About the Göktürks, the first people using the term "Türk". Newest evidence by a large genetic study (Jeong et al. 2020) rewrites the history of the Eurasian Steppe. Early Turks and the BMAC culture (Gonur Tepe samples) share high amount of ancestry.
The Göktürks were a diverse group, including Caucasoid and Mongoloid groups. The Göktürks were the first to use the term “Türk”. This means, the Göktürks laid the foundation stone of the modern Turkic people as we know them.
The Göktürks and the early Turkic tribes, were predominantly Caucasoid and had mostly West-Eurasian ancestry. But they assimilated and turkified many different groups during their history and after time, the modern heterogenous Turkic branches were formed.
The Göktürks, Celestial Turks or Blue Turks (Old Turkic: 𐱅𐰇𐰼𐰰:𐰉𐰆𐰑𐰣, romanized: Türük Bodun) were a nomadic confederation of Turkic peoples in medieval Inner Asia. The Göktürks shaped the future geolocation, culture, and dominant beliefs of Turkic peoples.
Recently, a genetic analysis in March 2020 (Jeong et al.) of several ancient Eurasian samples, the first analysing a huge number of Eurasian Steppe samples, including early Turkic, ancient Uyghur, and Xiongnu, found a heterogeneous origin. All Turkic samples have predominant West-Eurasian ancestry (BMAC-related from ancient southern Uzbekistan and Gonur Tepe from Turkmenistan) with a slightly shift towards Northeast Asia (ANA). Only after the fall of the Uyghur Khaganate, the East Asian ancestry rised dramatically. This can be linked to the migration of Mongolic and Tungusic tribes.
The impact of this study may change our knowledge about proto-Turks. As we now know that the West-Eurasian ancestry is not from mixing with Indo-European/Yamnaya groups. This admixture happened only later.
Göktürk and early Turkic samples seem to have had a high amount of BMAC-related ancestry. The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (short BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization, is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia.
Gonur Depe (Turkmen: Goňur depe) is an archaeological site located about 60 km north of Mary (ancient Merv), Turkmenistan consisting of a large early Bronze Age settlement. It is the "capital" or major settlement of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC).
It was also found that many Göktürks belonged to the lineage J2. J2 is today one of the three major lineages of Turkic people, next to R1 and C2.
Celestial Türks (Göktürks):
NOM001 M U7a3a R1a1a1b2 (R-Z93)
TSB001 M H14b J1a (J-CTS5368)
UGU001 M D2 J2a (J-L559; J-M410)
ULI002 M B4c1a2a J2a (J-L559; J-M410)
ZAA002 M C4a2a1 C2b1a1b1 (C-F3830)
ZAA004 M D4b1a2a1 C2b1a1b1 (C-F3830)
TUH002 M B5a2a1a J2a (J-M410)
Now some archeological information about the Göktürks
The Göktürks were the first historically attested Turkic empire or khaganate, and the first who used the term “Türk”.
They were a very powerfull empire and ruled by Turkic clans. They assimilated many other ethnic groups. The Göktürks formed the modern Turkic ethnicity. The Göktürks were noted for their Caucasoid apperance.
As the Orkhon inscriptions include several non-Turkic lexemes, possibly representing Uralic or Yeniseian words, it is suggested that the East Asian components in modern Turks was not of Turkic origin.
The Chinese made terracotta figures of the old Göktürks:
The most detailed information regarding the appearance of the Turks were written in the Chinese annals. They were described as diverse, rangeing from clearly Caucasoid to mixed Eurasian.
Facial reconstructions of Göktürk samples showed that they were predominantly Caucasoid with slightly Mongoloid admixture.
Reconstructed Göktürk samples have predominantly Caucasoid apperance with low to medium Mongoloid admixture:
This variety, and the presence of different phenotypes among the Turks were often emphasized in the old Chinese annals.
Now more genetic evidence:
A genetic study published in Nature in May 2018 examined the remains of four elite Türk soldiers buried between ca. 300 AD and 700 AD. Göktürk samples were interestingly predominantly West-Eurasian (Caucasoid). But the examined Türks were found to have already more East Asian ancestry than the preceding Tian Shan Huns. Evidence of European (Yamnaya) ancestry was also detected, suggesting ongoing contacts with Europe. Succeeding Turkic states of Central Asia displayed even higher levels of East Asian ancestry. Which can be associated with the migration of Mongolic and Turkic groups.
Analysed haplogroups of Göktürks were heterogenous: J2 (predominant), R1 (medium), Q (low), D1a (low), and O (low). Interestingly there was no N or C2 among ancient Göktürks which is today commonly found among Central Asian Turks (and associated with Mongolic and Tungusic groups).
Jeong et al. 2020 analysed a large amount of Eurasian Steppe samples and came to interesting results.
Many early Xiongnu and Turkic samples (including ancient (Siberian) Uyghur and early medival samples in the region of Mongolia) are predominantly West-Eurasian and only slightly shifted towards East-Eurasians.
“Individual TUK001 (250-383 cal. CE), whose burial was an intrusion into an earlier Xiongnu cemetery, has the highest western Eurasian affinity. This ancestry is distinct from that of the Sarmatians, and closer to ancient populations with BMAC-related ancestry (ancient southern Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan). The remaining 17 Türkic and Uyghur individuals show intermediate genetic profiles (Fig. 3e).”
Strangely, early Turkic samples have this West-Eurasian ancestry from the southern Caucasus cluster (BMAC-related from southern Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan).
This would mean the West-Eurasian ancestry of early Turkic samples is not of Indo-European/Yamnaya origin. Yamnaya influence happened also, but only later.
“Following the collapse of the Uyghur empire, we documented a final major genetic shift during the late medieval period towards greater eastern Eurasian ancestry, which is consistent with historically documented expansions of Tungusic- (Jurchen) and Mongolic-(Khitan and Mongol) speaking groups from the northeast into the Eastern Steppe.”
→ This makes an East Asian origin for proto-Turkic very unlikely. We see that East Asian ancestry was very low in the beginning and increased over time and with the migration of Mongolic and Tungusic groups.
The Göktürks were predominantly Caucasoid with slightly Mongoloid admixture. The early Turks have high amount of BMAC-related ancestry and a high frequency of the lineage J2, which opens the possibility for a “southern Central Asian” origin of proto-Turks. Following the migration from the BMAC area to the Altai mountain, the early Turks got under influence from East Asian related groups (Uralic, Yeniseian and Mongolic).
These early Turks were still predominantly West-Eurasian (BMAC-related from southern Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (Gonur Tepe)) and had only some admixture from Northeast Asian groups. Only after the fall of the Uyghur Khaganate, the East Asian ancestry increased drastically. Additionally they assimilated Indo-European groups too.
While it may be too soon to say something about the origin of proto-Turks, an origin from BMAC-related groups is clearly possible. This new evidences can also give some support for a connection to the Turukkaeans/Turukk, which was suggested before but mostly rejected.
The Turukkaeans were a Bronze and Iron Age people of Mesopotamia and of unkown origin. In terms of cultural and linguistic characteristics, little is known about the Tukri. They are described by their contemporaries as a semi-nomadic, mountain tribe, who wore animal skins.