Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Helsinki analyzed the first ancient DNA of mainland Finland.
The old DNA was extracted from bones and teeth at a 3,500-year-old burial in the Kola Peninsula, Russia, and from a 1,500-year-old aquatic burial. years in Finland. The results reveal the possible path by which ancient Siberian peoples spread to Finland and northwestern Russia.
The researchers discovered the first evidence of Siberian ancestry in Fennoscandia in a population of the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia, which dates back to around 4,000 years ago. This genetic ancestry then spread to populations living in Finland. The study also revealed that people genetically similar to the Saami people of today lived in much more southern regions of Finland than the Saami today.
For this study, genome – wide genetic data from 11 individuals were retrieved. Eight individuals came from the Kola peninsula, six from a burial dated 3,500 years ago and two from a Saami cemetery dating from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. "We were surprised to find that the oldest samples studied here had the highest proportion of Siberian ancestry," says Stephan Schiffels, co-lead author of the Max Institute study. Planck for the science of human history.
The other three individuals analyzed for the study came from a water burial in Levänluhta, Finland. Levänluhta is one of the oldest known burials in Finland in which human bones have been preserved. The bodies were buried in what was once a small lake or pond, which seems to have contributed to an exceptional conservation of the remains.
Siberian ancestry still persists today
The study compared the old individuals not only to each other, but also to modern populations, including Saami, Finnish and other speakers of the Uralic language. Of the modern European populations, the Saami have the largest proportion of this ancient Siberian ancestry. Around the world, the Nganasan people, native to northern Siberia, have the largest proportion of ancient Siberian origins.
"Our results show that there was a strong genetic link between ancient Finnish and ancient Siberian populations," says Thiseas Lamnidis, co-lead author of the study, "suggesting that ancient Siberian populations would have -be also shared a strategy of or cultural behaviors with the Finns of the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, despite the great geographical distance.
People found in Levänluhta, Finland, most resemble modern saami
The researchers found that the population of Levänluhta was more closely related to the Saami people today than to the Finnish non saami population of today.
"People close to the Saami who inhabit much more southern Finland than today's Saami," says Kerttu Majander, co-first author of the University of Helsinki and of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Interestingly, a recent linguistic study has suggested that the place names around Levänluhta go back to the Saami languages.
"This is the first exploration of old Finnish DNA and the results are very interesting," says Schiffels. "However, older DNA studies in the region will be needed to better understand whether the models observed are representative of Finland as a whole."
The study was conducted in collaboration with the SUGRIGE project (Universities of Helsinki and Turku) and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. The archaeological material and expertise were provided by the Grand Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography Peter Kunstkamera and by the project Levänluhta with the Finnish Heritage Agency.
Header Image – This is an artistic impression of a former Bolshoi fisherman Oleni Ostrov. Credit: Kerttu Majander