Curr Biol 2019 07 11;29(14):2430-2441.e10. Epub 2019 Jul 11.
Estonian Biocentre, Institute of Genomics, University of Tartu, 23b Riia Street, Tartu 51010, Estonia; Department of Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, 23b Riia Street, Tartu 51010, Estonia.
The Early Iron Age nomadic Scythians have been described as a confederation of tribes of different origins, based on ancient DNA evidence [1-3]. It is still unclear how much of the Scythian dominance in the Eurasian Steppe was due to movements of people and how much reflected cultural diffusion and elite dominance. We present new whole-genome sequences of 31 ancient Western and Eastern Steppe individuals, including Scythians as well as samples pre- and postdating them, allowing us to set the Scythians in a temporal context (in the Western, i.e., Ponto-Caspian Steppe). We detect an increase of eastern (Altaian) affinity along with a decrease in eastern hunter-gatherer (EHG) ancestry in the Early Iron Age Ponto-Caspian gene pool at the start of the Scythian dominance. On the other hand, samples of the Chernyakhiv culture postdating the Scythians in Ukraine have a significantly higher proportion of Near Eastern ancestry than other samples of this study. Our results agree with the Gothic source of the Chernyakhiv culture and support the hypothesis that the Scythian dominance did involve a demic component.