The apparent lack of steppe ancestry in five Hittite-era, perhaps Indo-European-speaking, Anatolians was interpreted in Damagaard et al. 2018 as a major discovery with profound implications for the origin of the Anatolian branch of Indo-European languages.
But I disagree with this assessment, simply because none of these Hittite-era individuals are from royal Hittite, or Nes, burials. Hence, there’s a very good chance that they were Hattians, who were not of Indo-European origin, even if they spoke the Indo-European Hittite language because it was imposed on them.
Moreover, I am actually seeing a minor, but persistent, signal of steppe ancestry in one of the two Old-Hittite Period (~1750–1500 BCE) samples: Anatolia_MLBA MA2203. Indeed, I can put together very coherent, chronologically sound models using a couple of different methods to demonstrate this. Below is a fairly decent qpAdm model.
Obviously, these numbers aren’t exactly impressive. But if the signal is real, then it might be an indication of things to come when someone manages to sequence at least a few genomes from confirmed Hittite remains. None of the other Anatolia_MLBA individuals, three of whom are from the Assyrian Colony Period (~2000–1750 BCE), show such obvious steppe ancestry.
Anatolia_MLBA w/o MA2203
In any case, apart from all of that, Damagaard et al. do take a measured and sober approach to interpreting their archaeogenetic data in the context of the Indo-European homeland debate. The paper also includes a very thorough linguistic supplement, freely available here, which reveals that there is Eastern European Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) ancestry in soon to be published Maykop culture samples. From the supplement (emphasis is mine):
Despite a general agreement on a Pontic-Caspian origin of the Anatolian Indo-European language family, it is currently impossible to determine on linguistic grounds whether the language reached Anatolia through the Balkans in the West (Anthony 2007; Mallory 1989: 30; Melchert 2003; Steiner 1990; Watkins 2006: 50) or through the Caucasus in the East (Kristiansen 2005: 77; Stefanini 2002; Winn 1981). From their earliest attestations, the Anatolian languages are clustered in Anatolia, and if the distribution reflects a prehistoric linguistic speciation event (as argued by Oettinger 2002: 52), then it may be taken as an indication that the arrival and disintegration of Proto-Anatolian language took place in the same area (Steiner 1981: 169). However, others have reasoned that the estimated period between the dissolution of the Proto-Anatolian language and the attestation of the individual daughter languages is extensive enough to allow for prehistoric mobility within Anatolia, theoretically leaving plenty of time for secondary East-to-West dispersals (cf. Melchert 2003: 25).
Whatever the case may be, there are no linguistic indications for any mass migration of steppe-derived Anatolian speakers dominating or replacing local populations. Rather, the Anatolian Indo-European languages appear in history as an organically integrated part of the linguistic landscape. In lexicon, syntax, and phonology, the second millennium languages of Anatolia formed a convergent, diffusional linguistic area (Watkins 2001: 54). Though the presence of an Indo-European language itself demonstrates that a certain number of speakers must have entered the area, the establishment of the Anatolian Indo-European branch in Anatolia is likely to have happened through a long-term process of infiltration and acculturalization rather than through mass immigration or elite dominance (Melchert 2003: 25). Furthermore, the genetic results presented in Damgaard et al. 2018 show no indication of a large-scale intrusion of a steppe population. The EHG ancestry detected in individuals associated with both Yamnaya (3000–2400 BCE) and the Maykop culture (3700–3000 BCE) (in prep.) is absent from our Anatolian specimens, suggesting that neither archaeological horizon constitutes a suitable candidate for a “homeland” or “stepping stone” for the origin or spread of Anatolian Indo-European speakers to Anatolia. However, with the archaeological and genetic data presented here, we cannot reject a continuous small-scale influx of mixed groups from the direction of the Caucasus during the Chalcolithic period of the 4th millennium BCE.
Under the “Steppe Hypothesis,” the Indo-Iranian languages are not seen as indigenous to South Asia but rather as an intrusive branch from the northern steppe zone (cf. Anthony 2007: 408–411; Mallory 1989: 35–56; Parpola 1995; Witzel 1999, 2001). Important clues to the original location and dispersal of the Indo-Iranians into South and Southwest Asia are provided by the Indo-Iranian languages themselves.
The Indo-Aryan and Iranian languages share a common set of etymologically related terms related to equestrianism and chariotry (Malandra 1991). Since it can be shown that this terminology was inherited from their Proto-Indo-Iranian ancestor, rather than independently borrowed from a third language, the split of this ancestor into Indo-Aryan and Iranian languages must postdate these technological innovations. The earliest available archaeological evidence of two-wheeled chariots is dated to approximately 2000 BCE (Anthony 1995; Anthony and Ringe 2015; Kuznetsov 2006: 638–645; Teufer 2012: 282). This offers the earliest possible date so far for the end of Proto-Indo-Iranian as a linguistic unity. The reference to a mariannu in a text from Tell speakers. Leilān in Syria discussed below pushes the latest possible period of Indo-Iranian linguistic unity to the 18th century BCE.
The traces of early Indo-Aryan speakers in Northern Syria positions the oldest Indo-Iranian speakers somewhere between Western Asia and the Greater Punjab, where the earliest Vedic text is thought to have been composed during the Late Bronze Age (cf. Witzel 1999: 3). In addition, a northern connection is suggested by contacts between the Indo-Iranian and the Finno-Ugric languages. Speakers of the Finno-Ugric family, whose antecedent is commonly sought in the vicinity of the Ural Mountains, followed an east-to-west trajectory through the forest zone north and directly adjacent to the steppes, producing languages across to the Baltic Sea. In the languages that split off along this trajectory, loanwords from various stages in the development of the Indo-Iranian languages can be distinguished: 1) Pre-Proto-Indo-Iranian (Proto-Finno-Ugric *kekrä (cycle), *kesträ (spindle), and *-teksä (ten) are borrowed from early preforms of Sanskrit cakrá- (wheel, cycle), cattra- (spindle), and daśa- (10); Koivulehto 2001), 2) Proto-Indo-Iranian (Proto-Finno-Ugric *śata (one hundred) is borrowed from a form close to Sanskrit śatám (one hundred), 3) Pre-Proto-Indo-Aryan (Proto-Finno-Ugric *ora (awl), *reśmä (rope), and *ant- (young grass) are borrowed from preforms of Sanskrit ā́ r ā- (awl), raśmí- (rein), and ándhas- (grass); Koivulehto 2001: 250; Lubotsky 2001: 308), and 4) loanwords from later stages of Iranian (Koivulehto 2001; Korenchy 1972). The period of prehistoric language contact with Finno-Ugric thus covers the entire evolution of Pre-Proto-Indo-Iranian into Proto-Indo-Iranian, as well as the dissolution of the latter into Proto-Indo-Aryan and Proto-Iranian. As such, it situates the prehistoric location of the Indo-Iranian branch around the southern Urals (Kuz’mina 2001).
Guus Kroonen, Gojko Barjamovic, & Michaël Peyrot. (2018). Linguistic supplement to Damgaard et al. 2018: Early Indo-European languages, Anatolian, Tocharian and Indo-Iranian. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1240524
Update 14/05/2018: I managed to, more or less, reproduce my qpAdm models with qpGraph. This is never a simple and easy task, so I’m now more confident that Anatolia_MLBA MA2203 really does harbor ancestry from the steppe.