Understanding prehistory through genetic inference and ancient DNA

Before David Reich’s book, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, I highly recommend a new preprint from Pontus Skoglund and Iain Mathieson*, Ancient genomics: a new view into human prehistory and evolution.

It’s basically at the sweet spot for a lot of readers: doesn’t overemphasize methods or archaeological minutiae that’s hard to follow. That being said I do think you would benefit if you read two things which would complement in those directions, First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, and Ancient Admixture in Human History.

* I have to say, I consider Iain a friend, but am I the only one a bit perplexed by how a British person can have such a difficult to spell version of his name? I always have to look it up!

5 thoughts on “Understanding prehistory through genetic inference and ancient DNA

  1. The writer Iain Banks is a Scottish Iain. Many Brits have Gaelic or Welsh first names, some of them Celtic variants of “John”, including “Iain”, “Sean”, “Sion”, “Ioan” (think of the actor Ioan Gruffudd (his last name is pronounced “Greeffeeth”)), and “Ieuan” (pronounced “Yayan”). So you got off lightly with a mere “Iain”.

  2. Fig 2 A is probably point of most interest to me; declining heterozygosity / conditional nucelotide diversity with distance from Africa today within context of ancient samples.

    It would also have been cool for them to put on the EHG->WHG cline of heterozygosity, where the recent Mathieson and Gunther papers found a declining cline of h/CND from EHG->WHG, and EHG not clearly having lower h/CND than Anatolian Neolithic.

    Also, adding in Boncuklu samples, who had as low a level of h within population as SHG (and very different to Barcin Neolithic who were otherwise similar in outgroup relationships!). See – http://www.cell.com/cms/attachment/2067973052/2067204625/gr2.jpg. Also the Lapita, who had sharply different heterozygosity from present day East Asians (see Fig2e – https://sci-hub.bz/https://www.nature.com/articles/nature19844 where Lapita are at Papuan levels of nucleotide diversity, unlike present day East Asians). More tentatively Lapita also seem to have lower CND than comparison First Farmers in the West, though East Asians today don’t.

    Conversely very high within group f3 sharing for both (the flipside of low heterozygosity / CND.

    I understand that they wanted to go for high coverage only, but these are really interesting examples and particularly in the case of Boncuklu shows that the falls in h / CND sometimes do not coincide with the WHG/Anatolian Farmer split.

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