November 27, 2011

Neolithic Basque (and Catalan, and Aragonese) mtDNA

Important correction (Nov 29): the two papers mentioned did test for coding region markers, unlike what I mentioned earlier. The corresponding corrections have been inserted in the text in red color and the erroneous comments I made stricken through. My deepest apologies. 

It has lots of mtDNA H, of course, as does that of Portugal (both Epipaleolithic and Neolithic), approaching modern apportions.

Again hat tip to Jean for the finding.

This is a two years old paper that nevertheless has gone totally unnoticed by everybody (maybe because it is only in Spanish language?):

The authors tested not only for HVS-I haplotypes (not the ideal method but the cheap one and hence quite common, sadly enough) but also within the coding region and the locus 73 (defining R0) in the HVS-II region in the Ancient Neolithic necropolis of Paternabidea (Ibero, Navarre, near Pamplona) obtaining 9 useful results (out 13 individuals tested), of which seven were distinct haplotypes. The testing of coding region markers provides guaranteed haplogroups and not just estimates.

The results are:

That is above 50% H with very few Neolithic lineages (surely K, less clearly I, HV). Overall it is quite similar to modern apportions, as happens with the ancient mtDNA of Portugal (Chandler 2005). 

Even if the adscription of what is probably CRS haplotype (ht2) to haplogroup H is sometimes questionable, the identification of other clear H (ht4) and H3 (ht3) haplotypes seems to clarify the matter quite a bit. I could not find the exact HVS-I sequencies, so I can't judge. 

No individuals buried in the same tomb ("fosa") share haplotype.

Individual E1 was buried with a pot decorated with Cardium motifs, individual E2 had a necklace which included three variscite beads (semi-precious green stone very popular in the Atlantic Neolithic).

The necropolis of  Paternabidea is dated to c. 6.090-5.960 ± 40 years BP. This is an uncalibrated C14 date, I understand, what should translate as c. 7000 real years ago or c. 5000 years BCE after due calibration, being one of the oldest Neolithic sites in the area (see this previous post for the regional Neolithic chronology).

Addendum: I think this is the right place to post this map that Argiedude sent me with the modern apportions of mtDNA haplogroup H1:

Author: Argiedude

This map seems to suggest a negative cline of this lineage from the sources of the Neolithic phenomenon in SE Europe and West Asia, a possible sign of having suffered some displacement by the newcomers. H3 is instead restricted to SW Europe.

For further info in mtDNA H past and present distribution see this entry at my old blog Leherensuge.

Update: Catalan and Aragonese Neolithic mtDNA

A complementary study on Catalan ancient mtDNA has been published these days, however under a paywall:

C. Gamba et al., Ancient DNA from an Early Neolithic Iberian population supports a pioneer colonization by first farmers. Molecular Ecology 2011. Pay per view.

This are the results:

click to see larger (and legible)

In this case also coding region testing was performed, so the haplogroups reported are certain:
The information obtained from the HVRI sequence (table 4) together with the result of typing different diagnostic coding SNPs allows us to classify each Neolithic sample into its corresponding mitochondrial DNA haplogroup in the well-known mtDNA phylogeny.

X1 and K are likely to be Neolithic. N* is a mystery but unlikely to be Neolithic in principle. All the rest (H and U5) are likely to be pre-Neolithic.

It is notable that the most modern and also likely pre-Neolithic sequence is found in the Aragonese cave of Chaves (67% H, 33%K), farther from the Mediterranean Sea and the Ebro river, towards the Central Pyrenees.

Detail of the results of this study and others on ancient DNA can be found  at Jean Manco's ancient DNA page (look here for Morocco and Canary Islands).

Update on Gamba's paper (Dec. 8th):

Argiedude (who remains without access to Google) wrote to me and clarified the following:
  • The reported X1 is X(xX2) in fact according to the published data (could be X1 but also X3, X4 or X*). However X3 used to be known as X1b until a few months ago, while X4 and X* are extremely rare.
  • H20a, which is actually the reported "H20" lineage is almost only found in Europe (notably Iberia). The sources are diverse but he lists: 5 from Spain (including one Canarian but no Moroccans), 2 Hispanics and no Portuguese/Brazilian. In addition he mentions some Sephardi Jews, while Mitosearch lists: 1 Greek, 1 Bavarian, 1 Sicilian, 2 Mexican, 2 Spanish. The oldest source on H20* and H20a being located in West Asia and Europe respectively is Richards 2000.

Update: a Paleolithic Basque mtDNA U5b1 from Aizpea?

Jean Lohizun also pointed me to this other ppv paper on immune polymorphisms. What is notable is that the free supplemental material, lists several mtDNA HVS-I sequences, most of which are from San Juan Ante Porta Latinam (a Chalcolithic Ebro river site already documented for mtDNA) but one is from Aizpea, an ill-known Epipaleolithic site from west-central Navarre. For this site they provide the following sequence: 051-093-189-192-270 (+16,000), which seems to lead to U5b1a'b'c following the latest PhyloTree build. But if you have a second opinion (two markers are missing), I'll be glad to read it.


  1. about Gamba et al : "All the rest (H and U5) are likely to be pre-Neolithic."

    Except mtDNA H20 (it's not a typo right?) that is not found in Europe but is found in the Near East, Asia Minor and the Caucasus and as such almost certainly came with neolithic migrants.

  2. Yeah, surely so. I could not find any info in H20.

    No typo: that's the sequence per PhyloTree for H20a in fact. H20 is described only by 16218 (all HVS-I in this case, so it's easy to spot).

  3. Waggg: you may want to check the latest update (inserted within that on Gamba's paper). Argiedude reports that H20a is exclusively European (plus some Spanish Americans) being most common in Spain (H20*, including the unnamed precursor of H20a remains West Asian only). So we may be looking at a very founder effect of an anyhow quite rare lineage.

    There's also a comment on X not being necessarily X1 but X(xX2).

  4. Interesting.
    Thanx for these useful informations Maju (and Argiedude).


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