Prehistoric Caucasus

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The Caucasus region, on the gateway between Southwest Asia, Europe and Central Asia, plays a pivotal role in the peopling of Eurasia, possibly as early as during the Homo erectus expansion to Eurasia, in the Upper Paleolithic peopling of Europe, and again in the re-peopling Mesolithic Europe following the Last Glacial Maximum, and in the expansion associated with the Neolithic Revolution.

Lower to Middle Paleolithic[edit]

Dmanisi skull 5, foundin Dmanisi, Georgia, is among the earliest Homo erectus fossils, dated to 1.8 Ma.

Upper Paleolithic to Epipaleolithic[edit]

Neolithic to Iron Age[edit]


Bronze Age:

The South Caucasus gradually enters the historical period following the Bronze Age collapse, see history of the Caucasus#Early_history

Genetic history[edit]

Language groups in the Caucasus have been found to have a close correlation to genetic ancestry.[1]

A genetic study in 2015 by Fu et al. of many modern European populations, identified a previously unidentified lineage, which was dubbed "Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer" (CHG).[2][3] The study detected a split between CHG and so-called "Western European Hunter-Gatherer" (WHG) lineages, about 45,000 years ago, the presumed time of the original peopling of Europe. CHG separated from the "Early Anatolian Farmers" (EAF) lineage later, at 25,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum. (CHG was extrapolated from, among other sources, the genomes of two fossils from western Georgia – one about 13,300 years old (Late Upper Paleolithic) and the other 9,700 years (Mesolithic), which were compared to the 13,700 year-old Bichon man genome (found in Switzerland).[2])

There was probably a migration of populations from the Near East and Caucasus to Europe during the Mesolithic, around 14,000 years ago, much earlier than the migrations associated with the Neolithic Revolution.[2] A few specimens from the Villabruna Cluster also show genetic affinities for East Asians that are derived from gene flow.[2][3] The light skin pigmentation characteristic of modern Europeans is estimated to have spread across Europe in a "selective sweep" during the Mesolithic (19,000 to 11,000 years ago). The associated TYRP1 alleles, SLC24A5 and SLC45A2, emerge around 19,000 years ago – during the LGM and most likely in the Caucasus.[4] The HERC2 variation for blue eyes first appears around 13,000 to 14,000 years ago in Italy and the Caucasus.[2]

Margaryan et al. (2017) analysing South Caucasian ancient mitochondrial DNA found continuity in descent in the maternal line for 8,000 years. The same study also found a rapid increase of the population at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, about 18,000 years ago.[5] The 2015 study by Fu et al. analysed "Eurasian steppe ancestry" – which is associated with the so-called Ancient North Eurasian lineage – among modern European populations, which is linked to the Indo-European expansion. The CHG lineage was found to have contributed significantly to the Yamnaya lineage of Chalcolithic pastoralists in the Pontic steppe, which in turn expanded into Europe from about 5,000 years ago (Indo-European expansion). CHG admixture was also found in South Asia, in a possible marker of the Indo-Aryan migration there.[6]

Yardumian et al. (2017) in a population genetics study on the Svans of northwestern Georgia found significant heterogenity in mt-DNA, with common haplogroups including U1‐U7, H, K, and W6, while Y-DNA haplogroups were less diverse, 78% of Svan males being bearers of Y-haplogroup G2a.[7]

Wang et al (2018) analysed genetic data of the North Caucasus of fossils dated between the 4th and 1st millennia BC and found correlation with modern groups of the South Caucasus, concluding that "unlike today - the Caucasus acted as a bridge rather than an insurmountable barrier to human movement".[8]

Modern Armenians were found to derive from an admixture event in the Bronze Age (3rd to 2nd millennia BCE), which combined various Eurasian lineages. Since the time of the Bronze Age collapse, about 1200 BCE, Armenians have remained genetically isolated as a population, with a higher genetic affinity to Neolithic Anatolians, the Neolithic Levant, and Neolithic European farmers than to modern Near Eastern populations.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O.Balanovsky et al., "Parallel Evolution of Genes and Languages in the Caucasus Region", Mol Biol Evol00 (2011), doi:10.1093/molbev/msr126.
  2. ^ a b c d e Fu, Qiaomei; Posth, Cosimo (May 2, 2016). "The genetic history of Ice Age Europe". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature17993.
  3. ^ a b Dutchen, Stephanie (May 2, 2016). "History on Ice". Harvard Medical School. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  4. ^ S. Beleza et al., "The Timing of Pigmentation Lightening in Europeans", Molecular Biology and Evolution, Volume 30, Issue 1, 1 January 2013, Pages 24–35, doi:10.1093/molbev/mss207. see also: E. R. Jones, "Upper Palaeolithic genomes reveal deep roots of modern Eurasians", Nature Communications volume 6, Article number: 8912 (2015), doi:10.1038/ncomms9912].
  5. ^ Margaryan and Derenko et al.: "Eight Millennia of Matrilineal Genetic Continuity in the South Caucasus" , DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.05.087
  6. ^ Jones, E. R. et al., "Upper Palaeolithic genomes reveal deep roots of modern Eurasians". Nat. Commun. 6:8912 doi: 10.1038/ncomms9912 (2015).
  7. ^ A. Yardumian et al. (2017), "Genetic diversity in Svaneti and its implications for the human settlement of the Highland Caucasus", Am J Phys Anth 164(4), December 2017, doi:10.1002/ajpa.23324.[1]
  8. ^ C. Wang et al., "The genetic prehistory of the Greater Caucasus", May 16, 2018, doi:
  9. ^ M. Haber et al., "Genetic evidence for an origin of the Armenians from Bronze Age mixing of multiple populations", European Journal of Human Genetics 24 (2015), 931–936 (2016), doi:10.1038/ejhg.2015.206.