Over at Diversity Linguistics Comment, Paul Heggarty of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig) puts his foot in his mouth with a long-winded and rather whiny comment piece about two recent ancient genomics papers, Haak et al. and Allentoft et al., and the PIE question.
I don't have the time or energy right now to pick apart in detail Heggarty's ramblings, so I'll only focus on a couple of points. Firstly, here's a modified figure from Haak et al. that Heggarty put up with his post, and below that a couple of quotes with his explanation.
These data imply that Uralic-speakers too would have been part of the Yamnaya > Corded Ware movement, which was thus not exclusively Indo-European in any case. And as well as the genetics, the geography, chronology and language contact evidence also all fit with a Yamnaya > Corded Ware movement including Uralic as well as Balto-Slavic.
Both papers fail to address properly the question of the Uralic languages. And this despite — or because? — the only Uralic speakers they report rank so high among modern populations with Yamnaya ancestry. Their linguistic ancestors also have a good claim to have been involved in the Corded Ware and Yamnaya cultures, and of course the other members of the Uralic family are scattered across European Russia up to the Urals.
These are exceedingly naive and stupid comments from someone representing the Max Planck Institute. Perhaps as an ardent supporter of the Anatolian hypothesis he's feeling more than a little desperate at this point and clutching at straws? That's because anyone with even a basic grasp of European linguistics and genetics should know that:
- present-day Hungarians and Estonians speak Uralic languages, but they are of course overwhelmingly of Indo-European origin, which is easily seen in their genome-wide and uniparental DNA
- other Uralic speakers, further to the north and east, in the forest zone away from Indo-European influence, are clearly distinct from the vast majority of Indo-European speaking Europeans, because they show significant levels of recent Siberian ancestry, which was missing among the Yamnaya and Corded Ware people, and appears to be an Uralic-specific genetic signature
- therefore, it's highly unlikely that Uralic-speakers were also part of the Yamnaya > Corded Ware movement; rather, early Uralics in all likelihood began to move west across the forest zone well after the Yamnaya and related expansions from the steppe.
Heggarty also can't get over the fact that not all Indo-European speaking Europeans harbor as much Yamnaya-related ancestry as Northern and Eastern Europeans.
Above all, the Yamnaya > Corded Ware impact is much less widespread in Europe than Indo-European languages are. Much of southern Europe has spoken Indo-European languages from our earliest records (Latin and its ‘Italic’ relatives, Greek, Albanian and various other Indo-European languages of the Balkans, now extinct).
Some (low) proportions of apparent ‘Yamnaya’, ‘Corded Ware’ and north European ancestry do appear in present-day populations of southern Europe (Haak et al. 2015 Figure 3b). But such north to south population admixture is in any case expected from the historical period. The collapse of the Roman Empire and the migrations of the early medieval period were defined by major invasions and settlements of Slavic and Germanic-speaking populations into southern Europe.
The levels of Yamnaya-related admixture among present-day Southern Europeans are significant and plenty enough to explain why most of them speak Indo-European languages. All of this Yamnaya-related admixture cannot be explained by Germanic and Slavic incursions into Southern Europe during the early medieval period, because:
- most Southern European populations show very little admixture from Northern and Eastern Europe dating to this time frame (see Ralph and Coop 2013)
- R1b-M269 is the most common Y-chromosome haplogroup across much of Southern Europe, and its subclade structure among Southern Europeans, as well as the ancient DNA data from Haak et al. and Allentoft et al., suggest that the vast majority of it arrived there from somewhere in the east before the historical period but after the Neolithic.
About the only worthwhile point that Heggarty makes is that we need more ancient DNA, especially from more southerly regions, to help solve the PIE riddle once and for all.
He probably thinks that the new data will back up the Anatolian hypothesis. It won't. If Heggarty could actually understand the data from Haak et al. and Allentoft et al., he'd already know that the jig was up for his pet theory.
The ancient DNA case against the Anatolian hypothesis
Population genomics of Early Bronze Age Europe in three simple graphs