© STATE HISTORICAL MUSEUM, MOSCOWThe Yamnaya made knife blades like this one and other tools of bronze.
I was about to post a comment under a new preprint at bioRxiv, but the comment section isn't there anymore. Hopefully, this is just a temporary glitch.

The preprint in question is titled Reconstructing the spatiotemporal patterns of admixture during the European Holocene using a novel genomic dating method [LINK]. It's co-authored by Harvard/Broad MIT scientist Nick Patterson who occasionally comments at this blog.

My impression is that the authors see the people associated with the Yamnaya culture as Asians who simply used "far" Eastern Europe as a springboard to expand into other parts of Europe.

If so, they're dead wrong.

There are at least three arguments why the Yamnaya population should be seen as quintessentially European:
- its home was initially and overwhelmingly the Pontic-Caspian steppe, which is entirely located within the present-day borders of Europe

- Yamnaya genomes are clearly different from those of older populations native to nearby parts of Asia, and, in fact, these differences show a very strong correlation with the present-day borders between Europe and Asia

- the Yamnaya people weren't a new population in Europe by any stretch, but must have been overwhelmingly derived from the very similar Eneolithic peoples of the Pontic-Caspian steppe and/or the nearby forest steppe, both of which are located in Eastern Europe.
And yet, this is what the preprint claims:
The beginning of the Bronze Age was a period of major cultural and demographic change in Eurasia, accompanied by the spread of Yamnaya Steppe Pastoralist-related ancestry from Pontic-Caspian steppes into Europe and South Asia (16).
In fact, what really happened at this time was that Yamnaya steppe pastoralist-related ancestry spread from Eastern Europe to other parts of Europe, as well as to Central and West Asia.

The preprint does eventually explain that present-day South Asians derive their Yamnaya-related ancestry from a later eastward expansion of the European Corded Ware culture (CWC), but it completely ignores the fact that the Afanasievo culture was the result of the initial eastward expansion from Europe to Asia. That is, the ancestors of the Afanasievo people were recent migrants from the Pontic-Caspian steppe to Central Asia and Siberia.

There's also this:
Over the following millennium, the Yamnaya-derived groups of the Corded Ware Complex (CWC) and Bell Beaker complex (BBC) cultures brought Steppe pastoralist-related ancestry to Europe.
Seriously? Both the CWC and BBC, just like the Yamnaya culture, were from Europe. In fact, as per above, the descendants of the CWC expanded into Asia.

And this:
The second major migration occurred when populations associated with the Yamnaya culture in the Pontic-Caspian steppe expanded to central and western Europe from far eastern Europe.
The authors basically admit here that Yamnaya came from Eastern Europe, but they call it "far" Eastern Europe. Perhaps they know something I don't, but as things stand, there's no evidence that Yamnaya came from "far" Eastern Europe. In fact, the emerging consensus based on ancient DNA, including pre-publication data, is that Yamnaya may have originated in what is now Ukraine. In my opinion, Ukraine isn't located in "far" Eastern Europe, but more or less in the middle of it.

Inexplicably, this is what they say about the genetic origins of the Yamnaya and Afanasievo peoples:
These groups were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of EHG-related groups and CHG-related groups associated with the first farmers from Iran (8, 22, 36).


Thus, we combined all early Steppe pastoralist individuals in one group to obtain a more precise estimate for the genetic formation of proto-Yamnaya of ~4,400 to 4,000 BCE (Figure 2). These dates are noteworthy as they pre-date the archeological evidence by more than a millennium (37) and have important implications for understanding the origin of proto-Pontic Caspian cultures and their spread to Europe and South Asia.
Not really.

Like I said, the Yamnaya population was overwhelmingly derived from the Eneolithic peoples of the Eastern European steppe and/or forest steppe. And these Yamnaya-like Eneolithic peoples were spread out across a vast area of Eastern Europe by at least ~4,500 BCE. Some of their genomes have been available for several years, and many more are on the way.

It is possible that the Yamnaya and Afanasievo genotype formed in 4,400-4,000 BCE, but if so, then this was due to mixing between the Eneolithic steppe peoples and nearby European farmers. That's because the difference between the Yamnaya and Eneolithic steppe genotypes is minor (~15%) European farmer admixture in the former.

The really interesting puzzle is exactly where and when the peculiar Eneolithic steppe genotype came into being. Any ideas Dr Patterson?

See also...

Matters of geography

Understanding the Eneolithic steppe