We began more extensive sampling of ancient human skeletal remains from the North Caucasus region in 2015. The aim was to understand when and how this specific type of ‘steppe ancestry’ was formed, which in the 3rd millennium BC began to expand across Europe but also to deep into Siberia.
Field work wouldn’t have been possible without the excellent work of the DAI (German Archaeological Institute) Eurasia department and the many Russian colleagues from ‘Nasledie’ as well as the Anthropology department of the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow.
The first set of results from this exciting long-term project were published in Nature Communication in early 2019 describing a correspondence of eco-geographic zones with patterns of genetic ancestry both south and north of the Greater Caucasus mountain range.
In late 2017 we collected a second batch of human remains, which we are currently analysing under the umbrella of the ERC project PALEoRIDER. We are particularly interested in following up on the findings of the first paper that described the ‘Steppe Maykop’ ancestry profiles including some of the ‘outlier’ individuals that filled the in-between positions between our two main clusters in PC space. We are also looking for evidence for early phases of Neolithic influence from the south linked to developments in Northern Mesopotamia, eastern Anatolia and the Iranian plateau. Part of this research will be linked to ongoing efforts in the MHAAM project, such as the continued exploration of late forager and early farmer ancestry in the Near East.