First ancient DNA from continental Finland reveals the origins of Siberian ancestry in the region – HeritageDaily


Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Helsinki have analyzed the first ancient DNA from continental Finland.

Ancient DNA was extracted from bones and teeth of a 3,500-year-old burial on the Kola peninsula in Russia and a 1,500-year-old water burial in Finland. The results reveal the possible path along which the ancient peoples of Siberia spread to Finland and northwest Russia.

Researchers have found the first evidence of Siberian ancestors in Fennoscandia in a population that inhabits the Kola peninsula in northwestern Russia dating back about 4,000 years ago. This genetic ancestor then spread to the populations living in Finland. The study also found that people genetically similar to the current Saami people inhabited areas in much more parts of southern Finland than the Saami today.

For the present study, genomic 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 from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. "We were surprised to find that the earliest samples studied here had the highest proportion of Siberian ancestry," says Stephan Schiffels, senior co-author of the study at the Max Planck Institute 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 where human bones have been preserved. The bodies were buried in what used to be a small lake or pond, and this seems to have contributed to the exceptionally good conservation of the remains.

Siberian ancestry persists today

The study compared ancient individuals not only to one another but also to modern populations, including Saami, Finnish, and other speakers of the Uralic language. Among modern European populations, the Saami have the highest proportion of this ancient Siberian descent. Around the world, the Nganasan people of northern Siberia have the highest proportion of ancient Siberian ancestors.

"Our results show that there was a strong genetic connection between ancient Finnish and Siberian populations," says Thiseas Lamnidis, co-author of the study, "suggesting that older Siberian populations may also share a livelihood strategy, languages ​​and / or behaviors cultural relations with the Finnish Bronze Age and Iron Age, despite the great geographical distance. "Former Finnish populations may have lived a mobile, nomadic, trading and moving on a large scale with long-range contacts for other populations.

The people found in Levänluhta, Finland, most resemble the modern Saami

The researchers found that the population in Levänluhta was more related to the Saami people of today than to the Finnish non-Saami population today.

"The people closely related to the Saami inhabited much more southern regions of Finland than the Saami today," explains Kerttu Majander, co-first author of the University of Helsinki and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Interestingly, a recent linguistic study suggested that the names of places around Levänluhta can be traced back to the Saami languages.

"This is the first exploration of the ancient DNA of Finland and the results are very interesting," says Schiffels. "However, older DNA studies in the area will be needed to better understand whether the patterns we have seen are representative of Finland as a whole."

The study was conducted as a collaboration between the SUGRIGE project (Universities of Helsinki and Turku) and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Archaeological materials and knowledge were provided by the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of Peter the Great and the Levänluhta project with the Finnish Heritage Agency.


Header Image – This is an artistic print of a former Bolshoy fisherman Oleni Ostrov. Credit: Kerttu Majander


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