Excerpt – Xiongnu culture

Excerpt (Google translation from French) of:
Elizabet Petkovski – Polymorphismes ponctuels de séquence et identification génétique, 2006, link

In this work, we studied three SNPs on the Y chromosome of male DNA samples obtained from old skeletal remains discovered in the necropolis of the Valley Egyin Gol in Mongolia in the north.

This cemetery is the Xiongnu culture, Turco-Mongol tribe of nomadic warriors against which the Chinese have raised the Great Wall. In the 3rd century BC, they created the first empire ruled by nomads of Central Asia. They ruled the area stretching from Lake Baikal in the north to the Gobi desert to the south and from west of Manchuria until the Pamirs in the west. Time of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), China has expanded its borders at the expense of the Xiongnu Empire [Marx, 2000]. According to carbon-14 dating of the site Egyin Gol has been used from the 3rd century BC to 2nd century AD, that is to say throughout the Xiongnu period. The graves are arranged in four areas designated “A”, “B”, “C” and “D” on both sides of a small depression in the valley (Figure 31). The site would be extended from area A to areas B and C, with some graves from the center of Area B which appear earlier in the set B / C. The cold environment of northern Mongolia allows the conservation of graves at the state froze. These conditions are conducive to good preservation of DNA [Burger et al. 1999, Leonard et al., 2000], the skeletal remains excavated were studied through biparental STR markers and the Y chromosome and the polymorphism of mitochondrial DNA [Tracqui-Keyser et al., 2003]. This study has highlighted the close kinship relationships between several specimens buried in this site and provided additional information on the organization of the necropolis and burial practices of the Xiongnu. Notably, the haplotypes found for specimens found in a group of relatively isolated graves, suggest contacts between the peoples of Europe and Asia prior to the development of the Xiongnu culture and the emergence of a Turkish component in the Xiongnu tribe parallel to aging burial site [Tracqui-Keyser et al., 2003]. To further explore the diversity suggested by the analysis of STR, we studied markers bialléliques TAT, M242 and RPS4Y on specimens of this necropolis [Petkovski et al., In press]. The three specimens studied, one from each different sector of the necropolis, defined by the carbon 14 dating (Figure 31). The tomb of the specimen 19eg is located in the oldest sector of the necropolis. The graves of individuals 112EG and 70EG are in areas B and C respectively. The TAT-C allele, defining haplogroup N3 is observed at very high frequencies in Yakut [Zerjal et al. 1997; Pakendorf et al. 2002; Karafet et al. 1999; Lell et al. 2002]. Haplogroup Q, defined by the M242-T allele is observed in all Amerindian Y chromosomes bearing the mutation locus RPS4Y [Seielstad et al., 2003]. Similarly, it is observed at significant frequencies in populations of Siberia and Central Asia [Underhill et al. 2000; Tambets et al., 2004]. The M242 mutation (C → T) is common in Eurasian populations. Because the mutations occurred after M45 and M74 but prior to the M3 mutation, it predates the first migration to America. It originated in Central Asia and had migrated through the region Altai / Baikal from Eurasia to North America. RPS4Y711 mutation (C → T), defining haplogroup C is restricted to East Asia and America [Bergen et al. 1998; 1999; Lell et al., 2002]. Among male individuals in this cemetery only 2 belong to haplogroup N3 (TATT → C), one being excavated from Area A (19eg) and one whose haplogroup has been determined in another study , the center of Area B (tomb 69, Figure 31) [-Tracqui Keyser et al., 2004]. Thus, in this necropolis, the presence of this haplogroup is earlier than the 2 other haplogroups that have been found in the newer areas of the site. The specimen 70EG (Area C), was unearthed from a cluster of graves of genetically related individuals. These individuals have the same Y haplotype and some share the same mtDNA sequence. These uniparental lineages were found among the Turkish people. The membership of the individual 70EG to haplogroup C, confirms and clarifies the suggested contacts between the peoples of Europe and Asia prior to the development of the Xiongnu culture. Unfortunately, through the study of ancient samples, where the amount of matrix available is very limited, it is not always possible to implement all tests.

The low number of samples analyzed by these markers do not allow conclusions. However, they demonstrate the heterogeneity of the Xiongnu tribe, as suggested by the results of the analysis of STR markers. This diversity is linked with the expansion time of the Necropolis. Given the weight of information can make the SNP approach, it will be interesting to exploit in the study of other ancient peoples.

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