The Turkic peoples represent a diverse collection of ethnic groups defined by the Turkic languages. These groups have dispersed across a vast area, including Siberia, Northwest China, Central Asia, East Europe, the Caucasus, Anatolia, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. The origin and early dispersal history of the Turkic peoples is disputed, with candidates for their ancient homeland ranging from the Transcaspian steppe to Manchuria in Northeast Asia. Previous genetic studies have not identified a clear-cut unifying genetic signal for the Turkic peoples, which lends support for language replacement rather than demic diffusion as the model for the Turkic language’s expansion. We addressed the genetic origin of 373 individuals from 22 Turkic-speaking populations, representing their current geographic range, by analyzing genome-wide high-density genotype data. In agreement with the elite dominance model of language expansion most of the Turkic peoples studied genetically resemble their geographic neighbors. However, western Turkic peoples sampled across West Eurasia shared an excess of long chromosomal tracts that are identical by descent (IBD) with populations from present-day South Siberia and Mongolia (SSM), an area where historians center a series of early Turkic and non-Turkic steppe polities. While SSM matching IBD tracts (> 1cM) are also observed in non-Turkic populations, Turkic peoples demonstrate a higher percentage of such tracts (p-values ≤ 0.01) compared to their non-Turkic neighbors. Finally, we used the ALDER method and inferred admixture dates (~9th–17th centuries) that overlap with the Turkic migrations of the 5th–16th centuries. Thus, our results indicate historical admixture among Turkic peoples, and the recent shared ancestry with modern populations in SSM supports one of the hypothesized homelands for their nomadic Turkic and related Mongolic ancestors.
Centuries of nomadic migrations have ultimately resulted in the distribution of Turkic languages over a large area ranging from Siberia, across Central Asia to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Despite the profound cultural impact left by these nomadic peoples, little is known about their prehistoric origins. Moreover, because contemporary Turkic speakers tend to genetically resemble their geographic neighbors, it is not clear whether their nomadic ancestors left an identifiable genetic trace. In this study, we show that Turkic-speaking peoples sampled across the Middle East, Caucasus, East Europe, and Central Asia share varying proportions of Asian ancestry that originate in a single area, southern Siberia and Mongolia. Mongolic- and Turkic-speaking populations from this area bear an unusually high number of long chromosomal tracts that are identical by descent with Turkic peoples from across west Eurasia. Admixture induced linkage disequilibrium decay across chromosomes in these populations indicates that admixture occurred during the 9th–17th centuries, in agreement with the historically recorded Turkic nomadic migrations and later Mongol expansion. Thus, our findings reveal genetic traces of recent large-scale nomadic migrations and map their source to a previously hypothesized area of Mongolia and southern Siberia.