Olalde et al. and Mathieson et al. (Nature 2018): R1b-L23 dominates Bell Beaker and Yamna, R1a-M417 resurges in East-Central Europe during the Bronze Age

The official papers Olalde et al. (Nature 2018) and Mathieson et al. (Nature 2018) have appeared. They are based on the 2017 preprints at BioRxiv The Beaker Phenomenon And The Genomic Transformation Of Northwest Europe and The Genomic History Of Southeastern Europe respectively, but with a sizeable number of new samples.

Papers are behind a paywall, but here are the authors’ shareable links to read the papers and supplementary materials: Olalde et al. (2018), Mathieson et al. (2018).

NOTE: The corresponding datasets have been added to the Reich Lab website. Remember you can use my drafts on DIY Human Ancestry analysis (viz. Plink/Eigensoft, PCA, or ADMIXTURE) to investigate the data further in your own computer.

Image modified by me, from Olalde et al (2018). PCA of 999 Eurasian individuals. Marked is the late CWC outlier sample from Esperstedt, showing how early East Bell Beaker samples are the closest to Yamna samples.

I don’t have time to analyze the samples in detail right now, but in short they seem to convey the same information as before: in Olalde et al. (2018) the pattern of Y-DNA haplogroup and steppe ancestry distribution is overwhelming, with an all-R1b-L23 Bell Beaker people accompanying steppe ancestry into western Europe.

EDIT: In Mathieson et al. (2018), a sample classified as of Ukraine_Eneolithic from Dereivka ca. 2890-2696 BC is of R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 subclade, so Western Yamna during the migrations also of R1b-L23 subclades, in contrast with the previous R1a lineages in Ukraine. In Olalde et al. (2018), it is clearly stated that of the four BB individuals with higher steppe ancestry, the two with higher coverage could be classified as of R1b-S116/P312 subclades.

This is compatible with the expansion of Indo-European-speaking Yamna migrants (also mainly of R1b-L23 subclades) into the East Bell Beaker group, as described with detail in Archaeology (and with the population movement we are seeing having been predicted) first by Volker Heyd in 2007.

Yamna – East Bell Beaker migration 3000-2300 BC. Adapted from Harrison and Heyd (2007), Heyd (2007)

Also, the resurge of R1a-Z645 subclades in Czech and Polish lands (from previous Corded Ware migrants) accompanying other lineages indigenous to the region – seems to have happened only after the Bell Beaker expansion into these territories, during the Bronze Age, probably leading to the formation of the Balto-Slavic community, as I predicted based on previous papers. The fact that a sample of R1b-U106 subclade pops up in this territory is interesting from the point of view of a shared substrate with Germanic, as is the earlier BB sample of R1b-Z2103 for its connection with Graeco-Aryan dialects.

All this suggests that a North-West Indo-European dialect – ancestor of Italo-Celtic, Germanic, and Balto-Slavic -, supported in Linguistics by most modern Indo-European schools of thought, expanded roughly along the Danube, and later to northern, eastern, and western Europe with the Bell Beaker expansion, as supported in Anthropology by Mallory (in Celtic from the West 2, 2013), and by Prescott for the development of a Nordic or Pre-Germanic language in Scandinavia since 1995.

Diachronic map of Late Copper Age migrations including Classical Bell Beaker (east group) expansion from central Europe ca. 2600-2250 BC

Maybe more importantly, the fact that only Indo-Iranian-speaking Sintashta-Petrovka (and later Andronovo) cultures were clearly associated with R1a-Z645 subclades, and rather late – after mixing with early Chalcolithic North Caspian steppe groups (mainly East Yamna and Poltavka herders of R1b-L23 subclades) – gives support to the theory that Corded Ware (and probably the earlier Sredni Stog) groups did not speak or spread Indo-European languages with their migration, but most likely Uralic – as seen in recent papers on the much later arrival of haplogroup N1c – (compatible with the Corded Ware substrate hypothesis), adopting Indo-Iranian by way of cultural diffusion or founder effect events.

As Sheldon Cooper would say,

Under normal circumstances I’d say I told you so. But, as I have told you so with such vehemence and frequency already the phrase has lost all meaning. Therefore, I will be replacing it with the phrase, I informed you thusly

I informed you thusly:

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…