Exotic female migrants in Early Medieval Bavaria (Veeramah et al. 2018)

PNAS has a new open access paper on the genomics of Early Medieval Bavarians, with a special focus on women with artificial skull deformation [LINK]. The data also include two very interesting Medieval samples from Crimea and Serbia, associated with the East Germanic Ostrogoths and Gepids, respectively. Both show significant Asian admixture. I’ll try to get my hands on the dataset ASAP. Here’s the abstract and a couple of quotes from the paper. Emphasis is mine:

Modern European genetic structure demonstrates strong correlations with geography, while genetic analysis of prehistoric humans has indicated at least two major waves of immigration from outside the continent during periods of cultural change. However, population-level genome data that could shed light on the demographic processes occurring during the intervening periods have been absent. Therefore, we generated genomic data from 41 individuals dating mostly to the late 5th/early 6th century AD from present-day Bavaria in southern Germany, including 11 whole genomes (mean depth 5.56×). In addition we developed a capture array to sequence neutral regions spanning a total of 5 Mb and 486 functional polymorphic sites to high depth (mean 72×) in all individuals. Our data indicate that while men generally had ancestry that closely resembles modern northern and central Europeans, women exhibit a very high genetic heterogeneity; this includes signals of genetic ancestry ranging from western Europe to East Asia. Particularly striking are women with artificial skull deformations; the analysis of their collective genetic ancestry suggests an origin in southeastern Europe. In addition, functional variants indicate that they also differed in visible characteristics. This example of female-biased migration indicates that complex demographic processes during the Early Medieval period may have contributed in an unexpected way to shape the modern European genetic landscape. Examination of the panel of functional loci also revealed that many alleles associated with recent positive selection were already at modern-like frequencies in European populations ∼1,500 years ago.

A much more diverse ancestry was observed among the females with elongated skulls, as demonstrated by a significantly greater group-based FIS (SI Appendix, Fig. S35). All these females had varying amounts of genetic ancestry found today predominantly in southern European countries [as seen by the varying amounts of ancestry inferred by model-based clustering that is representative of a sample from modern Tuscany, Italy (TSI), Fig. 3], and while the majority of samples were found to be closest to modern southeastern Europeans (Bulgaria and Romania, Fig. 4C), at least one individual, AED_1108, appeared to possess ∼20% East Asian ancestry (Fig. 3), which was also evident from the high number of haplotypes within the 5-Mb neutralome that were private to modern East Asian 1000 Genomes individuals (EAS), while also demonstrating an overall ancestry profile consistent with Central Asian populations (SI Appendix, Fig. S33). No modern European individual from the Simons Genome Diversity Panel (SGDP) (11) showed any evidence of significant East Asian ancestry except one Hungarian individual with less than 5%. A higher amount of East Asian ancestry was inferred for AED_1108 than all modern Caucasus and Middle Eastern individuals, and 28 of 33 South Asian individuals.

A diverse ancestry was also inferred for the two non-Bavarian samples with elongated heads. KER_1 from Ukraine possessed significant southern European ancestry as well as South Asian ancestry, with an overall profile that best matched modern Turkish individuals. The Gepid VIM_2 from Serbia demonstrated a similar Central Asian-like genetic profile to the Medieval Bavarian AED_1108 with an even larger East Asian component and number of private haplotypes but with less southern European/Middle Eastern ancestry (SI Appendix, Figs. S31 and S33).

Veeramah et al., Population genomic analysis of elongated skulls reveals extensive female-biased immigration in Early Medieval Bavaria, PNAS 2018; published ahead of print March 12, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1719880115
See also…
First real foray into Migration Period Europe: the Gepid, Roman, Ostrogoth and others…

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