Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

January 20, 2018

The eastern edge of the sea of grass

Filed under: Historical Population Genetics,Magyars — Razib Khan @ 1:50 pm

A new preprint, Mitogenomic data indicate admixture components of Asian Hun and Srubnaya origin in the Hungarian Conquerors, throws a rather large sample of medieval mtDNA samples at the question of the ethnogenesis of the Magyar people. The context here is that Maygars speak a non-Indo-European language, with a distant relationship to the Finnic ones, but genetically are not much distinguished from their neighbors.

But the differences are not non-zero, ‘best of breed’ methods can pick up a small fraction of exotic ancestry.

The results above are based on samples from cemeteries of the Magyar elite. These are people who identified with a steppe confederacy which coalesced in the 9th century in the Volga region, and in 895 conquered the region of Central Europe which we now term Hungary. In the 10th century, the Magyar tribes were an alien and predatory force within Europe, pagan and exotic. They were, in fact, the latest in a long time of mobile Central Asian horsemen, going back to the Scythian, Sarmatians, Huns, and Avars.

What the data from these results confirm is that a substantial proportion of the maternal lineages of the Hungarian nobility were East Eurasian. Their genetic profiles, in fact, resembled Scythians who had mixed with Altaic peoples, even if they were not descended from those people. What this suggests is that the Magyar conquest elite was part of a broader landscape of ethnolinguistically distinct, but interconnected, steppe confederations. The preprint gives great space to the likelihood that a substantial proportion of the Magyar elite was in fact Turkic in origin.

This leads to one of the major assertions of the paper: the distinctive linguistic identity of modern Hungarians is a legacy of the Hunnic period, and not the Magyar conquest. From what I can tell they didn’t have older DNA, so I don’t know how they came to this conclusion, except that the conquest Magyars were small in number, and seem to have been decimated over time (Mongol invasion, the battle of Mohacs).

June 23, 2011

Celts to Anglo-Saxons, in light of updated assumptions

Over the past week there have been three posts which I’ve put up which are related. Two of them have a straightforward relation, Britons, English, Germans, and collective action and Britons, English, and Dutch. But the third might not seem related to the other two, We stand on the shoulders of cultural giants, but it is. When we talk about things such as the spread of language through “elite emulation” or “population replacement” they’re rather vague catchall terms. We don’t decompose them mechanistically into their components to explore whether they can explain what they purport to explain. Rather, we take these phenomena for granted in a very simplistic black box fashion. We know what they’re describing on the face of it. “We” here means people without a background in sociolinguistics, obviously.

To give an example of the pitfall of this method, in much of Rodney Stark’s work on sociology of religion (the production before his recent quasi-apologetic material) his thinking was crisp and logical, but the psychological models were intuitive and naive and tended to get little input from the latest findings in cognitive science. In One True God he actually offers an explanation for why ...

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