Ancient Nepal Population Genetics: Human Migration and Adaptation in Extreme Environments
Since prehistory, the Himalayan mountain range has presented a formidable barrier to population migration, while at the same time its transverse valleys have long served as conduits for trade and exchange. Yet, despite the long-term economic and cultural importance of Himalayan trade routes, little is known about the region’s peopling and early population history. Focusing on the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) of Nepal, this project seeks to reconstruct the population history of the Himalayan arc by generating genome-wide genetic data from prehistoric ACA individuals dating to three distinct cultural periods ranging in time from the earliest known human settlements (ca. 3150 BP) to the establishment of the Tibetan Empire (ca. 1250 BP). Considering the pivotal role played by the Himalayan high transverse valleys in connecting far-flung Eurasian populations, as well as the environmental challenges the Himalayas impose on their inhabitants (e.g., extreme cold stress and hypoxia), this study has deep implications for reconstructing human prehistoric migration history, understanding biocultural adaptation to local environments, and informing future genetic archaeology studies.
Jeong C, Ozga AT, Witonsky D, Malmstrom H, Edlund H, Hofman CA, Hagan RW, Jakobsson M, Lewis CM, Aldenderfer M, Di Rienzo A, Warinner C*. Long-term genetic stability and a high altitude East Asian origin for the peoples of the high valleys of the Himalayan arc. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113(27):7485-7490.