February 07, 2010

mtDNA of Cres Islanders

Coll Antropol. 2009 Dec;33(4):1323-8.

Mitochondrial DNA heritage of Cres Islanders--example of Croatian genetic outliers.

Jeran N, Havas Augustin D, Grahovac B, Kapović M, Metspalu E, Villems R, Rudan P.

Diversity of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lineages of the Island of Cres was determined by high-resolution phylogenetic analysis on a sample of 119 adult unrelated individuals from eight settlements. The composition of mtDNA pool of this Island population is in contrast with other Croatian and European populations. The analysis revealed the highest frequency of haplogroup U (29.4%) with the predominance of one single lineage of subhaplogroup U2e (20.2%). Haplogroup H is the second most prevalent one with only 27.7%. Other very interesting features of contemporary Island population are extremely low frequency of haplogroup J (only 0.84%), and much higher frequency of haplogroup W (12.6%) comparing to other Croatian and European populations. Especially interesting finding is a strikingly higher frequency of haplogroup N1a (9.24%) presented with African/south Asian branch almost absent in Europeans, while its European sister-branch, proved to be highly prevalent among Neolithic farmers, is present in contemporary Europeans with only 0.2%. Haplotype analysis revealed that only five mtDNA lineages account for almost 50% of maternal genetic heritage of this island and they present supposed founder lineages. All presented findings confirm that genetic drift, especially founder effect, has played significant role in shaping genetic composition of the isolated population of the Island of Cres. Due to presented data contemporary population of Cres Island can be considered as genetic "outlier" among Croatian populations.

Link

7 comments:

Ponto said...

Interesting results.

I prefer a positive spin to the one which considers Cres Islanders as outliers in Europe. My spin is that the Cres Islanders may represent the original diversity of mtDNA haplogroups of Europeans which have been lost elsewhere in Europe due to a sort of European panmixia with the women of mtDNA winning out in the rest of Europe, and the women of N1a and W losing out.

My point is this: what exists in the rest of Europe today does not reflect what existed 5,000, 10,000, or before the LGM. What exists today is not a fixed rule.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Very interesting. Cres Island is one of the most promising places outside Basque Country and Lapland to look for evidence from other disciplines about this unique population.

The mystery is how they managed to avoid being disturbed so close to the grand central highway from the Near East to Europe. Wikipedia's brief history leaves the impression that this area was in regular contact with ruling peoples across varied parts of the Near East and Europe for millenia.

"Cres has been inhabited since Paleolithic time period and was later ruled by the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Roman Empire the island was taken over and became a part of the Byzantine Empire, and remained this way for centuries. In the 7th Century the Croats invaded the island, and the other islands around it, and took the islands over, however the Croats returned the islands in the eary 800's (believed to be somewhere around 812).

Around 822 Croatia became an independent state, while on the island Croat-Roman tensions grew. Then, around 866 the inhabitants saw the first conflicts between the Croats and Venetians. The Venetians eventually set up their rule of the islands in the 10th and 11th centuries.

However the Croats regain the islands and the islands goes through a changing of rulers for Centuries, being ruled by Croats, Hungarians, and for 400 years the Venetians take control of the islands. However, Napoleon's victory over the Venetians created Austrian rule on the island, which quickly changed hands again to French Rule.

After the fall of Napoleon, Austria once again takes control of the island for 100 years, during this time we see the rising economy on the island with olive trees, sage, and other plants becoming key to the success of the island. At the end of World War I, with the Treaty of Rapallo signed in 1920, the island was once again handed over to Italian Rule. This lasted until 1947 when the Islands, along with Istrian Peninsula, were assigned to Croatia."

It seems like a nice enough place. Why didn't more people from outside stay and settle? Why isn't there more admixture?

I'm inclined to wonder if this population isn't actually much more recent than one might guess and if they have a history similar to that of the Romani people (who an a short lived island Kingdom not all that far away and whose genetics are quite different from the Cres, clearly they are not themselves Romani) as a small group of interrelated families recolonizing a pre-inhabited Europe from North India or North Pakistan, who came though that area perhaps with the Byzantines or a contingent from a South Asian group in an Islamic army that was separated and managed to settle near the apogee of Islamic expansion.

U2e and W are common in upper caste people from India, and U is most common among the people of South Asian in North Indian Muslims. According to the paper, the N1a halogroup type is also one found in South Asia, rather than the one sometimes found in Europe and associated with the Central European Linear Pottery Culture, disfavoring an "ancient European" interpretation.

Only one individual has a J halotype (they don't subtype it), so any damn thing over hundreds of years could have slipped that person into the mix (a J2b subtype is common in the Balkans). Type J is rare in India apart from Dravidian speaking upper caste members and Austro-Asiatic tribals, so it wouldn't be surprising to see it absent in an India origin founding population.

The also have a make up very unlike 2000 year old Mongolians.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The N1a halogroup from South Asia is apparently limited to a single Indo-European language speaking caste group.

"[I]n India haplogroup N1a is absent from the Dravidic-speaking population and is present in only five Indo-Aryan-speaking individuals, four of whom belonged to the Havik group, an upper Brahman caste (Mountain et al. 1995)."

A genetic link to the Havik Brahmins also points to a late arrival and a very specific place of origin and well defined subculture that could point researchers to botanical, linguistic or anthropological cues to look for to determine if there was a historical link to Cres Island.

"Historically, it is proven that Havyakas Brahmins were invited and brought to present day Karnataka around the end of 3rd century ACE or beginning of 4th century ACE from a place called Ahicchatra [4]. Other sects like Shivalli, Smartha etc., are believed to have arrived later around 7th century ACE. [5] The Brahmin king Mayooravarma was instrumental in bringing the first Havyaka families. It is proven through Talagunda and Varadahalli inscriptions that Kadambas brought 32 Havyaka families in to perform the royal rituals and the related functions of the empirical government from a place called Ahichchathra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. There is a suggestion that this is somewhere in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. Thus the first few families were settled in Banavasi, the capital of the Kadambas and the place adored by Pampa.[6] Because there were vedic Brahmins in the Dravida country as attested by Skaandha and other Puranas also because Havyakas are a subsect of Pancha Dravida Brahmins, Vidwan Timmappa Kalasi hypothesizes that Havyakas are the descendants of Brahmins who left Dravida country during the acscent of Jaina tradition and support for vedic traditions waned in the south during 3rd century BCE to 3rd century ACE. King Mayooravarma's act of inviting Havyakas to Banavasi has been inscribed on a stone slab (Shilashasana) from the period of the Kadambas, which now lies near the village of Varadahalli in Sagar Taluk of Shimoga district. The descendants and associates of Parshuram are called Tyagi Brahmins in Western U.P., Bhumihar Brahmins in eastern U.P. and Bihar, Havyaka Brahmins in Karnataka and Nambudiri Brahmins in Kerala. They have similar looks, customs and practices."

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The purported ancestral home of the Havik Brahmins is Nainital, a location associated with a myth about a lake that came into being magically and houses part of the remains of (the wife of a leading Hindu god who immolated herself when she was rejected by her family on account of her marriage which she secured by starving herself):

"It is believed that Nainital figures in some ancient myths of India. In the Manas Khand of the Skand Puranas, Nainital Lake is called Tri-Rishi-Sarovar, hinting at the story of three sages (or rishis), Atri, Pulastya and Pulaha, who, upon finding no water in Nainital, dug a large hole at the location of the present day lake (sarovar = lake) and filled it with water from the holy lake Manasarovar in Tibet. According to lore, a dip in Naini Lake, "the lesser Manasarovar," earns merit equal to a dip in the great lake.

It is also believed that The Naini Lake is one of the 64 Shakti Peeths, or religious sites where parts of the charred body of Sati (Parvati) fell on earth while being carried by Lord Shiva. The spot where Sati's eyes (or Nain) fell, came to be called Nain-tal or lake of the eye. The goddess Shakti is worshipped at the Naina Devi Temple on the north shore of the present day lake."

This myth has parallels to the most famous myth of Cres Island:

"Cres has its very own fresh water lake, which is very highly guarded and illegal to swim and fish in. It supplies water to neighboring Lošinj (it. Lussino) as well. It is one of the deepest fresh water lakes in Eastern Europe, going down 76 meters at its deepest point (>50 m below sea-level).

Myth of Lake Vrana

Lake Vrana myth or legend states that there is a castle under the lake. The rich sister that lived in the castle would not give her poor sister money or food. As a result she was punished by her castle being flooded during a severe thunderstorm which caused Lake Vrana to be created. The story goes on and tells that on some windy days if one listens very carefully even today, the tower bells can still be heard ringing."

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

More history of Osor, one of the towns on Cres Island towns: "After the fall of Roman Empire, Osor became a part of Byzantine Empire and was a seat of archdiocese since the 6th century. In 841 it was burned down by Saracens, in the 10th century, it came under Croatian rule."

Only, Croatia didn't exist yet; back the Island appears to have spent a long period of time following Saracen rule (at a time when the term Saracen had become a generic term for Muslim rather than an ethnic or geographic designator) as part of the Republic of Venice.

The sack would have taken place at the far fringe of the greatest extent of the Byzantine-Arab wars were in full swing at that point and notably taking prisoners and forcing them to become farmers in a foreign land was common at the time:

"Between 780 and 824 AD, the Arabs and the Byzantines were settled down into border skirmishing, with Arab raids into Anatolia replied in kind by Byzantine raids that 'stole' Christian subjects of the Abbasid Caliphate and forcibly settled them into the Anatolian farmlands to increase the population (and hence provide more farmers and more soldiers)."

It isn't hard to imagine a minority religous group that would form the ancestral people who would become dominant on the island being imported into Cres Island by Byzantine sailors and soldiers in this era.

How would they have wound up being close enough to capture and relocate?

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

An earlier link could have come through trade between the Roman Empire and South India, which we know existed from historical evidence like the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea from 70 A.D.

This would explain the population bottleneck and small number of mtDNA lineages as a result of deriving from the thirty-two missionary families brought to South India from the North. (Recall that Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley had trade relations from as far back as 2500 BC so this is not implausible).

This would suggest a connection in the Sassanid Empire, because the Havids didn't exist as a people during earlier empires.

An attractive moment for the pre-Cres Islanders to emmigrate West might have been during the reign of "Yazdegerd I (399–421) is often compared to Constantine I. Like him, he was powerful both physically and diplomatically. Much like his Roman counterpart, Yazdegerd I was opportunistic. Like Constantine the Great, Yazdgerd I practiced religious tolerance and provided freedom for the rise of religious minorities." His capitol was at Ctesiphon (approximately 35 km south of the modern city of Baghdad). "In the 6th century, Ctesiphon was the largest city in the world." A prominent community of Hindus with missionary origins who were connected to the Indian Ocean trade with South India surely would have been drawn to this metropolis.

But, they would have then needed to flee two monarches later later, because " Yazdegerd II (438–457) . . . practiced a harsh policy towards minority religions, particularly Christianity."

They could have made their way from there to either the Eastern Roman Empire, with whoom Yazdegerd II was at war, or to the Huns, with whom he was also at war. Given their ultimate destination at Cres Island, it seems more likely that they cast their lot with the Eastern Roman Empire (which held a church counsel just outside Ctesiphon in 410), probably via the Tigris into Anatolia, than with Attila the Hun, a contemporary of Yazdegerd II, whose Hunnic Empire never made it all the way to the Croatian coast. They could later have been relocated from Anatolia to Cres Island during the Byzantine-Arab wars described above. In the wake of the Saracen raid of 841 AD, Cres Island may have been depopulated leaving the ancestors of the modern Cres Islanders room to dominant the local population.

Unknown said...

"Only, Croatia didn't exist yet" Wrong, the first ruler of Croatia was duke Branimir, whom Pope John VIII referred to as Dux Croatorum in 879, and the first ruler of Croatia who was styled a king in a letter from the Pope John X, dating kingdom of Croatia to year 925, was Tomislav.