The genetic prehistory of the Greater Caucasus

Chuan-Chao Wang, Sabine Reinhold, Alexey Kalmykov, Antje Wissgott, Guido Brandt, Choongwon Jeong, Olivia Cheronet, Matthew Ferry, Eadaoin Harney, Denise Keating, Swapan Mallick, Nadin Rohland, Kristin Stewardson, Anatoly R. Kantorovich, Vladimir E. Maslov, Vladimira G. Petrenko, Vladimir R. Erlikh, Biaslan Ch. Atabiev, Rabadan G. Magomedov, Philipp L. Kohl, Kurt W. Alt, Sandra L. Pichler, Claudia Gerling, Harald Meller, Benik Vardanyan, Larisa Yeganyan, Alexey D. Rezepkin, Dirk Mariaschk, Natalia Berezina, Julia Gresky, Katharina Fuchs, Corina Knipper, Stephan Schiffels, Elena Balanovska, Oleg Balanovsky, Iain Mathieson, Thomas Higham, Yakov B. Berezin, Alexandra Buzhilova, Viktor Trifonov, Ron Pinhasi, Andrej B. Belinskij, David Reich, Svend Hansen, Johannes Krause and Wolfgang Haak

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Received: 16th May 18

Archaeogenetic studies have described the formation of Eurasian ‘steppe ancestry’ as a mixture of Eastern and Caucasus hunter-gatherers. However, it remains unclear when and where this ancestry arose and whether it was related to a horizon of cultural innovations in the 4th millennium BCE that subsequently facilitated the advance of pastoral societies likely linked to the dispersal of Indo-European languages. To address this, we generated genome-wide SNP data from 45 prehistoric individuals along a 3000-year temporal transect in the North Caucasus. We observe a genetic separation between the groups of the Caucasus and those of the adjacent steppe. The Caucasus groups are genetically similar to contemporaneous populations south of it, suggesting that – unlike today – the Caucasus acted as a bridge rather than an insurmountable barrier to human movement. The steppe groups from Yamnaya and subsequent pastoralist cultures show evidence for previously undetected Anatolian farmer-related ancestry from different contact zones, while Steppe Maykop individuals harbour additional Upper Palaeolithic Siberian and Native American related ancestry.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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