Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (03): 412-421.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2023.0010

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Ancient genomes reveal the complex genetic history of Prehistoric Eurasian modern humans

ZHANG Ming1,2,3(), PING Wanjing2,3, YANG Melinda Anna2,4, FU Qiaomei2,3()   

  1. 1. China-Central Asia “the Belt and Road” Joint Laboratory on Human and Environment Research, Key Laboratory of Cultural Heritage Research and Conservation, School of Culture Heritage, Northwest University, Xi’an 710127
    2. Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100044
    3. CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, Beijing 100044
    4. Department of Biology, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA 23173, USA
  • Received:2022-03-04 Revised:2022-08-05 Online:2023-06-15 Published:2023-06-13


Significant shifts in human populations occurred several times throughout history, as populations dispersed throughout Eurasia about 50 kaBP. During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), global temperatures dropped sharply causing environmental deterioration and population turnover in areas. After the LGM, populations increased as the natural environment stabilized and gradually developed into today’s populations. With advancements in ancient DNA extraction and sequencing technology, it is increasingly possible to directly retrieve genome-wide data from prehistoric modern human remains. The rapid emergence of new ancient genomes provides an entirely new direction for studying modern human population structure and evolutionary history. This research on Eurasian populations spanning 45~19 kaBP (pre-LGM) and 19~10 kaBP (post-LGM) summarizes the movement and interaction of prehistoric modern human populations, focusing especially on prehistoric East Eurasia, a region that has been less well-studied genetically. Of at least six distinct populations in Eurasia, three did not contribute substantial ancestry to present-day populations: Ust’-Ishim (≈45 kaBP) from northwestern Siberia; Oase 1 (≈40 kaBP) from Romania; and Zlatý kůň (over 45 kaBP) from Czechia. One population represented by three individuals (4.6~4.3 kaBP, from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria) seemed to contribute at least a partial genetic component to later some Eurasian populations. One population represented by Tianyuan man (≈40 kaBP, from East Asia) was shown to be more similar to present-day East Asians and Native Americans than to present-day or ancient Europeans. One population represented by Kostenki 14 (≈36 kaBP, from western Siberia) and Goyet Q116-1 (≈35 kaBP, from Belgium) was more closely related to Europeans than to other Eurasians. This work also summarized five representative populations after 40 kaBP and before the end of the LGM. In East Eurasia after the LGM (or since 14 kaBP), population histories played out very differently. For instance, high genetic continuity is observed in the Amur region in the last 14 kaBP, while in the Guangxi region of southern China, an ancient population that lived 10.5 kaBP carried ancestry not represented in any present-day humans. To conclude, comparison of genome-wide ancient DNA from multiple prehistoric humans have illustrated a complex genetic history of prehistoric Eurasian modern humans. In the future, additional ancient genomes will provide more evidence and details to illuminate the complex genetic history of modern humans.

Key words: Eurasia, modern human, Ancient DNA, Population structure, Genetic history

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