Ancient Sardinia hints at Mesolithic spread of R1b-V88, and Western EEF-related expansion of Vasconic


New preprint Population history from the Neolithic to present on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia: An ancient DNA perspective, by Marcus et al. bioRxiv (2019)

Interesting excerpts (emphasis mine, edited for clarity):

On the high frequency of R1b-V88

Our genome-wide data allowed us to assign Y haplogroups for 25 ancient Sardinian individuals. More than half of them consist of R1b-V88 (n=10) or I2-M223 (n=7).

Francalacci et al. (2013) identi fied three major Sardinia-specifi c founder clades based on present-day variation within the haplogroups I2-M26, G2-L91 and R1b-V88, and here we found each of those broader haplogroups in at least one ancient Sardinian individual. Two major present-day Sardinian haplogroups, R1b-M269 and E-M215, are absent.

Compared to other Neolithic and present-day European populations, the number of identi fied R1b-V88 carriers is relatively high.

(…)ancient Sardinian mtDNA haplotypes belong almost exclusively to macro-haplogroups HV (n = 16), JT (n = 17) and U (n = 9), a composition broadly similar to other European Neolithic populations.

Geographic and temporal distribution of R1b-V88 Y-haplotypes in ancient European samples. We plot the geographic position of all ancient samples inferred to carry R1b-V88 equivalent markers. Dates are given as years BCE (means of calibrated 2s radio-carbon dates). Multiple V88 individuals with similar geographic positions are vertically stacked. We additionally color-code the status of the R1b-V88 subclade R1b-V2197, which is found in most present-day African R1b-V88 carriers.

On the origin of a Vasconic-like Paleosardo with the Western EEF

(…) the Neolithic (and also later) ancient Sardinian individuals sit between early Neolithic Iberian and later Copper Age Iberian populations, roughly on an axis that differentiates WHG and EEF populations and embedded in a cluster that additionally includes Neolithic British individuals. This result is also evident in terms of absolute genetic differentiation, with low pairwise FST ~ 0.005 +- 0.002 between Neolithic Sardinian individuals and Neolithic western mainland European populations. Pairwise outgroup-f3 analysis shows a very similar pattern, with the highest values of f3 (i.e. most shared drift) being with Neolithic and Copper Age Iberia, gradually dropping off for temporally and geographically distant populations.

In explicit admixture models (using qpAdm, see Methods) the southern French Neolithic individuals (France-N) are the most consistent with being a single source for Neolithic Sardinia (p ~ 0:074 to reject the model of one population being the direct source of the other); followed by other populations associated with the western Mediterranean Neolithic Cardial Ware expansion.

Principal Components Analysis based on the Human Origins dataset. A: Projection of ancient individuals’ genotypes onto principal component axes de fined by modern Western Eurasians (gray labels).

Pervasive Western Hunter-Gatherer ancestry in Iberian/French/Sardinian population

Similar to western European Neolithic and central European Late Neolithic populations, ancient Sardinian individuals are shifted towards WHG individuals in the top two PCs relative to early Neolithic Anatolians Admixture analysis using qpAdm infers that ancient Sardinian individuals harbour HG ancestry (~ 17%) that is higher than early Neolithic mainland populations (including Iberia, ~ 8%), but lower than Copper Age Iberians (~ 25%) and about the same as Southern French Middle-Neolithic individuals (~ 21%).

Principal Components Analysis based on the Human Origins dataset. B: Zoom into the region most relevant for Sardinian individuals.

Continuity from Sardinia Neolithic through the Nuragic

We found several lines of evidence supporting genetic continuity from the Sardinian Neolithic into the Bronze Age and Nuragic times. Importantly, we observed low genetic differentiation between ancient Sardinian individuals from various time periods.

A qpAdm analysis, which is based on simultaneously testing f-statistics with a number of outgroups and adjusts for correlations, cannot reject a model of Neolithic Sardinian individuals being a direct predecessor of Nuragic Sardinian individuals (…) Our qpAdm analysis further shows that the WHG ancestry proportion, in a model of admixture with Neolithic Anatolia, remains stable at ~17% throughout three ancient time-periods.

Present-day genetic structure in Sardinia reanalyzed with aDNA. A: Scatter plot of the rst two principal components trained on 1577 present-day individuals with grand-parental ancestry from Sardinia. Each individual is labeled with a location if at least 3 of the 4 grandparents were born in the same geographical location (\small” three letter abbreviations); otherwise with \x” or if grand-parental ancestry is missing with \?”. We calculated median PC values for each Sardinian province (large abbreviations). We also projected each ancient Sardinian individual on to the top two PCs (gray points). B/C: We plot f-statistics that test for admixture of modern Sardinian individuals (grouped into provinces) when using Nuragic Sardinian individuals as one source population. Uncertainty ranges depict one standard error (calculated from block bootstrap). Karitiana are used in the f-statistic calculation as a proxy for ANE/Steppe ancestry (Patterson et al., 2012).

Steppe influx in Modern Sardinians

While contemporary Sardinian individuals show the highest affinity towards EEF-associated populations among all of the modern populations, they also display membership with other clusters (Fig. 5). In contrast to ancient Sardinian individuals, present-day Sardinian individuals carry a modest “Steppe-like” ancestry component (but generally less than continental present-day European populations), and an appreciable broadly “eastern Mediterranean” ancestry component (also inferred at a high fraction in other present-day Mediterranean populations, such as Sicily and Greece).


Arrival of steppe ancestry with R1b-P312 in the Mediterranean: Balearic Islands, Sicily, and Iron Age Sardinia


New preprint The Arrival of Steppe and Iranian Related Ancestry in the Islands of the Western Mediterranean by Fernandes, Mittnik, Olalde et al. bioRxiv (2019)

Interesting excerpts (emphasis in bold; modified for clarity):

Balearic Islands: The expansion of Iberian speakers

Mallorca_EBA dates to the earliest period of permanent occupation of the islands at around 2400 BCE. We parsimoniously modeled Mallorca_EBA as deriving 36.9 ± 4.2% of her ancestry from a source related to Yamnaya_Samara; (…). We next used qpAdm to identify “proximal” sources for Mallorca_EBA’s ancestry that are more closely related to this individual in space and time, and found that she can be modeled as a clade with the (small) subset of Iberian Bell Beaker culture associated individuals who carried Steppe-derived ancestry (p=0.442).

Suppl. Materials: The model used was with Bell_Beaker_Iberia_highsteppe, a group of outliers from Iberia buried in a Bell Beaker mortuary context who unlike most individuals from this context in that region had high proportions of Steppe ancestry (p=0.442).

Our estimates of Steppe ancestry in the two later Balearic Islands individuals are lower than the earlier one: 26.3 ± 5.1% for Formentera_MBA and 23.1 ± 3.6% for Menorca_LBA, but the Middle to Late Bronze Age Balearic individuals are not a clade relative to non-Balearic groups. Specifically, we find that f4(Mbuti.DG, X; Formentera_MBA, Menorca_LBA) is positive when X=Iberia_Chalcolithic (Z=2.6) or X=Sardinia_Nuragic_BA (Z=2.7). While it is tempting to interpret the latter statistic as suggesting a genetic link between peoples of the Talaiotic culture of the Balearic islands and the Nuragic culture of Sardinia, the attraction to Iberia_Chalcolithic is just as strong, and the mitochondrial haplogroup U5b1+16189+@16192 in Menorca_LBA is not observed in Sardinia_Nuragic_BA but is observed in multiple Iberia_Chalcolithic individuals. A possible explanation is that both the ancestors of Nuragic Sardinians and the ancestors of Talaiotic people from the Balearic Islands received gene flow from an unsampled Iberian Chalcolithic-related group (perhaps a mainland group affiliated to both) that did not contribute to Formentera_MBA.

This sample, like another one in El Argar, is of hg. R1b-P312. So there you are, the data that connects the Proto-Iberian expansion (replacing IE-speaking Bell Beakers) to the Iberian Chalcolithic population, signaled by the increase in Iberian Chalcolithic ancestry after the arrival of Bell Beakers, most likely connected originally to the Argaric and post-Argaric expansions during the MBA.

PCA with previously published ancient individuals (non-filled symbols), projected onto variation from present-day populations (gray squares).

Steppe in Sardinia IA: Phocaeans from Italy?

Most Sardinians buried in a Nuragic Bronze Age context possessed uniparental haplogroups found in European hunter-gatherers and early farmers, including Y-haplogroup R1b1a[xR1b1a1a] which is different from the characteristic R1b1a1a2a1a2 spread in association with the Bell Beaker complex. An exception is individual I10553 (1226-1056 calBCE) who carried Y-haplogroup J2b2a, previously observed in a Croatian Middle Bronze Age individual bearing Steppe ancestry, suggesting the possibility of genetic input from groups that arrived from the east after the spread of first farmers. This is consistent with the evidence of material culture exchange between Sardinians and mainland Mediterranean groups, although genome-wide analyses find no significant evidence of Steppe ancestry so the quantitative demographic impact was minimal.

Another interesting data, these (Mesolithic) remnant R1b-V88 lineages closely related to the Italian Peninsula, the most likely region of expansion of these lineages into Africa, in turn possibly connected to the expansion of Proto-Afroasiatic.

We detect definitive evidence of Iranian-related ancestry in an Iron Age Sardinian I10366 (391-209 calBCE) with an estimate of 11.9 ± 3.7.% Iran_Ganj_Dareh_Neolithic related ancestry, while rejecting the model with only Anatolian_Neolithic and WHG at p=0.0066 (Supplementary Table 9). The only model that we can fit for this individual using a pair of populations that are closer in time is as a mixture of Iberia_Chalcolithic (11.9 ± 3.2%) and Mycenaean (88.1 ± 3.2%) (p=0.067). This model fits even when including Nuragic Sardinians in the outgroups of the qpAdm analysis, which is consistent with the hypothesis that this individual had little if any ancestry from earlier Sardinians.

Proportions of ancestry using a distal qpAdm framework on an individual basis (a), and based on qpWave clusters

Sicily EBA: The Lusitanian/Ligurian connection?

(…) While a previously reported Bell Beaker culture-associated individual from Sicily had no evidence of Steppe ancestry, (…) we find evidence of Steppe ancestry in the Early Bronze Age by ~2200 BCE. In distal qpAdm, the outlier Sicily_EBA11443 is parsimoniously modeled as harboring 40.2 ± 3.5% Steppe ancestry, and the outlier Sicily_EBA8561 is parsimoniously modeled as harboring 23.3 ± 3.5% Steppe ancestry. (…) The presence of Steppe ancestry in Early Bronze Age Sicily is also evident in Y chromosome analysis, which reveals that 4 of the 5 Early Bronze Age males had Steppe-associated Y-haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a2. (Online Table 1). Two of these were Y-haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a2a1 (Z195) which today is largely restricted to Iberia and has been hypothesized to have originated there 2500-2000 BCE. This evidence of west-to-east gene flow from Iberia is also suggested by qpAdm modeling where the only parsimonious proximate source for the Steppe ancestry we found in the main Sicily_EBA cluster is Iberians.

What’s this? An ancestral connection between Sicel Elymian and Galaico-Lusitanian or Ligurian (based on an origin in NE Iberia)? Impossible to say, especially if the languages of these early settlers were replaced later by non-Indo-European speakers from the eastern Mediterranean, and by Indo-European speakers from the mainland closely related to Proto-Italic during the LBA, but see below.

Regarding the comment on R1b-Z195, it is associated with modern Iberians, as DF27 in general, due to founder effects beyond the Pyrenees. It is a very old subclade, split directly from DF27 roughly at the same time as it split from the parent P312, i.e. it can be found anywhere in Europe, and it almost certainly accompanied the expansion of Celts from Central Europe under the subclade R1b-M167/SRY2627.

The connection is thus strong only because of the qpAdm modeling, since R1b-DF27 and subclade R1b-Z195 are certainly lineages expanded quite early, most likely with Yamna settlers in Hungary and East Bell Beakers.

In this case, if stemming from Iberia, it is most likely of subclade R1b-Z220 – or another Z195 (xM167) lineage – originally associated with the Old European substrate found in topo-hydronymy in Iberia, whose most likely remnants attested during the Iron Age were Lusitanians.

Left: Modern distribution of R1b-Z195 (YFull estimate 2700 BC); Right: Modern distribution of DF27. Both include later founder effects within Iberia, so the increase in the Basque country and the Crown of Aragon and the decrease in Portugal can safely be ignored. Contour maps of the derived allele frequencies of the SNPs analyzed in Solé-Morata et al. (2017).

We detect Iranian-related ancestry in Sicily by the Middle Bronze Age 1800-1500 BCE, consistent with the directional shift of these individuals toward Mycenaeans in PCA. Specifically, two of the Middle Bronze Age individuals can only be fit with models that in addition to Anatolia_Neolithic and WHG, include Iran_Ganj_Dareh_Neolithic. The most parsimonious model for Sicily_MBA3125 has 18.0 ± 3.6% Iranian-related ancestry (p=0.032 for rejecting the alternative model of Steppe rather than Iranian-related ancestry), and the most parsimonious model for Sicily_MBA has 14.9 ± 3.9% Iranian-related ancestry (p=0.037 for rejecting the alternative model).

The modern southern Italian Caucasus-related signal identified in Raveane et al. (2018) is plausibly related to the same Iranian-related spread of ancestry into Sicily that we observe in the Middle Bronze Age (and possibly the Early Bronze Age).

The non-Indo-European Sicanians and Elymians were possibly then connected to eastern Mediterranean groups before the expansion of the Sea Peoples.

For the Late Bronze Age group of individuals, qpAdm documented Steppe-related ancestry, modeling this group as 80.2 ± 1.8% Anatolia_Neolithic, 5.3 ± 1.6% WHG, and 14.5 ± 2.2% Yamnaya_Samara. Our modeling using sources more closely related in space and time also supports Sicily_LBA having Minoan-related ancestry or being derived from local preceding populations or individuals with ancestries similar to those of Sicily_EBA3123 (p=0.527), Sicily_MBA3124 (p=0.352), and Sicily_MBA3125 (p=0.095).

This increase in Steppe-related ancestry in a western site during the LBA most likely represents either an expansion from the Aegean or – maybe more likely, given the archaeological finds – a regional population similar to Sicily EBA re-emerging or rather being displaced from the eastern part of the island because of a westward movement from nearby Calabria.

Whether this population sampled spoke Indo-European or not at this time is questionable, since the Iron Age accounts show non-IE Elymians in this region.

Actually, Elymians seem to have spoken Indo-European, which fits well with the increase in steppe ancestry.

EDIT (21 MAR): Interesting about a proposed incoming Minoan-like ancestry is the potential origin of the Iran Neolithic-related ancestry that is going to appear in Central Italy during the LBA. This could then be potentially associated with Tyrsenians passing through the area, although the traditional description may be more more compatible with an arrival of Sea Peoples from the Adriatic.

Sad to read this:

This manuscript is dedicated to the memory of Sebastiano Tusa of the Soprintendenza del Mare in Palermo, who would have been an author of this study had he not tragically died in the crash of Ethiopia Airlines flight 302 on March 10.


Aquitanians and Iberians of haplogroup R1b are exactly like Indo-Iranians and Balto-Slavs of haplogroup R1a


The final paper on Indo-Iranian peoples, by Narasimhan and Patterson (see preprint), is soon to be published, according to the first author’s Twitter account.

One of the interesting details of the development of Bronze Age Iberian ethnolinguistic landscape was the making of Proto-Iberian and Proto-Basque communities, which we already knew were going to show R1b-P312 lineages, a haplogroup clearly associated during the Bell Beaker period with expanding North-West Indo-Europeans:

From the Bronze Age (~2200–900 BCE), we increase the available dataset from 7 to 60 individuals and show how ancestry from the Pontic-Caspian steppe (Steppe ancestry) appeared throughout Iberia in this period, albeit with less impact in the south. The earliest evidence is in 14 individuals dated to ~2500–2000 BCE who coexisted with local people without Steppe ancestry. These groups lived in close proximity and admixed to form the Bronze Age population after 2000 BCE with ~40% ancestry from incoming groups. Y-chromosome turnover was even more pronounced, as the lineages common in Copper Age Iberia (I2, G2, and H) were almost completely replaced by one lineage, R1b-M269.

Proportion of ancestry derived from central European Beaker/Bronze Age populations in Iberians from the Middle Neolithic to the Iron Age (table S15). Colors indicate the Y-chromosome haplogroup for each male. Red lines represent period of admixture. Modified from Olalde et al. (2019).

The arrival of East Bell Beakers speaking Indo-European languages involved, nevertheless, the survival of the two non-IE communities isolated from each other – likely stemming from south-western France and south-eastern Iberia – thanks to a long-lasting process of migration and admixture. There are some common misconceptions about ancient languages in Iberia which may have caused some wrong interpretations of the data in the paper and elsewhere:

NOTE. A simple reading of Iberian prehistory would be enough to correct these. Two recent books on this subject are Villar’s Indoeuropeos, iberos, vascos y otros parientes and Vascos, celtas e indoeuropeos. Genes y lenguas.

Iberian languages were spoken at least in the Mediterranean and the south (ca. “1/3 of Iberia“) during the Bronze Age.

Nope, we only know the approximate location of Iberian culture and inscriptions from the Late Iron Age, and they occupy the south-eastern and eastern coastal areas, but before that it is unclear where they were spoken. In fact, it seems evident now that the arrival of Urnfield groups from the north marks the arrival of Celtic-speaking peoples, as we can infer from the increase in Central European admixture, while the expansion of anthropomorphic stelae from the north-west must have marked the expansion of Lusitanian.

Vasconic was spoken in both sides of the Pyrenees, as it was in the Middle Ages.

Wrong. One of the worst mistakes I am seeing in many comments since the paper was published, although admittedly the paper goes around this problem talking about “Modern Basques”. Vasconic toponyms appear south of the Pyrenees only after the Roman conquests, and tribes of the south-western Pyrenees and Cantabrian regions were likely Celtic-speaking peoples. Aquitanians (north of the western Pyrenees) are the only known ancient Vasconic-speaking population in proto-historic times, ergo the arrival of Bell Beakers in Iberia was most likely accompanied by Indo-European languages which were later replaced by Celtic expanding from Central Europe, and Iberian expanding from south-east Iberia, and only later with Latin and Vasconic.

Ligurian is non-Indo-European, and Lusitanian is Celtic-like, so Iberia must have been mostly non-Indo-European-speaking.

The fragmentary material available on Ligurian is enough to show that phonetically it is a NWIE dialect of non-Celtic, non-Italic nature, much like Lusitanian; that is, unless you follow laryngeals up to Celtic or Italic, in which case you can argue anything about this or any other IE language, as people who reconstruct laryngeals for Baltic in the common era do.

EDIT (19 Mar 2019): It was not clear enough from this paragraph, because Ligurian-like languages in NE Iberia is just a hypothesis based on the archaeological connection of the whole southern France Bell Beaker region. My aim was to repeat the idea that Old European topo-hydronymy is older in NE Iberia (as almost anywhere in Iberia) than Iberian toponymy, so the initial hypothesis is that:

  1. a Palaeo-European language (as Villar puts it) expanded into most regions of Iberia in ancient times (he considered at some point the Mesolithic, but that is obviously wrong, as we know now); then
  2. Celts expanded at least to the Ebro River Basin; then
  3. Iberians expanded to the north and replaced these in NE Iberia; and only then
  4. after the Roman invasion, around the start of the Common Era, appear Vasconic toponyms south of the Pyrenees.

Lusitanian obviously does not qualify as Celtic, lacking the most essential traits that define Celticness…Unless you define “(Para-)Celtic” as Pre-Proto-Celtic-like, or anything of the sort to support some Atlantic continuity, in which case you can also argue that Pre-Italic or Pre-Germanic are Celtic, because you would be essentially describing North-West Indo-European

If Basques have R1b, it’s because of a culture of “matrilocality” as opposed to the “patrilocality” of Indo-Europeans

So wrong it hurts my eyes every time I read this. Not only does matrilocality in a regional group have few known effects in genetics, but there are many well-documented cases of population replacement (with either ancestry or Y-DNA haplogroups, or both) without language replacement, without a need to resort to “matrilineality” or “matrilocality” or any other cultural difference in any of these cases.

In fact, it seems quite likely now that isolated ancient peoples north of the Pyrenees will show a gradual replacement of surviving I2a lineages by neighbouring R1b, while early Iberian R1b-DF27 lineages are associated with Lusitanians, and later incoming R1b-DF27 lineages (apart from other haplogroups) are most likely associated with incoming Celts, which must have remained in north-central and central-east European groups.

NOTE. Notice how R1a is fully absent from all known early Indo-European peoples to date, whether Iberian IE, British IE, Italic, or Greek. The absence of R1a in Iberia after the arrival of Celts is even more telling of the origin of expanding Celts in Central Europe.

I haven’t had enough time to add Iberian samples to my spreadsheet, and hence neither to the ASoSaH texts nor maps/PCAs (and I don’t plan to, because it’s more efficient for me to add both, Asian and Iberian samples, at the same time), but luckily Maciamo has summed it up on Eupedia. Or, graphically depicted in the paper for the southeast:

Y chromosome haplogroup composition of individuals from southeast Iberia during the past 2000 years. The general Iberian Bronze and Iron Age population is included for comparison. Modified from Olalde et al. (2019).

Does this continued influx of Y-DNA haplogroups in Iberia with different cultures represent permanent changes in language? Are, therefore, modern Iberian languages derived from Lusitanian, Sorothaptic/Celtic, Greek, Phoenician, East or West Germanic, Hebrew, Berber, or Arabic languages? Obviously not. Same with Italy (see the recent preprint on modern Italians by Raveane et al. 2018), with France, with Germany, or with Greece.

If that happens in European regions with a known ancient history, why would the recent expansions and bottlenecks of R1b in modern Basques (or N1c around the Baltic, or R1a in Slavs) in the Middle Ages represent an ancestral language surviving into modern times?


If something is clear from Narasimhan, Patterson, et al. (2018), is that we know finally the timing of the introduction and expansion of R1a-Z645 lineages among Indo-Iranians.

We could already propose since 2015 that a slow admixture happened in the steppes, based on archaeological finds, due to settlement elites dominating over common peoples, coupled with the known Uralic linguistic traits of Indo-Iranian (and known Indo-Iranian influence on Finno-Ugric) – as I did in the first version of the Indo-European demic diffusion model.

The new huge sampling of Sintashta – combined with that of Catacomb, Poltavka, Potapovka, Andronovo, and Srubna – shows quite clearly how this long-term admixture process between Uralic peoples and Indo-Iranians happened between forest-steppe CWC (mainly Abashevo) and steppe groups. The situation is not different from that of Iberia ca. 2500-2000 BC; from Narasimhan, Patterson, et al. (2018):

We combined the newly reported data from Kamennyi Ambar 5 with previously reported data from the Sintashta 5 individuals (10). We observed a main cluster of Sintashta individuals that was similar to Srubnaya, Potapovka, and Andronovo in being well modeled as a mixture of Yamnaya-related and Anatolian Neolithic (European agriculturalist-related) ancestry.

Even with such few words referring to one of the most important data in the paper about what happened in the steppes, Wang et al. (2018) help us understand what really happened with this simplistic concept of “steppe ancestry” regarding Yamna vs. Corded Ware differences:

Image modified from Wang et al. (2018). Marked are: in red, approximate limit of Anatolia_Neolithic ancestry found in Yamna populations; in blue, Corded Ware-related groups. “Modelling results for the Steppe and Caucasus 1128 cluster. Admixture proportions based on (temporally and geographically) distal and proximal models, showing additional Anatolian farmer-related ancestry in Steppe groups as well as additional gene flow from the south in some of the Steppe groups as well as the Caucasus groups (see also Supplementary Tables 10, 14 and 20).”

As with Iberia (or any prehistoric region), the details of how exactly this language change happened are not evident, but we only need a plausible explanation coupled with archaeology and linguistics. Poltavka, Potapovka, and Sintashta samples – like the few available Iberian ones ca. 2500-2000 BC – offer a good picture of the cohabitation of R1b-L23 (mainly Z2103) and R1a-Z645 (mainly Z93+): a glimpse at the likely presence of R1a-Z93 within settlements – which must have evolved as the dominant elites – in a society where the majority of the population was initially formed by nomad herders (probably most R1b-Z2103), who were usually buried outside of the main settlements.

Will the upcoming Narasimhan, Patterson et al. (2019) deal with this problem of how R1a-M417 replaced R1b-M269, and how the so-called “Steppe_MLBA” (i.e. Corded Ware) ancestry admixed with “Steppe_EMBA” (i.e. Yamnaya) ancestry in the steppes, and which one of their languages survived in the region (that is, the same the Reich Lab has done with Iberia)? Not likely. The ‘genetic wars’ in Iberia deal with haplogroup R1b-P312, and how it was neither ‘native’ nor associated with Basques and non-Indo-European peoples in general. The ‘genetic wars’ in South Asia are concerned with the steppe origin of R1a, to prove that it is not a ‘native’ haplogroup to India, and thus neither are Indo-Aryan languages. To each region a politically correct account of genetic finds, with enough care not to fully dismiss national myths, it seems.

NOTE. Funnily enough, these ‘genetic wars’ are the making of geneticists since the 1990s and 2000s, so we are still in the midst of mostly internal wars caused by what they write. Just as genetic papers of the 2020s will most likely be a reaction to what they are writing right now about “steppe ancestry” and R1a. You won’t find much change to the linguistic reconstruction in this whole period, except for the most multicolored glottochronological proposals…

The first author of the paper has engaged, as far as I could see in Twitter, in dialogue with Hindu nationalists who try to dismiss the arrival of steppe ancestry and R1a into South Asia as inconclusive (to support the potential origin of Sanskrit millennia ago in the Indus Valley Civilization). How can geneticists deal with the real problem here (the original ethnolinguistic group expanding with Corded Ware), when they have to fend off anti-steppists from Europe and Asia? How can they do it, when they themselves are part of the same societies that demand a politically correct presentation of data?

This is how the data on the most likely Indo-Iranian-speaking region should be presented in an ideal world, where – as in the Iberia paper – geneticists would look closely to the Volga-Ural region to discover what happened with Proto-Indo-Iranians from their earliest to their latest stage, instead of constantly looking for sites close to the Indus Valley to demonstrate who knows what about modern Indian culture:

Tentative map of the Late PIE and Indo-Iranian community in the Volga-Ural steppes since the Eneolithic. Proportion of ancestry derived from central European Corded Ware peoples. Colors indicate the Y-chromosome haplogroup for each male. Red lines represent period of admixture. Modified from Olalde et al. (2019).

Now try and tell Hindu nationalists that Sanskrit expanded from an Early Bronze Age steppe community of R1b-rich nomadic herders that spoke Pre-Indo-Iranian, which was dominated and eventually (genetically) mostly replaced by elite Uralic-speaking R1a peoples from the Russian forest, hence the known phonetic (and some morphological) traits that remained. Good luck with the Europhobic shitstorm ahead..


Iberian cultures, already with a majority of R1b lineages, show a clear northward expansion over previously Urnfield-like groups of north-east Iberia and Mediterranean France (which we now know probably represent the migration of Celts from central Europe). Similarly, Eastern Balts already under a majority of R1a lineages expanded likely into the Baltic region at the same time as the outlier from Turlojiškė (ca. 1075 BC), which represents the first obvious contacts of central-east Europe with the Baltic.

Iberia shows a more recent influx of central and eastern Mediterranean peoples, one of which eventually succeeded in imposing their language in Western Europe: Romans were possibly associated mainly with R1b-U152, apart from many other lineages. Proto-Slavs probably expanded later than Celts, too, connected to the disintegration of the Lusatian culture, and they were at some point associated with R1a-M458 and R1a-Z280(xZ92) lineages, apart from others already found in Early Slavs.

PCA of central-eastern European groups which may have formed the Balto-Slavic-speaking community derived from Bell Beaker, evident from the position ‘westwards’ of CWC in the PCA, and surrounding cultures. Left: Early Bronze Age. Right: Tollense Valley samples.

This parallel between Iberia and eastern Europe is no coincidence: as Europe entered the Bronze Age, chiefdom-based systems became common, and thus the connection of ancestry or haplogroups with ethnolinguistic groups became weaker.

What happened earlier (and who may represent the Pre-Balto-Slavic community) will be clearer when we have enough eastern European samples, but basically we will be able to depict this admixture of NWIE-speaking BBC-derived peoples with Uralic-speaking CWC-derived groups (since Uralic is known to have strongly influenced Balto-Slavic), similar to the admixture found in Indo-Iranians, more or less like this:

Tentative map of the North-West Indo-European and Balto-Slavic community in central-eastern Europe since the East Bell Beaker expansion. Proportion of ancestry derived from Corded Ware peoples. Colors indicate the Y-chromosome haplogroup for each male. Red lines represent period of admixture. Modified from Olalde et al. (2019).

The Early Scythian period marked a still stronger chiefdom-based system which promoted the creation of alliances and federation-like groups, with an earlier representation of the system expanding from north-eastern Europe around the Baltic Sea, precisely during the spread of Akozino warrior-traders (in turn related to the Scythian influence in the forest-steppes), who are the most likely ancestors of most N1c-V29 lineages among modern Germanic, Balto-Slavic, and Volga-Finnic peoples.

Modern haplogroup+language = ancient ones?

It is not difficult to realize, then, that the complex modern genetic picture in Eastern Europe and around the Urals, and also in South Asia (like that of the Aegean or Anatolia) is similar to the Iron Age / medieval Iberian one, and that following modern R1a as an Indo-European marker just because some modern Indo-European-speaking groups showed it was always a flawed methodology; as flawed as following R1b for ancient Vasconic groups, or N1c for ancient Uralic groups.

Why people would argue that haplogroups mean continuity (e.g. R1b with Basques, N1c with Finns, R1a with Slavs, etc.) may be understood, if one lives still in the 2000s. Just like why one would argue that Corded Ware is Indo-European, because of Gimbutas’ huge influence since the 1960s with her myth of “Kurgan peoples”. Not many denied these haplogroup associations, because there was no reason to do it, and those who did usually aligned with a defense of descriptive archaeology.

However, it is a growing paradox that some people interested in genetics today would now, after the Iberian paper, need to:

  • accept that ancient Iberians and probably Aquitanians (each from different regions, and probably from different “Basque-Iberian dialects” in the Chalcolithic, if both were actually related) show eventually expansions with R1b-L23, the haplogroup most obviously associated with expanding Indo-Europeans;
  • acknowledge that modern Iberians have many different lineages derived from prehistoric or historic peoples (Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Goths, Berbers, Arabs), which have undergone different bottlenecks, the last ones during the Reconquista, but none of their languages have survived;
  • realize that a similar picture is to be found everywhere in central and western Europe since the first proto-historic records, with language replacement in spite of genetic continuity, such as the British Isles (and R1b-L21 continuity) after the arrival of Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, or Normans;
  • but, at the same time, continue blindly asserting that haplogroup R1a + “steppe ancestry” represent some kind of supernatural combination which must show continuity with their modern Indo-Iranian or Balto-Slavic language from time immemorial.
Replacement of R1b-L23 lineages during the Early Bronze Age in eastern Europe and in the Eurasian steppes: emergence of R1a in previous Yamnaya and Bell Beaker territories. Modified from EBA Y-DNA map.

Behave, pretty please

The ‘conservative’ message espoused by some geneticists and amateur genealogists here is basically as follows:

  • Let’s not rush to new theories that contradict the 2000s, lest some people get offended by granddaddy not being these pure whatever wherever as they believed, and let’s wait some 5, 10, or 20 years, as long as necessary – to see if some corner of the Yamna culture shows R1a, or some region in north-eastern Europe shows N1c, or some Atlantic Chalcolithic sample shows R1b – to challenge our preferred theories, if we actually need to challenge anything at all, because it hurts too much.
  • Just don’t let many of these genetic genealogists or academics of our time be unhappy, pretty please with sugar on top, and let them slowly adapt to reality with more and more pet theories to fit everything together (past theories + present data), so maybe when all of them are gone, within 50 or 70 years, society can smoothly begin to move on and propose something closer to reality, but always as politically correct as possible for the next generations.
  • For starters, let’s discuss now (yet again) that Bell Beakers may not have been Indo-European at all, despite showing (unlike Corded Ware) clearly Yamna male lineages and ancestry, because then Corded Ware and R1a could not have been Indo-European and that’s terrible, so maybe Bell Beakers are too brachycephalic to speak Indo-European or something, or they were stopped by the Fearsome Tisza River, or they are not pure Dutch Single Grave in The South hence not Indo-European, or whatever, and that’s why Iron Age Iberians or Etruscans show non-Indo-European languages. That’s not disrespectful to the history of certain peoples, of course not, but talking about the evident R1a-Uralic connection is, because this is The South, not The North, and respect works differently there.
  • Just don’t talk about how Slavs and Balts enter history more than 1,500 years later than Indo-European peoples in Western and Southern Europe, including Iberia, and assume a heroic continuity of Balts and Slavs as pure R1a ‘steppe-like’ peoples dominating over thousands of kms. in the Baltic, Fennoscandia, eastern Europe, and northern Asia for 5,000 years, with multiple Balto-Slavs-over-Balto-Slavs migrations, because these absolute units of Indo-European peoples were a trip and a half. They are the Asterix and Obelix of white Indo-European prehistory.
  • Perhaps in the meantime we can also invent some new glottochronological dialectal scheme that fits the expansion of Sredni Stog/Corded Ware with (Germano-?)Indo-Slavonic separated earlier than any other Late PIE dialect; and Finno-Volgaic later than any other Uralic dialect, in the Middle Ages, with N1c.
Genetic structure of the Balto-Slavic populations within a European context according to the three genetic systems, from Kushniarevich et al. (2015). Pure Balto-Slavs from…hmm…yeah this…ancient…region…or people…cluster…Whatever, very very steppe-like peoples, the True Indo-Europeans™, so close to Yamna…almost as close as Finno-Ugrians.

To sum up: Iberia, Italy, France, the British Isles, central Europe, the Balkans, the Aegean, or Anatolia, all these territories can have a complex history of periodic admixture and language replacement everywhere, but some peoples appearing later than all others in the historical record (viz. Basques or Slavs) apparently cannot, because that would be shameful for their national or ethnic myths, and these should be respected.

Ignorance of the own past as a blank canvas to be filled in with stupid ethnolinguistic continuity, turned into something valuable that should not be challenged. Ethnonationalist-like reasoning proper of the 19th century. How can our times be called ‘modern’ when this kind of magical thinking is still prevalent, even among supposedly well-educated people?


Haplogroup R1b-M167/SRY2627 linked to Celts expanding with the Urnfield culture


As you can see from my interest in the recently published Olalde et al. (2019) Iberia paper, once you accept that East Bell Beakers expanded North-West Indo-European, the most important question becomes how did its known dialects spread to their known historic areas.

We already had a good idea about the expansion of Celts, based on proto-historical accounts, fragmentary languages, and linguistic guesstimates, but the connection of Celtic with either Urnfield or slightly later Hallstatt/La Tène was always blurred, due to the lack of precise data on population movements.

The latest paper on Iberia is interesting for many details, such as:

  • The express dismissal of the newest pet theory based on the simplistic “steppe ancestry = IE”: the obsessive comparisons of Dutch Bell Beakers as the origin of basically anything that moves in Europe.
  • A discrete influx of North African ancestry in certain samples before the Moorish invasion (which was probably mediated by peoples of North African rather than Levantine admixture).
  • The finding of very Mycenaean-like Greek colonies of the 5th century (interestingly, under R1b lineages).
Modified from section of PCA of ancient samples by Olalde et al. (2019). “IE Iberia” refers to Pre-Celtic Indo-European languages of Iberia, such as Galaico-Lusitanian in the west (see more on Lusitanian), and a potentially Ligurian-related language in the North-East and southern France.

The paper is, however, of particular importance from the perspective of historical linguistics. It confirms that:

  • Celtic-speaking peoples expanded in Iberia likely during the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age (probably with the Urnfield culture, before 1000 BC) with North/Central European ancestry.

NOTE. The paper marks what are believed to be the boundaries of non-Indo-European languages during the Iron Age in later times, extrapolating that situation to the past. Mediterranean sites with Iberian traits (ca. 6th century on) were probably non-Indo-European-speaking tribes, but it is unclear what happened in the centuries before their sampling, and there are no clear boundaries. These incoming Celts from central Europe with the Urnfield culture makes it very likely that the Iberian expansion to the north happened later, incorporating thus this central European ancestry in the process. The southern (orientalizing, Tartessian) site of La Angorrilla shows incineration and influence from Phoenician settlers, and their actual language is also far from clear. The other investigated samples, with higher central European contribution, are from Celtiberian sites.

  • The slightly later arrival of (Phoenician, Greek and) Latin-speaking peoples into Iberia is marked by Central/Eastern Mediterranean and North African ancestry.
Expansion of different ancestry components in Iberia during Prehistory. Modified from Olalde et al. (2019) to include labels with populations expanding with each component.

While both confirm what was more or less already known about the oldest attested NWIE dialects, and further support the role of East Bell Beakers in expanding North-West Indo-European, the first part is interesting for two main reasons:

  1. Koch’s Celtic from the West hypothesis, which made a recent comeback with a renewed model based on “steppe ancestry”, is once again rejected in population genomics, as expected. At this point I doubt this will mean anything to the supporters of the theory (because you can propose as many “Celtic-over-Celtic” layers as you want), but if you are not obsessed with autochthonous continuity of Celtic languages in the Atlantic area we might begin to judge the most correct dialectal split (and thus classification) among those proposed to date, based on ancestry and haplogroup expansions.
  2. We believed in the 2000s that the expansion of haplogroup R1b-M167 (TMRCA ca. 1100 BC for YTree or 1700 BC for YFull) was coupled with the expansion of Iberians from the Pyrenees, in turn (thus) closely related to Basques. This non-IE presence has been contested with toponymic data in linguistics, and with the testing of many modern samples and the subsequent discovery of the widespread distribution of the subclade in western and northern Europe. Now it has become even more likely (lacking confirmation with aDNA) that this haplogroup expanded with Celts.

NOTE. Regarding R1b SNPs, YTree has more samples (and thus more SNPs) to work with estimates, due to its connection with FTDNA groups, so it is in principle more reliable (although estimates were calculated in 2017). Nevertheless, the methods to estimate the age of the MRCA are different between YTree and YFull.

YTree estimations of TMRCA for R1b-Z262 (left) and R1b-M167 (right).

Why this is important has to do with the realization that Celts must have expanded explosively in all directions during the estimated range for Common Celtic (ca. 1500-1000 BC), and as such R1b-M167 is probably going to be one of the clear Y-DNA markers of the Celtic expansion, when it appears in the ancient DNA record, maybe in new SNP calls from samples of the Olalde et al. (2019) paper, or in future Urnfield/Hallstatt/La Tène papers.

Sister clades derived from R1b-Z262 (TMRCA ca. 1650 BC for YTree, or 2700 for YFull), although sharing a quite old origin, may have taken part in the same communities that expanded R1b-M167, likely from some point in central Europe, possibly as remnants of a previous (Tumulus culture?) central European expansion, as the sample SZ5 from Szólád (R1b-CTS1595) and the distribution of modern samples suggest.

Left: Modern distribution of upstream clade L176.2 (YFull R1b-CTS4188); Right: Modern distribution of M167. Both include later expansions within Iberia (probably with the Crown of Aragon during the Reconquista). Contour maps of the derived allele frequencies of the SNPs analyzed in Solé-Morata et al. (2017).

EDIT (23 APRIL): In Hernández et al. (2018), the TMRCA of R1b-M167 is reported as 3372-3718 ybp:

The youngest sub-branch, R1b-M167, dates to approximately 3.5 kya (95% CI= 2.5-5.3 kya), i.e. even after the Bronze Age.

Contour (surface) maps displaying the frequencies of Y-chromosome haplogroup and its sub-lineages across Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Modified from Hernández et al. (2018).

NOTE. Admittedly, the maps are mainly based on Iberian samples and certain limited sampling elsewhere, so most of the frequencies displayed in other territories are extrapolated. Since the percentage of R1b-M167 in France is estimated to be ca. 3%, and in Bavaria ca. 5%, the distribution in Central Europe is probably much higher, and around the Mediterranean much lower than represented in them.

The Celtic expansion might not have been a mass migration of peoples replacing all male lines of their controlled territories (as was common in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic), because of the Bronze Age dominant chiefdom-based system that relied on alliances, but it is becoming clear that Early Celts are also going to show the expansion of certain successful male lineages.

Oh, and you can say goodbye to the autochthonous “Vasconic = R1b-DF27” (latest heir of the “Vasconic = R1b-P312”) theory, too, if – for some strange reason – you hadn’t already.

EDIT (16 MAR) Just in case the wording is not clear: the fact that this haplogroup most likely expanded with Celts does not mean that its lineages didn’t become eventually incorporated into Iberian cultures and adopted non-IE languages: some of them probably did at some point, in some regions of northern Iberia, and most were certainly later incorporated to the Roman civilization and spoke Latin, then to the medieval kingdoms with their languages, and so on until the present day… Only those eventually associated with Iron Age Aquitanians may have retained their non-IE language, unless those lineages today associated with Basques were incorporated later to the Basque-speaking regions by expanding medieval kingdoms. A complex picture repeated everywhere in Europe: no haplogroup+language continuity in sight, anywhere.

NOTE: This here is currently the most likely interpretation of data based on estimations of mutations; it is not confirmed with ancient samples.


Global demographic history inferred from mitogenomes

Open access Global demographic history of human populations inferred from whole mitochondrial genomes, by Miller, Manica, and Amos, Royal Society Open Science (2018).

Relevant excerpts (emphasis mine):


The Phase 3 sequence data from 20 populations, comprising five populations for each of the four main geographical regions of Europe, East Asia, South Asia and Africa, were downloaded from the 1000 Genomes Project website (, [8]), including whole mitochondrial genome data for 1999 individuals. We decided not to analyse populations from the Americas due to the region’s complex history of admixture [13,14].

The European populations were as follows: Finnish sampled in Finland (FIN); European Caucasians resident in Utah, USA (CEU); British in England and Scotland (GBR); an Iberian population from Spain (IBS) and Toscani from Italy (TSI). Representing East Asia were the Han Chinese in Beijing (CHB); Southern Han Chinese (CHS); Dai Chinese from Xishuangbanna, China (CDX); Kinh population from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (KHV) and Japanese from Tokyo (JPT). The South Asian populations were Punjabi Indians from Lahore, Pakistan (PJL); Gujarati Indians in Houston, USA (GIH) as well as Indian Telugu sampled in the UK (ITU); Bengali from Bangladesh (BEB) and Sri Lankan Tamil from the UK (STU). (…)


We analysed our mtDNA data with the extended Bayesian skyline plot (EBSP) method, a Bayesian, non-parametric technique for inferring past population size fluctuations from genetic data. Building on the previous Bayesian skyline plot (BSP) approach, EBSP uses a piecewise-linear model and Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods to reconstruct a populations’ demographic history [17] and is implemented in the software package BEAST v. 2.3.2 [11]. Alignments for each of the 20 populations were loaded separately into the Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis Utility tool (BEAUti v. 2.3.2) in NEXUS format.

Relationship between profile similarity and genetic distance, measured as Fst. Comparisons between regions, circles, are colour-coded: black ¼ AFR-EA; yellow ¼ AFR-EUR; blue ¼ AFR-SA; orange ¼ EUR-EA; green ¼ EA-SA; red ¼ EUR-SA. Comparisons within regions, squares, are coded: peach ¼ EUR; pink ¼ EA; dark blue ¼ EA; light blue ¼ AFR. Profile similarity is calculated as inferred size difference summed over 20 evenly spaced intervals (see Material and methods).

Regional demographic histories


The five European profiles are presented in figure 2. The four southerly populations all show profiles with a stable size up to approximately 14 ka followed by a sudden, rapid increase that becomes progressively less steep towards the present. There is also a north-south trend, with confidence intervals becoming broader towards the north, particularly for the oldest time-points. The Finnish population profile appears rather different, but this is to be expected both because it is so far north and because previous studies have identified Finns as a strong genetic outlier in Europe [19–22].

Inferred demographic histories of five European populations. Dotted line is the median estimate of Ne and the thin grey lines show the boundary of the 95% CPD interval. The x-axis represents time from the present in years and all plots are on the same scale. Map shows origins of sampled populations.

South Asia:

The five profiles for South Asia are shown in figure 3. All populations reveal a period of rapid growth approximately 45–40 ka which then slows. Near the present the two southerly populations, GIH and STU both show evidence of a decline. However, this may be due to these samples being drawn from populations no longer living on the subcontinent, with the downward trend capturing a bottleneck associated with moving to Europe/America, perhaps accentuated by the tendency for immigrant populations to group by region, religion and race [23].

Inferred South Asian population demographic histories. Dotted line is the median Ne estimate and the thin grey lines show the boundary of the 95% CPD intervals. The x-axis represents time from the present in thousands of years and all plots are on the same scale. The map shows location of sampled populations.


Modern Sardinians show elevated Neolithic farmer ancestry shared with Basques


New paper (behind paywall), Genomic history of the Sardinian population, by Chiang et al. Nature Genetics (2018), previously published as a preprint at bioRxiv (2016).

#EDIT (18 Sep 2018): Link to read paper for free shared by the main author.

Interesting excerpts (emphasis mine):

Our analysis of divergence times suggests the population lineage ancestral to modern-day Sardinia was effectively isolated from the mainland European populations ~140–250 generations ago, corresponding to ~4,300–7,000 years ago assuming a generation time of 30 years and a mutation rate of 1.25 × 10−8 per basepair per generation. (…) in terms of relative values, the divergence time between Northern and Southern Europeans is much more recent than either is to Sardinia, signaling the relative isolation of Sardinia from mainland Europe.

We documented fine-scale variation in the ancient population ancestry proportions across the island. The most remote and interior areas of Sardinia—the Gennargentu massif covering the central and eastern regions, including the present-day province of Ogliastra— are thought to have been the least exposed to contact with outside populations. We found that pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherer and Neolithic farmer ancestries are enriched in this region of isolation. Under the premise that Ogliastra has been more buffered from recent immigration to the island, one interpretation of the result is that the early populations of Sardinia were an admixture of the two ancestries, rather than the pre-Neolithic ancestry arriving via later migrations from the mainland. Such admixture could have occurred principally on the island or on the mainland before the hypothesized Neolithic era influx to the island. Under the alternative premise that Ogliastra is simply a highly isolated region that has differentiated within Sardinia due to genetic drift, the result would be interpreted as genetic drift leading to a structured pattern of pre-Neolithic ancestry across the island, in an overall background of high Neolithic ancestry.

PCA results of merged Sardinian whole-genome sequences and the HGDP Sardinians. See below for a map of the corresponding regions.

We found Sardinians show a signal of shared ancestry with the Basque in terms of the outgroup f3 shared-drift statistics. This is consistent with long-held arguments of a connection between the two populations, including claims of Basque-like, non-Indo-European words among Sardinian placenames. More recently, the Basque have been shown to be enriched for Neolithic farmer ancestry and Indo-European languages have been associated with steppe population expansions in the post-Neolithic Bronze Age. These results support a model in which Sardinians and the Basque may both retain a legacy of pre-Indo-European Neolithic ancestry. To be cautious, while it seems unlikely, we cannot exclude that the genetic similarity between the Basque and Sardinians is due to an unsampled pre-Neolithic population that has affinities with the Neolithic representatives analyzed here.

Left: Geographical map of Sardinia. The provincial boundaries are given as black lines. The provinces are abbreviated as Cag (Cagliari), Cmp (Campidano), Car (Carbonia), Ori (Oristano), Sas (Sassari), Olb (Olbia-tempio), Nuo (Nuoro), and Ogl (Ogliastra). For sampled villages within Ogliastra, the names and abbreviations are indicated in the colored boxes. The color corresponds to the color used in the PCA plot (Fig. 2a). The Gennargentu region referred to in the main text is the mountainous area shown in brown that is centered in western Ogliastra and southeastern Nuoro.
Right: Density of Nuraghi in Sardinia, from Wikipedia.

While we can confirm that Sardinians principally have Neolithic ancestry on the autosomes, the high frequency of two Y-chromosome haplogroups (I2a1a1 at ~39% and R1b1a2 at ~18%) that are not typically affiliated with Neolithic ancestry is one challenge to this model. Whether these haplogroups rose in frequency due to extensive genetic drift and/or reflect sex-biased demographic processes has been an open question. Our analysis of X chromosome versus autosome diversity suggests a smaller effective size for males, which can arise due to multiple processes, including polygyny, patrilineal inheritance rules, or transmission of reproductive success. We also find that the genetic ancestry enriched in Sardinia is more prevalent on the X chromosome than the autosome, suggesting that male lineages may more rapidly trace back to the mainland. Considering that the R1b1a2 haplogroup may be associated with post-Neolithic steppe ancestry expansions in Europe, and the recent timeframe when the R1b1a2 lineages expanded in Sardinia, the patterns raise the possibility of recent male-biased steppe ancestry migration to Sardinia, as has been reported among mainland Europeans at large (though see Lazaridis and Reich and Goldberg et al.). Such a recent influx is difficult to square with the overall divergence of Sardinian populations observed here.

Mixture proportions of the three-component ancestries among Sardinian populations. Using a method first presented in Haak et al. (Nature 522, 207–211, 2015), we computed unbiased estimates of mixture proportions without a parameterized model of relationships between the test populations and the outgroup populations based on f4 statistics. The three-component ancestries were represented by early Neolithic individuals from the LBK culture (LBK_EN), pre-Neolithic huntergatherers (Loschbour), and Bronze Age steppe pastoralists (Yamnaya). See Supplementary Table 5 for standard error estimates computed using a block jackknife.

Once again, haplogroup R1b1a2 (M269), and only R1b1a2, related to male-biased, steppe-related Indo-European migrations…just sayin’.

Interestingly, haplogroup I2a1a1 is actually found among northern Iberians during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic, and is therefore associated with Neolithic ancestry in Iberia, too, and consequently – unless there is a big surprise hidden somewhere – with the ancestry found today among Basques.

NOTE. In fact, the increase in Neolithic ancestry found in south-west Ireland with expanding Bell Beakers (likely Proto-Beakers), coupled with the finding of I2a subclades in Megalithic cultures of western Europe, would support this replacement after the Cardial and Epi-Cardial expansions, which were initially associated with G2a lineages.

I am not convinced about a survival of Palaeo-Sardo after the Bell Beaker expansion, though, since there is no clear-cut cultural divide (and posterior continuity) of pre-Beaker archaeological cultures after the arrival of Bell Beakers in the island that could be identified with the survival of Neolithic languages.

We may have to wait for ancient DNA to show a potential expansion of Neolithic ancestry from the west, maybe associated with the emergence of the Nuragic civilization (potentially linked with contemporaneous Megalithic cultures in Corsica and in the Balearic Islands, and thus with an Iberian rather than a Basque stock), although this is quite speculative at this moment in linguistic, archaeological, and genetic terms.

Nevertheless, it seems that the association of a Basque-Iberian language with the Neolithic expansion from Anatolia (see Villar’s latest book on the subject) is somehow strengthened by this paper. However, it is unclear when, how, and where expanding G2a subclades were replaced by native I2 lineages.


Cogotas I Bronze Age pottery emulated and expanded Bell Beaker decoration


Copying from Sherds. Creativity in Bronze Age Pottery in Central Iberia (1800-1150 BC), by Antonio Blanco-González, In: J. Sofaer (ed.): Considering Creativity Creativity, Knowledge and Practice in Bronze Age Europe. Archaeopress (2018), Oxford: 19-38

Interesting excerpts (emphasis mine):

Several Iberian scholars have referred to stab-and-drag designs in both Bell-Beaker and Bronze Age ceramics (Maluquer de Motes 1956, 180, 196; Fernández-Posse 1982, 137), although these have not always been correctly appraised. In the 1980s it was finally realized that the sherds retrieved at the Boquique Cave should be dated to the Middle-Late Neolithic (4400-3300 BC), and that the same technique was also widely used in the Late Bronze Age (Fernández-Posse 1982, 147-149). Thus, nowadays it is possible to track this technique in inland Iberia at different moments throughout later prehistory (Alday and Moral 2011, 67). The earliest stab-and-drag motifs (Figure 2.2, 1) are, in fact, older than was initially thought (Fernández-Posse 1982); they actually date to the Early Neolithic (5500-4400 BC), contemporary to the Mediterranean Cardial impressed wares (Alday 2009, 135-137). There are also a few sporadic examples of stab-and-drag motifs among Bell-Beaker pottery (2600-2000 BC), such as the Ciempozuelos-style bowl from Las Carolinas (Madrid) (Figure 2.2, 2a) featuring so-called ‘symbolic’ schematic stags drawn by using this technique (Blasco and Baena 1996, 431, Lám. II; Garrido Pena 2000, 108). It is also possible to recognize this technique in a large Beaker from Molino Sanchón II (Zamora) (Abarquero et al. 2012, 206, fig. 190; Guerra-Doce et al. 2011, 812) (Figure 2.2, 2b) and there are other possible cases (e.g. Montero and Rodríguez 2008, 166, Lám. IX). Finally, the widespread use of this technique occurred in the Late Bronze Age (Figure 2.2, 3a & 3b) from c.1450 BC (e.g. Rodríguez Marcos 2007, 362-364; Abarquero 2005).

Analogies between Bell-Beaker and Bronze Age wares

Several Bell-Beaker styles can be discerned in the Iberian Meseta (e.g. Harrison 1977, 55-67; Garrido Pena 2000; 2014). In this subsection attention will be drawn primarily to the most frequent of these variants, the Ciempozuelos style, although more localised similarities can be recognised between the Beaker impressed-comb style and some early Cogotas I pottery. The Ciempozuelos ware (Delibes 1977; Harrison 1977, 19-20; Blasco 1994; Garrido Pena 2000, 116-126; Rodríguez Marcos 2007, 252-256) was widespread throughout the Meseta between 2600-2000 BC, in the same region subsequently occupied by Cogotas I communities (1800-1150 BC) (Fernández-Posse 1998; Abarquero 2005) (Figure 2.1). There is a wide array of resemblances between both pottery assemblages, a point that has been highlighted since the 1920s (e.g. Almagro Basch 1939, 143-144; Maluquer de Motes 1956, 196; Harrison 1977, 20; Jimeno 1984, 117-118).

The Iberian Peninsula and the area of the Cogotas I culture (1800-1150 cal BC). Sites mentioned in the text: 1. Molino Sanchón II (Villafáfila, Zamora); 2. La Horra (El Cerro, Burgos); 3. El Mirador cave (Atapuerca, Burgos); 4. Cueva Maja (Cabrejas del Pinar, Soria); 5. Cueva del Asno (Los Rábanos, Soria); 6. Castilviejo de Yuba (Medinaceli, Soria); 7. Majaladares (Borja, Zaragoza); 8. Cova dels Encantats (Serinyá, Girona); 9. Boquique cave (Plasencia, Cáceres); 10. Cerro de la Cabeza (Ávila); 11. Las Cogotas (Cardeñosa, Ávila); 12. Madrid; 13. Las Carolinas (Madrid); 14. La Indiana (Pinto, Madrid); 15. Llanete de los Moros (Montoro, Córdoba); 16. Peñalosa (Baños de la Encina, Jaén): 17. Cuesta del Negro (Purullena, Granada); 18. Gatas (Turre, Almería); 19. Cabezo Redondo (Villena, Alicante)

The key ornamental traits that define the Ciempozuelos style are also reproduced among Cogotas I ware and are the following:

a) Widespread deployment among the early Cogotas I pottery of the more ubiquitous incised motifs in the Ciempozuelos style: herringbones, spikes and reticulates (Garrido Pena 2000, 119-120, fig. 48, themes 6 and 9; Rodríguez Marcos 2012, 155). During the Middle Bronze Age other less frequent themes are also similar to Bell-Beaker decorations, such as incised triangles filled with lines. Late Bronze Age wares feature the so-called ‘pseudo-Kerbschnitt’ (Rodríguez Marcos 2007, 369) which has striking precedents among Ciempozuelos ware (Harrison 1977, 20; Garrido Pena 2000, 120, fig. 48, theme 12) (Figure 2.3, 1a & 1b).

b) The extensive use of internal rim decoration, almost always deploying chevron motifs. This is ‘a Ciempozuelos leitmotiv’ (Harrison 1977, 20) in the Northern Meseta, where between 30% – 50% of all rims exhibit such a feature (Delibes 1977; Garrido Pena 2000, 163). The decoration of internal rims is even more widespread among Cogotas I vessels (Jimeno 1984; Rodríguez Marcos 2012, 158) (Figure 2.3, 1a).

c) White paste rubbed into the geometric decorations (Delibes 1977; Harrison 1977, 20; Jimeno 1984). Maluquer de Motes (1956, 186) in fact regarded excised and stab-and-drag techniques not as decorations per se, but as a way of anchoring encrusted inlays. He also reported that the bulk of rims in Cogotas I vessels exhibit white accretions (Maluquer de Motes 1956, 192) (Figure 2.3).

In addition, several authors agree on the likeness between the Bell-Beaker impressed-comb style and certain Cogotas I local pottery variants corresponding to its earliest phase (1800-1450 BC) (Garrido Pena 2000, 113-116). This is particularly striking for one micro-style from the western Meseta region, whose ceramics feature numerous impressed-comb motives (e.g. Fabián 2012; Rodríguez Marcos 2012, 158).

1a) Encrusted Beaker carinated bowls with pseudo-excised motifs from La Salmedina (Madrid) (photo: Museo Arqueológico Regional de Madrid) and 1b) from Cuesta de la Reina (Ciempozuelos, Madrid) (photo: Real Academia de la Historia); 2) Late Bronze Age jar featuring checkerboard excised motives with white paste from Pórragos (Bolaños, Valladolid) (photo: Museo de Valladolid).

The relevance of emulated pottery decorations

[1] (…) there are grounds for proffering the view that the key creative mechanism responsible for the resemblances between apparently unrelated pottery assemblages was the emulation of standalone and very apparent decorative traits. It may constitute a good case for horizontal cultural transmission predicated upon iconic resemblances between easily imitated formal traits (Knappett 2010). Instead of spontaneous and autonomous innovations, it is far more compelling to regard these decorative features as interlinked and punctuated ‘way stations along the trails of living beings, moving through a world’ (Ingold and Hallam 2007, 8). No creative act can be regarded as really isolated. Instead it ought to be understood as focusing on the nodes in particular fields of associations (Lohnmann 2010, 216).

[2] Pottery ornamentation in the Cogotas I tradition combined and reinterpreted both local atavistic (e.g. Abarquero 2005, 24-26; Rodríguez Marcos 2007, 357-367) and widespread pan-European ornaments (e.g. Blasco 2001, 225, 2003, 67-68; Abarquero 2012, 98-101). From a semiotic perspective such things transcended large spatio-temporal distances; they were closely associated by iconical shared links in a relational or cognitive space, whereby these entities were co-presented and indirectly recalled and perceived despite being distant (Knappett 2010, 85-86). The locally-rooted biases of these creative quotations can be glimpsed from rare sequences of ceramic productions spanning several generations of potters. For instance, at Majaladares (Borja, Zaragoza) strong analogies arise between Ciempozuelos wares featuring unique decorations in this site and Cogotas I wares from the superimposed layers, exhibiting remarkably similar themes (Harrison 2007, 65-82). Likewise, it is noteworthy that the earliest triangular excisions in Cogotas I wares occurred in the eastern Meseta, where imported Duffaits vessels featuring comparable motifs were circulating from several centuries before.(…)

[3] There is scope for advocating that these pottery decorations cannot be envisaged as a form of irrelevant or mundane aesthetic garnish for the sake of art. Bronze Age potters drew upon a highly meaningful array of esoteric sources and, in so doing, the vessels might have echoed designs betokening genealogical, mythical or parallel worlds, in a kind of dialectical negotiation between self and other (Taussig 1993). The very involvement of ancestors and spiritual forces in making and embellishing a pot is supported by ethnographic evidence (e.g. Crown 2007, 679; Lohnmann 2010, 222) and this also seems plausible in the case of Cogotas I ceramics. These real or imagined beings might be regarded as inspiring sources of creations, whose role is often to legitimize and guarantee the accuracy of the involved knowledge (Lohnmann 2010, 222). In the same vein, the smearing of colored inlays on certain pots ought to be properly understood beyond an aesthetic action of embellishment, as our own rationale prompts us to assume. (…)

[4] Furthermore, this pottery tradition needs to be understood as an effective means of socialization and a key resource in the forging of identities. Decorating certain intricate Cogotas I vessels (Figure 2.2, 3b; Figure 2.4, 3) very likely involved an ostentatious difficulty (Robb and Michelaki 2012, 168; Abarquero 2005, 438) and the proficiency displayed in such tasks may have accrued even moral connotations (Hendon 2010, 146-147). Learning to perform some of the pottery decoration discussed here certainly required complex training processes involving both expert potters and mentored apprentices (Crown 2007; Hosfield 2009, 46). Thus, the stab-and-drag technique demanded time-consuming learning as well as careful and thorough execution (Alday 2009, 11-19). Likewise the selection and processing of particular raw materials – mainly bones – to attain the white inlays involved direct observation and hands-on training (Odriozola et al. 2012, 150). (…)

[5] Finally, the role of the Cogotas I pottery decoration was also deeply rooted in the sphere of social interactions through particular communal practices of exhibition and consumption. The celebration of commensality rituals is very often predicated as a key social practice among these communities (e.g. Harrison 1995, 74; Abarquero 2005, 56; Blanco-González 2014, 453). Potters embodied and replicated non-discursive shared tenets on a routine basis, but by means of these social gatherings and the deployment of such festive services ‘their visual materialisation made them part of the habitus of everybody’ (Chapman and Gaydarska 2007, 182). Bronze Age groups in the Meseta have recently been characterized as scarcely integrated, short-lasting and unstable social units, lacking long-term cultural rules and institutions, restricted to one generation lifespan at the most (Blanco-González 2015). (…)

Intruding East Bell Beakers

As we know from Olalde et al. (2018) and Mathieson et al. (2018), East Bell Beakers of R1b-L23 subclades and steppe ancestry brought North-West Indo-European languages to Europe, marked in Iberia by the first intrusive Y-DNA R1b-P312 subclades, as supported also by Martiniano et al. (2017) and Valdiosera et al. (2018). In fact, the Bronze Age Cogotas I culture shows the first R1b-DF27 subclade found to date (R1b-DF27 is prevalent among modern Iberians).

If we take into account that the earliest Iberian Bell Beakers were I2a, R1b-V88, and G2a, just like previous Chalcolithic and Neolithic Iberians, it cannot get clearer how and when the first Indo-European waves reached Iberia, and thus that the Harrison and Heyd (2007) model of East Bell Beaker expansion was right. Not a single reputable geneticist contests the origin of R1b-L23 subclades in Iberia anymore (see e.g. Heyd, or Lazaridis).

While the Spanish archaeological school will be slow to adapt to genetic finds – since there are many scholars who have supported for years other ways of expansion of the different Bell Beaker motifs, and follow mostly the “pots not people” descriptive Archaeology – , many works like these can be just as well reinterpreted in light of what we already know happened in terms of population movements during this period, and this alone gives a whole new interesting perspective to archaeological finds.

On the previous, non-Indo-European stage of the Iberian Paeninsula, there is also a new paper (behind paywall), showing reasons for inter-regional differences, and thus supporting homogeneity before the arrival of Bell Beakers:

Stable isotope ratio analysis of bone collagen as indicator of different dietary habits and environmental conditions in northeastern Iberia during the 4th and 3rd millennium cal B.C., by Villalba-Mouco et al. Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2018).

Scatter plot of human and fauna bone collagen δ13C and δ15N values from Cova de la Guineu and Cueva de Abauntz according to their location inside Iberia

Interesting excerpts:

The Chalcolithic period is traditionally defined by the emergence of copper elements and associated to the beginning of defensive-style architecture (Esquivel and Navas 2007). This last characteristic only seems to appear clearly in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, with the denominated Millares Culture (e.g. García Sanjuán 2013; Valera et al. 2014). In the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, the Neolithic-Chalcolithic transition is scarcely defined. In fact, it is possible that this transition does not even strictly exist and rather results from the evolution of villages present in the most advanced phases of the Neolithic (e.g. Blasco et al. 2007). This continuity is also perceptible in most of the sepulchral caves over time, where radiocarbon dates show a continued use from the 4th to the 3rd millennium cal B.C. (Fernández-Crespo 2016; Utrilla et al. 2015; Villalba-Mouco et al. 2017). Moreover, it is possible to find some copper materials normally associated with burial contexts as prestigious grave goods (Blasco and Ríos 2010), but not as evidence of a massive replacement of commonly used tools such as flint blades, bone industry, polished stones or pottery without singular characteristics from a unique period (Pérez-Romero et al. 2017). (…)

Scatter plot of human and fauna bone collagen δ13C and δ15N values from Cueva de Abauntz (above) and Cova de la Guineu (below).

The human isotope values from both sites portray a quite homogeneous overall diet among humans. This homogeneous pattern of diet based on C3 terrestrial resources seems to be general along the entire Iberian Peninsula during the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic (e.g. Alt et al. 2016; Díaz-Zorita 2014; Fernández-Crespo et al. 2016; Fontanals-Coll et al. 2015; García-Borja et al. 2013; López-Costas et al. 2015; McClure et al. 2011; Sarasketa-Gartzia et al. 2017; Villalba- Mouco et al. 2017; Salazar-García 2011; Salazar-García et al. 2013b; Salazar-García 2014; Waterman et al. 2016). The reason of this homogeneity could be the consolidated economy based on agriculture and livestock, together with a higher mobility among the different communities and the increase of trade networks, not only in prestigious objects (Schuhmacher and Banerjee 2012) but also in food products. Isotopic analyses in fauna remains could give us more clues about animal trade, as happens in other chronologies (Salazar- García et al. 2017).

In any case, and even if the dietary interpretation does not vary, it is noteworthy to mention that there are significant differences between δ13C human values from Cova de la Guineu and δ13C human values from Cueva de Abauntz (Mann-Whitney test, p = 1.05× 10−12) (Fig. 6). This observed δ13C differences among humans is also present among herbivores (Mann-Whitney test, p = 0.0004), which define the baseline of each ecosystem. This suggests that the observed human difference between sites should not be attributed to diet, but most possibly to the existence of enough environmental differences to be recorded in the collagen δ13C values along the food web. Plants are very sensitive to different environmental factors (altitude, temperature, luminosity or water availability) and their physiological adaptation to its factors can generate a variation in their isotopic values as happens with C3 and C4 adaptations (O’Leary 1981; Ambrose 1991). This spectrum of values has been used to assess several aspects about past environmental conditions when studying the δ13C and δ15N isotopic values of a species with a fixed diet over time (e.g. Stevens et al. 2008; González-Guarda et al. 2017). Moreover, this gradual δ13C and δ15N variation among different environments is very helpful to discriminate altitudinal movements in herbivores with a high precision method based on serial dentine analysis (Tornero et al. 2016b). In our case, results reflect the influence of environment from at least two areas in Iberia (the Western Prepyrenees and the Northeastern coast of Iberia). These differences demand caution when interpreting human diets from different sites that are not contemporary and/or not in a same area, as it is possible that the environmental influence is responsible for changes otherwise attributed to different subsistence patterns and social structures (Fernández-Crespo and Schulting 2017), as has been demonstrated in neighbouring territories (Herrscher and Bras-Goude 2010; Goude and Fontugne 2016).


Ancient genomes from North Africa evidence Neolithic migrations to the Maghreb

BioRxiv preprint now published (behind paywall) Ancient genomes from North Africa evidence prehistoric migrations to the Maghreb from both the Levant and Europe, by Fregel et al., PNAS (2018).

NOTE. I think one of the important changes in this version compared to the preprint is the addition of the recent Iberomaurusian samples.

Abstract (emphasis mine):

The extent to which prehistoric migrations of farmers influenced the genetic pool of western North Africans remains unclear. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Neolithization process may have happened through the adoption of innovations by local Epipaleolithic communities or by demic diffusion from the Eastern Mediterranean shores or Iberia. Here, we present an analysis of individuals’ genome sequences from Early and Late Neolithic sites in Morocco and from Early Neolithic individuals from southern Iberia. We show that Early Neolithic Moroccans (∼5,000 BCE) are similar to Later Stone Age individuals from the same region and possess an endemic element retained in present-day Maghrebi populations, confirming a long-term genetic continuity in the region. This scenario is consistent with Early Neolithic traditions in North Africa deriving from Epipaleolithic communities that adopted certain agricultural techniques from neighboring populations. Among Eurasian ancient populations, Early Neolithic Moroccans are distantly related to Levantine Natufian hunter-gatherers (∼9,000 BCE) and Pre-Pottery Neolithic farmers (∼6,500 BCE). Late Neolithic (∼3,000 BCE) Moroccans, in contrast, share an Iberian component, supporting theories of trans-Gibraltar gene flow and indicating that Neolithization of North Africa involved both the movement of ideas and people. Lastly, the southern Iberian Early Neolithic samples share the same genetic composition as the Cardial Mediterranean Neolithic culture that reached Iberia ∼5,500 BCE. The cultural and genetic similarities between Iberian and North African Neolithic traditions further reinforce the model of an Iberian migration into the Maghreb.

Ancestry inference in ancient samples from North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. PCA analysis using the Human Origins panel (European, Middle Eastern, and North African populations) and LASER projection of aDNA samples.

Relevant excerpts:

FST and outgroup-f3 distances indicate a high similarity between IAM and Taforalt. As observed for IAM, most Taforalt sample ancestry derives from Epipaleolithic populations from the Levant. However, van de Loosdrecht et al. (17) also reported that one third of Taforalt ancestry was of sub-Saharan African origin. To confirm whether IAM individuals show a sub-Saharan African component, we calculated f4(chimpanzee, African population; Natufian, IAM) in such a way that a positive result for f4 would indicate that IAM is composed both of Levantine and African ancestries. Consistent with the results observed for Taforalt, f4 values are significantly positive for West African populations, with the highest value observed for Gambian and Mandenka (Fig. 3 and SI Appendix, Supplementary Note 10). Together, these results indicate the presence of the same ancestral components in ∼15,000-y old and ∼7,000-y-old populations from Morocco, strongly suggesting a temporal continuity between Later Stone Age and Early Neolithic populations in the Maghreb. However, it is important to take into account that the number of ancient genomes available for comparison is still low and future sampling can provide further refinement in the evolutionary history of North Africa.

Genetic analyses have revealed that the population history of modern North Africans is quite complex (11). Based on our aDNA analysis, we identify an Early Neolithic Moroccan component that is (i) restricted to North Africa in present-day populations (11); (ii) the sole ancestry in IAM samples; and (iii) similar to the one observed in Later Stone Age samples from Morocco (17). We conclude that this component, distantly related to that of Epipaleolithic communities from the Levant, represents the autochthonous Maghrebi ancestry associated with Berber populations. Our data suggests that human populations were isolated in the Maghreb since Upper Paleolithic times. Our hypothesis is in agreement with archaeological research pointing to the first stage of the Neolithic expansion in Morocco as the result of a local population that adopted some technological innovations, such as pottery production or farming, from neighboring areas.

By 3,000 BCE, a continuity in the Neolithic spread brought Mediterranean-like ancestry to the Maghreb, most likely from Iberia. Other archaeological remains, such as African elephant ivory and ostrich eggs found in Iberian sites, confirm the existence of contacts and exchange networks through both sides of the Gibraltar strait at this time. Our analyses strongly support that at least some of the European ancestry observed today in North Africa is related to prehistoric migrations, and local Berber populations were already admixed with Europeans before the Roman conquest. Furthermore, additional European/ Iberian ancestry could have reached the Maghreb after KEB people; this scenario is supported by the presence of Iberian-like Bell-Beaker pottery in more recent stratigraphic layers of IAM and KEB caves. Future paleogenomic efforts in North Africa will further disentangle the complex history of migrations that forged the ancestry of the admixed populations we observe today.

Ancestry inference in ancient samples from North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. (B) ADMIXTURE analysis using the Human Origins dataset (European, Middle Eastern, and North African populations) for modern and ancient samples (K = 8). (D) Detail of ADMIXTURE analysis using the Human Origins dataset (European, Middle Eastern, North African, and sub-Saharan African populations) for modern and ancient samples, including Taforalt.

Also, from the main author’s Twitter account:

I just realized that the paragraph with information on data availability is missing! Sequence data in the European Nucleotide Archive (PRJEB22699). Consensus mtDNA sequences are available at the National Center of Biotechnology Information (Accession Numbers MF991431-MF991448).

I find it hard to believe that this genetic continuity from Upper Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic could be representative of an autochthonous development of Afroasiatic. An important population movement – likely more than one – must be found in ancient DNA influencing North-Central and North-East Africa, probably during the time of the Green Sahara corridor.

See here: