Ancient DNA analysis reveals Asian migration and plague

January 07, 2021

Northeastern Asia has a complex history of migrations and plague outbursts. That is the essence of an international archaeogenetic study published in Science Advances and lead from the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University. Genomic data from archaeological remains from 40 individuals excavated in northeastern Asia were explored in the study.

"It is striking that we find everything here, continuity as well as recurrent migrations and also disease-related bacteria", says Anders Götherström, professor at the Center for Palaeogenetics at Stockholm University and one of the Principal investigators of the study.

The scientists discovered that there were demographic events in the past common for the whole Lake Baikal region. For example, around 8300 years ago there was a migratory event discernible both east and west of Lake Baikal. But there were also events specific for each of the two areas. While the areas west of Lake Baikal provides evidence for recurrent migrations and intense mobility, the areas east of Lake Baikal preserved a long-term continuity for thousands of years, apparently with limited mobility from other areas.

"It is intriguing that our data reveals complex and contrasting patterns of demographic change in one of the least populated regions on earth; including notable gene flow and at the same time a genetic continuity without major demographic changes in the two areas around Lake Baikal", says lead-author Gulsah Merve Kilinc, former postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University and currently Lecturer at Department of Bioinformatics at Hacettepe University in Ankara.

The study also provides some new clues to the history of the Paleo-Inuit groups, the people who inhabited northern Greenland and Canada. While it has been suspected that the so called Belkachi-complex, a cultural group in the Baikal area, played a part in the early history of Paleo-Inuits, it has not been possible to evaluate this in detail. The analyses of remains of an individual associated with the Belkachi cultural-complex, dated to more than 6000 years before present now show that there is an association to a previously published Paleo Inuit (Saqqaq) individual (dated c.4000 yrs BP) on Greenland.

"This is the first genetic evidence of a link between a Neolithic period human group in Yakutia and the later Palaeo-Inuit groups, and this will inspire to new of research on the demographic development", says Jan Storå, Professor at Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University.

Finally, the study provides new data on the most eastern occurrences of the bacteria Yersinia pestis, the plague. One individual from the Lena basin, dated to c. 3800 years ago, and buried with individuals that proved to be close kin genetically, carried DNA from Yersinia pestis. Also, an individual dated to c. 4400 years ago from the area west of Lake Baikal hosted Yersinia pestis. Interestingly, the population west of Lake Baikal seems to have decreased in size around 4400 years ago, judging from the genomic data.

"Despite a need for more data, our discovery of the decrease in effective population size that coincided with the appearance of Yersinia pestis points to a possible presence of a prehistoric plague - possibly a pandemic. However, this is just as an educated guess which needs to wait for confirmation", says Emrah K?rdök, former postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University and currently Lecturer at Mersin University in Turkey.
-end-
The article "Human population dynamics and Yersinia pestis in ancient northeast Asia" is published in the scientific journal Science Advances.

Stockholm University

Related Plague Articles from Brightsurf:

Grape pips reveal collapse of ancient economy in the grip of plague and climate change
A team of archaeologists from Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa has discovered new and compelling evidence for a significant economic downturn on the fringe of the Byzantine Empire in the aftermath of a major pandemic in the mid-6th century CE.

Ancient disease may increase resilience to bubonic plague
Researchers have discovered that Mediterranean populations may be more susceptible to an autoinflammatory disease called familial Mediterranean fever because of evolutionary pressure to survive the bubonic plague epidemics.

Infectious disease modeling study casts doubt on impact of Justinianic plague
Many historians have claimed the Justinianic Plague (c. 541-750 CE) killed half of the population of Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire.

Justinianic plague not a landmark pandemic?
A study of diverse datasets, including pollen, coinage, and funeral practices, reveals that the effects of the late antique plague pandemic commonly known as the Justinianic Plague may have been overestimated.

Ancient genomes provide insight into the genetic history of the second plague pandemic
An international team of researchers has analyzed remains from ten archaeological sites in England, France, Germany, Russia, and Switzerland to gain insight into the different stages of the second plague pandemic and the genetic diversity of Yersinia pestis during and after the Black Death.

How plague pathogens trick the immune system
Yersinia have spread fear and terror, especially in the past, but today they have still not been completely eradicated.

Details of first historically recorded plague pandemic revealed by ancient genomes
An international team of researchers has analyzed human remains from 21 archaeological sites to learn more about the impact and evolution of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis during the first plague pandemic (541-750 AD).

2017 pneumonic plague outbreak in Madagascar characterized by scientists
Plague is an endemic disease in Madagascar. Each year there is a seasonal upsurge between September and April, especially in the Central Highlands, which stand at an elevation of more than 800m.

An ancient strain of plague may have led to the decline of Neolithic Europeans
A team of researchers from France, Sweden, and Denmark have identified a new strain of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes plague, in DNA extracted from 5,000-year-old human remains.

Researchers engineer dual vaccine against anthrax and plague
A team of researchers has now engineered a virus nanoparticle vaccine against Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis, tier 1 agents that pose serious threats to national security of the United States.

Read More: Plague News and Plague Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.