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Thread: Genetic Landscape of the West Eurasian Steppe before and after the Scythian Dominance

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    Genetic Landscape of the West Eurasian Steppe before and after the Scythian Dominance

    Mari Järve 28, Lehti Saag, Christiana Lyn Scheib, Ajai K. Pathak, Francesco Montinaro, Luca Pagani, Rodrigo Flores, Meriam Guellil, Lauri Saag, Kristiina Tambets, Alena Kushniarevich, Anu Solnik, Liivi Varul, Stanislav Zadnikov, Oleg Petrauskas, Maryana Avramenko, Boris Magomedov, Serghii Didenko, Gennadi Toshev, Igor Bruyako, Denys Grechko, Vitalii Okatenko, Kyrylo Gorbenko, Oleksandr Smyrnov, Anatolii Heiko, Roman Reida, Serheii Sapiehin, Sergey Sirotin, Aleksandr Tairov, Arman Beisenov, Maksim Starodubtsev, Vitali Vasilev, Alexei Nechvaloda, Biyaslan Atabiev, Sergey Litvinov, Natalia Ekomasova, Murat Dzhaubermezov, Sergey Voroniatov, Olga Utevska, Irina Shramko, Elza Khusnutdinova, Mait Metspalu, Nikita Savelev 27, Aivar Kriiska 27, Toomas Kivisild 27, Richard Villems 27

    Published:July 11, 2019DOI:

    • 31 new ancient genomes help compare the Scythians to pre- and postdating cultures
    • Scythian dominance brought along an increase of eastern ancestry across the steppe
    • Results imply some demic diffusion in the spread of the Scythian culture
    • Genetic makeup agrees with the Gothic source of post-Scythian Chernyakhiv culture


    The Early Iron Age nomadic Scythians have been described as a confederation of tribes of different origins, based on ancient DNA evidence [1, 2, 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.

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