SciLifeLab The Svedberg seminar series, Wolfgang Haak, the genetic history of the Greater Caucasus

Monday, August 20

Wolfgang Haak

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany

  • PhD Thesis ‘Population genetics of Central Europe’s first farmers’ (2006)
  • Postdoc in ancient human DNA at the Institute for Anthropology, JG University Mainz, Germany (2006-2007)
  • Postdoc in National Geographics ‘The Genographic Project’ (aDNA node, Adelaide; 2007-2011)
  • Group leader ‘Ancient human DNA’ at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA in Adelaide, Australia (2007-2015)
  • Group leader ‘Molecular Anthropology’ at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany (since April 2015)

Into the great wide open: the genetic history of the Greater Caucasus

Archaeogenetic studies have described the formation of Eurasian ‘steppe ancestry’ as a mixture of Eastern and Caucasus hunter-gatherers. However, it remains unclear when and where this ancestry arose and whether it was related to a horizon of cultural innovations in the 4th millennium BCE that facilitated the advance of pastoral societies. To address this, we generated genome-wide SNP data from 45 prehistoric individuals along a 3000-year temporal transect in the North Caucasus. We observe a genetic separation between the groups of the Caucasus and those of the adjacent steppe. The Caucasus groups are genetically similar to contemporaneous populations south of it, suggesting that – unlike today – the Caucasus acted as a bridge rather than an insurmountable barrier to human movement. The steppe groups from Yamnaya and subsequent pastoralist cultures show evidence for previously undetected Anatolian farmer-related ancestry from different contact zones, while Steppe Maykop individuals harbour additional Upper Palaeolithic Siberian and Native American related ancestry.


Read about Wolfgang Haak´s research

Host: Torsten Günther,