August 11, 2013

Belorussian Y chromosomes and mtDNA

PLoS ONE 8(6): e66499. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066499

Uniparental Genetic Heritage of Belarusians: Encounter of Rare Middle Eastern Matrilineages with a Central European Mitochondrial DNA Pool

Alena Kushniarevich et al.

Ethnic Belarusians make up more than 80% of the nine and half million people inhabiting the Republic of Belarus. Belarusians together with Ukrainians and Russians represent the East Slavic linguistic group, largest both in numbers and territory, inhabiting East Europe alongside Baltic-, Finno-Permic- and Turkic-speaking people. Till date, only a limited number of low resolution genetic studies have been performed on this population. Therefore, with the phylogeographic analysis of 565 Y-chromosomes and 267 mitochondrial DNAs from six well covered geographic sub-regions of Belarus we strove to complement the existing genetic profile of eastern Europeans. Our results reveal that around 80% of the paternal Belarusian gene pool is composed of R1a, I2a and N1c Y-chromosome haplogroups – a profile which is very similar to the two other eastern European populations – Ukrainians and Russians. The maternal Belarusian gene pool encompasses a full range of West Eurasian haplogroups and agrees well with the genetic structure of central-east European populations. Our data attest that latitudinal gradients characterize the variation of the uniparentally transmitted gene pools of modern Belarusians. In particular, the Y-chromosome reflects movements of people in central-east Europe, starting probably as early as the beginning of the Holocene. Furthermore, the matrilineal legacy of Belarusians retains two rare mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, N1a3 and N3, whose phylogeographies were explored in detail after de novo sequencing of 20 and 13 complete mitogenomes, respectively, from all over Eurasia. Our phylogeographic analyses reveal that two mitochondrial DNA lineages, N3 and N1a3, both of Middle Eastern origin, might mark distinct events of matrilineal gene flow to Europe: during the mid-Holocene period and around the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, respectively.



Rob said...

The authors are to be commended for analyzing sub-regions, which shows distinctive patterning

Their findings w.r.t I2a merely confirms the notion that I2a must have spread recently and cannot not a "Palaeolithic/ Mesolithic" marker

genefan said...

I wonder why M458 is just 14.5%, against 36% other R1a.
M458 was considered the ultimate "Slavic" marker and Belarus as a proxy for real Slavic population.

Fanty said...

"M458 was considered the ultimate "Slavic" marker and Belarus as a proxy for real Slavic population."

I doubt m458 beeing the ultimate slavic marker.

Belarus as a Proxy for "Slavic invasions" Slavs may be correct.
I recall an article on Davidskis blog wich said, the best Proxy for the migrants that entered Poland during the "Slavic Invasions" are Belarus. It however claimed, there still is no better modern Proxy for Polands population before the SLav-Invasions other than modern Poles.

Also, the real "Pan_Slavic" marker, if there is one at all, is Z280. Its the only type of R1a wich can be found in massive amounts in ALL ereas Slavs ever settled, including Slavs in East Germany while M458 is somewhat confined to Southpoland (Northpoland is Z280 terretory), Czechia and Slovacia.

Slumbery said...

Dr. Rob

"Their findings w.r.t I2a merely confirms the notion that I2a must have spread recently and cannot not a "Palaeolithic/ Mesolithic" marker"

Well, it is surely not Paleolithic here, since this region was uninhabited or very sporadically settled during the Ice Age, so nothing is Paleolithic there locally. At the other hand this article not only does not show any results that would make less likely a Mesolithic Balkan presence of YHg I, but also compatible with a possible Neolithic spread in Belorussia. That is hardly "recent".
(What is recent anyway? I never heard anybody arguing for any Paleolithic YHg presence in Belorussia.)

Davidski said...

The most basal clade of I2a to date has been found in a sample from South Central Poland.

So this is unlikely to be a Balkan marker, but an East Central European marker that spread with the early Slavs from Poland to the Balkans, via Belarus and/or Ukraine.

By the way, M458 is certainly a Proto-Slavic marker too, but much of the M458 in Belarus might actually be of Polabian origin, thanks to eastward migrations by German Slavs due to pressure put on them by the Franks.

andrew said...

The authors of this study don't really deserve to be singled out for a discipline-wide issue, but I am really disappointed that in 2013 we are predominantly seeing studies that only look at uniparental Y-DNA ad mtDNA lineages, or that only look at autosmoal DNA without considering uniparental data. The potential to learn worthwhile things by getting mtDNA and autosomal DNA from every female subject and all three from every male subject and correlating the data seems to be missed again and again and again to our detriment.

Slumbery said...


"The most basal clade of I2a to date has been found in a sample from South Central Poland."

The most basal clade found until now.

"So this is unlikely to be a Balkan marker, but an East Central European marker that spread with the early Slavs from Poland to the Balkans, via Belarus and/or Ukraine.

And on the way it teleported to Sardinia. I know it is not the same subgroup of I2a than the currently dominant one in the Balkan, but you talked about the entire I2a as well...

Also Romanians have no less I2a than the their Slav neighbours.

Maybe I2a was born in the current Poland, who knows, but the data is not sufficient and there are things that do not fit.

Rob said...

@ Slumberry
By recent , I mean that the *current* distribution & frequency of I2a2 is very recent, or historic, mid first millennium AD, throughout EE, not just the Balkans

"The Slavs" did not come from Poland. Impossible. One needs to look at the archaeological evidence , or lack of it, and stop making speculations based solely on DNA . Poland was a near terra deserta from 500-700 AD! This has been confirmed by dendro-dating and palynological studies which show massive reforestation and absence of anthropogenic farming activity in the pollen profiles . Same with Belarus for that matter, where the precious wielbark culture virtually disappears after 450.

Aside from the large role of cultural and languistic shift played in the process of slavonization of EE, any demographic growth and secondary migration would have come from the Carparhian basin/ middle Danube and the east carpathian regions (Moldavia / wallachia ). In contrast to the Vistula - Oder-Elbe region , Andover I the Balkan dinaric hinterland, the two above regions show indisputable evidence of population continuity, an indeed cultural, economic and demographic 'thriving " on the period in question (400-700AD)

If I might even speculate , I2a came from east carpathians and spread widely thru EE, with massive founder effect in Herzegovina (which was virtually entirely depopulated), and M458 spread from "Avaria" into Poland, Belarus etc. indeed , as Pamjav study shows , Hungarians still have high levels of M458.

Davidski said...

Well yeah, I was talking about the current I2a1b.

Anyway, this map probably isn't far off, because the I2a1b in the Balkans is derived from lineages up north.

Valfol said...

Interesting to find together:


and (F*+T*+G2a*+I2a*) + R1a-M458

Slumbery said...

Dr. Rob

If under East Carpathians you mean about Transylvania, that is very problematic for the same reason you mentioned for Poland: drastic population decrease and reforestation after the Roman times. That can't be the source of the Slavs.

As for the Carpathian Basin: where they were just a century before? Romans did not mention them here and a significant part of the basin was under their direct control or was their borderland almost until 400 AD. Also what is the archaeological culture here that you would connect to them? The Carpathian Basin as a source makes more questions than answers even if we forget the genetics.

Davidski said...

Dr Rob,

The proto-Slavs were farmers in Poland who turned nomadic to cope with the effects of the collapse in trade with the Roman Empire.

This was a highly successful strategy which resulted in relatively large population growth, and population replacement in the Balkans and Hungarian Plain, where wars and disease killed large numbers of people. I2a, R1a-M458 and R1a-Z280 are very useful markers of this Slavic expansion from north to south.

And if you're suggesting that M458 was an Avar marker, then you're obviously more hilarious than I gave you credit for. M458 is phylogeographically rooted in what is now Poland, because it's under European-specific Z283, and parallel to Scandinavian-specific Z284 and Balto-Slavic Z280.

Rob said...

@ Slumberry

First of all, the East Carpathian region is not Transylvania, but is *east* of the Carpathians. Ie northern Wallachia and Moldavia. However, more importantly, the demographic decline (both in Carpathian plain and Moldavian plain) in the final Roman to early medieval period was nowhere near as drastic as in Poland. It was merely a relative decline. In fact, there was population continuity documented by settlements and burials of "east Germanic" and "late Roman" (to use generic , traditional labelling) type into Avar period, and beyond in the middle Danube and Carpathian basin, as well as areas in the east, between the Danube to the Dnieper, hugging the steppe- forest steppe frontier.

In contrast, in the Elbe-Oder region, there was near complete population collapse. The two regions are not even comparable.

As regards to your second paragraph, what you must be able to do is distinguish between *population continuity* and *ethnic continuity*. The two are very different concepts. Ethnicity and identity can be merely created, or "born", almost suddenly, although they draw upon past traditions and origin myths. Without going into the complex issue of "Slavic ethnogenesis", and the incorrectness of your question "what is the archaeological culture there you would connect them" (as it is founded on the very outdated principles of essentialism / primordialism and culture-history); lets look at the hard archaeological facts: - in the late 5th, 6th and early 7th centuries, pockets of populations only existed in the Carpathian region (ie Hungary), middle Danube (Slovakia, eastern Moravia), and Pomerania and adjacent east Baltic. This is where Poland was likely re-colonized from, and given the newly discovered findings of Avar type weapons and belt fittings in 'early Slavic ' context in Poland, my guess is that M458's expansion and high frequency in Poland is due to this founder effect from Carpathia and subsequent expansion; and not due to some *in situ* origin associated with the Corded Ware culture.

Rob said...

U misunderstood . Generic markers are neither "Slavic ", nor "Germanic" , new "Avar". U need to seriously improve your understanding of anthropolgy & archaeology first, so then future pearls of wisdom make sense to you; and so your forum posts arent B- grade speculaions of an uninformed semi- educate. Regards

Rob said...

And moreover, your inventing your own history . The Slavs did not "become nomads". Their material culture is not nomadic, nor has any scholar ever thought so.
That Poland was colonised from the Carpathians doesn't mean they are avars , but had close links with them. And don't forget that Slavic was the lingua Franca in their empire

Davidski said...

Dr Rob,

I already explained to you that M458 is a marker closely related to the Scandinavian Z284 and Baltic Z280. This should be a strong hint that it didn't arrive from south of Poland very recently, but developed in-situ on the North European Plain from the same mutation as Z284 and Z280. This mutation was Z283, which was likely the main paternal marker within the Corded Ware zone.

Of course, Polish uniparental markers match Polish genome-wide structure and ancient DNA from the region. You don't need several degrees in genetics to understand that the following data, for instance, do not leave any room for a late re-population of Poland from the south.

And I have no idea what you've been reading, but yes, early Slavs are accepted as a nomadic people.

Always glad to be of assistance.

Rob said...

Slavs were itinerant farmers, not nomads. If you don't even know such basics, then there is no point discussing anything further with you. You're just confabulating a theory just to account for the fact that POland was virtually entirely depopulated for 2 centuries !! (500s to 700s). You seem to be unaware that your very own national archaeologists, M Parceski and K Godlowski found this fact ! So the only way you can maintain your chauvinistic ideas of a Polish homeland for Slavs, and even PIEs, is to create an alternate reality that Slavs had always lived there, then for some reason, became "nomadic" for 2 centuries, hence seem to have "disappeared" from the archaeological record. As if ghosts living in trees. And because you, and other supporters of such an idea have no archaeological data to support your ideas, you then fall back on half-baked ideas of a continuity of skull shapes, and other such non-sense, and now "genetic proof" which you really have little if any clear grasp on.

Secondly, "from the south" is a relative term. By south, I mean, Slovakia and the north Carpathian region, so one hardly need to think of an entirely genetically alien population.

No one doubts the 'northern' affinities of modern Poles, but keep in mind there has been a whole lot of 'shaping' subsequent to the 6th century, AD, autosomally speaking (Danish/ Viking intermixture, natural selection to a northern environment, etc)

And Z280 is not "Baltic". It is found throughout eastern Europe- as far as Macedonia and Greece. What makes you call it "Baltic" ? And you have not proven that Z280 and Z284 weren't founding populations from more southern regions . You have not proven an 'autochthonous' origin.

Onur Dincer said...

And I have no idea what you've been reading, but yes, early Slavs are accepted as a nomadic people.

Early Slavs are not accepted as a nomadic society (they were a farming society), and, BTW, that article does not say early Slavs were nomadic. Just like the early Germanic peoples and Vikings, early Slavs had an increased but non-nomadic mobility that was driven by search for booty rather than mode of production and were regarded as barbarians of a non-nomadic kind by Romans/Byzantines.

Davidski said...

Dr Rob,

Z280 shows by far highest SNP diversity between the Carpathians and the Baltic. Z284 is not found outside of Scandinavia unless in areas visited by Vikings. So these markers obviously moved from north to south in recent times.

However, Poles are in fact more "northern" (ie. less Mediterranean) than Danes, and more like the Gotland hunter-gatherers than Swedes. So Scandinavian admixture can't account for the northern-like genetic structure of modern Poles. It has to be a native phenomenon.

Also, the article I linked to clearly says that early Slavs were mobile and could hide out in forests if necessary. Perhaps this is what you're interpreting as an empty Poland at the time?

In any case, your theories certainly don't make any sense when confronted with modern and ancient DNA evidence. But you seem rather clueless in that regard, so I'm not surprised.

Bolek said...

Some Slavs were farmers and some were nomads from the steppe.
Penkov culture is an example of Slavic nomadic steppe culture:

From Mallory's “Encyklopedia of Indo-European culture"

Speculations that Penkov culture had Iranian substrate which was assimilated by Slavs have been debunked by genetics and anthropology. There is no Iranian R1a-Z93 there, only Slavic R1a-Z283.

Farmers can also easily become nomads and this happened in Poland when crisis started. It was caused by climatic changes and collapse of agriculture as well as collapse of trade, wars etc. This was the main reason for the change of archeological culture. People became poor and their material culture changed and as a result there was very little to be found by archeological methods.

Majority of Polish archeologists and historians (Leciejewicz, Hensel, Kostrzewski, Labuda, Jażewski, Dąbrowski etc…) have been always writing about crisis in Poland and not population replacement, also anthropologist (prof. Piontek) and geneticist (prof. Grzybowski) present a lot of modern evidence that there was population continuity in Oder-Vistula basin. Poland experienced crisis in V century, like it happened in other regions of Europe, but not population replacement.

Example of crisis in Britain:

Godłowski and Parczewski are followers of German Kossina and I wouldn’t call them Polish archeologists. Kossina’s method has been considered as pseudoscience by many. Pots are not people. Genetics, anthropology and linguistics present better methods for determining populations changes and they contradict claims of Kossina’s school.

Onur Dincer said...

Also, the article I linked to clearly says that early Slavs were mobile and could hide out in forests if necessary.

That is not what is understood by nomadism. Nomadism is a form of high mobility that is related to mode of production and because of that is usually much more persistent than other forms of high mobility. The high mobility of early medieval Slavs was a temporary phenomenon (it lasted only for a few centuries) as it was separate from mode of production and thus non-nomadic.

Also, that article only says that early medieval Slavs had increased mobility and does not say that they were nomadic.

Rob said...

@ Davidski

We have seriously veered off-topic. You might be a bright fellow and a nice guy, but you dont even have a grasp of how to properly and cautiously reconstruct the genetic evidence, let alone other data (archaeology, linguistics, etc). So i'll leave the archaeology for now becuase you appear in some kind of religious denial that there appears to be nothign but emptiness in most of Poland from ~ 450 AD to 650 AD. Your discussion of 'nomadism' betrays an utter ignorance of what nomdism even is, and relies on questionable-quality sources who have not elicited any serious support outside die-hard 'autochthonist' circles.

Granted M458 might have arisen in the Baltic, but there is equally no reason to doubt that it could have risen elsehwere farther south. Your arguements about Z284 are non -sequitur. The daughter branches of Z 283 could have variuosly arisen anywhere between Scandinavia, the Balkans and central Asia.

You have not produced any real data, no analysis, nor any strong proof that Z 280 arose in the Baltic , or Poland. And when/ where a clade *originates* are a very different thing to when it more recently re-expands. Eg M458 could be 4000 years old, and could have arisen anywhere between the Baltic and Black Sea. However, it likely expanded, or *re-expanded* again in Poland only 1500 years ago, as a re-colonization of deserted Vistula-Oder reigon. This explains its ubiquity and near-fixation frequency there.

Of course, one would need to analyze every subclade and cluster of M458 to show this, somethign I hope to do in the future, but from what I have seen in Piotr Gwozdz work, he has found this very finding, ie that there appears to have a population expansion in Poland exactly 1500 years ago, ie ~ 600 AD.