June 8, 2012

Cow lineages in Europe, Africa and creole America

Another paper on bovine mtDNA adds important information to better understand the major matrilineage of domestic bovine cattle: haplogroup T1.


Importantly, Bonfiglio made a significant effort in sampling Egyptian and Ethiopian cattle, as well as some Latin American breeds. Not a single haplogroup outside of T1 was found, unlike in Europe where P, Q and R lineages do exist, suggesting some level of hybridization with wild aurochsen. There is however some uncertainty as for the exact phylogeny of haplogroups T1e (European) and T1f (Euro-Egyptian), which could also be branches of T1'2'3, as illustrated in fig. 1:

click to expand
The authors conclude that, soon after domestication in West Asia, bovine cattle spread to both Europe and Africa, where experienced secondary expansions, as evidenced by at least one lineage (T1d) looking East African by origin. 

That is also probably the case of T1c (Euro-Egyptian but more diverse in Egypt) and T1b (also most basally diverse in Egypt), which is the origin of the African-derived American "AA" haplotype of Paraguayan cattle, which is within this lineage.


Dated to 15,000 BP or older (source)
Update(Jun 10): There is abundant evidence in form of rock art and some remains at Jebel Uweinat, Qurta and Wadi Qubaniya supporting presence of wild taurine cattle in NE Africa since at least 15,000 BP. This allows for a possible semi-independent domestication event in Africa for bovids (h/t to Marnie).


13 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this.

    Just looking at the sampling, I can see that some important African breeds are missing. Also, several of the "African" breeds they sample are known to be heavily admixed with Zebu in the last two thousand years.

    It's kind of a surprising sampling choice, give what is already known about which African breeds have the least recent admixture.

    I'll comment more over the weekend.

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    1. I was and am quite interested in your opinion because you surely know much more about African cow genetics that I do.

      I find notable that T1c and T1d look very much African-specific but nowhere in the paper there is any hint of your proposed African-native cow. Of course, the sampling strategy can change things a lot and hide (or bring to light) important information.

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    2. Maju, I'm still reading this paper, but regarding Africa-native cows, I can comment a little from what I already know. It is suggested that wild cattle/aurochs migrating southward across the Sinai and into the Red Sea hills at the beginning of the Saharan Holocene Climatic Optimum are the source of the cattle from which the Northern Sudanians originally domesticated cattle. (The best source describing the archaeological data for this is the 2011 Gifford-Gonzalez, Hanotte paper. Linguistic research of Chris Ehret also supports a Northern Sudanian domestication of cattle.)

      Other subsequent cattle, goat and sheep domestication processes or borrowings are postulated for both Afroasiatic and Northern Sudanian peoples. Importantly, Afroasiatic people in the Red Sea Hills are believed to have engaged in protection of wild cattle herds at about the same time that Northern Sudanian people started to domesticate these same animals.

      In any case, all evidence points to the fact that aurochs/wild cattle crossed the Sinai from the Near East prior to and during the occurrence of domestication processes in Africa and the Near East, so the fact that mtDNA is showing this relationship is not surprising.

      Again, the Gifford-Gonzalez, Hanotte paper speaks to the complexity of African cattle domestication. There are several maps in that paper that are illustrative of the multiple sources of African cattle.

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    3. "... at the beginning of the Saharan Holocene Climatic Optimum"...

      That would make any difference between wild and domestic lineages pretty hard to discern, as all would have diverged from Anatolian cattle within a mere five thousand years' parenthesis.

      ... "Northern Sudanian peoples"...

      Is that something like "Sahelian peoples" or more like "Nubian" (i.e. ancient Northern Sudanese)?

      "Afroasiatic people in the Red Sea Hills are believed to have engaged in protection of wild cattle herds at about the same time that Northern Sudanian people started to domesticate these same animals".

      I'd like to know more about what archaeological evidence exists, if any, you may have to support this theory. I tend to be skeptic when the archaeological evidence is lacking, you know. All this, rather than with an "are believed" should be backed with clear archaeo-data like bovine remains with C14 datings.

      Really, the best support for bovine cattle in Africa prior to Neolithic would be bovine skulls in Africa prior to Neolithic. Otherwise it sounds quite speculative, you must admit.

      "... the Gifford-Gonzalez, Hanotte paper"...

      I can only access the abstract (I assume it's this one) but it is a genetic paper. Even if it's not archaeological evidence (which would be much more conclusive), I'd like to understand the details (hoping it's not mere molecular-clock-o-logy), can you send me a copy?

      Thanks in advance.

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  2. >> That would make any difference between wild and domestic
    >> lineages pretty hard to discern, as all would have
    >> diverged from Anatolian cattle within a mere five
    >> thousand years' parenthesis."

    Yes. The expansion of mtDNA T1 could be associated with an expansion of cattle at the beginning of the dawn of the Holocene, not necessarily an expansion only due to domestication.

    >> Is that something like "Sahelian peoples" or more
    >> like "Nubian" (i.e. ancient Northern Sudanese)?

    See the figure in this post:
    http://linearpopulationmodel.blogspot.com/2012/05/onset-of-food-production-among-proto.html

    The figure (a linguistic tree of Nilo-Saharan languages) is a little hard to read, so for clarity:

    proto-Northern Sudanic (10,500 bp) ->
    proto-Saharo-Sahelian (9,500 bp) ->
    proto-Sahelian (8,500) ->
    proto-Trans Sahelian ->
    proto-Eastern Sahelian

    Nubian languages are derivatives of Proto-Eastern Sahelian.

    >> I'd like to know more about what archaeological
    >> evidence exists, if any, you may have to support
    >> this theory.

    The most definitive archaeological support for Middle Nile domestication of cattle thus far is the work done by the Mission Archaeologique Suisse au Soudan (www.kerma.ch) which has been excavating a site in the Sudan for about thirty years.

    Key early cattle domestication finds by this team have been published in the paper "Kerma et les debuts du Neolithique africain", Honegger, M. (2005), Genava n.s., 53:239-249.

    The Gifford-Gonzales, Hanotte paper states that Honegger refers to "cattle remains", so it is not clear if they have retrieved the necessary "skulls." C:

    I have not yet located the original of the Honegger paper. It does not appear to be available online.

    Here's a link to the Gifford-Gonzales, Hanotte paper:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/1634vh08v8553q52//fulltext.html#CR53

    Let me know if you can see the full text. It's quite an interesting paper and argues for the idea of domestication as a continuous process rather than a singular invention.

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    1. Thanks for the links (yes, I can see the full text) and references but none of the two papers actually says anything that could support an early domestication of bovine cattle in Africa.

      Gifford-González & Hanotte speculate about it but just as a possibility and with no specific support other than African-specific adaptions of bovine cattle and lactase persistence among humans, all very vague.

      They mention that the oldest known bovine remains in Africa are clearly post-Neolithic, so still no evidence supporting any speculative migration across the Sinai.

      As for Honegger 2005, there is some very interesting information on the early Neolithic inhabitants of Kerma (Nubia) but not a single indication I can see of independent cattle domestication of any kind.

      As for Northern Sudanic: ok, they are a linguistic grouping of Nilo-Saharan. Thanks for clarifying (I'm not too well informed about the fine detail phylogenies of African languages, admittedly).

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  3. Maju, I found, translated and posted the relevant sections from the Honegger paper on my blog.

    There is a skull, but it is several thousand years after the proposed initial Middle Nile domestication date. However, close by are two sites which Honegger dated to 9000 ybp with cattle bones (although not cattle skulls.)

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    1. Well, I read it directly in French. I do not speak French with any fluidity but I can read it quite well most of the time: it's Vulgar Latin after all and I took a course in my youth.

      I could not see the relevant mention to any bovine skull in that paper although I did in the one by Gifford. We are in agreement that the archaeological evidence is (so far?) missing and that independent cattle domestication in NE Africa remains so far a speculation.

      However I do find the Neolithic burials of Kerma similar in style to those of West Asian and Greece-derived European Neolithic (not however Eastern European nor Megalithic burials which are in extended position), i.e. within the religious-cultural area of "core Neolithic" of individual burials in flexed position.

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  4. "Also, several of the 'African' breeds they sample are known to be heavily admixed with Zebu in the last two thousand years".

    A Daniel Bradley (I think) paper I read some years ago claimed that the Zebu admixture was a product of the introduction of bulls, in which case the mt-DNA would not be altered. That introduction presumably occurred at the same time as the movement of crops from India that Maju blogged about a little while ago. Single bulls would be a lot easier to import any distance than would herds of cows. I'll try to find the paper if you wish but I'm in a hurry at present.

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  5. "That introduction presumably occurred at the same time as the movement of crops from India that Maju blogged about a little while ago".

    Even a specific mention at the time:

    "In return India gave Africa the zebuine species of cow, which, after hybridization, fueled the expansion of East African pastoralists into Equatorial areas".

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  6. A bit of idle speculation.

    I have a theory the first farmers expanded east-west quite rapidly within tight latitudinal and climate constraints reaching southern iberia / northwest africa relatively early. I then wonder if their first settlements further north along the atlantic coast were actually colonies per se or created for some other purpose like fishing or mining. If mining then the miners would need to eat and i wonder if the introduction of cattle to those mining colonies sparked off a hybrid forager-pastoralist atlantic cowboy culture which expanded what is now the southern clade R1b terriotory.

    Anyway the mining idea got me to thinking about the Bantu expansion.

    There were ancient gold mines around Timbuctoo with overland links to north africa through the sahara

    http://www.roebuckclasses.com/102/resources/africa/westafricaptrade.htm

    and to the west coast with sea links

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/716514?uid=3738032&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21100843008101

    "We owe to Herodutus the earliest record of the west African gold trade"

    So i'm wondering if possibly the same thing might have happened with the cattle-based Bantu expansion i.e. a Pheonician or earlier group setting up a trading settlement on the west coast or a mining settlement around Timbuctoo and introducing cattle sparking a switch by the locals from foraging to a hybrid foraging-pastoralism which eventually leads to the Bantu expansion.

    http://www.africanlanguages.org/00images/map_allafr.gif

    Complete speculation i know but it's interesting because it's an example of a cattle culture completely over-running a huge terriotory.

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    1. Complete speculation is not a theory but a hypothesis. A theory has some solid factual backing.

      I must say that the Neolithic proper was not yet an age of much trade, at most quite localized. Only in the Chalcolithic (also known as Late Neolithic in some areas or even as just Neolithic in the peculiar case of Britain, where it's very late in relation to everything else).

      Also we do have a lot of archaeological information re. Europe and even Africa. We know how Neolithic spread by continental Europe as much and as early as along the Mediterranean shores and we know that Neolithic spread through a relatively fertile Sahara (regardless of gold).

      So all you say seems to make little sense. I'd suggest that you read about Neolithic as such rather than about the "Medieval" gold of the Sudan, which incidentally was not anywhere near Timbuktu, as the Spanish-Moroccan conquistador Pascha Joder discovered when he destroyed Songhai. The mines were much further south and his invasion had disrupted all the trade, much to the anger of the Sultan of Morocco, his boss.

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  7. Brief update to indicate that there is abundant evidence of pre-Neolithic cattle in NE Africa, allowing, at least in principle, for a distinct domestication process in that region.

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