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Thread: Recent developments in aDNA and Interpretation in China

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    Recent developments in aDNA and Interpretation in China

    Just thought it would be interesting to update you guys on the state of the research on and current debates engendered by Chinese and East Asian aDNA.

    As some of you might know, most of the results in China have come from haploid genetics. It turns out that there are many mtDNA results from multiple cultures and historical periods, but a large fraction are published in Chinese and are almost unknown outside China. There is one big Y-DNA paper, that has upended conventional understanding, which has received some coverage here and here, and a constellation of many other smaller papers. Posters on Chinese sites as well as members of academia are updating their views swiftly, and new paradigms are crystallising as we speak.

    Considerable interest is also shown in the archaeogenetics of West Eurasia and Africa. Chinese readers and academics, like those here, are becoming far less 'immobilist' and 'localist' in their prior assumptions about ancient sociodemographic processes.

    Many amateurs are using TREEMIX, ADMIXTURE, D statistics and other software packages to perform analyses on publicly available datasets, as well as samples submitted by members of the public. Extensive records of Chinese haploid data are beginning to be built. It turns out there are quite a number of R1a and R1b carriers in China.

    Some example ADMIXTURE, TREMIX and STRUCTURE analyses focused solely on East Asians below:
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    In a curious parallel with the situation here, debate has polarised intensely--often vitriolically--around the question of how much genetic change took place in China post-Neolithic due to the introduction of Sino-Tibetan languages on the North China plain and the creation of the Sinitic ethnicities. The traditional idea in Chinese academia was always that the Sino-Tibetan language family included the Tai and Hmong language families, and that this expanded family spread from the Yangshao culture in Northern China with the rise of agriculture. The first genetic split in micro-Sino-Tibetan is between Chinese and all other Tibeto-burman languages, prioritising the position of Sinitic languages in Sino-Tibetan. Furthermore, Yangshao and the Yellow River valley in northern China were seen as culturally 'advanced', compared to the peripheral regions, emanating its 'civilising' influence in an Eastern version of 'Ex Oriente Lux'. This is in parallel to the historical process of Han ethnogenesis, where the early Chinese states in the Yellow River Valley spread their cultural influence, political and economic complexity, and ethnic self-conceptions coercively over the millennia, South past the Yangtze, and Northeast and West into Manchuria and Central Asia. Chinese linguists and archaeologists were always much more skeptical of this politically convenient story in private, and in recent years many such assumptions have been turned on their head in public.

    Many Chinese linguists now agree with Western ones, seeing Sinitic as a minor and possibly the most substrate-influenced member of a reduced Tibeto-Burman family, highly divergent due to intense influence from Hmong-mien and Austroasiatic. In a parallel development, Y chromosomal and autosomal results have been placed under intense scrutiny, as people try to discern a genetic signal of a Tibeto-Burman expansion into the Yellow River valley. This debate was further galvanised by the discovery that zero O-M117 and little O3 in general was found in the Y DNA results of the early agriculturalists in lowland Northern or Southern China. O3-JST002611, O3 F444 were also not found. Instead, the Yangshao culture and Northern China in general was characterised by Nx(N1a, N1c), which is very rare today, and a minority of 'weird' subclades of O3 and O* which are also rare today. Southern China in the neolithic was characterised by haplogroups dominant today among Hmong-mien and Austroasiatic speakers, such as O3-M7 and O1.

    Moving on to the two camps, an emerging synthesis among the 'invasionists' posit that a bunch of Tibeto-Burman sheep and goat herders, with the highland cultural background and pastoral, restless and raid-prone life of modern-day STs in the Himalayas and surrounds, descended on lowland agricultural Hmong Miens and Austroasiatics; a subgroup of these spilled into Northern China, creating the Sinitic ethnolinguistic groups by the Metal Age Longshan culture. Evidence in favour of these are:

    1. Han Chinese have ~15% Y chromosome O3-M117 or O3a2c1a. The great majority of O in Tibetoburman speakers is O-M117, and the vast majority of O in east Indian Tibetoburmans, who tend to be either O or the D of highland Tibetans and who are highly diverged linguistically, is O-M117. O-M117 is strongly represented in Sino-Tibetan speakers and rarer among the rest. An ancient genome from Nepal autosomally similar to present-day tibetans found in a HG context 3k ya BP was O3-M117, when no other O3-M117 was found in older lowland Chinese samples, which 'cannot be a coincidence'. O-M117 has a very recent age of expansion, one of the so-called 'super grandfathers', only 5.4 kya ago.

    2. Chinese are autosomally virtually identical to Tujia, an ethnic group speaking what is widely considered to be a para-Sinitic language in Eastern Sichuan; Northern Han Chinese appear to be a Korean- or Ulchi-shifted and Tibetan-shifted version of Tujia, while Southern Chinese appear to be an Austronesian- and Hmong-shifted version of Northern Chinese. After Tibetan, Naxi (or Nakhi), and Yi or Yizu, all from the Tibetan foothills and Sichuan/Yunnan and all Tibeto-Burmans, Northern Han Chinese carry the most of the 'East Asian highland' component discovered in the Nepalese aDNA and in present-day studies of Tibetans and Sherpa, which we know is real because formal algorithms like treemix and D stats confirm that the 'highland' component is highly diverged and possesses its distinct character from lowland East Asians even after discounting recent drift. The percentage is low though, equivalent to 30% contribution by a Naxi-like population. This is also visible in PCA. This 'Highland' component appears to be hidden as a mix of mostly Northeast Asian with minority Southeast Asian in most ADMIXTURE runs.

    3. Some revisionist archaeologists are now pointing out that the late Neolithic and early metal Ages were highly centrifugal periods in China, and the Yangshao was, in comparison to the cultures surrounding it, neither as socially complex, nor as wealthy, nor as technologically advanced, as is previously thought. Many revisionist archaeologists point out that the picture, if anything, is one of extensive influence of cultures in every direction pouring inwards into the North China plain, which had what looked like--in the words of one archaeologist--a 'sociopolitical vaccuum' and 'decaying sociocultural cohesion' during the terminal Neolithic. An example here.

    The 'autochthonists' point out that that
    1. The sites for the Neolithic came from the Northern end of the Yangshao culture, and may not be representative.

    2. They also claim (correctly) that current archaeological consensus places the origin of the Longshan culture--the precursors at the 'complex chiefdom' level of social complexity, directly leading to the first Shang state, which we know spoke Sinitic languages because they had writing--towards the lowlands of the East, near Shandong.

    3. They claim that there is no archaeological evidence for a movement from Sichuan or the Tibetan plateau or foothills to Northern China in the late Neolithic or the early metal ages, which, as far as I know, is correct.

    Certain extreme 'invasionists' have gone so far as to claim that the Shang wasn't a Sinitic dynasty, and the Oracle Bone writing wasn't Chinese, with the (clearly Steppe-inflected and Tibeto-Burman-inflected Zhou invading aristocracy that succeeded the Shang) being the first Sinitic speakers on the lowlands; this is clearly false and represents a kind of mad fringe that we sometimes get here as well. On the other hand, the autochthonists are clearly holding on to a hallowed tradition of 'barbarising' the peoples outside the Northern Chinese Plain, especially the those on the Southern forested fringe of China below the Yangtze, rather like the way European intellectual tradition often prioritises the Middle East and the Mediterranean over the Germanics and Slavics of the North, or, for that matter, the autochthonous developments in European Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures, in prehistory, and ancient and medieval history. The 'autochthonists' are certainly shocked on an emotional level by new developments, and not just on an intellectual one. its difficult to adjust to a 'copernican' revolution in a historical narrative, especially considering that textbooks and encyclopedias were teaching that Mongoloids developed in situ from Peking Man just a decade ago.

    I look forward to more results, especially now that Qiaomei Fu (yes, that Qiaomei Fu) is now back in China and setting up a new lab. I expect a moderate invasionist theory to be proven correct, and the Chinese to have a transformed view of their own origins, which hopefully will lessen some of the anti-pastoralist and anti-southern bias in some Chinese historiography now that tacit ethnocentrism can no longer be a confound. Hopefully, the recent and non-autochthonous origin of most East Asian ethnic groups can also get rid of the 'antiquity frenzy' that plays out as a historical dick-measuring contest among the three nations of East Asia.
    Last edited by Ryukendo; 04-14-2017 at 01:41 PM.

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    In addition, the literature on Manchurian and Far Eastern Siberian archaeological cultures is greater in Chinese and Russian (which many Chinese archaeologists can read) than in English. This means that the Devil's gate genomes receive far better archaeological treatment in Chinese than in the paper released. Apparently the culture from which the Devil's gate genome was unearthed was in contact with many cultures around the neolithic periphery of China, with jade artifacts being unearthed. Craniometric analyses seem to show that the population of Devil's gate mixed with a broad-headed, broad-faced, high-skulled group in the Baikal (which were themselves mixed with steppic caucasoids) to create those populations on the Eastern Steppes, including the slab-grave peoples so prominent in Mongolian national narratives. There exists a very, very extensive craniometric literature in China, which the aDNA may partially confirm, just as it has done for such people as Carleton Coon for European crania.

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    Those "Tibeto-Burman sheep herders" are actually derivatives of the Yangshao Culture. Yangshao Culture in the western highlands started off as agriculturalists and gradually turned more pastoralist as the weather deteriorated. The Yangshao Culture, when it migrated into the western highlands, turned into the Majiayao Culture, which developed into the succeeding cultures that most likely led to the Tibeto-Burman tribes documented in Chinese history. The Yangshao Culture originated in the Wei Valley, tucked in the Loess Plateau to the north and west and the Qin Mountains to south. This region is west of the North China Plain, which was non-Yangshao and probably non-Sino-Tibetan. But Chinese civilization gradually develops from the lowland Yangshao that gradually expands eastward. There is no highland nomad invasion. And Yangshao Culture remains have been tested to be mainly O3-M134, M117 - - archetypal Sino-Tibetan markers.

    This whole nomad invasion theory is actually an old theory that drew inspiration from the whole Indo-European and Indo-Aryan invasion archetypes in Europe and South Asia. But, there is no corresponding process in East Asia.

    "2. They also claim (correctly) that current archaeological consensus places the origin of the Longshan culture--the precursors at the 'complex chiefdom' level of social complexity, directly leading to the first Shang state, which we know spoke Sinitic languages because they had writing--towards the lowlands of the East, near Shandong."

    The Longshan is not a culture perse but an interaction sphere that became very advanced. The Eastern Longshan develops from the Dawenkou Culture. The Western Longshan derives from the preceding Yangshao Culture, and the 3 early states Xia, Shang, Zhou seem to all derive from the Eastern Longshanoid.

    "Instead, the Yangshao culture and Northern China in general was characterised by Nx(N1a, N1c)."

    I think you are talking about the Hongshan Culture remains. That's not the Yangshao Culture nor is is even in North China. The Hongshan is in eastern Inner Mongolia, which is separated from North China by the Yanshan Mountains. The Yangshao Culture was a culture originating in the Wei-Fen Valley. It expanded eastwards into eastern North China Plain and westwards onto the Loess Plateau and Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau. This is the culture that corresponds to the Sino-Tibetan language family, except they weren't originally nomads! The eastern branches were never nomads and the western highland branches only gradually turned pastoralist but mostly remained semi-pastoralist agriculturalists, except for particular branches such as Tibetans.
    Last edited by ren; 04-14-2017 at 07:43 PM.

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    We need ancient full genomes from East Asia. Thus far there are veeeeeery few of them.

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    Carleton Coon's theories, especially in light modern genetic studies, have proven to be foolish. His many sub-races of Europe are in fact various subtypes that comes about through natural variation, and admixture of different elements (aboriginal Europeans, agriculturalists from the Near East, steppe nomads).

    The Devil's Gate people are too old to be partly derived from Indo-European steppe nomads.

    I don't even think Paleo-Europeans can be considered Caucasoid. They had broad short faces and noses. The classical "Caucasoid" type comes when the agriculturalists and steppe nomads, but now we know both have a component that likely traces to the Near East.
    Last edited by ren; 04-14-2017 at 07:30 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ren View Post
    The Devil's Gate people are too old to be partly derived from Indo-European steppe nomads.
    I think he meant Devil's Gate-like people contributed to genetic ancestry of Baikal Hunter-gatherers, not the other way around. Hes not talking about steppe Indo-Europeans.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ren View Post
    Carleton Coon's theories, especially in light modern genetic studies, have proven to be foolish. His many sub-races of Europe are in fact various subtypes that comes about through natural variation, and admixture of different elements (aboriginal Europeans, agriculturalists from the Near East, steppe nomads).

    The Devil's Gate people are too old to be partly derived from Indo-European steppe nomads.

    I don't even think Paleo-Europeans can be considered Caucasoid. They had broad short faces and noses. The classical "Caucasoid" type comes when the agriculturalists and steppe nomads, but now we know both have a component that likely traces to the Near East.
    Hi Ren,

    After the discovery of a huge number of deeply diverged Sinotibetan languages in East India, many with uncertain placement in the family, some linguists are switching to the opinion that agricultural vocabulary cannot be reconstructed for Proto-Sino-Tibetan. Little agricultural vocabulary is shared between the branches, and most are in turn shared with Hmong, Austroasiatic, Daic or Austronesian. Indeed, many of the Sinotibetan peoples of East India, such as Sulung, Lish, Milang, Gongduk, etc were still hunter gatherers just a few generations ago. Importantly some see Gongduk as the most divergent clearly Sino-Tibetan branch.

    There is little communication between Chinese scholars and those working in Himalayan languages, which is really terrible. If Chinese wish to truly understand their linguistic origins they need to focus a lot of work on the languages of Northeast India and Nepal, many of which are endangered already, and focus less work on Burmese, Tibetan and Chinese, which are quite similar to each other in the family, all things considered.

    The Nx(N1c, N1a) were found in the Miaozigou site, a descendant of Yangshao in the Northeast. All were Nx(N1c, N1a), which shocked many people, but of course further discoveries may change this. The earliest O-M117 we have so far is very late, post Metal-Age from Dadianzi in Xiajiadian culture associated with Donghu proto-Mongolics.

    List of samples

    There are some other peculiarities, e.g. the 'Lamb of justice, Goat of righteousness' phenomenon in early Chinese characters (basically, Chinese concepts of justice, goodness, beauty, contract/oath, legality etc tended to be represented with characters with "Sheep/Horned Ovicaprid" radical) noticed by Victor Mair for example 羊 ("Sheep/Ovicaprid") in 義 ("justice, righteousness").

    y 義 ("justice, righteousness")

    shn 善 ("good[ness]")

    xing 祥 ("felicitous; auspicious")

    yǎng 養 ("raise; nourish; nurture; rear; take care of in old age")

    měi 美 ("beauty")

    xiū 羞 ("[sense of] shame")

    yǒu 羑 ("to guide to goodness / right / reason")

    xin 羨 ("admire; be fond of")

    xiān 鮮 ("fresh; delicious food; delicacy; good and kind — an obvious merging of ovicaprid and piscine qualities")

    qn 群 ("group; community") literally prince radical plus sheep/goat

    This is especially perplexing because herded ovicaprids were introduced from West Eurasia and were not indigenous domesticates of the Yangshao neolithic, first appearing in large numbers in Longshan.
    So there is quite a bit of evidence in favour of the other view. In the meantime of course, we await more aDNA.
    Last edited by Ryukendo; 04-14-2017 at 09:54 PM.

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    If you go through the linguistic community, everyone is against van Driem's theory of a Himalyan origin for Sino-Tibetan. He specializes in Himalayan languages and gives a very biased presentation of the "facts". There are many unclassified languages in the Assam-Burma-Yunnan-Tibet triangle but this is due to poor documentation and divergence due to substrate and remote locations, not diversity in phylogenetics there.

    As for hunter-gatherers, all the people there, whether they Austro-Asiatic or Sino-Tibetan, are farmers. I think you are mistaking primitive with hunter-gatherer. And the archeology is fairly well-documented, of an expansion of Yangshao into the highlands, then further into Tibet and Yunnan, then to the Himalayas, SE Asia, and South Asia. Those so-called hunter-gatherers you speak of in Nepal had bronze technology, which can be traced to Tibet, which can be traced to NW China's highlands, and ultimately Indo-Europeans. They were not hunter-gatherers but highly sophisticated.

    "The Nx(N1c, N1a) were found in the Miaozigou site, a descendant of Yangshao in the Northeast. All were Nx(N1c, N1a), which shocked many people, but of course further discoveries may change this. The earliest O-M117 we have so far is very late, post Metal-Age from Dadianzi in Xiajiadian culture associated with Donghu proto-Mongolics."

    The Miaozigou Site is in Inner Mongolia. It's the a peripheral Yangshao site well out of the Yangshao core.
    M117 is a derivative of M134, and the earliest samples are Yangshao in Shanxi I believe.
    Last edited by ren; 04-14-2017 at 09:29 PM.

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    Update: a user has produced an STRUCTURE run where the highland component is very well-defined. It appears in N Chinese at 15% and Naxi at 45%. Once again, the N Chinese are most similar to Tujia.
    reich_nea_kor10_k16.jpg
    Last edited by Ryukendo; 04-14-2017 at 09:46 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ren View Post
    If you go through the linguistic community, everyone is against van Driem's theory of a Himalyan origin for Sino-Tibetan. He specializes in Himalayan languages and gives a very biased presentation of the "facts". There are many unclassified languages in the Assam-Burma-Yunnan-Tibet triangle but this is due to poor documentation and divergence due to substrate and remote locations, not diversity in phylogenetics there.

    As for hunter-gatherers, all the people there, whether they Austro-Asiatic or Sino-Tibetan, are farmers. I think you are mistaking primitive with hunter-gatherer. And the archeology is fairly well-documented, of an expansion of Yangshao into the highlands, then further into Tibet and Yunnan, then to the Himalayas, SE Asia, and South Asia. Those so-called hunter-gatherers you speak of in Nepal had bronze technology, which can be traced to Tibet, which can be traced to NW China's highlands, and ultimately Indo-Europeans. They were not hunter-gatherers but highly sophisticated.
    A genesis in the Himalayas is probably unwarranted, but a genesis in Sichuan and the Tibetan foothills is supported by many. Van Driem may be biased, but those still supporting Yangshao as Sino-Tibetan are also conspicuously ignoring recent work. Many of those in that camp, including Marshall, LaPolla etc, still hold that the primary division is between Sinitic and the rest, which is no longer widely believed. That the Yangshao spread Sino-Tibetan into the Tibetan Plateau--which was disseminated prominently by Blench in his 1998 paper, is also no longer Blench's view.

    The Hunter-Gatherer affiliation comes from recent anthropological reports about these communities that still exist, not from archaeology.

    Edit: Apologies, I misremembered the Chokhopani burials in Nepal as emerging from a HG context; they were in a Metal Age context.
    Last edited by Ryukendo; 04-14-2017 at 09:33 PM.

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