The Nanai, neighbours of the Ainu since ancient times

N1c1 a genetic marker of Nanais, revealing an origin from Siberia and migration to the Amur area. Two studies throw light on the origins, genetic makeup, migration routes and the history of the Nanai ethnic group. See


Y.V. Bogunov et al. The Nanai Clan Samar: The structure of gene pool based on Y-chromosome markers, June 2015 Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 43(2):146-152.


Modern expansion of the Samar clan in the Khabarovsk
Territory. The largest number is registered in the historic district of residence—the village of Kondon in Solnechny District: in 2012, there were 93 men and 111 women comprising 38.3 % of the village
population. Over the past century, the members of the Samar clan also dispersed to the Amur River valley, mainly in the territory of the Komsomolsky District:
Verkhnyaya Ekon – 3 %, Belgo – 8.76 %, and Nizhniye Khalby – 18.9 %. In the localities of the Nanaisky District, individuals with a Samar surname were absent, or their share in the ancestral (family) structure of the population did not exceed 1 %.

The “genetic portrait” of the Samar clan.

As a result of Y-chromosome genotyping, it was found that the “genetic portrait” of today’s clan members is characterized by the presence of  five haplogroups:
N1c1-M178, C*-M130, I*-M170, J2a1ɚ-M47, and O2-P31. The basis of the gene pool is haplogroup N1c1 (over 83 %), the significant predominance of which can be seen as a generic characteristic feature that distinguishes this population from other Nanai clans.
The North Eurasian haplogroup N1c1 is found in the gene pools of the peoples of Siberia with high frequency: Yakuts (approx. 90 %), Buryats (in some populations up to 78 %), Evenki (34 %), and Far-Eastern Chukchas (61 %) and Koryaks (24 %) (Stepanov et al., 2001; Kharkov, Stepanov, 2005; Kharkov et al., 2014).
The accumulation of this haplogroup in the Samar clan indicates the presence of genetic connection of the studied population with northern populations and affirms the historical reconstructions of the Samar migration-flows to Amur.
The high frequency of the haplogroup J2a1a-M47 (8.1 %) is the second characteristic feature of the gene pool of the Samar clan. According to our data, the Middle Eastern haplogroup J2 is not found in the gene pools of other Nanai clans in the Khabarovsk Territory (unpublished data). It is found in Evenki and Evens with a frequency of less than 2 %, and is not typical for other peoples of Siberia; while in the ethnic groups of the Central Asia it reaches up to 12 %.
The haplogroup C3*-M130, being one of the minor components in the gene pool of the Samar clan, can mark links with a very wide range of peoples who have it.  In order to clarify, we performed a full sequencing of the sample with this haplogroup. We discovered a great similarity with its carriers in other populations of Nanai and Nivkh, and a significant difference from those in other peoples of Siberia and Central Asia. Thus, the presence of the haplogroup C3*-M130 marks low frequency but clearly traceable genetic links of the Samar clan to other populations of Amur.

Genetic relationships between populations.

We calculated the genetic distances between the gene pools of peoples of Siberia and East Asia. For this analysis we used the panel of 13 major haplogroups, which are both most typical for the populations in interest and well covered in the references. The analysis included three Nanai populations: the Samar clan (NAN-SAM), the total remaining population of other Nanais of Amur (NAN-AMUR), and Nanais of China (NAN-CHI). In the genetic space on the multidimensional scaling plot, three clusters were revealed (see Figure); each of them included one of the Nanai populations. This indicates significant genetic differences between them. Nanais of China joined Evens (genetic distance d = 0.09), Chinese (0.10 < d < 0.12), and Vietnamese (d = 0.11). However, their gene pool finds less significant but still marked similarity to the gene pools of Mongols (d = 0.21) and Orochi (d = 0.22). By contrast, Nanais of Amur cluster together with Evenki (d = 0.05), Mongols (d = 0.09), Buryats of the Transbaikal Territory (0.04 < d < 0.13), and Orochi (d = 0.15).
The gene pool of the Samar clan is the most peculiar: the genetic distance between the clan and other Nanais of Amur (d = 0.60) is almost twice more than between Nanais of Amur and Nanais of China (d = 0.36). Such significant differences between the gene pools of Nanais in the Khabarovsk Territory are associated with the prevalence of the North Eurasian haplogroup N1c1-M217, and the low frequency of the haplogroup C3c-M48 in the Samar clan. Therefore, its gene pool is similar to that of Buryats in the Transbaikal Territory (d = 0.01), Yakuts (d = 0.01), and Khakas(0.01 < d < 0.15), despite the huge geographical distances. The similarity of the “genetic portraits” of these ethnic groups may indicate the commonality of certain stages of their ethnogenesis. Surprising is the relative proximity of the gene pools of the Samar clan and the Eskimo people (d = 0.18). These populations formed a single cluster in the genetic space.
Features of the gene pool of the Samar clan generally confirm the hypothesis of the historians regarding the origin of the Samar people from more northern peoples of Siberia. According to this hypothesis, they are descendants of Evenki, who experienced the first impact of Yakuts, and then (in the 17th century), Buryats.
Despite the fact that the proportion of the haplogroup N1c1 in the gene pool of modern Evenki does not exceed 34 %, Yakuts and Buryats have a more significant accumulation—90 % and 47 %; accordingly ( “eastern” Buryats can have the value of up to 78 %) (Kharkov, Stepanov, Medvedeva et al., 2008; Kharkov, Khamina, Medvedeva et al., 2014). In the studied population of Evenki (Transbaikal Territory), the frequency of this haplogroup is also low (23 %). However, the classical genetic markers previously identified an extremely high level of genetic diversity of this ethnic group, which is well explained by considering its huge area and extremely small population. This leads to genetic drift, in which significant differences between the gene pools of the Evenki populations emerge. Therefore, we can assume that the source of the gene pool of the Samar clan was the Evenki subpopulation characterized by higher frequencies of the haplogroup N1c1, even though this is not necessarily true: the founder of a clan could have been one of the carriers of this haplogroup.
The relative contribution of Evenki, Yakuts, and Buryats can be assessed later, after the analysis of variants of the haplogroup N1c1—STR haplotypes specific to the gene pools of each of these ethnic groups.

A significant proportion of modern Nanais currently live in the vicinity of other ethnic groups and have close contacts with them, mainly with Russians. However, the Nanai clan Samar (area around the current Kondon settlement) is unique in this respect. Considerable remoteness from the main range of Nanais and difficult access to the territory have contributed to a long period of almost isolated existence of the population and, hence, the preservation of the original gene pool.
This is directly evidenced by the low diversity of the haplogroups and the preferential accumulation of only one Y-chromosomal lineage.
The “genetic portrait” of the Nanai clan Samar established herein indicates its Tungus origins. Over a long period of Aldan-Lena-Amur migration to the Devyatka River, the original gene pool has experienced multiple external influences, as demonstrated by the similarity to the gene pools of modern Yakuts and Buryats. Archaeological and ethnographic materials, as well as written records, also indicate the participation of the peoples of northeastern Siberia in the ethnogenesis of the Samar clan.

References and Further Reading:

The Nanai Clan Samar: The structure of gene pool based on Y-chromosome markers
June 2015 Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 43(2):146-152
DOI: 10.17746/1563-0102.2015.43.2.146-152

Tungusic peoples  (Wikipedia)