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Millet and beans, language and genes. The origin and dispersal of the Transeurasian family.

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - Eurasia3angle (Millet and beans, language and genes. The origin and dispersal of the Transeurasian family.)

Reporting period: 2020-03-01 to 2021-02-28

Even if migration makes the breaking news today, it is of all times. The origin and early dispersal of speakers of Transeurasian languages, i.e. Japanese, Korean, Tungusic, Mongolic and Turkic, is among the most disputed issues of Eurasian population history. A key problem is the relationship between linguistic dispersals, agricultural expansions and population movements. In our ERC eurasia3angle project we addressed this question through ‘triangulating’ genetics, archaeology and linguistics in a unified perspective. We reported new, wide-ranging datasets from these disciplines, including the most comprehensive Transeurasian agropastoral and basic vocabulary presented to date, an archaeological database of 255 Neolithic and Bronze Age sites from Northeast Asia, and the first collection of ancient genomes from the Liao River Region, the Amur, Korea, the Ryukyu islands and early cereal farmers in Japan. Challenging the traditional ‘Pastoralist Hypothesis’, we showed that the common ancestry and primary dispersals of Transeurasian languages can be traced back to the first farmers moving across Northeast Asia from the Early Neolithic onwards, but that this shared heritage has been masked by extensive cultural interaction since the Bronze Age. As well as marking significant progress in the three individual disciplines, by combining their converging evidence, we showed that the early spread of Transeurasian speakers was driven by agriculture. Our research is key to a better understanding of the human, cultural and linguistic diversity in East Asia, one of the world’s major theaters of human evolution. Our results are important for society because as humans, our search for identity depends on understanding who we are and where we come from.
In the linguistic part of our project, we collected the most comprehensive Transeurasian lexical database produced to date for all 98 Transeurasian languages, including contemporary as well ashistorical varieties, basic vocabulary as well as agropastoral vocabulary.

In the archaeological part of the project , we used a wide-ranging archaeological database of 255 Neolithic and Bronze Age sites from northern China, the Primorye, Korea and Japan and and compiled an inventory of early cereal remains with direct radiocarbon dates.

In the genetic part of our project , we combined genomic analyses of newly-sampled individuals from the Amur, Korea, Kyushu and the Ryukyus with published genomes covering North and East Asia between 9500 and 300 BP.

Integrating our linguistic, archaeological and genetic findings, we showed that the Transeurasian languages can be traced back to the beginning of millet cultivation and the early Amur gene pool in Neolithic Northeast Asia. The primary dispersals of the Transeurasian languages were thus driven by agriculture.
As much as 106 publications with ERC acknowledgement resulted from our eurasia3angle project, a quarter of which are still under review or in press.