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Turks

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Let me make something explicit: I believe that the model outlined in First Farmers is too simple, and that extant patters of linguistic and genetic variation need to accept the likelihood of multiple population reorganizations across vast swaths of Eurasia within the last 10,000 years. The classic case in point are the Turks. Because of their exotic character vis-a-vis the populations which they displaced and assimilated we can peg rather easily their expansion. Between 0 and 1000 AD they began to make themselves felt across a broad expanse of Eurasia from the eastern fringes of Europe to the western fringes of China, and south toward the world of Islam. Between 1000 and 1800 the Turkic peoples took over much of Eurasia for various periods of time (e.g., the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, were Turkic, while the Golden Horde which imposed the Tatar Yoke were mostly Turkic, not Mongol). It is notable to me that Turkic peoples contributed ~10 percent to the genetic ancestry of modern Anatolians. This is a significant achievement, because Anatolia has been a densely populated seat of agricultural civilization for almost the whole history of agriculture! In Central Asia Turks genetically admixed significantly, to the point of preponderance, with the Iranian substrate.

Why does this matter? Because if it hadn’t happened, and it hadn’t happened in the light of history, I doubt we’d believe it! The Turks were obscure tribes in Central Eurasia 2,000 years ago. There was no anticipating that somehow they would overturn what had been the Iranian world of western Inner Asia, and, that they would break through into the civilized societies of the periphery, to the point of taking them over from above, and assimilating them from below. I do not think the Turks are exceptional in this. It must have happened many times in the past. We just need to open our minds to the possibilities.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Anthropology, Turks 
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Mughal Emperor Akbar

In Strange Parallels Victor Lieberman made a reference to “Turkicized Pathans.” The very term has been gnawing at me. To get some sense of the context, Lieberman was sketching out the impact of Islamic civilization upon Indian civilization. Sometimes this “impact” was very literal. The Arab armies had rolled into Sindh in the 8th century, but that influence upon India was militarily marginal. The first real Muslim raider of consequence was Mahmud of Ghazni, a Turkic raider from what is today Afghanistan, who famously plundered the palaces and temples of North India circa ~1000. But even here the the impact is arguably superficial. Mahmud of Ghazni’s raids did not lead to a large Indian domain under his direct rule except in Punjab. Rather, these sallies into India were sources of supplementation to his broader fiscal resources. He was still fundamentally a Central Asian potentate fixated on Central Asian concerns. The real rise of Islamic civilization in India was precipitated by the Delhi Sultanate, a series of short-lived polities beginning circa ~1200 which dominated the Indian subcontinent for centuries, until they were superseded by the far more robust Mughal Empire.

These Indo-Islamic dominions were often dominated by individuals of Turkic identity. By this, I mean that they were from a lineage of Turkic tribes which had filtered into the world of Islam in the centuries before 1000, enslaved or enrolled in the armies of Muslim warlords. But eventually these pawns turned the tables on their erstwhile masters and snatched the keys to the kingdom for themselves. Mahmud of Ghazni’s own family were originally servitors of the Iranian Muslim Samanid dynasty. But just as Rome was enslaved by Greece culturally after its conquest of Hellas, so many Turks freely granted the manifest superiority of the Persian language in the domain of culture. Therefore the irony is that the Persian language spread as the elite cultural vehicle along with the expansion of the Turks west and east, culminating with the rise of the Ottomans and Mughals. Therefore you had a situation in Mughal India where the ruling dynasty, which was of proud Turco-Mongol origin along the paternal lineage, patronized Persian was the language of the court and administration more generally.

But what about the Afghans? They were not invisible. Along with the Turks and Persians, who came with the sword and quill respectively to serve in the courts of India’s Islamic rulers, came auxiliaries of Afghans, mostly Pashtuns. Though a majority of the dynasts seem to claim Turkic antecedents, some are self-consciously Afghan. For example the Lodi dynasty. The influence of these people is evident in India today insofar as upper class Muslims often refer to themselves as “Pathans,” presumably pointing to an origin outside of Indian proper.


To me it seems that the development of the Pathan over time is hampered by the fact that they are a people who did not develop their own independent robust high culture. A variety of Persian was the language of high culture. The Other par excellence was the Turk. The Pathan was a background figure, the illiterate peasant or nomad which was of no concern, and who integrated themselves into a Turkic or Persian world and identity when they rose above their station. In this way I wonder if they resemble Kurds, another highland Iranian people who have persisted over the centuries but seem strangely invisible as great empires rise and fall. This invisibility, a decentralized lack of reliance on elite institutional structures, may be one reason that a coherent Kurdish or Pathan identity persisted over so long, and continues down to this day, despite the spread of Turkic language in many zones of their broader region.

Though I probably know more about Indian history than most of you I’m still somewhat in the dark as to the detailed relationship of between Turks and Afghans in Afghanistan and India during this period. Much of the literature focuses on the faction between immigrants from outside India vs. those who were native-born, or between Muslim elites and Hindu elites. Secondarily there were divisions between Shia and Sunni, with Persians looming large.

I don’t have fluency in the languages to do primary research, but I do have genetic data sets to play with. I pruned my populations down to a few which were designed to explore the nature of East Asian ancestry among other groups, in particular Pathans. The population set has ~90,000 markers, and I ran ADMIXTURE across many K’s, with 9 seeming to be the most illuminating for my purposes. Below are three bar plots, one which shows population averages, and two which focus on specific populations on the grain of individuals. There are also two plots which visualize genetic distances between the hypothetical ancestral populations, labeled by modal group.

[zenphotopress album=288 sort=sort_order number=5]

When you analyze East Asian data sets they always tend to divide first into a northeastern and southeastern component. In this case I have a northern Turkic group, Yakuts, in my population set. Since the data set is “Pakistan-centered” you see divisions of ancestral groups with a focus on that region. If I overloaded with Western European populations the outcomes might be very different in absolute terms. As per what other genome bloggers have found using a Pakistan-centered data set South Asian populations can be separable as admixtures of three broad elements:

1) A north Pakistan centered element, modal in the Burusho ethno-linguistic isolate. This element seems rather distant from other West Eurasian components, and is broadly correlated with “West Asian” in other runs (though the overlap is imperfect because of the Pakistani bias of this data set).

2) A south Pakistan centered element, modal in the Brahui, a Dravidian ethno-linguistic group surrounded by the Iranian speaking Balochi, with whom they share most cultural features except language.

3) A more South Asian general element, which is represented here by the Gujarati_B sample (probably Patels). It’s position on the Fst MDS is pretty much where you would expect from a South Asian population which is an admixture of West Eurasian and non-West Eurasian populations. Interestingly the proportion of this element in the Balochi and Brahui is in the same neighborhood as among the Cambodians. On the face of it I’m skeptical that there was a mass migration of South Asians to Cambodia, despite the Indic associations of early Khmer society. Rather, it seems more likely to be evidence of an ancient South Eurasian substratum which spanned the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. On the other hand, Malays and Cambodians exhibit evidence of South Asian ancestry even when the Andaman Islander component is extracted out. Looking at other groups I’m still strongly leaning toward the assumption that this is an artifact though looking at some other results at the linked plot. But it will be something to investigate more closely in the future.

But there are other components at low proportions among the Pakistanis aside from the “big three.” Here are the population breakdowns in tabular form:

Population Dai Yakut Burusho Baltic Brahui Yemeni Bantu Sardinian Gujarati
Brahui 1% 1% 8% 3% 71% 6% 3% 3% 6%
Balochi 1% 1% 12% 3% 62% 6% 2% 2% 10%
Makrani 0% 0% 12% 1% 61% 9% 6% 4% 6%
Sindhi 2% 1% 21% 4% 32% 2% 4% 2% 32%
Pathan 2% 3% 27% 11% 22% 5% 1% 2% 27%
Iranians 1% 1% 30% 4% 15% 30% 3% 14% 3%
Uzbeks 14% 25% 18% 18% 7% 8% 0% 4% 5%
Turks 1% 4% 25% 12% 7% 27% 0% 22% 1%
Syrians 1% 0% 20% 3% 5% 44% 4% 23% 1%
Hazara 21% 29% 27% 7% 5% 4% 0% 2% 5%
Gujarati_b 1% 1% 2% 2% 3% 2% 0% 2% 88%
Georgians 0% 0% 43% 5% 1% 24% 0% 27% 0%
Chuvashs 2% 20% 3% 71% 1% 1% 0% 1% 1%
Cambodians 86% 1% 0% 0% 1% 0% 1% 0% 10%
Belorussian 0% 0% 1% 84% 1% 2% 0% 11% 1%
Burusho 8% 5% 55% 2% 1% 0% 1% 0% 28%
Lithuanians 0% 0% 0% 95% 0% 1% 0% 4% 0%
Yakut 1% 94% 0% 4% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0%
Han 83% 17% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Yemen Jews 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 99% 0% 1% 0%
Dai 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Sardinian 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 2% 0% 97% 0%
Miaozu 89% 11% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Bantu Kenya 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 2% 98% 0% 0%

I’ve highlighted Pakistani populations, and bolded the modal fraction for all groups. The important point is to look at the ratio between “Yakut” and “Dai.” This should be an indication of the “Turkicness” of a population, with higher ratios implying more Turkic ancestry. The Burusho are a good test case. They exhibit little intra-population variation in the non-trivial East Asian proportion. But they’re somewhat biased toward a Dai component. I suspect that this balance is evidence of Tibetan admixture, as opposed to Turkic. In contrast, the Pathan levels are low, but biased toward Yakut ancestry. The ratio is very similar to the geographically close Hazara population, which is a clear Turco-Mongol ancestry in part, despite their adherence to a Persianate (Dari speaking) identity today. For me the point of curiosity is that the Pathan differ from the Baloch. The Baloch are in many ways just a more cosmopolitan spin on the Brahui, something that would make sense if the Iranian Baloch identity is an overlay upon a earlier Brahui layer. It would be interesting to know if the interaction with Turkic groups was historically known to be far less among the Baloch and Brahui than the Pathan, despite the geographically close position of these groups.

My analysis here is superficial. The analytic techniques aren’t too deep or informative. Rather, my intent was to push forward the project of exploring parahistorical dynamics through genetics. But “parahistory” I’m not talking counterfactuals, but rather what textually and even physically focused analysis of the past misses because of its methodological constraints. Would we know of the possibility of a relict Dravidian substratum in the hills of Balochistan deep into the medieval era if not for the fact that Brahui persists to this day? (it is giving way to Baloch even today) Many populations remain “dark” to textual records, or mentioned only as an aside to the “main stream” of military and fiscal concerns of rentier aristocracies or the poetic grandiloquence of literary elites. Archaeology in theory can compensate for this bias in the written word, but it is only an imperfect science in a positivistic sense. I am skeptical that archaeologists would have been bold enough to assert the existence of a Dravidian substratum in Balochistan even if there was a physical difference in the material objects. How would they even connect these people to Dravidian languages in the rest of South Asian anyhow?

As for the Turks and Pathans, some Turks did turn Pathan I believe. In fact one of the HGDP Pathans seems clearly to have been the product of recent admixture. That is not so surprising in light of history. Rather, it is critical to pin down specific values if we are ever to understand with any clarity the nature of ethnogenesis of the groups which met at the intersection of what the ancient Persians would have termed Iran, Turan, and Hind.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History, Science • Tags: Genomics, South Asian genomics, Turks 
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Over the past week there have been three posts which I’ve put up which are related. Two of them have a straightforward relation, Britons, English, Germans, and collective action and Britons, English, and Dutch. But the third might not seem related to the other two, We stand on the shoulders of cultural giants, but it is. When we talk about things such as the spread of language through “elite emulation” or “population replacement” they’re rather vague catchall terms. We don’t decompose them mechanistically into their components to explore whether they can explain what they purport to explain. Rather, we take these phenomena for granted in a very simplistic black box fashion. We know what they’re describing on the face of it. “We” here means people without a background in sociolinguistics, obviously.

To give an example of the pitfall of this method, in much of Rodney Stark’s work on sociology of religion (the production before his recent quasi-apologetic material) his thinking was crisp and logical, but the psychological models were intuitive and naive and tended to get little input from the latest findings in cognitive science. In One True God he actually offers an explanation for why Christian Trinitarianism is psychologically more satisfying than the starker monotheism of the Jews and Muslims, or the more elaborated diffuse polytheism which predates monotheism. All I will say is whether you are convinced or not, Stark’s argument has some logical coherency and a level of plausibility, until you explore the literature in cognitive science on conceptualization of supernatural agents. The psychological literature as outlined in Theological Incorrectness indicates quite clearly that no matter the explicit philosophical nature of God as outlined in a given religion, cognitively the human mind has strong constraints in terms of how it represents abstractions, so that the vast majority of believers conceptualize the godhead in an invariant manner. To be more clear about it, even though Jews and Muslims are strict monotheists and some Hindus conceive of themselves as polytheists,* their concrete mental image of the divine doesn’t vary much from person to person and religion to religion. As a practical matter Hindus who may accept the reality of a nearly infinite number of gods on paper still exhibit personal devotion to only a few. Jews and Muslims who are strict monotheists nevertheless may have cults of saints and lesser supernatural agents in their mental universe. There is a difference between saying you accept the reality of millions of gods, and actually being able to mentally focus on millions of gods. The latter is not possible, and that has real world consequences, in that the concrete difference between an avowed polytheistic and monotheist in terms of mental state is minimal at most. So the psychological contrasts which Stark assumes motivate higher order social differences turn out to be superficial word games in pure cognitive terms.**

Similarly, we know intuitively what “elite emulation” means. It’s self-evident in that the mass of the population emulates the elite in terms of their folkways. But how does this really play out? The description is just a description, it doesn’t elaborate on the process of how you get from A to Z. When I try and find references in the ethnographic literature, generally what I encounter is in as an aside. What has been gnawing at me are cases like the Bulgar assimilation into the Slavic substrate, and the Magyar assimilation of their own Slavic and Latinate substrate. What distinguishes these two cases? They’re two instances of mobile populations from the western margins of Inner Asia erupting into the eucumene. Even if they were not pure horse-nomads in the vein of the Huns, they were clearly amongst the last of these class of peoples to force themselves into the heart of Europe after the fall of Rome because of their obligate male militarization and mobility. In the case of the Bulgarians all that remains of their distinctive identity as a mobile Turkic population is their ethnonym. In contrast in the case of the Magyars they imposed their Ugric language language upon the population which they dominated. Modern Hungarians don’t seem to be any genetically different from what you’d expect based on geography. This is in contrast with Anatolian Turks, who do seem to have a minority East Asian element. The emergence of a dominant Magyar ethnicity on the Hungarian plain in the early medieval period then is clearly an instance of elite emulation if there ever was one, in contrast to the absorption of the Bulgars into their substrate. But this is just a description, it doesn’t tell us why elite emulation worked in one zone, but not in another.


The reason that the three posts above are related is that mass cultural shifts don’t just happen on the individual level. A lot of one’s world view is absorbed implicitly from socialization in a group setting. And as noted in the paper on the transmission and evolution of culture you have very little conscious and reflective understanding of how different discrete elements cohere into a functional whole. This doesn’t mean that wholesale adoption of another culture is impossible, but one has to be aware of parameters which make such a transformation plausible. Consider a few examples. There are individuals who move from one nation to another as adults, and over time they assimilate by and large to the nation to which they have moved. It is a process which takes decades, but it does occur. But this requires total immersion in an unfamiliar set of folkways, until what was once familiar becomes alien, and what was once strange becomes second nature. In contrast, if you move from one nation to a Diaspora of your own nation in another nation, then the shift in values is likely to be far less. You have critical cultural mass and can self-select a social environment which doesn’t perturb your cultural presuppositions.

Let’s shift to another example which is somewhat different in its parameters. One can argue that the culture of black Americans is not predominantly African in origin, but a melange of Anglo influences. Remember that the vast majority of the ancestors of black Americans were likely in the United States of America well before 1800. The slave community of the early republic was already indigenous, with minimal ties to the African lands from which their ancestors had been transported. But how exactly did cultural change happen so rapidly to so many? In the case of black Americans their ancestors were brought over from different regions with little in common aside from being African. It has long even been argued by some that the slave owners were careful not to allow for the concentration of particular groups amongst the set of their human property lest they mobilize based on common ethnic bonds (apparently there were concentrations of Igbo in Virginia, which planters attempted to diminish by exportation to the Deep South). The black American culture emerged as a creole culture, drawing upon common African tendencies, but also English speaking and Christian, two traits derived from the society into which they were thrown. The main exception in the United States to this tendency of only superficial African culture traits are the Gullah people of Low Country South Carolina. Their culture seems to have some genuine connection to the folkways of the Guinea coast. It is also notable that the relationship of the slaves who were rice farmers of coastal South Carolina to their owners was very different from that of the norm across most of the South. The ancestors of the Gullah people were more like serfs than slaves. They were tied to the land, but were still given the space and liberty to have a modicum of normal family and social life, which was not necessarily the case with most American slaves. Much of this is based on the raw economics of rice farming, which was not as amenable as cotton and sugar production in turning human slaves into pure labor units of value which were perfectly interchangeable and expendable. Whatever the details of the economics, it is noteworthy that the American blacks who preserved the greatest proportion of African cultural traits are those who were the least dehumanized by the grinding logic of early modern cash-crop slavery.

The point of the two examples above is that we can see plainly how individuals in some contexts absorb by and large the values of other societies. If you are extracted from your society of origin and thrown into a new context, you slowly can absorb new cultural norms, explicitly and implicitly. If you are enslaved and thrown together into an undifferentiated mass with individuals with whom you share little culturally, then a common creole culture will emerge. It turns out that the creole is often, but not always, derived in its fundamentals from the enslavers, who often impose their language and religion upon those whom they enslave. How about other cases?

First, let’s consider the case of the Muslim world. The conquests between 650-750 pushed the dominion of Islam from the Atlantic to Sindh. Within the Afro-Asiatic zone there was a shift from non-Arab to Arab ethno-linguistic identity, concomitant with a conversion to Islam. In the Persian world there was a switch from Zoroastrianism to Islam. There are differences of detail here. We do know that Greek remained a language of administration in the Arab Caliphate into the early 8th century, at least two generations after the conquest. After the shift to Arabic the process of Arabicization of language and Islamicization of religion proceeded much further. It seems likely that the majority of individuals in the Levant and Mesopotamia identified as Arab Muslims sometime during the prime of Abbassid Caliphate, 150-200 years after the conquest. Nevertheless, substantial minorities in the Fertile Crescent zone remained Christian or Jewish, and preserved non-Arabic languages for centuries. A similar shift in Egypt can probably be pushed back by about 100 years. What you see is a gradual and synchronous shift toward identification as Arab and Muslim. Over time this marginalized the language of ancient Egypt, what became Coptic, and non-Arabic Semitic languages in the Fertile Crescent. The most recent phylogeography seems to suggest that this transformation was not purely cultural, insofar as there seem to be small, but consistent, differences between Muslim and non-Muslim populations (the Muslim populations are invariably more cosmopolitan, exhibiting signs of being impacted by gene flow across the Islamic international, from Inner Asia down to Sub-Saharan Africa).

Persia, what became Iran, is a different case. What occurred here is that there was a gradual shift in the peasantry to Islam, but by the mid-9th century there were no elite lineages which patronized Zoroastrianism. The last Zoroastrian principalities in the mountains of northwest Iran submitted by the middle of the 9th century (though there were Zoroastrian inspired rebellions drawing upon folk religion as late as the 10th century). Without elite patronage and protection Zoroastrianism seems to have lacked the institutional robustness to withstand Islamicization. The material I have seen suggests that Islamicization in the core Persian lands Islamicization occurred at around the same pace as Egypt, with a Muslim majority by 1000 at the latest. But unlike the Christians of Egypt the Zoroastrians of Iran almost disappeared, preserving themselves as relict populations in very isolated regions such as Yazd. One can give many explanations for this, but the connection between the Iranian elite and the Zoroastrian religion was traditionally very close, and once that connection was severed with the Islamicization of the Iranian-speaking elite it seems that Zoroasrianism simply withered for lack of patronage. This may have an analogy with the Church of the East, which unlike the Jacobites of Syria and the Copts of Egypt had no theological “sister churches” which were not under Muslim dominion. Interestingly the Persians did not abandon their language. One thesis proposed is that language shift was relatively easy for Syriac speakers, and perhaps even other Afro-Asiatic groups such as Coptic and Berber populations, but not for Indo-Europeans.

Another example which might give us further insight is the case of Latin America. By and large Iberian language and religion have superimposed themselves upon the region. How? In the southern cone of Latin America, reaching up into much of Brazil, it is through simple demographics analogous to the North American model. But in much of the rest of Latin America there has been a great deal of racial amalgamation. In particular, the mestizo populations tend to have male Iberian ancestors and female native ancestors. But culturally they are identified more with their Iberian ancestors than their Amerindian ones; at least in relation to civilizationally salient markers of note such as language and religion. Why is there such a disjunction between the genetic parity in terms of ancestry and cultural skew toward their Iberian forebears? Because genes and memes have different inheritance constraints. In particular, memes are far more flexible in terms of how they transmit, allowing for asymmetric vertical transmission (identify with the culture of one parent, not the other), as well as horizontal transmission (across peer groups). Consider for example a toy example: most socialization occurs in peer groups, which develop their own norms. But, those norms themselves cue on the modal cultural pattern of the previous cohort. What does this mean concretely? That peer groups are homogeneous evolutions from the dominant, but not exclusive, culture of the parental generation. To give a real world example, American children develop their own idioms, accents, and slang. But these linguistic tendencies themselves need the starting point of the dominant language of the society. The parental generation might be 10% non-native English speakers with all the peculiarities which that might entail, but the offspring generation might be impacted not at all by the 10% non-native English speakers, because they take their cue from the 90% of parents who are native speakers. Of course given enough demographic heft immigrants can change a language. So in Argentina the influx of Italians was so overwhelmingly that it reshaped the Spanish spoken in that nation. And yet Spanish is spoken in Argentina, English in the United States, and Portuguese in Brazil, despite the fact that the majority of the ancestry in these regions may not be from Castile, England, and Portugal, respectively.

A final example I want to cover is that of the spread of the Turks. There seems a rough consensus that circa 2,000 years ago the progenitors of the modern Turkic languages was localized roughly to the region of western Mongolia and its environs. Much of western Eurasia which is now dominated by Turks was the domain of Indo-European speakers. With the expansion of the Turks between 500 and 1500 the zone of Indo-European speech from Inner Asia to the Mediterranean fragmented. By this, I mean that Indo-European did not disappear, but it was marginalized or absorbed by Turkic groups across much of its old zone. In Central Asia the Tajiks are the remnants of the dominant Iranian populations, along with isolates like the Yaghnobis who preserved themselves in mountainous redoubts. On the plains north of the Black Sea the Turks cleared out most of the Iranian populations. Groups such the Ossetians took refuge in mountainous zones as well. Of course this particular example of the spread of Turks has been somewhat erased by the later expansion of Slavs, and assimilation of many of the Turkic groups on the frontier of demographic expansion (though groups like Tatars and Chuvash remain). In Iran and Anatolia Turks and Indo-European speakers, whether it be Greeks, Armenians, and Persians, existed in symbiosis for centuries. Over time the northwestern Persian zone was fully Turkicized. But if you looked at a map of language distributions circa 1900 you’d see Turkic interlaced with various pre-Turkic Indo-European languages from the Aegean to Khorasan. In other words, the shift from Indo-European to Turkic has been halting, fragmentary, and incomplete, in many regions. But what about the genetic impact? Because Turks were originally East Asian that is not too difficult to ascertain. It seems that in Central Asia, what was once termed Turan by the Iranians, the impact has been substantial, and some cases dominant (e.g., the Kazakhs). This stands to reason because the migration of some groups, like the Kyrgyz, occurred in historical time. On the other extreme the Anatolian Turks seem to be ~5% or so East Asian. This seems a strong argument for elite emulation. But, it needs to be qualified by the fact that the arrivals of Turks to Anatolia occurred five centuries after their initial peregrinations out of Mongolia. In other words, the dilution of the genetic signal of the nomads who arrived after the defeat at Manzikert has to be kept in perspective insofar as these populations had already spent a substantial period of time amongst Iranian populations in Central Asia and Iran. That being said, it seems that Anatolia Turkish identity did emerge to a great extent out of assimilation of Greek, Armenian, Slavic, and Kurdish populations and individuals into a Turkish identity.

I review all this in detail because these are the sorts of scenarios and dynamics which go through my head whenever I attempt to evaluate inferences made from genetics, historical texts, and archaeology. From what I can tell there isn’t a good theoretical construct for how Magyars and Anatolian Turks could be created through assimilation over the period of centuries. This makes good sense, as how many anthropological field programs could afford to track the ethnogenesis of a group over centuries? (not to mention the fact that many disciplines were only invented in the 20th century!) In lieu of a robust theory we have to make recourse to looking over the empirical distribution on a case by case basis so as to make analogies to the underlying parameters which might align across two cases. In that way we can interpolate from one known case to an unknown one.

This is especially important when textual records are thin, and the genetic inferences are shaky. So when it comes to the case of the Anglo-Saxon conquest and assimilation of the British and the emergence of an English identity I attempt to compare it to other cases I’m aware of. There are two primary issues for me in this specific instance:

- The rapidity of the shift, from a predominantly non-German landscape in the 5th century to a German one in the 7th

- The cultural regress from a “high civilization” to a “low” tribal one

In two of the cases above, the transformation of Greek, Kurdish, and Armenian Anatolia, into Turkish and Kurdish Anatolia, as well as the evolution from the non-Arab non-Muslim world to the Arab Muslim world, the shifts occurred much more slowly than the British to English one. Focusing on the core Fertile Crescent zone I think a conservative estimate is that it took three centuries to accomplish the cultural transformation which occurred in Britain in one century. In the Turkish case it took somewhat longer, and wasn’t truly completed until the population exchange with Greece and the Armenian Genocide. The large Kurdish minority also indicates its relative lack of completion, though perhaps one can make an analogy between Wales and Kurdistan in terms of being peripheral. In the case of Hungary the issue is more confusing, especially because of nationalist biases among scholars. The area of Hungary, what was once Roman Pannonia, had been barbarized for centuries before the arrival of the Magyars. It was likely populated by Slavic tribes, the remnants of the Avars, and also a the Latinate residual of the post-Roman period (what became Vlachs and Romanians across the inland Balkans). It is a key point to remember that modern Hungarians seem to occupy the genetic position which isolation-by-distance models would predict. The intrusion by a population from the Urals had very little impact. This is the perfect case of elite emulation.

There are three papers of particular interest in relation to the “Anglo-Saxon question.”

- Evidence for an apartheid-like social structure in early Anglo-Saxon England

- Is it necessary to assume an apartheid-like social structure in Early Anglo-Saxon England?

- Integration versus apartheid in post-Roman Britain: a response to Pattison

Overall I would say that Mark Thomas, who makes the argument for a major demographic impact, gets the better of the exchange. I can’t really evaluate the linguistic and much of the archaeological evidence, but the overall big picture supporting papers which argue for major continuity across Europe from the Paleolithic which are appealed to in the second paper have now been thrown into sharp doubt. I do think that using “North Wales” as a “Celtic reference” may not be optimal, but Thomas et al. basically suggest that Y chromosomal lineages are sharply differentiated between some English towns and Wales, where the former cluster with Frisian samples. In 2011 I suspect we could get better geographic coverage, as well as more precise phylogenies. Thomas’ argument is rather simple insofar that demographic parameters can be easily modulated to explain how a minority of German males could have a quick impact on the dominant Y chromosomal signal among the English. Think the “Genghis Khan haplotype” writ small.

But it isn’t the genetics which really motivates me to explore the topic of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain. It is the cultural parameters. In the case of the Magyars you have a situation where the Ugric ruling caste was overlain on a predominantly barbarized substrate. By this, I mean that these populations had lost their contact with Romanitas, which by the 5th century included Christianity. The Avars and Slavs who arrived after the collapse of Roman power had never been in contact with this cultural complex, but the Latinate population of the Balkans and Pannonia had. What happened to it? We know that it persisted linguistically, because the Romanians and Vlachs are the descendants of the Balkan Latins, who contributed many emperors, from the 3rd to the 6th centuries (e.g., Justinian the Great was of Latin speaking background from Macedonia). But there is some suggestion that these populations lost their connection to Christianity in the interregnum. This is not totally shocking, insofar as Christianity’s hold on Roman identity was newfound and tenuous when the Empire withdrew from Pannonia and ceded it to barbarians.

Interestingly there is one dynamic which I do want to mention in relation to the “eastern front” of the Roman Empire, and that is the de-Germanization of much of this region between the 5th and 10th centuries, before the push during the medieval period of German settlers in their “drive to the east.” In Empires and Barbarians the historian Peter Heather suggests that these sorts of ethnic shifts were a matter of the translocation of militarized mobile elites. In other words, when the free warrior peasants atop the German status hierarchy emigrated to the lands of the collapsing Roman Empire to serve in the retinues of the Franks, Vandals and Goths, they left the more marginal Germans without a leadership class. These individuals were eventually assimilated into the simpler subsistence lifestyle cultural complex of the Slavs who were pushing in from the east, and eventually dominated by Inner Asia populations such as the Avars and Magyars. Without a mobilized elite it may be that elite emulation occurs rather easily as pre-literate subsistence level groups shift identities.

This may be at work in post-Roman Britain. In preparation for this post I read some archaeological papers. I won’t repeat what I read because it is difficult for me to make coherent sense of much of the data, except to say that there did seem to be a collapse of long distance economic ties which characterized the Late Roman Empire. This is most evident to archaeologists in terms of ceramic styles and standardization. It is known that some of the same Saxon tribes which presumably arrived in Britain also served in the armies of Theodoric the Ostrogothic warlord who ruled Italy in the 6th century. In fact there is evidence that communication networks were robust enough that when Ostrogothic power collapsed some Saxons decamped for Britain via Germany, in search of greener pastures.

What Britain may have been subject to was not the influx of amorphous Saxon hordes, but well armed and coherently mobilized groups of free warriors. And who did they encounter once they arrived on British shores? There are some conjectures that security and safety in the Roman Empire had made the indigenous British soft and weak. This is pejoratively put, but the reality is that once cultural folkways are lost, it may not be easy to reconstruct them de novo. What I’m referring to is the process whereby militarily robust groups which are “raw” are “cooked” by civilized conditions, and so rendered less easily mobilizable in subsequent generations. The armies of the Roman Empire were overwhelmingly Italian in the 1st century, but were predominantly non-Italian, with a substantial number of barbarian “federates,” by the 3rd century. A similar shift occurred in the Islamic world, where an Arab military caste became civilian rentiers, ceding ground to a Turkic slave caste, who eventually took power. Though Ibn Khaldun examined the rise and fall of asabiyyah in the Maghreb, perhaps the best illustration of this phenomenon is in Inner Asia. The Xiongnu were pacified by the Chinese not through military defeat, but gifts of luxury goods which became more salient markers of elite status than martial prowess. The Turks were a barbaric military elite across much of Asia, until many settled down and became sedentary farmers, as in Uzbekistan or in the Tarim Basin. They were easily smashed by the Mongol military formations, who were themselves only recent adopters of full-blown nomadism, having left a partially hunter-gatherer lifestyle on the Siberian fringe recollected in the insults hurled against them by their enemies. Finally, the descendants of Genghis Khan were assimilated into the Manchu Empire through promises of status and security, and turned against the more barbaric and militarily vital Oyrat Mongols of the Dzunghar Confederacy, who were not Genghisides, and were reputed to be more “raw” than the eastern Khalkha.

As the German military bands arrived on the British scene they certainly did confront a Romano-British elite, as remembered in the legends of King Arthur. But the existence of Brittany indicates that many of these individuals may not have been inclined to stand and fight, because they had other options. Like the German peasants of the east abandoned by their military elites, the British peasants, whether Latin or Celtic speaking, may have had no armed defenders who exhibited cultural solidarity with their folkways. An analogy here may be made to many Christian notables who fled the Islamic conquests for the Byzantine Empire, which offered them opportunity without abandoning their cultural identity as Christians. The emperor Leo the III may have been from such stock.

And yet as noted by Mark Thomas, and reiterated by the large genetic footprint of Turks and Mongols in Central Asia, an elite male lineage can have an outsized impact over the medium term because of reproductive differences across classes. In the modern developed world on average the highest fertilities are correlated with lower socioeconomic status. This seems to not have been the case in the pre-modern world, where those who were more prosperous tended to be more well fed, and so more likely to survive diseases. Note that despite the fact that ~1/3 of the European population reputedly died during the Black Death, only one reigning monarch seems to have succumbed. The medieval mind may have attributed this to divine providence, but it was probably more a function of higher nutritional levels which very elite individuals could take for granted.

So why am I being so long-winded in this post? Because when I write about a lot of issues I explore here I really don’t explicitly expose you or myself to the internal calculations which I’m implicitly running to evaluate probabilities. Part of it this simply that I don’t have conscious access to a lot of the internal cognitive logic, but in this case I can touch upon issues and the dynamics which are always on my mind, because it’s rather cut & cried.

To me the collapse of Christianity among Britons makes sense only if all elite Christian institutions disappeared, in particular the sub-elites which would have patronized the local parish structures from the Roman period. It looks like that without such elite instruction the illiterate rural peasantry has a bias toward reverting to common universal pagan superstitions. One can see ethnographic evidence of this from Protestant European nations, which took a greater detailed interest in the 18th century of these instances of religious devolution and heresy which tended to crop up when there was at least one generation of lack of pastoral oversight. A newly, and perhaps nominally, Christianized population in the British countryside may easily have acceded to the gods of the Germans because their understanding of Christianity may have been little different from German paganism on the conscious level (I would argue that this was the universal case among peasants before the Reformations, Protestant and Catholic, and the spread of literacy). From what I have read on the transition of English peasants to Protestantism in the 16th century is that the major counter-response to the Reformation generally occurred when the pageantry and pomp associated with late medieval religion was stripped away by Puritan Reformers. The nominal switch of institutional allegiance from Rome to the monarch was of little concern to the subsistence farmer.

So we need to differentiate between the more coherent sense of national or ethnic identity which was existent as far back as antiquity among elites, to the more local self-conception of subsistence farmers. The dissolution of Christianity can then be explained by the institutional collapse combined with the novelty of the religion even during the 5th century (Rome itself was a pagan stronghold as late as 400 A.D., Christianity having deeper roots in the Eastern Mediterranean). Here you can make an analogy with what occurred to Zoroastrianism in Iran.

So can an elite emulation model explain the de-Christianization and Germanization of 6th century Britian? I think it could, but, we need to add in a few extra parameters to our model. From above we know that in a pre-modern environment elites, especially elite males, have higher fertility and reproductive value. A relatively small and coherent German military class could quickly have an outsized genetic and demographic impact. From what I can gather the German tribes at this period practiced partible inheritance, which would have pushed the elites outward to expand their domains. The example of Latin America shows the power of consistent male migration and polygny in changing the genetic landscape of a region.

Finally, we need to go back to the insight that structures above the level of the individual matter. If Peter Heather is correct it seems plausible that the German warrior bands arrived with women. This would have preserved German culture in a relatively pure form for several generations. Here we need to go to the Turkish example: it seems that a great number of Rumelian (Balkan) Turks may have been Islamicized Slavs and Albanians who shifted to a Turkish identity. This is classic elite emulation, as an ethnic and religious change were necessary for social advancement. But, this occurred centuries after the initial admixture of coherent Turkish tribes in Anatolia with the local substrate. By the time time that the Balkans were conquered a relatively undiluted Turkic identity existed in Anatolia into which one could assimilate.

Back to the Anglo-Saxon case, what may have occurred is that a relatively unadmixed German population was rooted on the old Saxon Shore. This population recreated in totality the folkways of northern Germany. With the evacuation and emigration of the Romano-British elites to the greener pastures of the continent this German warrior caste may have expanded outward in the 6th century, and then started to absorb the remnant British elites as well as the majority peasant population into its cultural complex. In other words, for Germanization to proceed in the fashion in which it did proceed one needed a relatively pure “anchor” group into which others could assimilate. This does not seem to be likely if the German conquest was a matter of a few tens of thousands of men. If that was the case, what probably would have occurred was what did happen with the Mongols in Central Asia and on the plains north of the Black and Caspian Seas: they would have been absorbed in all but name into the substrate.

If my model is correct then the majority of the ancestry of the people in some eastern English localities should cluster with Frisians, while very little of the ancestry of English people in regions like Devon may be German at all. As I have noted before the two parental populations are rather close, and we have the confounds of migrations before and after this admixture event. Hopefully with large data sets of British and German males we can get a sense of the mutational landscape with enough depth and precision to resolve the relationship of some of these lineages.

Update: If you’re read this far, please see this very interesting response/reaction from Brown Pundits.

* I am aware that most Hindus are monistic.

** To be clear, I think there are reasons that the “god of the philosophers” has become culturally hegemonic across the world. But I don’t think that that reason has much to do with innate individual psychology. Stark operates with on a “rational actor” model in mind, so it makes sense why he’d try to frame in such a manner. But it’s kind of like trying to build biochemistry on alchemy. The lower units of organization are not coherent.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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To the left you see a zoom in of a PCA which Dienekes produced for a post, Structure in West Asian Indo-European groups. The focus of the post is the peculiar genetic relationship of Kurds, an Iranian-speaking people, with Iranians proper, as well as Armenians (Indo-European) and Turks (not Indo-European). As you can see in some ways the Kurds seem to be the outgroup population, and the correspondence between linguistic and genetic affinity is difficult to interpret. For those of you interested in historical population genetics this shouldn’t be that surprising. West Asia is characterized by of endogamy, language shift, and a great deal of sub and supra-national communal identity (in fact, national identity is often perceived to be weak here). A paper from the mid-2000s already suggested that western and eastern Iran were genetically very distinctive, perhaps due to the simple fact of geography: central Iran is extremely arid and relatively unpopulated in relation to the peripheries.

But this post isn’t about Kurds, rather, observe the very close relationship between Turks and Armenians on the PCA. The _D denotes Dodecad samples, those which Dienekes himself as collected. This affinity could easily be predicted by the basic parameters of physical geography. Armenians and Anatolian Turks were neighbors for nearly 1,000 years. Below is a map which shows the expanse of the ancient kingdom of Armenia:

Historic Armenia was centered around lake Van in what is today eastern Turkey. The modern Republic of Armenia is very much a rump, and an artifact of the historic expansion of the Russian Empire in the Caucasus at the expense of the Ottomans and Persians. Were it not for the Armenian genocide there may today have been more Armenians resident in Turkey than in the modern nation-state of Armenia,* just as there are more Azeri Turks in Iran than in Azerbaijan. Many areas once occupied by Armenians are now occupied by Kurds and Turks. But a bigger question is the ethnogenesis of the Anatolian Turkish population over the past 1,000 years.

Dienekes has already shed light on this topic earlier, adding the Greek and Cypriot populations to the mix as well as Turks and Armenians. The disjunction between Kurds and the Armenian-Turk clade suggests to us that Turks did not emerge out of the milieu of Iranian tribes in the uplands of southeast Anatolia and western Persia. Like the Armenians the Kurds are an antique population, claiming descent from the Medes, and referred to as Isaurians during the Roman and Byzantine period.

Below is a reformatted K = 15 run of ADMIXTURE with Eurasian population. I’ve removed the labels for the ancestral components, but included in populations which have a high fraction of a given ancestral component. The geographical labels are for obscure populations. I’ve underlined the four populations of interest:

First, let’s get out of the way the fact that Turkish samples have non-trivial, though minor, northeast Asian ancestry. The Yakut themselves are a Turkic group situated to the north of Mongolia. The more southerly and central Asian affinities the nomadic ancestors of the Anatolia Turks may have picked up in their sojourns over the centuries between their original homeland in east-central Siberia and Mongolia and West Asia. The rest of ancestry is rather typical of northern West Asian groups. In particular, Armenians! Here is the ancestral breakdown for the four groups I want to focus on using Dienekes’ labels:


Population Greek Cypriots Turks Armenians
West Asian 37.6 54.1 47.2 56.3
Central-South Asian 5.3 8.6 18.2 18.4
North European 25.1 5.6 12 12.3
South European 27.4 20.8 9.4 8.4
Arabian 3.4 8 4.3 3.4
Altaic 0.3 0 2.6 0.1
East Asian 0.3 0.2 2.2 0
Central Siberian 0.1 0.2 1.4 0.2
Chukchi 0 0 1.1 0.2
South Indian 0 0.1 0.8 0.3
Nganasan 0.1 0 0.4 0.2
Koryak 0.1 0 0.2 0.1
East African 0 0.4 0.1 0
West African 0 0 0.1 0
Northwest African 0.3 1.9 0.1 0

And now the correlations between the populations by ancestral components:


Greek Cypriots Turks Armenians
Greek * 0.863 0.823 0.813
Cypriots * * 0.941 0.946
Turks * * * 0.997
Armenians * * * *

Let’s remove the East Eurasian and African components, and recalculate the proportions by taking what remains as the denominator:


Population Greek Cypriots Turks Armenians
West Asian 38.1 55.7 51.8 57.0
Central-South Asian 5.4 8.9 20.0 18.6
North European 25.4 5.8 13.2 12.4
South European 27.7 21.4 10.3 8.5
Arabian 3.4 8.2 4.7 3.4

And the recomputed correlations:


Greek Cypriots Turks Armenians
Greek * 0.747 0.640 0.647
Cypriots * * 0.901 0.908
Turks * * * 0.999
Armenians * * * *

With all the ~0 ancestral components which were common across these four populations removed the correlations have gone down. Except in the case of the Armenian-Turk pair, because I’ve removed the ancestries which differentiate them.

So what’s a plausible interpretation? A straightforward one would be that the Muslim Turk population of Anatolia has a strong bias toward having been assimilated Armenians, rather than Greeks. The cultural plasticity of Armenians in late antiquity and the early medieval period was clear: individuals of ethnic Armenian to origin rose the pinnacles of the status hierarchy of the Orthodox Christian Greek Byzantine Empire. The Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantines under which the civilization reached its mature peak were descended from Armenians who had resettled in Macedonia. Just as plausible to me is that eastern Anatolia as a whole exhibited little genetic difference between Greeks and Armenians, and the former were wholly assimilated or migrated, while the Armenians remained. One way to test this thesis would be type the descendants of Greeks who left eastern Anatolia during the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s. But the difference between Greeks and Cypriots also points us to another possibility: perhaps the Greeks of Greece proper (as opposed to Anatolia) were much more strongly impacted by the arrival of Slavs? One need not necessarily rely solely on the Scalveni migrations either, water tends to be a major dampener to conventional isolation-by-distance gene flow, so the Greek mainland may always have been subject to more influence from the lands to the north.

Whatever the details of ethnogenesis may be, it will be interesting to see how things shake out as we increase sample sizes and get better population coverage. These results may be due to regional selection bias. One might expect that the descendants of Rumelian Turks be more “European” than Anatolian Turks. But, these data do seem to suggest on face value that Armenians are the population which Anatolian Turks have the most genetic affinity with.

* My main hesitation would be that Armenians are a very mobile population, and their numbers within a modern Turkey may have declined simply through emigration, just as those of Christian Arabs have over the 20th century.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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uzbekmanThere’s a new paper out in The European Journal of Human Genetics which is of great interest because it surveys the genetic and linguistic affinities of two dozen ethno-linguistic groups from the three Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. This is what the Greeks referred to as Transoxiana, and the Persians as Turan. Originally inhabited by peoples with close cultural affinities with those of Persia, indeed, likely the root of the peoples of Persia, by the historical period Turan developed a distinctive identity as a frontier or march. It was in Turan where the Turk met the Iranian (a class which included non-Persian groups, such as the Sogdians), from the pre-Islamic Sassanians down to the present day. It is a region of the world which has a very ancient urban culture, cities such as Merv, as well as peoples that were only recently nomads, forcibly made sedentary by the Soviet regime.

To add another twist to the picture many of the ethno-linguistic groups which we are familiar with today and which serve as the cores of the new Central Asian nations only came into being within the last few centuries, with a particular “push” from Russian Imperial and Soviet ethnologists who were tasked with fleshing out national identities with which the center could negotiate. A “Tajik” is after all simply part of the Persian-speaking residual population of Central Asia, spreading down into Afghanistan. The carving out of an independent Tajikistan out of the Central Asian landscape is as much a creation of the modern age as the state of Israel. The “Uzbek” identity was once simply that of the ruling caste of Transoxiana who came to power after the decline of the Timurids. Today it is an appellation which brackets the settled Turkic speaking peoples of Uzbekistan and beyond.

ResearchBlogging.org Into this near Gordian knot of history and ideology walk the naive and well-meaning geneticists. There is no great objection one can make to the genetics within the paper, but the historical framework and some of the assertions are peculiar and tendentious indeed. It’s a problem which starts within the abstract. In the heartland of Eurasia: the multilocus genetic landscape of Central Asian populations:

Located in the Eurasian heartland, Central Asia has played a major role in both the early spread of modern humans out of Africa and the more recent settlements of differentiated populations across Eurasia. A detailed knowledge of the peopling in this vast region would therefore greatly improve our understanding of range expansions, colonizations and recurrent migrations, including the impact of the historical expansion of eastern nomadic groups that occurred in Central Asia. However, despite its presumable importance, little is known about the level and the distribution of genetic variation in this region. We genotyped 26 Indo-Iranian- and Turkic-speaking populations, belonging to six different ethnic groups, at 27 autosomal microsatellite loci. The analysis of genetic variation reveals that Central Asian diversity is mainly shaped by linguistic affiliation, with Turkic-speaking populations forming a cluster more closely related to East-Asian populations and Indo-Iranian speakers forming a cluster closer to Western Eurasians. The scattered position of Uzbeks across Turkic- and Indo-Iranian-speaking populations may reflect their origins from the union of different tribes. We propose that the complex genetic landscape of Central Asian populations results from the movements of eastern, Turkic-speaking groups during historical times, into a long-lasting group of settled populations, which may be represented nowadays by Tajiks and Turkmen. Contrary to what is generally thought, our results suggest that the recurrent expansions of eastern nomadic groups did not result in the complete replacement of local populations, but rather into partial admixture.

In my initial comment on this paper in a link round-up I wondered what the authors were thinking making such a comment: anyone who knows Central Asians would see on their faces that the Turks did not completely replace the local populations. The image above is of an Uzbek man, who does not exhibit any visible “Mongolian” features. This is not the norm, but is not unheard of. Even populations which are presumed to have less Iranian admixture, such as the Kazakhs, exhibit a range of physical types. It would be one thing if this reference was an isolated peculiarity, but there are other comments within the paper which indicate to me that the research group’s familiarity with the non-genetic literature is cursory at best. They refer to Huns as having “brought the East-Asian anthropological phenotype to Central Asia.” There is no clear definite foundation for this assertion. Unfortunately historians do not have a clear idea what the ethno-linguistic character of the Huns was. By the time Roman observers encountered them the Hunnic horde seems to have been predominantly German, with a Iranian (Alan) secondary component, the Huns themselves being a small elite (Attila’s name itself may be Gothic). In light of subsequent eruptions into Europe of Turkic and Ugric nomads it is easy to slot the Huns into this exotic category, but the primary literature makes it clear that you can’t ascertain their ethnic character from the contemporary sources (the “White Huns” of Central and South Asia had no real connection to the Huns of Europe).

Near the end of the paper they say something really peculiar: “The Westernized view of westward invasions usually emphasizes the extreme violence and cruelty of the hordes led by Attila the Hun (AD 406–453), or that from the Mongolian empire led by Genghis Khan. However, our results somehow challenge this view and rather suggest that these more recent expansions did not lead to the massacre and complete replacement of the locally settled populations….” It is true that European observers of the Mongol expansion did not have a sanguine attitude. But the idea that Mongols were genocidal exterminationists really comes to us via the Islamic historians, for whom the Mongol conquests were totally shocking and a literal world-turned-upside-down moment. The Mongol conquests did seem to result in a decline in population between Mesopotamia and Transoxiana. Whole cities in Central Asia were depopulated. There is an assumption that the Mongol conquests marks the turning point where Central Asia passed from being a predominantly Iranian world with a Turkic military elite (which was to be the nature of Iran proper until the 20th century) to a Turkic world with a large Persian minority. Though the military conquests of the Mongols were important punctuating events, I do not believe that scholars today would assume that they produced an ethnic shift in toto. On the contrary, the null hypothesis is generally against migrationism.

With those preliminaries out of the way, what’s going on with the genetics? Below are the less interesting tables & figures. The first is important because it has the abbreviations which they use. Basically anything that starts with a “T” are Indo-Iranian Tajiks, and everything else is Turkic, except LUzn LUza, who are Indo-Iranian Uzbek nationals, but I presume would be ethnic Tajiks in Uzbekistan (this stuff is really confusing in regards to labels, because as I said the national categories are to some extent ad hoc impositions on more ancient identities which don’t always follow the European language = nation formula). The second image is a figure which shows the sampling of locations, as well as pie charts with ancestral quanta. The third image is a table which shows that Indo-Iranians are genetically more varied than Turks. While the fourth is a STRUCTURE plot which I reedited to zoom in on peoples of interest for this study, as well removing some of the lower K’s. Remember that each K is a putative ancestral population. As Dienekes notes since they used only 27 microsatellite markers across their 26 populations, the plot may inflate minor ancestral contributions.

[nggallery id=14]

Of more interest is the correspondence analysis, which is conceptually similar to principal component analysis. The variate inputs are allele counts. I’ve obviously reedited the figure a bit, and added some labels (yeah, I ended up thinking that rotating after I’d added some labels was best, sorry). Note the clear color-coding of Turkic vs. Iranian Central Asian groups.

turkiraneurasian

There’s a clear separation linguistically between Iranian speaking and Turkic speaking groups in Central Asia. Some of the Turkic groups are close to Iranian groups, closer than to other Turkic groups, but still the two broad sets have a coherent identity. Undergirding the linguistic variation is classical geographic variation. The eastern Turkic groups seem the least impacted by the Iranian substrate which was dominant before the arrival of Turks, while the Turcoman group sampled from western Uzbekistan seems to have been the most genetically “Iranized.” In a world wide context the central position of Central Asians is not surprising. Interestingly the Iranian groups of Central Asia seem to overlap rather well with the Indo-Iranian groups from the HGDP data set. In contrast, the Turkic groups are distributed along a linear axis from East Asians to the Iranian cluster. This is the same pattern evident among African Americans as individuals. It’s a two-way admixture, with different dosage degrees by population as a function of history and geography (I presume you’d see the same pattern if it was broken down on individuals with a SNP-chip).

admixMoving to the explicit admixture estimates, the labels leave something to be desired. The shaded area is for Turkic speakers. The very last group, TJY, indicates the Yagnobis of Dushanbe. I happen to know offhand that the Yagnobis are reputed to be descendants of the Sogdians, having preserved their language and Zoroastrian religion relatively late in history before switching to Tajik and Islam. Like many ethno-linguistic relics these people preserved their independent identity after the Arab conquest, which saw the decline of Sogdian influence on the Silk Road, by taking refuge in isolated regions. It is no surprise then that this group shows the least East Asian admixture of all the Iranian samples, as they were isolated from many of the social and historical processes which were operative in Transoxiana after the conquest by the Arabs, and the later pushing in of the zone of Turkic hegemony after the fall of the Samanids.

These admixture estimates definitely put the spotlight on the role of Central Asia as a nexus of sorts. In the archaeology and history it is clear that Central Asia has been affected by peoples of European, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and East Asian origin. Central Asia itself has been the mother of empires, famously the seat of Timur, but also the original base of what later became the Abbasid dynasty. At one point the Caliphate was split between western and eastern factions and there was a possibility that the capital would be relocated from Baghdad to the Central Asian city of Merv! I do not believe that the Arabs had a strong genetic impact, nor was there a large South Asian migration in recent periods into Central Asia. So the admixture estimates adduced for these groups may be due to the natural cline in allele frequencies which are found in different peripheral Eurasian populations. Frequencies which are naturally intermediate in Central Asia. The main caveat is that it is probable that local conditions will vary a great deal. In contrast we have strong reason to suspect that the East Asian component arrived relatively recently with the Turks, and we see that its aspect is most evident among the groups which were nomadic within living memory, the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz. These two ethnicities, which are really compounds of several tribes or “hordes,” were only marginally integrated into sedentary Islamic society where the Tajik element would be prominent (shamanism among many of these tribes only disappeared under the influence of the Islamic missionaries sponsored by Russian Empire). I think this pattern is reinforced by what we saw in the correspondence analysis, where the Turkic groups exhibited a linear distribution toward East Asia, while the Iranian ones were placed where you’d expect them geographically. Finally, I want to note that Dienekes observes that using South Asians as a Central Asian population source is strange since South Asia is more appropriately thought of as a demographic sink for Turan. True, but the HGDP populations are strongly biased toward groups with relatively little indigenous South Asian ancestry, with the Sindhi being the only Indo-Aryan speakers within the set. So I think that objection is mitigated by these factors. Rather, the Iranian-speaking Pakistani groups serve as proxies for the original Central Asian Iranian substrate, from which both they and the Tajiks presumably derive.

Moving back to the Turk vs. Iranian distinction, the authors note that the Turkic groups exhibit a strong degree of genetic homogeneity on the Y chromosomal lineages. This points to the possible manner in which the East Asian genetic element spread in Central Asia, not necessarily just through population displacement, but also through polygamy and the high reproductive fitness of particular “super-male” lineages. The children of elite Turkic men who took Iranian wives presumably adopted the culture of their fathers, including the linguistic identity. This may have been particularly easy in Central Asia because they did not have to repudiate their maternal heritage in totality, as Persian culture still had great status and currency. If we partition the ancestry into “East Eurasian” and “West Eurasian” components the Turkic groups have much more of the latter than the Iranian ones have of the former. That stands to reason as the Turks were newcomers, and an elite which the locals would wish to assimilate to if they had the opportunity. In contrast, the shift from Turk to Iranian may have been rarer, and a switch which individuals would wish to avoid since the latter did not have the same level of temporal power. Over ~1,500 years gene flow does occur between the groups, and even the Yagnobis have appreciable East Asian ancestry. Eventually the linguistic differences would probably be dwarfed by the geographical ones, but currently we’re taking a snapshot of a “transient.”

It’s complicated. And one has to be very careful about using terms like “Turk” in a localized context, vs. a more international one. The Turks of Turkey are overwhelming derived from the same source populations as their Balkan (because of Rumelian Turks), Iranian, and Armenian, neighbors. The decline in East Asian fraction is evident even in this sample, as the Turcomans from western Uzbekistan have the least eastern ancestry of any of the groups. But this paper is an excellent within into a critical geographical hinge of genetic variation and historical tumult (though one must set aside some of their tacked-on historical speculations).

Citation: Martínez-Cruz B, Vitalis R, Ségurel L, Austerlitz F, Georges M, Théry S, Quintana-Murci L, Hegay T, Aldashev A, Nasyrova F, & Heyer E (2010). In the heartland of Eurasia: the multilocus genetic landscape of Central Asian populations. European journal of human genetics : EJHG PMID: 20823912

Image Credit: Wikimedia

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"