August 22, 2015

Ancient mtDNA from Romania

Quantity over quality series.

Montserrat Hervella et al. Ancient DNA from South-East Europe Reveals Different Events during Early and Middle Neolithic Influencing the European Genetic Heritage. PLoS ONE 2015. Open accessLINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128810]


The importance of the process of Neolithization for the genetic make-up of European populations has been hotly debated, with shifting hypotheses from a demic diffusion (DD) to a cultural diffusion (CD) model. In this regard, ancient DNA data from the Balkan Peninsula, which is an important source of information to assess the process of Neolithization in Europe, is however missing. In the present study we show genetic information on ancient populations of the South-East of Europe. We assessed mtDNA from ten sites from the current territory of Romania, spanning a time-period from the Early Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age. mtDNA data from Early Neolithic farmers of the Starčevo Criş culture in Romania (Cârcea, Gura Baciului and Negrileşti sites), confirm their genetic relationship with those of the LBK culture (Linienbandkeramik Kultur) in Central Europe, and they show little genetic continuity with modern European populations. On the other hand, populations of the Middle-Late Neolithic (Boian, Zau and Gumelniţa cultures), supposedly a second wave of Neolithic migration from Anatolia, had a much stronger effect on the genetic heritage of the European populations. In contrast, we find a smaller contribution of Late Bronze Age migrations to the genetic composition of Europeans. Based on these findings, we propose that permeation of mtDNA lineages from a second wave of Middle-Late Neolithic migration from North-West Anatolia into the Balkan Peninsula and Central Europe represent an important contribution to the genetic shift between Early and Late Neolithic populations in Europe, and consequently to the genetic make-up of modern European populations.

Table 2. Haplotype (ht) and haplogroup (hg) mtDNA distribution resulting of the analysis of 62 ancient individuals from Romania.

Please notice that, contrary to what the abstract says, I do not consider that Boian-Maritza and derived cultures belong to any second wave from Anatolia but rather to the wider Danubian (LBK-derived) Central European macro-culture. There was indeed a second wave from Anatolia (Halaf-related, it seems) but it mostly affected Greece, Macedonia and Serbia (Vinca, Dimini and related cultures). It briefly affected Bulgaria and Wallachia as well but this Danubian Boian-Maritza wave from the North neutralized its influence. 

Gumelnita (Karanovo-Gumelnita) culture is particularly remarkable as civilization center of ancient Europe before the Kurgan (Indoeuropean) invasions. They were strongly involved in the earliest development of bronze metallurgy known to date (oddly enough considered "late Neolithic" in this study).

Rather than thinking that these cultures (Boian →→ Gumelnita) had a major effect on European genetics, I'd say that they reflect greater degree of "Europeanization", if anything. Anyhow the key marker here is (as usual) mtDNA H but in no case (except one Late Bronze individual) is H1, so we are rather talking of other less influential sublineages.


  1. @Maju,
    "Anyhow the key marker here is (as usual) mtDNA H but in no case (except one Late Bronze individual) is H1, so we are rather talking of other less influential sublineages."

    H is so old and diverse putting all H in the same category may not be smart. Counting H frequencies could be as informative as counting U frequencies. Each West Eurasian haplogroup is so old IMO we need to find subclades that are distinct to specific regions.

    I kind of did this, by finding two sets of subclades of West Eurasian haplogroups(None of which are H). One set takes up 30% of European mtDNA and one set takes up 30% of West Asian mtDNA. You can find the data in this link.

    1. So you are already set to do a mtDNA atlas. I applaud the effort, Krefter.

      You probably want to check this:

      It's a wiki I created years ago and that never went beyond cataloging global mtDNA. But in this aspect of global mtDNA it is quite complete (or was up to a couple of years ago maybe), with lots of linked references and annotations that you will probably find interesting.

  2. Yes, it rather seems to show yet again movement of mtdna from europe into near east, not the other way.

    1. Not into the Near East. Romania is well inside Europe.

    2. Yes, I know that. However, there is no real evidence mtdnas like K come from near east, let alone H.

      If the reverse is true then you would have to have a complete migration that leaves little to nothing behind and ALSO completely skips over the previous migration without mingling somehow. Seems very very unlikely especially for farmers.

    3. K and U8b in general is very clear. Furthermore the oldest K known to date is from Neolithic Syria, which is contemporary with European Epipaleolithic (and no K anywhere).

      H is a very different story and IMO should be older than many people imagine and have been distributed in all West Eurasia since before the LGM. Why? Several reasons but for a token is the only time-line that makes sense for arrival of SW European H (H1, H3, H4, H7, maybe V too) to Northwest Africa, where it is very important and it is also quite clearly derived from Europe.

      But H in West Asia has also been found since at least the Neolithic and as far as I can say H is like U: too large to consider as a single unity. As Krefter said correctly, subclades must be considered. Sadly enough old HVS-I methodology is particularly horrible for discerning anything within haplogroup H or even R0 as a whole. So we have a lot of studies that just have no reliable results out of economy of means.

    4. K is found in every megalithic site and at high levels so it really means nothing to find some in syria. If you believe megalithic is indigenous then K either originates in europe or came there so long ago that it makes little difference. The fantasies that this comes from a late migration from levant into europe are completely impossible.

    5. Was in Syria at a time when none was yet found in the much better sampled Europe:

      Only since Neolithic we begin seeing K this side of the Bosphorus, quite suddenly a lot of it, nothing before.


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