Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer ancestry and Indo-Hittite
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Caucasus hunter-gatherer (CHG) ancestry is defined by a Late Palaeolithic individual from Satsurblia cave (ca. 11000 BC), and a Mesolithic individual from Kotias Klde cave, in western Georgia (ca. 6000 BC) – both of haplogroup J-M304 (the Kotias sample, and possibly both, from J2-M172).
Caucasus hunter-gatherers seem to have weathered much of the last Ice Age in isolation, with the individual from Satsurblia showing also signs of recent consanguinity. That isolation has continued partially into the modern population of the southern Caucasus, in terms of ancestry, as well as Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups[Jones et al. 2015].
CHG ancestry was believed until recently to have contributed only late to the population of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, coinciding with the formation of the Yamna culture, since Samara hunter-gatherers showed only EHG ancestry and no CHG ancestry, while Yamna samples had up to 43% of CHG ancestry[Jones et al. 2015][Lazaridis et al. 2016]. However, steppe ancestry accompanied by CHG component has been found in an individual from the Balkans at Varna I (ca. 4630 BC), and steppe ancestry in Smyadovo (ca. 4500 BC), some 2,000-1,000 years before the main Chalcolithic expansions associated with the steppes[Mathieson et al. 2017].
Modified from Mathieson et al (2017). «Supervised ADMIXTURE plot, modeling each ancient individual (one per row), as a mixture of populations represented by clusters containing Anatolian Neolithic (grey), Yamnaya from Samara (orange), EHG (red) and WHG (blue)». Dates indicate approximate range of individuals in each population[Mathieson et al. 2017]. Original image under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International license..
Modified from Mathieson et al (2017). «Individuals projected onto axes defined by the principal components of 799 present-day West Eurasians (not shown in thisplot for clarity, but shown in Extended Data Figure 1). Projected points include selected published individuals (faded colored circles, labeled) and newly reported individuals (other symbols; outliers shown by additional black circles). Colored polygons indicate the individuals that had cluster memberships fixed at 100% for the supervised admixture analysis [on the right]».
This suggests a more likely gradual contribution from intermittent contacts with cultures from the Caucasus during the Mesolithic-Neolithic and Neolithic-Chalcolithic transitions, joint with the westward expansions (and probably inner west-east movements) of Middle Indo-European speakers in the Pontic-Caspian steppe and beyond its natural frontiers to the north.
This CHG ancestry might have been involved in what is believed to be a Caucasian substratum of Indo-European[Bomhard 2017], potentially differentiating it from Uralic within a hypothetic ancient Indo-Uralic group (Kortlandt 2002). On the other hand, CHG ancestry has also been found in Neolithic samples from the north Pontic steppe regions, so that the linguistic differences between Uralic and Indo-Hittite cannot be explained solely by the contribution of the population from the Caucasus.
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