Genetic Diversity in the Caucasus

In these collaborative and interdisciplinary studies, we are surveying genetic diversity in populations from the Caucasus region to elucidate its population history. Through fieldwork in the region, we obtain genealogical data and DNA samples that are later subjected to mtDNA, Y-chromosome and autosomal DNA analysis.  The resulting data are integrated with archeological, ethnological and linguistic evidence to better situate the Caucasus and its peoples in the history of the peopling of Eurasia. Using this approach, we are attempting to answer a number of questions concerning the population history of the Caucasus, which has some of the earliest evidence of agriculture and metalworking, including: (a) the entry into the Caucasus during the initial out of Africa expansion of modern humans; (b) the nature and extent of Neanderthal admixture in Georgian populations; (c) the degree to which autochthonous Caucasus populations have genetically influenced Eurasian populations; (d) the biological and cultural impact of the Neolithic spread of agriculture into the Caucasus; (e) the interactions between Anatolian and Georgian populations over the past ten millennia; and (f) the relationship between the genetic and linguistic diversity in the region.


A Wedding Procession in Mtskheta. Photo credit: T.G. Schurr


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Balanovsky O, Dibirova K, Dybo A, Mudrak O, Frolova S, Pocheshkhova E, Haber M, Platt D, Schurr TG, Haak W, Kuznetsova M, Radzhabov M, Balaganskaya O, Druzhinina E, Zakharova T, Koshel S, Renfrew C, Wells RS, Tyler-Smith C, Balanovska E, The Genographic Consortium. 2011. Parallel evolution of genes and languages in the Caucasus. Mol Biol Evol 28(10): 2905-2920.

Schurr TG, Yardumian A, Shengelia R, Bitadze L, Chitanava D, Laliashvili S, Laliashvili I, Sanders A, Azzam A, Groner V, Edleson K, Vilar M. 2015. Genetic diversity and population history in Svaneti, northwestern Georgia. Caucasiologic Papers 7: 319-336.

Yardumian A, Shengelia R, Bitadze L, Chitanava D, Laliashvili S, Laliashvili I, Villanea F, Sanders A, Azzam A, Groner V, Edleson K, Vilar MG, Schurr TG. 2017. Genetic diversity in Svaneti and its implications for the human settlement of the highland Caucasus. Am J Phys Anthropol 164(4): 837-852.

Yardumian A, Schurr TG, Shengelia R, Chitanava D, Laliashvili S, Bitadze L, Laliahsvili I. 2017. Ancient lineages: Reconstructing the genetic history of Svaneti, northwest Georgia. Expedition Magazine 59(1): 8-17 (Spring).

Yardumian A, Schurr TG. 2017. The deep history of the Caucasus is beginning to be revealed through genetic sequencing. Science Trends DOI: 10.31988/SciTrends.6880.

Chitanava D, Schurr TG, Bitadze L Khorava B, Tsimintia Q, Shengelia I, Yardumian A, Lalishvili S, Shengelia R. 2019. An interdisciplinary analysis of surname extinction in Samegrelo (North-West Georgia). J Georgian Acad Sci 13(4): 109-114.

Schurr TG, Shengelia R, Shamoon-Pour M, Chitanava D, Laliashvili S, Laliashvili I, Kibret R. Kume-Kangolo Y, Akhvlediani I, Mathieson I, Yardumian A. 2023. Genetic analysis of Mingrelians reveals long-term continuity of populations in western Georgia (Caucasus). Genome Biol Evol 15(11):evad198

Yardumian A, Schurr TG. 2024. The Peopling of the Caucasus: Early Human Settlement at the Crossroads of Continents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (In Press).

Laboratory of Molecular Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania
421 University Museum
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6398, USA
Tel: 215-573-2656