August 22, 2015

Ket genetics: strong "ANE" and a paleo-Eskimo link

Quantity over quality series.

Pavel Flegontov et al. Genomic study of the Ket: a Paleo-Eskimo-related ethnic group with significant ancient North Eurasian ancestry. BioRxiv 2015 (pre-pub). Freely accessibleLINK [doi:]


The Kets, an ethnic group in the Yenisei River basin, Russia, are considered the last nomadic hunter-gatherers of Siberia, and Ket language has no transparent affiliation with any language family. We investigated connections between the Kets and Siberian and North American populations, with emphasis on the Mal'ta and Paleo-Eskimo ancient genomes, using original data from 46 unrelated samples of Kets and 42 samples of their neighboring ethnic groups (Uralic-speaking Nganasans, Enets, and Selkups). We genotyped over 130,000 autosomal SNPs, determined mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal haplogroups, and performed high-coverage genome sequencing of two Ket individuals. We established that the Kets belong to the cluster of Siberian populations related to Paleo-Eskimos. Unlike other members of this cluster (Nganasans, Ulchi, Yukaghirs, and Evens), Kets and closely related Selkups have a high degree of Mal'ta ancestry. Implications of these findings for the linguistic hypothesis uniting Ket and Na-Dene languages into a language macrofamily are discussed.


  1. Meant to reply to this earlier - interesting paper, though I think it makes an error when focusing on this "Ket" component as the be-all and end-all. It could be that the Kets are relatively unadmixed and haven't been through any major population bottlenecks. It's just as possible that this is akin to taking Ashkenazi Jews as a proxy for all Semitic peoples. :/

    I'm not sure why they described the Arctic Small Tools Tradition as originating in Asia - I though the oldest known site was at Kuzitrin Lake in Alaska. I think their comments re: the Arctic Small Tools Tradition make good sense though, and there's a genetic turnover along with BC/Alaska coast at around the right time ~5000 YPB, so perhaps a touch earlier.

    What I'm curious about is what exactly the relationship between the Kets/Dene and the Chukchi–Kamchatkan/Eskimo-Aleut peoples is. Because Kets have a larger Amerind component (according to Rasmussen at least) than Koryaks do, yet Kets are much more geographically distant. And Saqqaq seems closer to Koryaks than do just about anyone else. If Saqqaq is part of the same expansion as Denes and Kets, why are they genetically closer to Koryaks and Chukchi, who speak an unrelated language? Any thoughts?

    The Haida/Tlingit having the strongest relationship to the Kets is telling though, as the Alaska coast seems to be the Urheimat for Dene languages in North America. So the genetic evidence seems to support the linguistic evidence, and visa-versa.

    1. I haven't looked at all this complexity you explain so well in any depth, so I cannot give you a proper answer. One possibility I guess is that the Kets have a line that actually comes from America, while the bulk of their ancestry is Siberian of a type very similar to Ma1, but no certainty whatsoever.


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