search this blog

Monday, April 15, 2013

R1a and R1b as markers of the Proto-Indo-European expansion: a review of ancient DNA evidence

Y-DNA haplogroup R1a is arguably the best candidate for a genetic signal of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, who are thought to have expanded across Eurasia during the Copper Age. It's been characterized as such in several academic papers during the past 15 years, and the theory now looks more plausible than ever thanks to recent discoveries about its structure and phylogeography (for example, see here and here). Moreover, it's been found in numerous ancient remains supposedly belonging to early Indo-Europeans.

R1a's brother clade, R1b, has also been proposed as a marker of the Proto-Indo-European dispersals, mostly by hobby genetic genealogists on various online forums. Among other things, they argue that it shows a high correlation with the so called Centum Indo-European languages, and probably expanded rapidly across Europe at exactly the right time (ie. during and/or after the Copper Age). However, there are also several problems with this theory, such as the fact that R1b is the dominant Y-DNA haplogroup in one of Europe's few non-Indo-European speaking groups, the Basques. Moreover, there is very little R1b in South Asia - where the early Indo-Europeans are thought to have arrived en masse from Central Asia during the early Iron Age - and much of that can be explained by historic Turkic incursions anyway.

Eventually, probably in the not too distant future, next-generation sequencing of a wide range of C14 dated Eurasian remains will solve the mystery of who the Proto-Indo-Europeans were genetically. However, as already mentioned, we've now seen a reasonable number of ancient Eurasian remains tested for Y-DNA, so perhaps it might be useful to review how R1a and R1b stack up as potential Proto-Indo-European markers based on these results? In the lists below, I describe all the samples from archaeological cultures usually suspected or known to be of Indo-European origin as simply "Indo-European", while I tag those that derive from archeological cultures generally not regarded as Indo-European as "non-Indo-European".

Ancient R1a recovered to date

- Corded Ware, Copper Age, Germany, Indo-European

- Tocharian?, Bronze Age, Tarim Basin, Indo-European

- Andronovo, Bronze Age, South Siberia, Indo-European

- Urnfield, Bronze Age, Germany, Indo-European

- Tagar Scythian, Iron Age, South Siberia, Indo-European

- Pazyrk Scythian, Iron Age, Alati Republic, Indo-European

- Xiongnu, Iron Age, Mongolia, non-Indo-European

- Tachtyk Scythian, Iron Age, South Siberia, Indo-European

- Slavic or Germanic, Middle Ages, Germany, Indo-European

- Spanish, Modern (17th–18th centuries), Canary Islands, Indo-European

Ancient R1b recovered to date

- Bell Beaker, Copper Age, Germany, non-Indo-European

- Urnfield, Bronze Age, Germany, Indo-European

- Guanches, Iron Age and/or Middle Ages, Canary Islands, non-Indo-European

- Basque, Middle Ages, Spain, non-Indo-European

- Merovingian, Middle Ages, Germany, Indo-European

- Czech, Middle Ages, Czech Republic, Indo-European

- Spanish, Modern (17th–18th centuries), Canary Islands, Indo-European

Obviously, the scope of the sampling could be a lot better, but I think that already it's possible to tease out some very interesting patterns from these results. For instance, the R1a list is overwhelmingly "Indo-European". Only one sample qualifies as non-Indo-European in this scheme, and that's the Xiongnu individual from Mongolia. However, in the paper where this result was reported, Kijeong Kim et al. 2010, the R1a result was actually explained as a genetic signal of West Eurasian and indeed Indo-European influence in the Xiongnu population.

In comparison, the R1b list came out significantly "non-Indo-European", starting with the Copper Age Bell Beaker sample. The oldest supposedly Indo-European R1b reported so far is the one from the Urnfield burial site. However, it's important to note that R1a was found in two remains from that site. Note also the presence of R1b in the non-Indo-European indigenous Canary Island sample, and the appearance of R1a on the islands only after they were Indo-Europeanized by the Spanish.

Based on these ancient DNA results, I'd say it's easy to argue that R1a was an important Proto-Indo-European marker. It's much more difficult to argue the same for R1b. Indeed, taking all evidence into account, the most plausible scenario at the moment is that R1b became an important feature of the early Indo-European gene pool during the Bronze Age, after complex interactions between Corded Ware and Bell Beaker cultures in Central Europe.


New Vistas on the Distant Past: Ancient Western Eurasian DNA

Kijeong Kim et al., A western Eurasian male is found in 2000-year-old elite Xiongnu cemetery in Northeast Mongolia, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Published Online: 20 Jan 2010, doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21242

Rosa Fregel, Demographic history of Canary Islands male gene-pool: replacement of native lineages by European, BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2009, 9:181, doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-181

See also...

Lots of ancient Y-DNA from China

Ancient Siberians carrying R1a1 had light eyes

Ancient Siberians carrying R1a1 had light eyes - take 2

First R1b from Neolithic Europe...and it ain't from the steppe

The story of R1b: it's complicated


Colin Welling said...

"Among other things, they argue that it shows a high correlation with the so called Centum Indo-European languages"

Centum is not the point. R1b being correlated with the earlier branchings of IE (Anatolian, Tocharian/Afanasevo, Italo-Celtic) is.

"However, there are also several problems with this theory, such as the fact that R1b is the dominant Y-DNA haplogroup in one of Europe's few non-Indo-European speaking groups, the Basques."

Weak argument. Not all r1b needs to come from PIE for r1b to be in PIE.

"Moreover, there is very little R1b in South Asia - where the early Indo-Europeans are thought to have arrived en masse from Central Asia during the early Iron Age"

Iron age!

"I described all the samples from archeological cultures usually suspected or known to be of Indo-European origin as simply "Indo-European", while I tagged those that derive from archeological cultures generally not regarded as Indo-European as "non-Indo-European"."

So every Western European culture is non Indo European?!? Gee, I wonder why you can't see the possibility of r1b traveling with IE from the steppes...

And yet Western Europeans are IE, so one of its cultures had to be IE also. The question remains as to whether r1b people picked up IE in Western Europe (rather than having carried it there) or if r1a Corded Ware-like people picked up IE in Eastern Central Europe (rather than having carried it there from the PC steppe) before expanding with later IE migrations.

There's no use in arguing the data when your reasoning and search is flawed in the first place.

Davidski said...

All prehistoric Indo-European cultures in Western Europe had to arrive there from the east at some point. That's because Western Europe was most certainly not part of the Indo-European homeland. But there's no evidence that Western European R1b came from the steppe or anywhere near the steppe. I think its high frequencies in Western Europe can be explained by in-situ expansions of groups which were Indo-Europeanized rather late by neighboring groups to the east.

You might want to get ready for some next-generation sequence data from Neolithic Western Europe. It'll show that your ancestors were already there at that time and had nothing whatsoever to do with the steppe. The writing's on the wall.

Matt Stefanowicz said...

Exactly... I hear people say R1b was also Indo-European.

So why do Non Indo-European Basques have the highest R1b haplogroup in Europe!?

If anything it seems that Basques are the most Western European.

A lot of data I have seen supports this.

Not only Basques having higher R1b haplogroup than other Western Europeans.

I have seen a number of DNA maps showing Basques as way off to the West of Western Europe by DNA.

As if Western Europeans are a sort of hybrid of a Basque type population & Corded ware from Central - East Europe.

... Basques hold other traits more common in Western Europeans than Eastern Europeans.

Like Basques have the lowest of B & AB blood types in Europe....

Which are lower in Western Europe than Eastern Europe.

Basques have the highest RH negative blood types.... Which tend to be slightly higher in Western Europeans than Eastern Europeans.

Basques also have the highest of Lactose Tolerance in Europe......Which again tends to be a bit higher in Western Europeans than Eastern Europeans.

Basques also tend to have the lowest R1a haplogroup in Europe which most of Western Europe has traces of R1a haplogroup higher than Basques.

Matt Stefanowicz said...


You say R1b haplogroup in Western Europe didn't come from the Steppes.

Where does it seem it came from!?

I have heard the Near East.

That is a bit funny... Considering the pattern R1b haplogroup dispersed into Europe.

I mean West Germany was R1a in Corded ware.

It is as if R1b haplogroup came from the South-West into Germany.

So... I mean it seems R1b haplogroup spread from the South-West rather than the South-East near Anatolia.

It is as if R1b haplogroup people came from North Africa or some-thing into Europe!?

I wouldn't really doubt that.

A few DNA maps you had did make it out as if Basques were closer to Africans by DNA than other Europeans.

It showed that Basques were closer to the North-African Mozabites than other Europeans generlly were.

I wouldn't really doubt it.

R1b haplogroup Europeans tend to have much curlier hair than other Europeans.

Living in the New York area with a lot of Italians & Irish.

I have even noted that the Irish actually often have curlier hair than the Italians.

A lot of R1b haplogroup people have hair kind of like Jews where they start getting a semi frizz thing going on.

While Scandanavians & Eastern Europeans rarely get that.

Davidski said...

I don't know how and when R1b first entered Europe, but it's unlikely that it came from the steppe, because there's not a single R1b in any of the ancient samples from Siberia, the Altai and western China, where R1a dominates.

In any case, wherever it came from, it definitely expanded from Western Europe during the Copper Age with the Bell Beaker culture.

Rokus said...

"In any case, wherever [R1b] came from, it definitely expanded from Western Europe during the Copper Age with the Bell Beaker culture."
And, being skilled boatmen, they visited islands deep into the Mediterranean as far a Crete. More routes are possible, but incidental indigenous R1b samples (no R1a) of the Canary Islands (Fregel et al., 2009), among historically bottlenecked Basques and -why not- the Egyptian 18th dynasty with Achnaton, are poor evidence for a pre-and non-Beaker origin of European R1b.
BTW, I am still waiting for the first attempt to extract YDNA or mtDNA from NW European Swifterbant, one of the few Mesolithic cultures that are continuous to TRB and both Beaker and Corded Ware.

Fanty said...

The ideas that R1b originated in Anatolia base on "microsatelite diversiy".

The general idea behind it is (was?): So more diverse the STR diversity is, so more close to the origin of the haplogroup is this place.

Several years ago it was claimed, the highest diversity in R1b STR is in western Anatolia an suposedly the diversity decreased so more west one went. Ireland and the Atlantic coast had the lowest STR diversity on R1b of all of Europe.

When the western European subclades of R1b had been discovered, it was claimed, ALL western European subclades of R1b would have the highest STR diversity in Northeast France, southern Germany and Czechia.

Seems like all this STR diversity thing is crap if it now seems it spread from low to high diversity and not the other way around.

Davidski said...

STR diversity is indeed useless. But R1b does come from West Asia because its oldest subclades are found there. Unfortunately, this doesn't tell us when it came to Europe, or who brought it over.

Sebastian Smolak said...

I think that R1b come from "Doggerland" ( ) or many other western Europe lands that now is in underwater. This is why they all have Atlantis like legends in their cultures.

Davidski said...

R1b doesn't come from Doggerland.

Blasonario Cremonese said...

The problem is more difficult than we can think.

First of all, in order to trace Proto Indoeuropean origins the medieval and modern samples aren't a good choice. It is true, above all, about R1b: the sample from Canary Islands doesn't represent a good proof of anything. The sample is too young (Medieval age) and in the time that goes from Mesolithic to Middle Ages a lot of people could have reached the Canarian Archipelago and brought their genetics to islanders. For example, Phoenicians were the first to know Canary Island, but also Genoeses, who made several expeditions (think about Nicoloso da Recco), but also a lot of seafarers and pirates of the classical era, like Illyrians, Sardinians, Iberians, Etruscans, Italic peoples, but also Celts... some of them could easily have lost their way and end up on Canary Islands where they could have been integrated in Guanche society (and, from what we know, they are not surely proto-Berbers or Berbers).
Classical sources also seem to suggest the presence of many tribes on the Archipelago whose languages weren't mutual intelligible.

The same could be said about Medieval Basque sample. The Middle Ages are a too young era for tracing Proto I.E. or Non I.E. origins.

Second thing: also R1a is widespread on Eurasian continent. For example, we can easily find a lot of samples from Proto-Turkic speaking areas. But, given that, nobody dare to doubt about the dogmatic link between Proto I.E. and R1a kurgans.
From what we know, Kurganic culture could have been easily also Turkic (then, I would have the pleasure to underline the fact that the Kurgan Theory is, indeed, just a T-H-E-O-R-Y).

And, also, the R1a in India isn't indeed a proof of Proto-I.E. belonging to that haplogroup. It is the proof that some Indo-Iranic tribes belonged to R1a. Not to forget: Tocharians? Are we sure they were Tocharians? THere are thousands of years between historical records of Tocharians and those samples from Tarim basin... perhaps they were only Indo-Iranians originally from Andronovo culture.

At last: about R1b we have few samples from ancient ages.
We must have more samples from Mesolithic, Neolithic and also Chalcolitic human bones in order to have a brighter scenario.
The material we have isn't enough.

Post scriptum: there isn't any interest conflict. I belong to haplogroup G2a3. Just to stop the future fury of the great tribe of Anti-R1b blog-lions.

Davidski said...

So how did R1b get to the pre-colonial Canary Islands before Indo-Europeans made it there? Probably with non-Indo-Europeans. So it's an important sample in this context.

And I'm sorry, but you don't have a clue about R1a.

The R1a carried by Indians falls under the Indo-Iranian branch, defined by the Z93 mutation. It's closely related to the Balto-Slavic branch of R1a defined by the Z282 mutation. These two branches split around 5,000 years ago, during the Copper Age, most likely on the steppe near the southern Urals. They're certainly markers of the early Indo-Europeans.

Turks carry young lineages of R1a derived from the Indo-Iranian branch. So Turkic tribes obviously absorbed Indo-Iranians as they moved across the steppe from the east to west, which is something that was pretty clear even before the study of R1a.

Blasonario Cremonese said...

As I said, multiple causes could have brought R1b to Canary Islands: pirates, merchants, adventurers, lost tribes from Continent...

And, again, the samples from Canary Islands are too young to be a fitting example. And, not to forget, R1b in Canary samples are a tiny minority.

As you can see, a person that is completely purified by all prejudice can think about all possibilities, not only one like you.

As for Indiands, Indo-iranians and Turks... well... it doesn't say nothing more than evidence.
Some Indo-Iranian tribes invaded India... Invaded? All Indologists could well tell you that it wasn't an Invasion, but a peaceful migration and mixgenation. I'm a genealogist and a Ph.Dr. in Classical Philology, and at University I attended a lot of courses of Sanskrit language.

Another thing: we don't know what is Indoeuropean and what is not.
We only have Theories that link some cultures to P.IndoEuropeans. But we aren't sure of that link.

We are sure, instead, that all classical sources (Romans in the first place) saw the less Indoeuropean tribes as the most fierceful and warlike in Europe: think about Ligurians, Iberians, Alpine Raethians, Picts, etc...
Indoeuropeans were a peaceful people of steppe nomads.

The Slavs - as you state, the most Indoeuropeans in the world - were the less hyerarchized people (see also their villages structure) and the most dominated by foreigners in the human story. They are far away from the figure of horse-warrior: they were peaceful farmers in Eastern Europe.

Royal haplogroups tell us that the most ancient paternal lines of Germanic tribes were R-U106.
Instead, the most ancient royal lines of the "master slavs" were Haplgroup N1 (Gediminas, Rurikids, Jagellon).

So... it is a world structured on the contrary?

Davidski said...

You really should look more closely at the phylogeography of R1a before making any more claims about what it is and what it isn't. Start here...

In all likelihood it did not arrive in India unassumingly. It probably rushed into the subcontinent during the Iron Age.

As for Slavs being peaceful farmers, here's some reading for you; Slavs being "peaceful" in the Balkans and Scandinavia.

And we do have a lot of clues about the Proto-Indo-Europeans. You just haven't been paying any attention to the topic lately. More reading...

We're very close to learning all the details. No need to be afraid though.

Davidski said...

By the way, did you learn that Slavs were peaceful farmers and the most dominated group in history at your university while getting that PhD? If so, you really should get your money back.

That really takes the cake as one of the dumbest things I've read in months. To make such a statement about the ethnic group that rapidly took over half of Europe, and eventually most of Eurasia, you either have to be 12 years old or stupid enough to believe any cliched crap that's fed to you.

If you actually had a couple of brain cells to rub together, you would see that there are very strong parallels between the generally accepted theories about the Proto-Indo-European and Slavic expansions.

Both expansions were of barbarians from the north. The Proto-Indo-Europeans were nomads and the early Slavs were semi-nomadic, and exploited weaknesses in societies to the south to spread their languages and genes across vast areas.

And as for Slavs not being horsemen. Honestly, how do you come up with this crap? Yes, the early Slavs had horses, and they were sometimes buried with them. And what about the Polish Hussars? There was nothing of comparable quality in Western Europe at the time, and they were indeed Poles, because the Lithuanians were responsible for the light cavalry in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the way, Cossacks were Slavs as well, and they also knew how to ride horses.

Honestly, I can't believe I'm even replying to this cliched shit. Please get a clue before defecating on my blog ever again.

Blasonario Cremonese said...

I'm sorry, but that's not a "cliched" matter: it is a matter of Academical consensus upon something.

Have you ever heard of "academical consensus"? I believe not... If yes, you would have a greater respect towards Universities. On the contrary, with your behaviour, you give the idea to be very very closed on your statements (i.e.: Slavs are Proto-Indoeuropeans and others are inferior race that must be grateful to their Aryan blonde nazi masters).

To be honest: I don't want to make a war... I only want to say one thing: we have got very few examples to be sure about Proto Indoeuropeans.

For example: you wrote the example of Corded Ware. That's good... but we have only few samples from Corded Ware and we have three different haplogroup: R1a, G and J or I. So: Corded Ware could easily been a mix of culture and, perhaps, much more disjointed from Yamnaya than we think, at least genetically, given the fact that we haven't got any Y-Dna result from Yamnaya.
But also, we haven't got any Y-Dna result from Catacomb culture...

We have Dna from Andronovo, but this culture is very young, if compared to others quoted.

And also: Bell Beaker culture seen as Non-Indo European. Well, a lot of Proto History and Prehistory books in use in Universities tell that Bell Beaker is believed to be a Indo European culture, perhaps linked to Proto-Celts.

Another thing: I see that you answer only to some statements. You haven't answered to the statement that the most ancient and noble houses of Slavs aren't R1a related, but N... why, if R1a is the haplogroup of the master of the world (according to your biased view)?

Other thing: Indoeuropeans were too widely spread. Perhaps they weren't related to only one haplogroup. This is only reality: every population have got a degree of variability.

And... yes: why, again, for classical sources the most warlike culture were the Non-Indoeuropean ones?
I would add also Germanic tribes that, according to generic make-up, were the less Indoeuropean, with the greates component of Mesolithic haplogroups.

I don't want to be the Thruth in person, but only to put on the tables all cards.

And I call to your memory that I don't want to underestimated Slavic peoples (peoples who I admire sincerely): I'm not an R1b-fan.

Davidski said...

Look you idiot, this is what the academics are saying, and I agree with them...

So I'm in favor of the academic consensus in this case.

But there is no academic consensus that Slavs were peaceful farmers and the most dominated group in human history.

This is a claim that can only be made by a 12-year old or someone mentally unhinged, because it makes no sense that peaceful farmers could take over most of Eurasia.

Apart from that, there is evidence that Slavs were invaders and even pirates. I posted two academic studies on these topics which you ignored.

Also the most common Y-HG among upper class Poles is R1a. This shows very clearly in FTDNA projects.

Now piss off.

Blasonario Cremonese said...

Again: you have a very unpolite view to discuss. That's why people like me tend to be doubtful about your statements.

I repeat: why Roman sources describe Non Indo European tribes as the most fierceful and aggressive? Why they speak very few about the Slavs?

And again: we have VERY FEW SAMPLES: how could we be sure of all?

But I see that's impossible to discuss with you. You are like those R1b-indoeurolink. But these ones, at least, are much more polite than you.

Davidski said...

How can you expect me to take you seriously and be civil to you when you're either an idiot troll or just a complete idiot, with not a single valid argument to offer?

I already showed you that Slavs were not peaceful farmers, and if you look at a map of the world, you'll see that they conquered a lot of territory.

Here's a quote about Slavs from Procopius, a Roman source:

"Illyria and all of Thrace, that is, from the Ionian Gulf to the suburbs of Constantinople, including Greece and the Chersonese, were overrun by the Huns, Slavs and Antes, almost every year, from the time when Justinian took over the Roman Empire; and intolerable things they did to the inhabitants. For in each of these incursions, I should say, more than two hundred thousand Romans were slain or enslaved, so that all this country became a desert like that of Scythia."

Here is genetic evidence of these rapid Slavic expansions:

And did you look at the videos I linked to? They're academic vidoes supporting my position in regards to the Indo-Europeans. Again:

So what the hell is your problem? Are you insane? Do you need psychiatric treatment? If so, I'm sorry I can't help you with that.

Shaniqua Laluna said...

Fenomenal articles.
How to contact you Davidski?
I have few questions after some lecture of Jordan Maxwell, and I believe you could point few things to me.
Best regards,