has gone down a little with this model as well which made me wonder if it might be interesting to include both Yemenite Jews as well as Negev Bedouins in the next model but the overall round up for the above model would be that this Oromo average would be extremely close to a 75% Somali, 19% Ari-Blacksmith and 6% Yemenite Jewish population.

[1] "distance%=0.2732 / distance=0.002732"

Somali                   72.10
Ethiopian_Ari_blacksmith 20.65
BedouinB                  6.40
Mota                      0.85
Yemenite_Jew              0.00

This seems to be the very best fit yet and what's interesting is that, as I've noticed before and suspected, Negev Bedouins are favored by these models over Yemenite Jews which is very interesting as this also holds for Habeshas as well, as will be noticed via later posts I make.

I do wonder why given that it's obvious that at least some notable portion of the later West-Eurasian admixture in the Highlands has to be owed to the Proto-Ethiopian Semitic speaking community which would have migrated over from Southwestern-Arabia/Yemen. But we also see a slight upping in the most likely Omotic-speaker tied ancestry thanks to Mota's introduction, I assume. This tallies off into:

72% Somali, 22% Ari/Mota and 6% Negev Bedouin-B being extremely close to this Oromo average, and I keep emphasizing that this is an Oromo average because that is actually one problem with these particular models. I'm utilizing the average clustering position of the modern populations present in the datasheet (since that's all that is available) and while that isn't such a big deal for more homogeneous sets like the Somalis or Tigrinyas; it can obviously not give us the whole picture for more heterogeneous clusters like the Oromo samples.

Different subsets of the Oromo cluster will likely end up with different results under these models (i.e. the more Borana and Borana-like samples will assumably not show the Negev Bedouin-B/Yemenite Jewish affinities) and these results are ultimately what you get for an averaged out population containing all those differing samples.

But, in the end, the results look generally sensible in that they can spot that Oromos generally have substantive Ari-like ancestry whilst many, like Habeshas and Agaws, carry later West-Eurasian influences that Somalis have far less of or generally don't carry at all while the remainder of their ancestry looks quite Somali-like as ADMIXTURE had implied with other closely related populations in the past.

Being more accurate about the substrates in Ethiopian Semitic

Several times in the past; I've stated that the Ethiopian Semitic languages have an Agaw/Central-Erythraeic substratum and while this is quite true for the likes of Amharic, Argobba and Tigrinya... It's not entirely true for Harari, the Gurage languages & Tigre. 

Tigres, unlike other Ethiopian Semitic speakers, were not historically a predominantly sedentary highland farmer population but were instead lowland semi-nomadic pastoralists similar to many Bejas, Sahos, Afars & Somalis. Alongside this, their language doesn't have a Central Erythraeic substratum but a Beja/North-Erythraeic substratum which implies that some of their ancestors and predecessors were most likely Beja speaking semi-nomads. [3]

In fact, a people in Eritrea and Sudan called the "Beni-Amer" are often understood to be a mixture between Bejas and Tigres and will speak either both languages or one of the two, though they're often considered one of the tribes of the Beja.

Old photograph of a Tigre man with a slain lioness

And, as I've pointed out in the past, a good amount of the peoples on what is now the Eritrean coastline were seemingly referred to by the Greco-Romans essentially as "Barbaroi" (non-Greek speakers) of some sort or other whilst their seemingly pastoralist life-style was sometimes alluded to. These peoples at one point, unlike the Barbaroi in North-Central Somalia who seemed largely independent, were seemingly under the control of the Aksumite Monarch and even "policed" the shores of the Eritrean coastline on his behalf:

"One Metrodorus, a philosopher, is said to have penetrated to further India in order to view places and see the world. Inspired by his example, one Meropius, a philosopher of Tyre, wished to visit India with a similar object, taking with him two small boys who were related to him and whom he was educating in humane studies. The younger of these was called Aedesius, the other Frumentius. When, having seen and taken note of what his soul fed upon, the philosopher had begun to return, the ship, on which he traveled put in for water or some other necessary at a certain port. It is the custom of the Barbaroi of these parts that, if ever the neighbouring tribes should report that their treaty with the Romans is broken, all Romans found among them should be massacred. The philosopher's ship was boarded; all with himself were put to the sword. The boys were found studying under a tree and preparing their lessons, and, preserved by the mercy of the barbaroi, were taken to the king. He made one of them, Aedesius, his cupbearer. Frumentius, whom he had perceived to be sagacious and prudent, he made his treasurer and secretary. Therefore they were held in great honour and affection by the king."[1]

Whether or not they're linguistically the "descendants" of these peoples is rather irrelevant, in life-style and the areas they inhabit; modern Tigres, Bejas, Sahos and Afars on the Eritrean coast are essentially the successors of these tribes and most likely, in some great part or entirely, descended from them.

Some Gurage folk beside some of their traditional dwellings

The other group are speakers within the Harari and Gurage groupings of "Southern Ethiopian Semitic" whose languages actually have a Sidamic substratum. By Sidamic I mean "Highland East Erythraeic" which is a subbranch of East Erythraeic alongside Lowland East Erythraeic, the latter being the node Oromo, Somali, Afar and Saho belong to.

This makes sense given that the speakers of the various Gurage languages have seemingly lived in the Central-South Ethiopian Highlands for quite a long time, to a point where their languages have acquired rather pronounced influences from the local Erythraeic languages:

"Sidamo is the substratum language of the Gurage speaking region. Sidamo influenced the Gurage cluster in the phonology, morphology, syntax, and mainly in the vocabulary."" [4]

Even their dwellings/huts which are pictured above are more similar to those of close-by Oromos and Sidamic speakers, in my humble opinion, than to those of Amharas or Tigrinyas. They also look to lack Hidmo type dwellings (some Hidmos) which were historically found among Tigrinya speakers alongside round-huts which seems somewhat representative of how Aksumite farmer peasantry (what would've been the majority of the populace) might have lived in:

"Some clay models of houses survive which illustrate the architectural style of the smaller
Aksumite dwellings. A round hut, with a conical roof thatched in layers, and a rectangular doorway, is one type from Hawelti (de Contenson 1963ii: pl. XXXVII, b-c). A second type from Hawelti is rectangular, the doors and windows also rectangular, with a roof supported by beams whose `monkey-head' ends can be seen below the eaves. The roof has a small parapet and there is a waterspout to drain it (de Contenson 1963ii: pl. XXXVIII-XXXIX)." [1]

Granted, Amharas historically tended to lack this type of dwelling as well, from what I've seen; and, for at least the last 300-500 years or possibly more, look to have mostly inhabited some form of round-hut, whether wattle & daub or mud-mortared stone in construction. [note] Unlike Argobbas (their close linguistic relatives in a supposed "Amhara-Argobba" linguistic node) who do have some form of pseudo-Hidmo type dwellings alongside some huts to this very day.

Aside from this, the Gurage folk also look to display numerous cultural traits shared with the local Erythraeic speakers of Central-South Ethiopia such as an apparent historic presence of Waaq worship (Sky-God seemingly worshiped by many pre-Islamic Somalis, Afars & Sidamic speakers as well even some Oromos today) along with a strong presence of Muslims to this day given that at least one of the Medieval Muslim polities of Ethiopia's hinterland was likely "Gurage" in origin and a neighbor to the likes of the Sidamic speaking Hadiya polity.

1800s depiction of Harar

The final group in question are intriguingly Adares/Hararis whose language seems to form a node with the East-Gurage languages called "Harari-East Gurage"; they are a people who've, at least for the last ~300-500 years, inhabited the town of Harar in Eastern Ethiopia (East Hararghe) which, around the mid-1800s, had a population somewhat below ~15,000 people:

"During his visit in the 19th century (1854), Richard F. Burton describes the town as having roughly 8,000 inhabitants with 2,500 of these being Hararis, 2,500 being Somalis and 3,000 being Bedouins who come and go. Though in this case, "Bedouin" is simply a term for nomads in the region whether they were Somalis, Afars or Oromos and doesn't necessarily connote an Arab origin. At this point in time, predating the conquest of Harar by Menelik II, there was no mention of Oromo, Amhara, Tigray-Tigrinya or Gurage residents who are now common in the town whilst Hararis and Somalis who are now minorities looked to be the bulk of the population at the time." [note] [2]

You'll probably see several at times outlandish claims about how old the town is but, as far as I've noticed through actual evidence for the time being, the earliest mentions of the town that I've seen only really date to the early 1500s during which case it's historic sections weren't seemingly as well-built as they are now or during the mid-1800s (it's surrounding wall wasn't built until later into the 1500s, for example). Richard F. Burton, who visited during the mid-1800s, is perhaps more diminishing of its early past than I'd be though:

"Harar was a mere mass of Bedouin villages during the reign of Mohammed Gragne, the “left-handed”" [2]

It probably existed before the 1500s but as a much smaller and more irrelevant settlement. Granted, Harar was never truly that big historically. It's importance was as a town of Islamic learning, basket weaving, textiles and trade but it wasn't exactly some sort of pre-modern "Metropolis".

But that's not what's interesting here... What's intriguing is that the language of the local Adares/Hararis has a Sidamic substrate the same way the various Gurage languages do. Enrico Cerulli was one of the first to discover this many years ago and it seems to be common wisdom at this point. Although, what's extra-intriguing is that he suggested the prior inhabitants of the area where Adares/Hararis live now were Sidamic speakers and that the Ethiopian Semitic language was grafted onto theirs as they were assimilated.

I find it a bit implausible that Sidamic speakers lived that deep into Eastern Ethiopia and so close to Northwestern Somalia. Though I suppose it's not impossible prior to the spread of the Oromo people. Nevertheless, it's more likely, to me, that the linguistic predecessors of Adares/Hararis perhaps lived where the Gurage peoples do and acquired their substrate there then moved to East Hararghe to find people mostly like Somalis but I suppose one can't be absolutely sure.

I've encountered the autosomal DNA results of at least two Hararis who were tested via 23andme and one was, oddly, a distant relative of mine and, aside from being 1/8 Pakistani (paternal great grandfather), his Horn African side seemed somewhat like a crossing between Somalis and Tigrinyas. The other fellow, as is visible above, seemed essentially identical to your average Tigrinya. 

Not exactly what I'd expect from people who might be predominantly of Central-South Ethiopian origins (one might expect higher levels of Ari Blacksmith-like ancestry? [note]). Or perhaps it implies, as some prior indications might have, that Sidamic speakers are very similar to Northern Ethiopian Highlanders from a genetic perspective. 

At any rate, all of these little details I'm getting into now are for another time, the point of this post was outlining that not all of the Ethiopian Semitic languages chiefly have Agaw/Central-Erythraeic substrates the way Tigrinya & Amharic do. Harari and the Gurage languages have a Sidamic substratum whilst Tigre has a North-Erythraeic/Beja substratum, for instance.


4. Gurage Studies: Collected Articles, by Wolf Leslau


1. If anyone has access to Sidamo, Alaba, Kembatta or any other such Sidamic speaker genome; sharing its results would be quite appreciated, same goes for Harari or even Tigre results (granted, I've seen a number of what look to be Tigre results already).

2. I edited the text from Munro-Hay's book to say "Barbaroi" instead of "Barbarian" as the English word "Barbarian" is a poor translation of what Greco-Roman terms such as "Barbaros" (βάρβαρος), "Barbaroi" and so on actually meant: [-] [-]

3. This is an old post I largely prepared almost 7 months ago but never got around to finishing up the last few details for and posting so apologies if anything at all seems vaguely outdated though it mostly looks tip-top to my eyes now.