Germanic tribes during the Barbarian migrations show mainly R1b, also I lineages


New preprint at BioRxiv, Understanding 6th-Century Barbarian Social Organization and Migration through Paleogenomics, by Amorim, Vai, Posth, et al. (2018)

Abstract (emphasis mine):

Despite centuries of research, much about the barbarian migrations that took place between the fourth and sixth centuries in Europe remains hotly debated. To better understand this key era that marks the dawn of modern European societies, we obtained ancient genomic DNA from 63 samples from two cemeteries (from Hungary and Northern Italy) that have been previously associated with the Longobards, a barbarian people that ruled large parts of Italy for over 200 years after invading from Pannonia in 568 CE. Our dense cemetery-based sampling revealed that each cemetery was primarily organized around one large pedigree, suggesting that biological relationships played an important role in these early Medieval societies. Moreover, we identified genetic structure in each cemetery involving at least two groups with different ancestry that were very distinct in terms of their funerary customs. Finally, our data was consistent with the proposed long-distance migration from Pannonia to Northern Italy.

Interesting excerpts:

Since the adults were almost all non-local, it is tempting to suggest that we may be observing the historically described fara during migration. Regardless, this group appears to be a unit organized around one high-status, kin-based group of predominantly males, but also incorporating other males that may have some common central/northern European descent. The relative lack of adult female representatives from Kindred SZ1, the diverse genetic and isotope signatures of the sampled women around the males and their rich graves goods suggests that they may have been acquired and incorporated into the unit during the process of migration (perhaps hinting at a patrilocal societal structure that has been shown to be prominent in Europe during earlier periods).

The remaining part of this community for which we have genomic data (N=7) is composed of individuals of mainly southern European genetic ancestry that are conspicuously lacking grave goods and occupy the southeastern part of the cemetery, with randomly oriented graves with straight walls. While the lack of grave goods does not necessarily imply that these individuals were of lower status, it does point to them belonging to a different social group. Interestingly, the strontium isotope data suggest that they may have migrated together with the warrior-based group from outside Szólád, but barriers to gene flow were largely been maintained.

Genetic structure of Szólád and Collegno. (A) Procrustes Principal Component Analysis of modern and ancient European population (faded small dots are individuals, larger circle is median of individuals) along with samples from Szólád (filled circles), Collegno (filled stars), Bronze Age SZ1 (filled grey circle), second period CL36 (grey star), two Avar-period samples from Szólád (yellow circles), Anglo-Saxon period UK (orange circles) and 6th Century Bavaria (green circles). Szólád and Collegno samples are filled with colors based on estimated ancestry from ADMIXTURE. Blue circles with thick black edge = Kindred_SZ1 , blue stars with thick black edge = Kindred_CL1 , stars with thick green edge = Kindred_CL2 . NWE = northwest Europe, NE = modern north Europe, NEE = modern northeast Europe, CE =central Europe, EE = eastern Europe, WE =western Europe, SE = southern Europe, SEE = southeast Europe, HUN = modern Hungarian, HBr = Hungarian Bronze Age, Br = central, northern and eastern Europe Bronze age. Model-based ancestry estimates from Admixture for Szólád (B) and Collegno (C) using 1000 Genomes Project Eurasian and YRI populations to supervise analysis. Note that high contamination was identified in CL31 and is shown with a triangle in the (A) and overlaid with a pink hue in the (C).

Evidence for Migrating Barbarians and “Longobards”

Our two cemeteries overlap chronologically with the historically documented migration of Longobards from Pannonia to Italy at the end of the 6th century. It is thus intriguing that we observe that central/northern European ancestry is dominant not only in Szólád, but also in Collegno. Based on modern genetic data we would not expect to see a preponderance of such ancestry in either Hungary or especially Northern Italy. While we do not yet know the general genomic background of Europe in these geographic regions just before the establishment of Szólád and Collegno, other Migration Period genomes from the UK and Germany show a fairly strong correlation with modern geography (while also possessing a similar central/northern European ancestry component to that found in Szólád and Collegno). Going further back in time, Late Bronze Age Hungarians show almost no resemblance to populations from modern central/northern Europe, especially compare to Bronze Age Germans and in particular Scandinavians, who, in contrast, show considerable overlap with our Szólád and Collegno central/northern ancestry samples. Coupled with the strontium isotope data, our paleogenomic analysis suggest that the earliest individuals of central/northern ancestry in Collegno were probably migrants while those with southern ancestry were local residents. Our results are thus consistent with an origin of barbarian groups such as the Longobards somewhere in Northern and Central Europe east of the Rhine and north of the Danube. Thus our results cannot reject the migration, its route, and settlement of “the Longobards” described in historical texts.

We note however that whether these people identified as “Longobard” or any other particular barbarian people is impossible to assess. Modern European genetic variation is generally highly structured by geography 22,32 , even at the level of individual villages 33 . It is, therefore, surprising to find significant diversity, even amongst individuals with central/northern ancestry, within small, individual Langobard cemeteries. Even amongst the two family groups of primarily central/northern ancestry, who may have formed the heart of such migration, there is clear evidence of admixture with individuals with more southern ancestry. If we are seeing evidence of movements of barbarians, there is no evidence that these were genetically homogenous groups of people.

From the supplementary material:

The haplogroups detected in the samples show a prevalence of R1b (55.3%), which is the most common sub-haplogroup in western Europe, with a peak in the Iberian Peninsula and in the British islands and a west-east gradient in central Europe. A consistent percentage of haplotypes belongs to the I haplogroup (26.4%), both in the I1a and, more abundantly, in I2a2 sub-haplogroups. They are particularly frequent in the northern Balkans with a westward gradient in central and western Europe, with some lineages belonging to I2a2a1b particularly common in the Germanic region.

Relative and absolute haplogroup frequencies: COL = Collegno; SZO = Szólád; CEU = Central European from Utah; FIN = Finnish; GBR = Britons; IBS = Iberians; SAR = Sardinians; TSI = Tuscans


Population turnover in remote Oceania shortly after initial settlement


Interesting preprint at BioRxiv by the team of the Reich lab, Population Turnover in Remote Oceania Shortly After Initial Settlement, by Mark Lipson, Pontus Skoglund, Matthew Spriggs, et al. (2018).

Abstract (emphasis mine):

Ancient DNA analysis of three individuals dated to ~3000 years before present (BP) from Vanuatu and one ~2600 BP individual from Tonga has revealed that the first inhabitants of Remote Oceania (“First Remote Oceanians”) were almost entirely of East Asian ancestry, and thus their ancestors passed New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Solomon Islands with minimal admixture with the Papuan groups they encountered. However, all present-day populations in Near and Remote Oceania harbor 25-100% Papuan ancestry, implying that there must have been at least one later stream of migration eastward from Near Oceani>. We generated genome-wide data for 14 ancient individuals from Efate and Epi Islands in Vanuatu ranging from 3,000-150 BP, along with 185 present-day Vanuatu individuals from 18 islands. We show that people of almost entirely Papuan ancestry had arrived in Vanuatu by 2400 BP, an event that coincided with the end of the Lapita cultural period, changes in skeletal morphology, and the cessation of long-distance trade between Near and Remote Oceania. First Remote Oceanian ancestry subsequently increased via admixture but remains at 10-20% in most islands. Through a fine-grained comparison of ancestry profiles in Vanuatu and Polynesia with diverse groups in Near Oceania, we find that Papuan ancestry in Vanuatu is consistent with deriving from the Bismarck Archipelago instead of the geographically closer Solomon Islands. Papuan ancestry in Polynesia also shows connections to the ancestry profiles present in the Bismarck Archipelago but is more similar to Tolai from New Britain and Tutuba from Vanuatu than to the ancient Vanuatu individuals and the great majority of present-day Vanuatu populations. This suggests a third eastward stream of migration from Near to Remote Oceania bringing a different type of Papuan ancestry.

Admixture graph model with inferred parameters, alternative visualization. Branch lengths are given in units of f2 genetic drift distance times 1000, and admixture proportions are indicated along corresponding dotted lines. Red, Solomon Islands majority source; blue, Bismarck Archipelago majority source; purple, New Guinea-related source; green, First Remote Oceanian; brown, mixed ancestry. The order of admixture events specified is arbitrary.

See also:

Y chromosome C2*-star cluster traces back to ordinary Mongols, rather than Genghis Khan


Article behind paywall, Whole-sequence analysis indicates that the Y chromosome C2*-Star Cluster traces back to ordinary Mongols, rather than Genghis Khan, by Wei, Yan, Lu, et al. Eur J Hum Genet (2018); 26:230–237


The Y-chromosome haplogroup C3*-Star Cluster (revised to C2*-ST in this study) was proposed to be the Y-profile of Genghis Khan. Here, we re-examined the origin of C2*-ST and its associations with Genghis Khan and Mongol populations. We analyzed 34 Y-chromosome sequences of haplogroup C2*-ST and its most closely related lineage. We redefined this paternal lineage as C2b1a3a1-F3796 and generated a highly revised phylogenetic tree of the haplogroup, including 36 sub-lineages and 265 non-private Y-chromosome variants. We performed a comprehensive analysis and age estimation of this lineage in eastern Eurasia, including 18,210 individuals from 292 populations. We discovered that the origin of populations with high frequencies of C2*-ST can be traced to either an ancient Niru’un Mongol clan or ordinary Mongol tribes. Importantly, the age of the most recent common ancestor of C2*-ST (2576 years, 95% CI = 1975–3178) and its sub-lineages, and their expansion patterns, are consistent with the diffusion of all Mongolic-speaking populations, rather than Genghis Khan himself or his close male relatives. We concluded that haplogroup C2*-ST is one of the founder paternal lineages of all Mongolic-speaking populations, and direct evidence of an association between C2*-ST and Genghis Khan has yet to be discovered.

This is a great example of the potential mistake that one can make in assessing leading clans of population expansions from the perspective of the renown case of the Uí Néill clan’s expansion in Ireland.

Just some days ago I wrote about the first Hungarian dynasty’s haplogroup R1a, and the potential association of other Ugric-speaking clans with R1a subclades, so let’s wait and see if future papers on other ancient Hungarian clans and Hungarian settlers bring surprises…


Population replacement in Early Neolithic Britain, and new Bell Beaker SNPs


New (copyrighted) preprint at BioRxiv, Population Replacement in Early Neolithic Britain, by Brace et al. (2018).

Abstract (emphasis mine):

The roles of migration, admixture and acculturation in the European transition to farming have been debated for over 100 years. Genome-wide ancient DNA studies indicate predominantly Anatolian ancestry for continental Neolithic farmers, but also variable admixture with local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Neolithic cultures first appear in Britain c. 6000 years ago (kBP), a millennium after they appear in adjacent areas of northwestern continental Europe. However, the pattern and process of the British Neolithic transition remains unclear. We assembled genome-wide data from six Mesolithic and 67 Neolithic individuals found in Britain, dating from 10.5-4.5 kBP, a dataset that includes 22 newly reported individuals and the first genomic data from British Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Our analyses reveals persistent genetic affinities between Mesolithic British and Western European hunter-gatherers over a period spanning Britain’s separation from continental Europe. We find overwhelming support for agriculture being introduced by incoming continental farmers, with small and geographically structured levels of additional hunter-gatherer introgression. We find genetic affinity between British and Iberian Neolithic populations indicating that British Neolithic people derived much of their ancestry from Anatolian farmers who originally followed the Mediterranean route of dispersal and likely entered Britain from northwestern mainland Europe.

Also, Genetiker has updated Y-SNP calls from new data published from the Harvard group.

The R1b lineages that expanded from (Yamna->) East Bell Beakers -> Western Europe are more and more clearly of R1b-L151 subclades, as expected.

Quite interesting are the early samples from Poland, of R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 and R1b1a1a2a1a-L151 lineages – , which may point (different to the more homogeneous L151 distribution in Western Europe) to a mix in both original (east-west) Yamna groups. This could tentatively be used to explain the Graeco-Aryan influence that some linguists see in Balto-Slavic (or its superstrate).

That link would then be quite early, to account for an influence during the Yamna settlements in Hungary, before its expansion as East Bell Beakers, but we haven’t seen a clearly differentiated subgroup (yet) in Archaeology, Anthropology, or Genomics within the Hungarian Yamna/East Bell Beaker community, so I am not convinced. It could be just that different scattered subclades mixed with the general L151 population pop up (following old Yamna lineages, or having being added along the way), as expected in an expansion over such a great territory – as if some scattered samples of R1a, I1, I2, J, etc. were found.

We need more early samples from south-eastern Europe and the steppe during the Chalcolithic to ascertain the composition and migration paths of the different Yamna settlers.

Other interesting findings are the early (Proto-)Bell Beaker samples of haplogroup R1b with no steppe ancestry from Spain – which some autochthonous continuists wanted to believe was a proof of some kind – , which are actually R1b-V88, a haplogroup known to have expanded throughout Europe quite early. In fact, this subclade has been recently shown to have most likely expanded through the Green Sahara region, and is potentially linked to the expansion of Afro-Asiatic.

See also:

Integrative studies of cultural evolution: crossing disciplinary boundaries to produce new insights

Interesting open access article Integrative studies of cultural evolution: crossing disciplinary boundaries to produce new insights, Oren Kolodny, Marcus W. Feldman, Nicole Creanza, Philos. Trans. Royal Soc. B (2018).


Culture evolves according to dynamics on multiple temporal scales, from individuals’ minute-by-minute behaviour to millennia of cultural accumulation that give rise to population-level differences. These dynamics act on a range of entities—including behavioural sequences, ideas and artefacts as well as individuals, populations and whole species—and involve mechanisms at multiple levels, from neurons in brains to inter-population interactions. Studying such complex phenomena requires an integration of perspectives from a diverse array of fields, as well as bridging gaps between traditionally disparate areas of study. In this article, which also serves as an introduction to the current special issue, we highlight some specific respects in which the study of cultural evolution has benefited and should continue to benefit from an integrative approach. We showcase a number of pioneering studies of cultural evolution that bring together numerous disciplines. These studies illustrate the value of perspectives from different fields for understanding cultural evolution, such as cognitive science and neuroanatomy, behavioural ecology, population dynamics, and evolutionary genetics. They also underscore the importance of understanding cultural processes when interpreting research about human genetics, neuroscience, behaviour and evolution.


First Hungarian ruling dinasty, the Árpáds, of Y-DNA haplogroup R1a


Open access article DNA profiling of Hungarian King Béla III and other skeletal remains originating from the Royal Basilica of Székesfehérvár, Olasz, J., Seidenberg, V., Hummel, S. et al. Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2018).


A few decades after the collapse of the Avar Khaganate (c. 822 AD), Hungarian invaders conquered the Carpathian Basin (c. 862–895 AD). The first Hungarian ruling dynasty, the Árpáds played an important role in European history during the Middle Ages. King Béla III (1172–1196) was one of the most significant rulers of the dynasty. He also consolidated Hungarian dominance over the Northern Balkans. The provostry church of the Virgin Mary (commonly known as the Royal Basilica of Székesfehérvár) played a prominent role as a coronation church and burial place of medieval Hungarian kings. The basilica’s building and graves had been destroyed over the centuries. The only royal graves that remained intact were those of King Béla III and his first spouse, Anna of Antioch. These graves were discovered in 1848. We defined the autosomal STR (short tandem repeat) fingerprints of the royal couple and eight additional individuals (two females and six males) found in the Royal Basilica. These results revealed no evidence of first-degree relationship between any of the investigated individuals. Y-chromosomal STR profiles were also established for all the male skeletons. Based upon the Y-chromosomal data, one male skeleton showed an obvious patrilineal relationship to King Béla III. A database search uncovered an existing Y-chromosomal haplotype, which had a single-repeat difference compared to that of King Béla. It was discovered in a person living in an area close to Hungary. This current male line is probably related paternally to the Árpád Dynasty. The control region of the mitochondrial DNA was determined in the royal couple and in the remains of the inferred relative. The mitochondrial results excluded sibling relationship between the King and the patrilineal relative. In summary, we successfully defined a Y-chromosomal profile of King Béla III, which can serve as a reference for the identification of further remains and disputed living descendants of the Árpád Dynasty. Among the examined skeletons, we discovered an Árpád member, whose exact affiliation, however, has not yet been established.

The Árpad Dynasty

The Árpád Dynasty (c. 850–1301 AD) played an important role in European history during the Middle Ages (Hóman 1940-1943). The first Great Prince Álmos organised the monarchic state in the northern region of the Black Sea c. 850. A few decades after the collapse of the Avar Khaganate (c. 822 AD), Álmos and his son Árpád conquered the Carpathian Basin (c. 862–895 AD) (Szőke 2014). During the conquest, Hungarian invaders, together with Turkic-speaking Kabars assimilated the Avars and Slavonic groups (Szádeczky-Kardoss 1990). Thus, most of the population in the Carpathian Basin originated from the Hun-Turkic cultural community of the Eurasian Steppe and was accompanied by Slavonic and German-speaking groups (László 1996). The origin of Hungarians is still controversial, and this paper cannot cover this complex subject. The Hungarian Great Principality represented the Eurasian steppe empires in Central Europe from c. 862 until 1000. Saint Stephen I, the last Great Prince (997–1000) and first King (1000–1038) of Hungary re-organised this early Hungarian state as a Christian kingdom. Saint Stephen received the royal crown from the Pope and joined the post-Roman Christian political system and cultural commonwealth of Latin Europe (Pohl 2003; Szabados 2011). Hungary remained an independent state between the German and Byzantine empires (Makk 1989). King Béla III (1172–1196) was one of the most significant rulers of the dynasty. He was the second son of King Géza II (1141–1162) and Queen Euphrosyne, the daughter of Mstislav I (1125–1132), the Great Prince of Kiev. Through the mediation of Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos, Béla married Anna of Châtillon from Antioch (1150–1184), the half-sister of the Emperor’s wife in 1170. After Manuel’s death, King Béla consolidated Hungarian dominance over the Northern Balkans.

The provostry church of the Virgin Mary (commonly known as the Royal Basilica of Székesfehérvár) was built by Saint Stephen I at the beginning of the eleventh century. The basilica played a prominent role as a church of coronation and as the main burial place of Hungarian kings in the Middle Ages. Fifteen kings, several queens, princes and princesses and clerical and secular dignitaries were buried there over five centuries (Engel 1987)

The five graves excavated by János Érdy. Drawn by János Varsányi (1848). Originally published by Érdy (1853). I: remains of Béla III; II: remains of Anna of Antioch; III: a male skeleton whose identity with II/52 is questioned; IV: the skeleton of an expectant female, only foetal bones remained; V: a crushed skeleton, it has not been preserved.


There were three R1a and two R1b statistically predicted Y haplogroups among the male skeletons (Table 3). These are the most frequent and second most frequent haplogroups (25.6 and 18.1% respectively) in the present Hungarian population (Völgyi et al. 2009). King Béla III was inferred to belong to haplogroup R1a. The R1a Y haplogroup relates paternally to more than 10% of men in a wide geographic area from South Asia to Central Eastern Europe and South Siberia (Underhill et al. 2010). It is the most frequent haplogroup in various populations speaking Slavic, Indo-Iranian, Dravidian, Turkic and Finno-Ugric languages (Underhill et al. 2010).

Kinship analysis

The autosomal STR results contradicted the paternity between King Béla III and II/52. The mitochondrial sequence results excluded siblingship, too. Apart from that, we also tested the hypothesis for siblingship versus non-relationship based on the autosomal STR results using “Familias 3”. The LR (likelihood ratio) for the alternative hypothesis was found to be 7.67, which was inconclusive. Testing the hypothesis for a grandfather-grandson (or uncle-nephew) relationship versus non-relationship resulted in an LR of 5.44, which corresponds to a probability of 84.46% (assuming a prior probability of 50%). This result is indecisive for the hypothesis.

The Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, by Fz22 at Wikipedia.

So, the first Hungarian dinasty, which one can safely say were one of the ruling clans among Hungarian conquerors, a group of Ugric speakers that invaded the Carpathian basin from the steppe in the 9th c. (stemming originally from North-Eastern Europe) were of R1a lineages.

Who could have thought, right?


Corded Ware pastoral herding economy and belief system through mortuary practices


On the scent of an animal skin: new evidence on Corded Ware mortuary practices in Northern Europe, Antiquity (2018) 92(361):118-131.

Abstract (emphasis mine):

The Late Neolithic Corded Ware Culture (c. 2800–2300 BC) of Northern Europe is characterised by specific sets of grave goods and mortuary practices, but the organic components of these grave sets are poorly represented in the archaeological record. New microscopic analyses of soil samples collected during the 1930s from the Perttulanmäki grave in western Finland have, however, revealed preserved Neolithic animal hairs. Despite mineralisation, the species of animal has been successfully identified and offers the oldest evidence for domestic goat in Neolithic Finland, indicating a pastoral herding economy. The mortuary context of the goat hair also suggests that animals played a significant role in the Corded Ware belief system.


Although the material culture used in Corded Ware funerary rituals is well known, a full appreciation of the associated mortuary practices is still lacking. In fact, even though evidence for internal wooden and stone structures is commonly documented in Corded Ware mortuary contexts (e.g. Fischer 1956; Malmer 1962; Hansen 1994; Vander Linden 2007), detailed information on the ways that structures within the grave might have been furnished is largely missing. The use of textiles, mats and furs to cover grave pit walls and floors is commonly documented in Yamnaya Culture graves (Heyd 2011). This culture represents the best-known proxy for the incoming gene-flow that occurred in Europe during the third millennium BC, resulting in the formation of the Corded Ware phenomenon (Allentoft et al. 2015; Haak et al. 2015; Kristiansen et al. 2017). Similar practices may, therefore, have occurred in the Corded Ware tradition. In fact, the Corded Ware graves already show strong affinities to the Yamnaya burial rituals; for example, in the practice of a single inhumation under a barrow (Kristiansen et al. 2017: 336). New information on Corded Ware mortuary practices has come from the northern periphery of the cultural area. The results are based on microscopic analyses conducted on soil samples collected from the Perttulanmäki Corded Ware grave in western Finland (Figure 1). These analyses suggest that a goat skin had been placed in the grave. This discovery is important as it provides clear evidence of a mortuary practice that has only in rare cases been previously suspected (e.g. Torvinen 1979; Meurkens et al. 2015).

Location of the Perttulanmäki site. The distribution of the Corded Ware phenomenon in Finland is marked in
orange. Map: K. Vajanto.

The animal accompaniment could be present in various forms. Several Corded Ware burials in the Baltic area have been furnished with artefacts made of domestic animal bone (Zagorska 2006: 103; Lõugas et al. 2007: 25–26; Larsson 2009: 63). That all milk residues from Finnish Corded Ware pottery were found exclusively in beakertype ‘drinking’ vessels (Cramp et al. 2014: 4) further supports this idea. These beakers are usually found in grave deposits (Edgren 1970: 76–77; Larsson 2009: 352), so the animal could have also been represented by placing milk, or a vessel connected with milk, in the grave (Edgren 1970: 76–77; Larsson 2009: 352). This being said, it must be noted that, due to the vast distribution area of the Corded Ware phenomenon, the same objects or symbols might not have been connected with the same ideas (Furholt 2014: 82). Moreover, some prehistoric societies might have also repeated the ritual practice simply as tradition—after its original meaning had been forgotten (Nilsson Stutz 2003: 319).

Interesting indeed regarding the culture behind Corded Ware herders in the Baltic Sea (quite likely speakers of Uralic languages) but also formally the emphasis on Yamna as a proxy population for Corded Ware migrants (which we had already seen in geneticists answering to criticism).

Interesting also how an article about the Corded Ware culture selects Volker Heyd – an expert in Yamna migration and in the Yamna -> Bell Beaker migration, who rejects a relationship between Yamna and Corded Ware migrants, and between Corded Ware and Bell Beaker peoples – over Kristiansen and his IE-CWC research group, who are supposedly the fashionable experts in CWC right now for certain amateur geneticists…

It would seem as if academic pressure is making the hype around (the wrong interpretations of) the 2015 papers (and the group behind them) fade…

See also:

R1b-V88 migration through Southern Italy into Green Sahara corridor, and the Afroasiatic connection

Open access article The peopling of the last Green Sahara revealed by high-coverage resequencing of trans-Saharan patrilineages, by D’Atanasio, Trombetta, Bonito, et al., Genome Biology (2018) 19:20.


Little is known about the peopling of the Sahara during the Holocene climatic optimum, when the desert was replaced by a fertile environment.

In order to investigate the role of the last Green Sahara in the peopling of Africa, we deep-sequence the whole non-repetitive portion of the Y chromosome in 104 males selected as representative of haplogroups which are currently found to the north and to the south of the Sahara. We identify 5,966 mutations, from which we extract 142 informative markers then genotyped in about 8,000 subjects from 145 African, Eurasian and African American populations. We find that the coalescence age of the trans-Saharan haplogroups dates back to the last Green Sahara, while most northern African or sub-Saharan clades expanded locally in the subsequent arid phase.

Our findings suggest that the Green Sahara promoted human movements and demographic expansions, possibly linked to the adoption of pastoralism. Comparing our results with previously reported genome-wide data, we also find evidence for a sex-biased sub-Saharan contribution to northern Africans, suggesting that historical events such as the trans-Saharan slave trade mainly contributed to the mtDNA and autosomal gene pool, whereas the northern African paternal gene pool was mainly shaped by more ancient events.

Green Sahara, Trans-Saharan, haplogroups,

Maximum parsimony Y chromosome tree and dating of the four trans-Saharan haplogroups. a Phylogenetic relations among the 150 samples analysed here. Each haplogroup is labelled in a different colour. The four Y sequences from ancient samples are marked by the dagger symbol. b Phylogenetic tree of the four trans-Saharan haplogroups, aligned to the timeline (at the bottom). At the tip of each lineage, the ethno-geographic affiliation of the corresponding sample is represented by a circle, coloured according to the legend (bottom left). The last Green Sahara period is highlighted by a green belt in the background

Also, interesting excerpts:

The fertile environment established in the Green Sahara probably promoted demographic expansions and rapid dispersals of the human groups, as suggested by the great homogeneity in the material culture of the early Holocene Saharan populations [62]. Our data for all the four trans-Saharan haplogroups are consistent with this scenario, since we found several multifurcated topologies, which can be considered as phylogenetic footprints of demographic expansions. The multifurcated structure of the E-M2 is suggestive of a first demographic expansion, which occurred about 10.5 kya, at the beginning of the last Green Sahara (Fig. 2; Additional file 2: Figure S4). After this initial expansion, we found that most of the trans-Saharan lineages within A3-M13, E-M2 and R-V88 radiated in a narrow time interval at 8–7 kya, suggestive of population expansions that may have occurred in the same time (Fig. 2; Additional file 2: Figures S3, S4 and S6). Interestingly, during roughly the same period, the Saharan populations adopted pastoralism, probably as an adaptive strategy against a short arid period [1, 62, 63]. So, the exploitation of pastoralism resources and the reestablishment of wetter conditions could have triggered the simultaneous population expansions observed here. R-V88 also shows signals of a further and more recent (~ 5.5 kya) Saharan demographic expansion which involved the R-V1589 internal clade. We observed similar demographic patterns in all the other haplogroups in about the same period and in different geographic areas (A3-M13/V3, E-M2/V3862 and E-M78/V32 in the Horn of Africa, E-M2/M191 in the central Sahel/central Africa), in line with the hypothesis that the start of the desertification may have caused massive economic, demographic and social changes [1].

Finally, the onset of the arid conditions at the end of the last African humid period was more abrupt in the eastern Sahara compared to the central Sahara, where an extensive hydrogeological network buffered the climatic changes, which were not complete before ~ 4 kya [6, 62, 64]. Consistent with these local climatic differences, we observed slight differences among the four trans-Saharan haplogroups. Indeed, we found that the contact between northern and sub-Saharan Africa went on until ~ 4.5 kya in the central Sahara, where we mainly found the internal lineages of E-M2 and R-V88 (Additional file 2: Figures S4 and S6). In the eastern Sahara, we found a sharper and more ancient (> 5 kya) differentiation between the people from northern Africa (and, more generally, from the Mediterranean area) and the groups from the eastern sub-Saharan regions (mainly from the Horn of Africa), as testified by the distribution and the coalescence ages of the A3-M13 and E-M78 lineages (Additional file 2: Figures S3 and S5).

Time estimates and frequency maps of the four trans-Saharan haplogroups and major sub-clades. a Time estimates of the four trans-Saharan clades and their main internal lineages. To the left of the timeline, the time windows of the main climatic/historical African events are reported in different colours (legend in the upper left). b Frequency maps of the main trans-Saharan clades and sub-clades. For each map, the relative frequencies (percentages) are reported to the right

R-V88 has been observed at high frequencies in the central Sahel (northern Cameroon, northern Nigeria, Chad and Niger) and it has also been reported at low frequencies in northwestern Africa [37]. Outside the African continent, two rare R-V88 sub-lineages (R-M18 and R-V35) have been observed in Near East and southern Europe (particularly in Sardinia)[30, 37, 38, 39]. Because of its ethno-geographic distribution in the central Sahel, R-V88 has been linked to the spread of the Chadic branch of the Afroasiatic linguistic family [37, 40].

(…) the R-V88 lineages date back to 7.85 kya and its main internal branch (branch 233) forms a “star-like” topology (“Star-like” index = 0.55), suggestive of a demographic expansion. More specifically, 18 out of the 21 sequenced chromosomes belong to branch 233, which includes eight sister clades, five of which are represented by a single subject. The coalescence age of this sub-branch dates back to 5.73 kya, during the last Green Sahara period. Interestingly, the subjects included in the “star-like” structure come from northern Africa or central Sahel, tracing a trans-Saharan axis. It is worth noting that even the three lineages outside the main multifurcation (branches 230, 231 and 232) are sister lineages without any nested sub-structure. The peculiar topology of the R-V88 sequenced samples suggests that the diffusion of this haplogroup was quite rapid and possibly triggered by the Saharan favourable climate (Fig. 2b).

One of the theories I proposed in the Indo-European demic diffusion model since the first edition – based mainly on phylogeography – is that R1b-V88 lineages had probably crossed the Mediterranean through southern Italy into a Green Sahara region, and distributed from there throuh important green corridors, humid areas between megalakes. Even though this new study – like the rest of them – is based solely on modern samples, and as such is quite prone to error in assessing ancient distributions – as we have seen in Europe -, it seems that a southern Italian route (probably through Sicily) for R1b-V88 and a late expansion through Green Sahara is more and more likely.

If we accept that the migration of R1b-V88 lineages is the last great expansion through a Green Sahara, then this expansion is a potential candidate for the initial Afroasiatic expansion – whereas older haplogroup expansions would represent languages different than Afroasiatic, and more recent haplogroup expansions would represent subsequent expansions of Afroasiatic dialects, like Semitic, Hamitic, Cushitic, or Chadic – as I explained in an older post.

In absolutely shameless speculative terms, then – as is today common in Genetic studies, by the way, so let’s all have some fun here – instead of some sort of R1b/Eurasiatic continuity in Europe, as some autochthonous continuists would like, this could mean that there would be an old Afroasiatic – R1b connection. That would imply:

NOTE. Regarding the contribution of CHG ancestry in the Pontic-Caspian steppe cultures, it is usually explained as caused by exogamy, or by absorption of a previous population (as in the Indo-Iranian case), although a contribution of communities of mainly J subclades to the formation of Neolithic steppe cultures cannot be ruled out. As for some autochthonous continuists’ belief in some sort of mythical mixed steppe people with mixed haplogroups and mixed language, well…

Simple Nostratic tree by Bomhard (2008)

The Pre-Indo-European linguistic situation, before the formation of Neolithic steppe cultures, seems like pure speculation, because a) language macro-families (with the exception of Afroasiatic) are highly speculative, b) sound anthropological models are lacking for them, and c) migrations inferred from haplogroup distributions of modern populations are often incorrect:

  • Haplogroup R could then be argued to be the source of Nostratic, and earlier subclades the source of Starostin’s Borean, given the distribution of its subclades in Asia and the timing of their migrations.
  • But of course one could also argue that, given the comparatively late population expansions that Genomics is showing, supporting Western European linguistic schools – where Russian Nostraticists tend to date languages further back in timeR1b (and not R) expansion could be the marker of Nostratic languages, due to its most likely southern path (and their old subclades found in Iran and the Caucasus), which would be more in line with the wet dreams of Europeans proposing R1b autochthonous continuity theories. I like this option far less because of that, but it cannot be ruled out.

If you have read this blog before, you know I profoundly dislike lexicostatistical and glottochronological methods, and I don’t like mass comparisons either. Whereas these methods pretend to apply mathematics to big (raw) data where there is almost no knowledge of what one is doing, comparative grammar applies complex reasoning where there is a lot of partially processed data.

But, it is always fun to ask “what if they were right?” and follow from there…

See also:

The arrival of haplogroup R1a-M417 in Eastern Europe, and the east-west diffusion of pottery through North Eurasia


Henny Piezonka recently uploaded an old chapter, Die frühe Keramik Eurasiens: Aktuelle Forschungsfragen und methodische Ansätze, in Multidisciplinary approach to archaeology: Recent achievements and prospects. Proceedings of the International Symposium “Multidisciplinary approach to archaeology: Recent achievements and prospects”, June 22-26, 2015, Novosibirsk, Eds. V. I. Molodin, S. Hansen.

Abstract (in German):

Die älteste bisher bekannte Gefäßkeramik der Welt wurde in Südostchina von spätglazialen Jäger-Sammlern wahrscheinlich schon um 18.000 cal BC hergestellt. In den folgenden Jahrtausenden verbreitete sich die neue Technik bei Wildbeutergemeinschaften in der russischen Amur-Region, in Japan, Korea und Transbaikalien bekannt, bevor sie im frühen und mittleren Holozän das Uralgebiet und Ost- und Nordeuropa erreichte. Entgegen verbreiteter Forschungsmeinungen zur Keramikgeschichte, die frühe Gefaßkeramik als Bestandteil des „neolithischen Bündes” der frühen Bauernkulturen sehen, stellt die eurasische Jäger-Sammler-Keramiktradition eine Innovation dar, die sich offenbar völlig unabhängig von anderen neolithischen Kulturerscheinungen wie Ackerbau, Viehzucht und sesshafre Lebensweise entwickelt hat Im vorliegenden Beitrag wird die chronologische Abfolge des ersten Auftretens von Tongefäßen in nordeurasischen Jäger-Sammler-Gemeinschaften anahnd von 14C-Datierungen Pazifik bis ins Baltikum nachvollzogen. Gleichzeitig werden vielversprechende methodische Ansätze vorgestellet, die derzeit ein Rolle bei der Erforschung dieses viel diskutierten Themas spielen.

Sites named in the text with earlier ceramic pottery in Eurasia up to the Urals.

If you have followed the updates to the Indo-European demic diffusion model, my proposal of a potential late arrival of haplogroup R1a-M417 during the Mesolithic did not change by the potential earlier arrival of EHG ancestry and haplogroup R1a in the North Pontic steppe, after the findings in Mathieson et al. (2017).

That is so because of the anthropological models of migration – or, lacking them, archaeological models of cultural expansion – that we have to date.

If I had followed a simplistic autochthonous continuity view, I would have thought that R1a-M417 was autochthonous to Eastern Europe, because an older subclade is found in the North Pontic steppe during the Mesolithic, akin to how some people want to believe that R1b-M269 shows autochthonous continuity in or around Central Europe, because of the Villabruna sample and later R1b-L23 subclades found there.

However, it is difficult to assert today that the population movement involving a community of mostly haplogroup R1a-M417 happened from west to east:

  1. If you follow Piezonka’s work, who did her Ph.D. dissertation in Eastern European Mesolithic (you can buy a more readable version), and has dedicated a great amount of time and effort to the research of cultural connections between Eastern Europe and Eurasia during the Mesolithic;
  2. taking into account the potential migration waves behind the increase in EHG ancestry in Eastern Europe in these periods, and this ancestral component’s speculative connection with ANE ancestry;
  3. and if we accept the TMRCA of R1a-M417 based on modern samples, dated ca. 6500 BC, and the appearance of the first samples at a similar time in Eastern Europe and in Baikalic cultures.

NOTE. More and more findings of Eastern Europe are showing how the sample of haplogroup N1c found in Eastern Europe and dated ca. 2500 BC is probably wrong, either in its haplogroup or in the radiocarbon date: after all, the lab has published just one study. The study of Baikalic samples, on the other hand, seems to have been corroborated by a more recent study.

Another interesting sample is that of Afontova Gora, whose community may have actually been mostly of haplogroup R1a (based on its position in PCA and relation to ANE ancestry), and thus the regional distribution of this haplogroup could have been quite large in North Eurasia during the Palaeolithic-Mesolithic transition, although this is highly speculative, like the connection WHG:ANE for EHG.

Early radiocarbon-dated complexes with pottery in different regions of North Eurasia

It is obvious that we cannot know what happened during these millennia without more samples, and indeed I don’t see anything a priori wrong with having an origin of R1a-M417 (and thus some sort of continuity) in Eastern Europe during the Mesolithic and Neolithic; just as I don’t see any problem with the continuity of other European haplogroups. Or with their discontinuity, mind you. That would not change the Proto-Indo-European homeland, or the complexity of language and ethnicity in Eastern Europe in the millennia following the expansion of Late Indo-European.

It just amazes me again and again how otherwise serious and capable people are often blinded by the desire to have their direct paternal line (some ancestors among an infinite number of them, probably representing for them genetically much less than other ancestral lines) stem from the own region and have the same ethnolinguistic affiliation since time immemorial, instead of betting for sounder migration models supported by anthropological data…


Neanderthal language revisited: speech old and shared with archaic humans


Neanderthal language revisited: not only us, by Dediu and Levinson, Curr Opin Behav Sci (2018) 21:49–55.


Here we re-evaluate our 2013 paper on the antiquity of language (Dediu and Levinson, 2013) in the light of a surge of new information on human evolution in the last half million years. Although new genetic data suggest the existence of some cognitive differences between Neanderthals and modern humans — fully expected after hundreds of thousands of years of partially separate evolution, overall our claims that Neanderthals were fully articulate beings and that language evolution was gradual are further substantiated by the wealth of new genetic, paleontological and archeological evidence briefly reviewed here.

The new data supports language and speech being old and shared with archaic humans. However, this does not rule out subtle and very interesting differences

Check out also the interesting open access article Drawings of Representational Images by Upper Paleolithic Humans and their Absence in Neanderthals Might Reflect Historical Differences in Hunting Wary Game, by Richard G. Coss.