The Evenks and Evens, who speak closely related languages belonging to the Northern Tungusic branch of the Tungusic family, are nomadic reindeer herders and hunters. They are spread over an immense territory in northeastern Siberia, and consequently different subgroups are in contact with diverse peoples speaking Samoyedic, Turkic, Mongolic, Chukotka-Kamchatkan, and Yukaghir languages. Nevertheless, the languages and culture of the Evenks and Evens are similar enough for them to have been classified as a single ethnic group in the past. This linguistic and cultural similarity indicates that they may have spread over their current area of habitation relatively recently, and thus may be closely related genetically. On the other hand, the great distances that separate individual groups of Evens and Evenks from each other might have led to preferential mating with geographic neighbors rather than with linguistically related peoples. In this study, we assess the correlation between linguistic and genetic relationship in three different subgroups of Evenks and Evens, respectively, via mtDNA and Y-chromosomal analyses. The results show that there is some evidence of a common origin based on shared mtDNA lineages and relatively similar Y-haplogroup frequencies amongst most of the Evenk and Even subgroups. However, there is little sharing of Y-chromosomal STR haplotypes, indicating that males within Evenk and Even subgroups have remained relatively isolated. There is further evidence of some female admixture in different Even subgroups with their respective geographic neighbors. However, the Tungusic groups, and especially the Evenks, show signs of genetic drift, making inferences about their prehistory difficult.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.