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Genetic clues to the Ossetian past

Submitted by on January 18, 2012 – 6:32 pm 29 Comments |  
[Many thanks to Dave Howard for his assistance with this post!]

While it is indisputable that Ossetians speak an Iranian language, it is not immediately apparent whether they descend from an Iranian group such as the Alans, or alternatively if they are descendants of one of the autochthonous groups from the Caucasus, which adopted an Iranian language in the early Middle Ages or possibly even earlier; according to this second theory, prior to the adoption of an Iranian language, the Ossetians spoke some Caucasian language (more on which one below). Recent genetic studies seem to confirm both of these hypotheses because different research teams come up with dissimilar and often contradictory results, though the newer research points in the second direction. In this post, we will try to unravel some of these complex data and conclusions.

An earlier study on Ossetian DNA was conducted by Ivan Nasidze and his colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, the Center of Integrative Genomics at the University of Lausanne and the Vavilov Institute of General Genetics in Moscow, and its results published in a 2004 article in Annals of Human Genetics. This team concluded that a common origin of Ossetians is from an Iranian group, followed by subsequent influx of mostly males from the neighboring Caucasian tribes. According to their findings, mitochondrial DNA data, which traces maternal descent, suggests a common origin for North and South Ossetians, as well as their close affinity with other Iranian groups. In contrast, the Y‑DNA data, which traces paternal descent, indicates that North Ossetians are more similar to other North Caucasian groups, and South Ossetians are more similar to other South Caucasian groups, than to each other. In human terms, these findings translate into the following picture: Iranian-speaking Alan women marrying local Caucasian men.

However, while it makes sense that the Ossetians would intermarry with other groups on their respective slopes of the Caucasus mountains, the conclusion that Iranian-speaking women intermarried with Caucasian men challenges everything we know about the interactions of nomadic pastoralists (in this case, Iranian-speaking Alans) with more sedentary groups (in this case, the indigenous Caucasian groups).

The theory of Alan women marrying indigenous men of the Caucasus also contradicts the overall picture that emerges from other instances of gender-specific migration and language shift: according to a recent study, conducted by Peter Forster and Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge, “language change among our prehistoric ancestors came about via the arrival of immigrant men — rather than women — into new settlements”. In other words, more often than not it is women who adopt their husbands’ tongue, rather than the other way around. If present-day Ossetians descended from (mostly) Iranian mothers and Caucasian fathers, we’d expect them to speak a Caucasian rather than an Iranian language, contrary to the fact.

There are also some methodological problems with Nasidze et al.’s work. Generally speaking, they took a very zoomed-out view of the Ossetians’ DNA: for instance, they examined only a small portion of the mitochondrial DNA (HVR1 region of about 400 base pairs out of 16,569 base pairs); and as far as Y-DNA is concerned, they did not look further downstream than the mutation that defines Haplogroup F, thus potentially missing some connections between North and South Ossetian men.

More recent work, such as the study from a team of geneticists, anthropologists and linguists, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution (see Balanovsky 2011), also challenged Nasidze et al.’s conclusions. Balanovsky et al.’s study focused on the Y-DNA from several ethno-linguistic groups in the North Caucasus; as far as the Ossetians are concerned, only the Y-DNA of North Ossetians was examined, but this study used a larger number of individual samples (357 samples from Ossetians alone). Rather than finding much Y-DNA in common with other Caucasian groups, Balanovsky’s team claims that most Ossetian men carry a certain genetic signature that is common to them alone. Specifically, they found that at least 56% of Ossetian men (and up to 73% among the Iron) share haplogroup G2a1a-P18 (which is a subgroup of G2a1-P16 shown in blue in pie charts in the map below; from Balanovsky et al. 2011).* This haplogroup is found on average in only 3% of males in other Caucasian groups (the two other group that has a relatively high frequency of this haplogroup are the Abkhazians and the Circassians, with 12% and 9% respectively).

The Ossetians’ neighbors to the west, speakers of Northwest Caucasian languages – the Shapsugs, the Circassians, and the Abkhasians – belong predominantly to haplogroup G2a3b1-P303 (shown in yellow in pie charts in the map above). The frequency of this haplogroup among speakers of Northwest Caucasian languages ranges from 21% among the Abkhaz to 86% among the Shapsugs, while it is found only in 3% of the Ossetians. To the east of the Ossetians we find speakers of Nakh languages (Chechen and Ingush), who belong predominantly to haplogroup J2a4b-M67(xM92), shown in red in pie charts in the map above; and of Dagestanian languages (among them Dargin, Avar, Kaitag, Kubachi, and Lezgi were tested), who belong predominantly to haplogroup J1-M267(xP58), shown in green in pie charts in the map above. The frequency of these two haplogroups among the Ossetians is 8.4% and 2.6% respectively. In other words, the Ossetians do not share much Y-DNA with their neighbors in the North Caucasus, according to this more recent study by Balanovsky et al.

Another piece is added to the puzzle if we consider more closely what sorts of mutations the Ossetian men share. Their most common genetic signature – G2a1a – is characterized by the presence of single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) known as P18. However, Ossetians also share another genetic signature: 10 short tandem repeats (STRs) at position DYS392. Unlike SNPs, whose rate of mutation is measured in thousands of years, the rate of STR mutations is much more rapid (this is why STRs are an important tool both for tracing genealogical ancestry and for determining genetic profiles in forensic cases). Having such a high concentration of Ossetian men with the same STR count means that the group built up rather rapidly over the last 1,500 years or less. This is compatible with the hypothesis that the Ossetians are descendants of a small number of (possibly related) male invaders, contra Nasidze et al. (2004). Alternatively, if a later date is assumed, Ossetian men may be hypothesized to be descendants of a small group who survived the genetic bottleneck associated with the destruction of Alania by Tamerlane in the late 1300s.

Balanovsky et al.’s study also allows us to hazard a guess as to what kind of language the ancestors of present-day Ossetians spoke before being acculturated by the Iranian-speaking Alans. Balanovsky et al.’s study confirms that common language serves as a bridge for gene flow between populations; for example,

“Circassians, who are geographically situated between Adyghes and Ossets, might receive more gene flow from Adyghes, who speak a similar language, than from Ossets who differ in their language and culture.” (pp. 2915-2916)

Since the Ossetians are separated from their eastern neighbors by a more significant genetic boundary (line A on the map above) than from their western neighbors (line C on the map above), it stands to reason that the maternal ancestors of the Ossetians spoke a Northwest Caucasian language, likely a closer relative of Kabardian or Circassian.

But the plot thickens if we consider the question of where these haplogroup G2a1a Ossetian males might have come from. If we believe that this genetic signature among the Ossetian males comes from the Alans, it is expected that the Alans (or their predessors the Scythians/Sarmatians) must also have been high in haplogroup G2a1a, or its ancestral clade G (see map on the left). Moreover, certain areas of Europe to which large numbers of Alans and other Sarmatians migrated also feature a higher frequency of haplogroup G. However, the subtype of haplogroup G found in these European areas is not the expected Ossetian G2a1a, nor the G2a3b1, common among the Kabardinians of the northwestern Caucasus adjacent to the Ossetians.

Furthermore, examination of ancient DNA from what is thought to be Scythian skeletons from the south Siberian steppes to the northeast of the Caucasus has found only haplogroup R1a1-M17, common in Eastern Europe, parts of Central and Northern Asia (see map). According to Keyser et al. (2009), this haplogroup is the “mark [of] the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans”. But if the Scythians/Sarmatians were high in haplogrop R1a1 (and not G), why aren’t more Ossetians in haplogroup R1a1 (which is practically not found in the Ossetian population at all)? Is it the case that (the majority of) Ossetian male ancestors came from an indigenous Caucasian group after all?

And so the mystery of the Ossetians’ past remains…


*Subgroups are numbered by adding alternative numbers and letters: for example, haplogroup G2a1a is a subgroup of G2a1, which is in turn a subgroup of G2a, which is a subgroup of G2, itself a subgroup of G. The large haplogroups numbered by one letter are not necessarily independent either: for example, haplogroup G is a subgroup of F (see chart below). The letters and numbers after a hyphen refer to the defining mutation. For example, haplogroup G is defined by mutation M201, whereas haplogroup G2a1a is defined by mutation P18.



Balanovsky, Oleg; Khadizhat Dibirova; Anna Dybo; Oleg Mudrak; Svetlana Frolova; Elvira Pocheshkhova; Marc Haber; Daniel Platt; Theodore Schurr; Wolfgang Haak; Marina Kuznetsova; Magomed Radzhabov; Olga Balaganskaya; Alexey Romanov; Tatiana Zakharova; David F. Soria Hernanz; Pierre Zalloua; Sergey Koshel; Merritt Ruhlen; Colin Renfrew; R. Spencer Wells; Chris Tyler-Smith; Elena Balanovska; and The Genographic Consortium (2011) Parallel Evolution of Genes and Languages in the Caucasus Region. Molecular Biology and Evolution 28(10): 2905–2920.

Keyser C., Bouakaze C., Crubézy E., Nikolaev V.G., Montagnon D., Reis T., Ludes B. (2009) Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people. Human Genetics 126(3): 395-410.

Nasidze, Ivane S.; Dominique Quinque, Isabelle Dupanloup, Sergey Rychkov, Oksana Naumova, Olga Zhukova and Mark Stoneking (2004) Genetic Evidence Concerning the Origins of South and North Ossetians. Annals of Human Genetics 68: 588-599.

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  • Ohwilleke

    The oldest Neolithic Y-DNA available (ca 7600 BCE) is mostly from one variety or another of haplogroup G2a, both in the greater Danubian LBK area and more recently in Cardial Pottery finds in Southern France, and there is good circumstantial reason to think that the distribution of G2a dates to migrations that are at the very least pre-historic, quite possibly with a source in or around the Caucuses.  The highest concentrations of G2a today are in places that were modern human refugia during the Last Glacial Maximum in the Upper Paleolithic era (ca. 20,000 years ago). 

    The time depth of the splits between these ancient DNA groups and the split between Ossetians and the Circassian neighbors are at the same point in the Y-DNA phylogeny of G2a, so they should have happened in roughly the same eras.  This casts doubt on the dates inferred from mutation rates used in the original post, whose accuracy, precision and calibration have all be shown to be woefully off in recent years – for example, it turns out the different parts of the Y-DNA chromosome have widely different mutation rates and that where calibration is possible that errors on the order of a factor of three are common in some mutation rate dating approaches.

    Also, there is fairly plausible linguistic and historic reason to think that the Iranian languages arrived in Western Iran only ca. 1500 BCE-2000 BCE from a source in the general vicinity of Northern Pakistan.  Thus, the Ossetian language can’t be older than the Bronze Age. 

    If there was admixture prior to that time period, both the men and women would have spoken pre-Indo-European languages of Western Iran and/or the Caucuses which may very well have been more closely related than the Iranian languages are to the Caucasian languages which would have formed less of an ethnic barrier (low frequency bride trading over a long period of time at fairly short distances could produce the pattern seen).  A scenario in which men from one group marry women from another group to form a hybrid population long before a language shift to an Iranian language that leaves few demographic traces in the current population is a quite plausible one.  The Ossetians are on the fringe of the range of the Iranian languages, so Iranians may have been thin on the ground this far from the origins of the Iranian languages at the time that the ancestors of the modern Ossetians underwent language shift; one can imagine such a language shift arising, for example, because some minor proto-Ossetian potentate entered into an alliance with some long forgotten Iranian king to become a tributary state to it (a bit like the arrangement between the Mongols and the Korean kingdom, for example, and similar tributary state arrangements are attested to in the Illiad).

    It also isn’t implausible to consider a scenario in which Ossetian ethnogenesis takes place elsewhere (probably to the South rather than on the steppe, give an absence of Y-DNA haplogroup R1a) rather than in situ, after which these people migrate en masse to the North.  A similar scenario, involving a mass migration from Western Anatolia to the East around the time of Bronze Age Collapse (ca. 1200 BCE) is one of the leading theories to explain the origins of the Armenians.  The proto-Ossetians who didn’t migrate may have been slaughtered.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for your detailed comment! Unfortunately, many of the scenarios you describe cannot be either proven or disproven at this point, so the mystery remains…

      • German Dziebel

        Hi Asya,

        We seem to share a Stanford, an Osher and a Russian connection. I also dabbled into Ossetian linguistics and history in the past. I have one reaction and one question: 1) I think it’s a bit premature to talk about “the mystery of Ossetian past”: modern Iranians have different versions Y-DNA G next to R1a. We still know very little about ancient Indo-European DNA. Ancient Iranian tribes must have had a rather heavy population substructure which reflected their nomadic way of life and all the smaller ethnic substrata they’d absorbed. A breakaway population such as Ossetians inherited some of that substructure, while losing other parts of it through drift; 2) Ossetian and Armenian share a very interesting phonomorphological phenomenon, namely the metathesis C+liquid > liquid + C with the subsequent addition of a prothetic vowel (IE *bhreHter yields aervad in Ossetian and elbayr in Armenian). This metathesis is unique among IE languages and it’s surprising that both cases come from the IE intruders into the Caucasus. Although Y-DNA profiles of Armenian and Ossetian are very different (Armenians are heavy in R and low in G – the opposite from Ossetians), the linguistic similarity is striking suggesting some kind of common Caucasus areal or substratum influences. I wonder if you have any opinion on this.


        German Dziebel, Ph.D.

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          How fun to have all these connections in common! And thank you for your questions!

          To answer your first question: I wouldn’t say it’s premature to talk about the mystery of Ossetian past… Perhaps the mystery is much wider though, as you indicate.

          As for the metathesis in Ossetian and Armenian, it is indeed peculiar that the only two IE languages to have it are the two languages in the Caucasus (actually, Tat and Talysh would be interesting to examine in this respect, as they are two other Iranian languages in the area). I don’t know enough about the historical  phonology of Caucasian languages to hypothesize whether the metathesis is an areal feature, a parallel development or a result of contact between Armenian and Ossetian… All very valid possibilities to consider…

          • German Dziebel

            Neither Tat, nor Talysh have the metathesis in question, so Ossetian and Armenian are unique.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thank you for this information, very helpful!

  • Luis Aldamiz

    I did not understand why you say that Ossetian females could be from outside the region. According to Nasidze’s own mtDNA data (admittedly poor but that was what was in style back in the day – and even today way too often – fig. 2a), Ossetians from Ardon are closest to Balkarians, Ossetians from Digora to Abkhazians and Darginians, while South Ossetians are the most divergent ones, distant from any other sampled group (usually this is caused by genetic isolation or inbreeding).

    Even if the closest mapped sample to South Ossetians is Polish there is less distance between Spanish and Polish mtDNA in that graph than that, what makes it pretty much devoid of meaning. If anything Nasidze’s paper is a very preliminary study that today we can easily describe as old and obsolete. Surely Ossetians are native, even if of a distinct stock. The influence of Indoeuropean culture and language in the area, beginning probably with the Maikop culture some 5500 years ago (and IMO Indo-Iranians are the Indoeuropeans that remained in the ancestral steppe for longer) seems enough to justify the cultural and linguistic conversion not just of Ossetians but in truth every population of the Caucasus. The surprising thing is that so many and so different distinct ethno-cultures have survived in the Caucasus first Indoeuropean pressure and then Turkic one.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      I agree with you in your characterization of the Nasidze study as “old and obsolete”, and I hope to have presented it as such in the post. Although it needs to be pointed out that they’ve raised important questions, some of which still need to be answered.

      Regarding the early Indo-European influence in the Caucasus, I am not sure why you say that “every population in the Caucasus” was culturally and linguistically converted. After all, as far as languages go, there has been some IE influence but overall the Caucasian languages remain quite different from IE ones (more on that in tomorrow’s post, which I think you’ll find particularly interesting ;)

      • Ohwilleke

        The archaeology related to metallurgy and some of the rest of the Bronze Age cultural package spread by the Indo-Europeans is suggestive of the possibility that the contemporaneous cultures of the Caucasus were the primary source of a large share of the cultural and technological innovations behind the Indo-European expansion (other than, of course, language).

        Conceptually, a good analogy might be the relationship between the Greeks and the Romans.  The classical Greeks are credited with being the originators of many of the innovative ideas of classical Greco-Roman civilization but not terribly successful in that era at building a large unified empire, but it is the Romans who appropriated many of those ideas and used them as a foundation for a vast empire that eventually differentiated into separate Romance nationalities when the original empire fell.

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          Nice Greco-Roman analogy! And thanks for sharing the information about archeological findings, very interesting indeed.

  • Pingback: The phylogeography of the trans-Caucasus | Gene Expression | My Blog

  • Victor

    Musically, the TransCaucasus is an extremely interesting region, with the richest array of polyphonic vocal traditions in the world, outside of Africa. For further discussion of these remarkable oral traditions and what they might mean, with links to some very beautiful and interesting audio clips, see Chapters Twelve and Thirteen of my online book, Sounding the Depths:
    These chapters also contain a fair amount of interesting genetic evidence.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Ah the wonderful Georgian polyphonic singing! I wish I knew more about music and singing to appreciate it conceptually as much as I appreciate it esthetically. Thank you for the link, it’s very interesting!

      • Victor

        If you read my book, your wish will come true. You’ll know more. ;-)

        P.S. WHY does everyone pay such close attention to the linguistic evidence, yet assume they can safely ignore the musical evidence. :-(

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          The chapter you’ve liked to is very interesting, especially to those with background in music. As for your claim that “everyone pays such close attention to the linguistic evidence, yet assume that they can safely ignore the musical evidence” — that’s simply not true. As far as I know that a great deal of work on ethnomusicology in general and on the polyphonic singing in the Caucasus, but you probably know more about this that I do, as it seems to be your area of expertise.

          • Victor

            Yes, Asya, of course Georgian polyphony has in fact been intensively studied — by musicologists. I was referring to the lack of awareness or interest on the part of anthropologists, archaeologists, population geneticists, historians, etc. As a matter of fact it is not necessary to have a background in music in order to follow an argument based on musical evidence, any more than it’s necessary to have a background in genetics in order to follow an argument based on genetic evidence. The problem is not with expertise or lack of it, but with long standing traditions in the social sciences which favor one type of research over another — compounded by simple intellectual laziness. As I see it, musical evidence is far more diagnostic historically than linguistics because traditional performance style is far more conservative than language.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thank you for sharing your frustrations, Victor!

            Several points: first, I disagree that a genetics argument can be followed (much less evaluated) without some basic background in genetics, or by extension that a linguistics argument can be followed/evaluated without some basic background in linguistics. Similarly, it’s hard to make sense of arguments from music without some basic background in music (e.g. being able to read music or some knowledge of terminology etc.).

            Second, I don’t agree with placing the blame for non-incorporating evidence from music on anthropologists, archeologists, population geneticists, historians and others. Two reasons: (1) each discipline has its own problems and tools to solve them, and (2) it is the duty of musicologists to make the findings of their work be known across disciplinary boundaries and to the general public, the same way that it is the duty of linguists to make the findings of their work known. My linguist-colleagues tend to make very similar complaints to yours, but so few actually talk across disciplinary boundaries or to the general public. It is even considered “beneath them”. Whose fault is that? I guess placing your book online and making it available is an important step in the right direction.

            Finally, I fail to see how “musical evidence is far more diagnostic historically” if it is the changes rather than the conservative patterns that allow one to trace populations (e.g. in population genetics or linguistics)? 

          • Martin W. Lewis

            Fascinating discussion.  Many thanks to Victor for starting it. I agree that not nearly enough attention is paid to music, and one could say the same thing about dance (I have been enjoying Circassian music and dance YouTube videos for the past few days). I also agree that academic disciplines can be much too constraining.  Yes, it is important to be “disciplined” in a certain field of inquiry, but intellectual progress often requires stepping outside of disciplinary boundaries, and collaborating across disciplinary lines. In a way, that is what we are trying to do with GeoCurrents. My background is in geography and history, whereas Asya’s background is in linguistics. Together we can do more than either of us could do alone.  For music, however, I am afraid that we will have to rely on readers such as yourself. 

  • Lubatab

    Hopefully the mystery will be solved. As an Ossetian, I still have many questions. Especially after a DNA testing with 23andMe.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for sharing your story! Any interesting findings that you’d like to share?

  • Darius

    Hi everybody

    I don’t have
    enough study in racial grounds, but I think I know enough to give you a warning
    about using genetic issues for measuring people’s backgrounds. For example in
    this case it is enough to consider existence of haplogrop R1a1 is in the highest
    degree between both mongolid people immigrated and replaced with Scythians in
    the central Asia in today; Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, and also eastern
    Europeans and Scandinavian people. Simply different genetics is dependent to
    harvest produces by different lands and with immigration to new lands, DNA will
    be changed too. As Swedish and English people who are both Germanic people have
    got different haplogrops.Haplogrop R1a1 is common in Scandinavia while
    haplogrop R1b is common in Britain.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Interesting example about the British vs. the Swedes — but still, the fact that the gene pools of various groups are mixed does not mean that genetics should be rejected as a tool for accessing the past of different peoples. It only makes the puzzle more complex and more interesting.

    • Szymon Baranowski

      But R1b is Celtic and R1a is Slavic while Germans are mix 40/40/20 R1b/I1/R1a and never had homogenic majority. So it’s a lot about proportions too. Kirgistanis have the same highest rate of R1a as Polish people today so at least they didn’t change too much just look more mongoloid but most of genes stock stayed the same and even indoaryan country -stan name.

  • Max Cataphracts

    i know! hahaha

    The Amazons (Greek: Ἀμαζόνες, Amazónes, singular Ἀμαζών, Amazōn) are a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia (modern territory of Ukraine). Other historiographers place them in Asia Minor,[1] or Libya.[2]
    Amazons were said to have lived in Pontus, which is part of modern day Turkey near the shore of the Euxine Sea (the Black Sea). There they formed an independent kingdom under the government of a queen named Hippolyta or Hippolyte (“loose, unbridled mare”).[8] …. According to the dramatist Aeschylus, in the distant past they had lived in Scythia (modern Crimea), at the Palus Maeotis (“Lake Maeotis”, the Sea of Azov), but later moved to Themiscyra on the River Thermodon (the Terme river in northern Turkey). Herodotus called them Androktones (“killers of men”), and he stated that in the Scythian language they were called Oiorpata, which he asserted had this meaning.
    The myth
    In some versions of the myth, no men were permitted to have sexual encounters or reside in Amazon country; but once a year, in order to prevent their race from dying out, they visited the Gargareans, a neighbouring tribe. The male children who were the result of these visits were either killed, sent back to their fathers or exposed in the wilderness to fend for themselves; the females were kept and brought up by their mothers, and trained in agricultural pursuits, hunting, and the art of war. In other versions when the Amazons went to war they would not kill all the men. Some they would take as slaves, and once or twice a year they would have sex with their slaves.[9]
    The intermarriage of Amazons and men from other tribes was also used to explain the origin of various peoples. For example, the story of the Amazons settling with the Scythians (Herodotus Histories 4.110.1-117.1, see Wikisource).
    In historiography
    Herodotus reported that the Sarmatians were descendants of Amazons and Scythians, and that their females observed their ancient maternal customs, “frequently hunting on horseback with their husbands; in war taking the field; and wearing the very same dress as the men”. Moreover, said Herodotus, “No girl shall wed till she has killed a man in battle”. In the story related by Herodotus, a group of Amazons was blown across the Maeotian Lake (the Sea of Azov) into Scythia near the cliff region (today’s southeastern Crimea). After learning the Scythian language, they agreed to marry Scythian men, on the condition that they not be required to follow the customs of Scythian women. According to Herodotus, this band moved toward the northeast, settling beyond the Tanais (Don) river, and became the ancestors of the Sauromatians. According to Herodotus, the Sarmatians fought with the Scythians against Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C.
    ,,,,, Philostratus places the Amazons in the Taurus Mountains. Ammianus places them east of Tanais, as neighbouring the Alans. Procopius places them in the Caucasus. Diodorus Siculus (Bibliotheca historica chapter 49) ….
    Historical background
    Classicist Peter Walcot wrote, “Wherever the Amazons are located by the Greeks, whether it is somewhere along the Black Sea in the distant north-east, or in Libya in the furthest south, it is always beyond the confines of the civilized world. The Amazons exist outside the range of normal human experience.”[75]
    Nevertheless, there are various proposals for a historical nucleus of the Amazons of Greek historiography, the most obvious candidates being historical Scythia and Sarmatia in line with the account by Herodotus, but some authors prefer a comparison to cultures of Asia Minor or even Minoan Crete.
    …Evidence of high-ranking warrior women comes from kurgans in southern Ukraine and Russia. David Anthony notes, “About 20% of Scythian-Sarmatian “warrior graves” on the lower Don and lower Volga contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a phenomenon that probably inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons.”[77]
    (amazons) Scythians - Sarmatians - alans - ossetians

  • Pingback: Linguistic Clues to the Ossetian Past « Cultural Geography « GeoCurrents

  • knavishknight

    This author conveniently “forgot” that language can be imposed upon the local populate through a process called “elite dominance.” Overall, Ossetains DO have Iranic Scythian R1a1a (m17), although quite small; 0.75% over the whole populace. Moreover, Scythian-speaking Iranic Alan women did marry predominantly Caucasian men, and so there are substantial Iranic contributions to the modern Ossetians’ gene-pools. Perhaps when the R1a1a Scythians arrived, their women warriors married local men, who outbred the Scythian men who only left very faint genetic traces. Considering that Scythians were highly regarded in Antiquity, the Caucasian men could have voluntarily swapped their languages as to gain the privileged status and access, or the Scythians could have just simply imposed their language on the local populace. Elite Dominance had been attested in many cases, for example the “Turks” in Turkey and “Azeri” in Arran and Iranian Azerbaijan, who are Turkified by C3 and Q Turkic-speaking nomads whose descendants showed little traces of C3 and Q.

    I doubt that the author had a pan-Turkic agenda which aims at eradicating the Scythian legacy amongst the Ossetians so that pan-Turks could steal Iranic Scythians, whose ethnicity and language had been scientifically proved to be Iranian.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Dear knavishknight,
      Thank you for your comments. I don’t understand your point, though as you seem to say that Ossetians descend mostly from Caucasian men, but then somehow suspect me of pan-Turkic agenda. But Turks are not Iranian, in language or DNA, so I am not sure what you are trying to say.

      • knavishknight

        I’m sorry, Ms. Perettsvaig. I had a bad experience with Pan-Turk liars who tried to dismiss connection between the Scythians and their modern descendants the Ossetians based on the seeming discontinuity in genetics between the ancient (almost all R1a1a) and modern (with only faint traces of R1a1a detected) populations

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          Yes, Y-DNA tells only part of the story…

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  • OpenYourEyes!

    Go to Google and take “Ossetians: Turks or Iranians?” and you will read that they are not Alans and do not speak Indu european language with explaination.And go to Google”Abaev – Ossetian language and Folklore – TurkicWorld” and you will read about their language next to an only image if you go down in this site on the left side in Enlgish, that they do not speak indu european language at at all ,their language has 20 procent indu european words 50 procent Kartvelian …. .And if you want to know their real history ,don’t read that false propganda on the internet wich is made by ossetian mediafreaks for the public view and Iranian chauvenist gypsies who claims that brown skinned haired iranians are Aryans.Read pleas that book wich is written by historicien Benjamin Kaplan , he wrote in that book that Ossetians are Jews from Iran who were driven away from iran because they did a lot of crimes in Iran ,nearly 600 years ago they came to caucasus and live like rats and pigs there(You will see if you go there) ,stole Nakh land and South osetia who do not have own land and N Osetia who stole land from Ingush.Btw Stalin was half Osetian half Georgian.Osetian whole history is a fraud a blunder , soon truth will come out ;)

    • OpenYourEyes!

      And do not answer me , because I will not read it , keep your ossetian cunning lies for your self I don’t want to read shit,I rode that book “Ossetians Iranian Jews” written by Benjamin Kaplan and I rode Nakh Alano theorie,Now my eyes are open,who are Alans and who are not ;)

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