New ancient DNA from Georgia and Azerbaijan helps to refine our understanding of ancient populations distribution and boundaries.
The map below shows the distribution of LBA and IA period cultures around Caucasus. We have enough aDNA from Lchashen-Metsamor in Republic of Armenia to compare them with other sites.
In Georgian literature this culture is named Lchashen-Tsitelgori and as You can see on the map it is stretched quite North reaching Greater Caucasus range.
But it was obvious from the start that not all site labeled as Lchashen-Tsitelgori will yield the same people as in RoA.
Some Georgian archaeologists defined another name for this period calling them Samtavro culture. It seems this was a correct path because it's now evident that Lchashen-Tsitelgori generic name hides two distinct people. One of them are the Steppe rich people found in Republic of Armenia in Lchashen-Metsamor type sites. Who without doubt were speaking an IE language affiliated to Armenian while the other pop has no Steppe ancestry and in most likelihood is related to so called Samtavro type.
What language was speaking this Samtavro people is hard to say. Either a Kartvelian in this case it would be proto Georgian or proto-Iberian. Either a language that descend directly from Kur-Araxian culture. But this latter is unlikely.
An LBA sample from Doghlauri site in Central Eastern Georgia near Kur river confirms that there were two distinct people under the name Lchashen-Tsitelgori. The LBA sample from Doghlauri do not have Steppe and is more western shifted compared to the Kur-Araxian period sample from the same site. Which by the way belongs to J2 haplogroup.
We have also samples from Kakhetia in Eastern Georgia close to Alazani - Kur river junction from sites Didnauri and Nazarlebi. They are very similar to those samples we have from Lchashen-Metsamor culture and have R1b and possibly I2. Based on that we can deduce that the Khojaly Gadabay culture which was present in historic Utik' and Artsakh provinces might be related to Lchashen culture. Moreover the structure of I2 permits to say that Lchashen culture expanded from modern RoA to east playing a role in the formation of Khojaly Gadabay culture. This is consistent what Laneri was thinking about that culture. What language was speaking this Khojaly-Gadabay culture is hard to say. But in most likelihood it was an extinct IE language.
Finally we come to Caucasian Albania puzzle. A sample from Iron Age Shamakhi in Azerbaijan is ideal to have a clue about Albanians (Aluank'). This sample do have Steppe ancestry like most representatives of Daghestani family. But it is shifted to Caucasian foragers (East) compared to Lchashen type samples. More important it can have the Y dna J1 which is the predominant haplogroup in Daghestani speakers. In general this is an extra evidence that Nakh-Daghestani people descend from Kur-Araxian culture. Keeping in mind that we speak here only about the North Eastern parts of Kur-Araxian Culture and not whole KAC.
Where exactly formed the Lezgic group prominent in Albania is hard to say. If we follow Nichols classification then Lezgic group might have initially formed in the north in Daghestan and later moved back to southern slopes of Greater Caucasus. If we follow Schulze's linguistic classification which consider Lezgic an early split then it could have formed in situ directly from Kur-Araxian culture in southern slopes which were not affected by Steppic Kurganic cultures. More data will clarify this but I am inclined to believe that they came from mountainous Daghestan in North otherwise Lezgic group people including the Udi wouldn't have such a high level of Steppe ancestry.
And finally I want to say few words about the possibility that Lchashen (Etiuni) had a Lezgic speakers. Well from dozens and dozens Y dna we have from Lchashen only 1 is J1-Z1842! Well this outcome do not leave any place for any speculation about the identity of Etiuni. They were IE without doubt. Lezgic speakers should be searched in cultures like Kaiakent-Chorochoi and Yaloilutepe in northern parts of Azerbaijan.
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