I am a Western Eurasian

The Caucasus.  By NASA/MODIS - Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=1939) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

I grew up in the age where archaeology was the main driver behind our understanding of the distant past.  It still plays an important role in helping us to understand our human past before writing, and to sometimes correct our understanding of our past ever since the advent of writing.

During the past 24 months however, there has been a silent revolution.  It has been read by what is inside of us, the story of human DNA, and a foray into exploring and mapping ancient human DNA.  It is rewriting the prehistory of Western Eurasia.

First of all, we have to stop retaining ideas that somehow, Western Europeans are an isolate population.  We are the result of admixture after admixture, across Eurasia.  The DNA of humans from Ireland to Iran is strikingly similar.  We are a combination of different admixtures from different populations that lived 1) North of the Caucasus, 2) South of the Caucasus, and 3) Europe.  The Caucasus, as in the photo above, has been the great division between peoples, that allowed local Western Asian populations to divide, that then to admixed in both Western Asia, and in Europe.

This revelation is not yet widely known.  Even many professional archaeologists remain unaware, or skeptical about this new tool.  New migrations and admixture events are being discovered, into Europe, and across Eurasia that contradict previous consensus.

The Founder Populations


The latest evidence suggests that the earlier humans and their cultures of Ice Age Europe, did not survive all of the fluctuations in climate.  A new genome arrived and established 14,000 to 7,000 years ago, as represented by the Villabruna Cluster of human remains.  These last hunter-gatherers appear to have less Neanderthal DNA, and a closer relationship to Near East populations than did earlier Europeans.  They may have migrated into Europe when much of the Aegean Sea dried towards the end of the Ice Age.  These late hunter-gatherers may have contributed DNA to modern Western Eurasians both inside Europe, and in West Asia. When Early Neolithic Farmers arrived in NW Europe, it was probably the descendants of the Villabruna Type that they encountered.  They may have admixed with them.  A genetic legacy from these populations appears to be blue eyes.

South of the Caucasus

The Fertile Crescent spawned the Neolithic Revolution of Agriculture.  A distinctive genetic "ghost" population that has been named the Basal Eurasians significantly contributed to their DNA, along with other hunter-gatherer populations within the area.  Their descendants, the Early Neolithic Farmers, took agriculture, wheat, barley, sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs - along with pottery production, and polished flint axe heads across the Levant, to North Africa, Anatolia, and then on to Europe.  Along the way, they may have admixed with the hunter-gatherer populations that they displaced.  Today, their surviving DNA signal in Europe, is strongest in Sardinia, followed by the remainder of Southern Europe.

North of the Caucasus

Arable agriculture made only a temporary appearance on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes, but was soon replaced by pastoralism and a very different way of life.  The horse was well adapted to life on the Steppes, and humans there domesticated it.  Mounted on horses, they could control larger flocks and herds of livestock.  They also introduced wheeled carts, enabling them to easily mobilise to the best pastures depending on season and climate change.  They also encountered and mastered the new copper then bronze working technologies.  Steppe pastoralists could range long distances across the Steppe Corridor across Eurasia. They were also adapting by natural selection to a dairy based diet, with a rising percentage of lactose tolerance into adulthood.  A significant contribution to their DNA came from a group of Siberian hunter-gatherers known to population geneticists as the Ancient North Eurasian.  The copper age archaeological culture associated with this genetic group is the Yamna or Yamnaya.

Yamna Culture Tomb.  By XVodolazx (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What happened in Europe?

Villabruna types entered Europe around 15,000 years ago, perhaps from the Near East.  They may have replaced earlier groups of European hunter-gatherers.

Early Neolithic Farmers from south of the Caucasus, then spread into Europe around 7,000 years ago, both across the Balkans into Central Europe, and also along the Mediterranean coast, bringing agriculture and pottery.  They may have at times admixed with hunter-gatherers within Europe.  However, their much better abilities at food production created a wave of displacement that must have been hard to resist.  They could rear so many more children.  By 5,000 years ago, their descendants dominated Europe.

Eurasian Steppe Pastoralists from north of the Caucasus, then spread into Eastern Europe around 4,100 years ago.  Why wasn't there a resistance from the Early Neolithic Farmers living there?  Latest research suggests that the Steppe Pastoralists had contracted a plague strain known as Yersinia pestis from Central Asia.  The current favoured hypothesis is that they may have accidentally spread this disease to less resistant Neolithic Farmer populations in Europe.  Some plots in Neolithic activity do indeed suggest a crisis at this time.  Therefore, the Steppe Warriors could easily dominate the depleted and weakened social structures of the Neolithic Europeans.  They brought with them, an Indo-European language, that appears to be the ancestor of most present day European languages.

In Europe, the fusion had a clear sex bias, with many Neolithic mitochondrial DNA haplogroups surviving, while Steppe Y haplogroups such as R1A still dominate today.  The fusion also seemed to give rise to a new archaeological culture known as the Corded Ware.

We know that the Yamnaya expansion didn't stop at all in Eastern Europe, it continued into Western Europe.  A fusion culture may be the Bell Beaker of the Early Bronze Age.  Again, a sex bias, with some mtDNA haplogroups surviving, but a strong dominance of Steppe Y haplogroups including the many clades of R1b.  Indeed, some of this domination is strongest on the Western edge of Eurasia, in places such as Iberia, Ireland, and Scotland, where later admixture events failed to reach - but the Steppe Pastoralists had dominated, particularly in male haplogroups.

How does this relate to this East Anglian?

According to the latest K7 Basal-rich test by David Wesolowski of the Eurogenes Blog, my ancestral breakdown of my autosomal DNA, around 14,000 years ago would be:

  • 57% Villabruna-type (Europe and the Near East)
  • 29% Basal-rich (Middle East)
  • 14% Ancient North Eurasian (Siberia)

My Y haplogroup (L-SK1414) ancestor would have most likely been an ibex hunter in the area of present-day Iran and Iraq, possibly in the valleys of Mesopotamia, and or the Zagros Mountains of Iran.

My mtDNA ancestor would have been Eurasian - by 4,400 years ago, a woman of the Yamnaya, on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes, in a pastoralist tribe.

So, you get where this is taking me.  Step back into prehistory, and what DNA is revealing to me is that my ancestors were NOT all in Britain, or even all in Europe.  They were scattered across Siberia, the Steppes, the Caucasus, the Zagros, the Middle East, the Levant, and go further back, to Africa.

Alternatively, the equally recent Global 10 test, run by my friend Helgenes50 of the Anthrogenica board, resulted in:

  • 55% Baalberge_MN (European Middle Neolithic)
  • 38% Yamna_Samara (Eurasian Steppe Pastoralist)
  • 7% Loschbour:Loschbour (Late Eurasian hunter-gatherer)

These two tests may not actually conflict, as they are essentially tests referring to the Eurasian populations of two different time periods, with different admixtures.  The K7 Basal-rich test refers to my proposed ancestral populations towards the end of the last Ice Age.  The Global 10 test refers to more recent admixture leading up to the Bronze Age. 

I am a Western Eurasian.

Was our Y ancestor a Druze?

From an image published by Ashley Van Haeften and copied here under Creative Commons Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Within hours of publishing my most recent hypothesis: Was our ancestor a Baloch Lascar, I receive news of an incredible rare event.  Someone else on the FTDNA Big Y tested to Y Haplogroup L L-SK1414 (L1b2c).  The sample belonged to a Druze genetics project, and was taken from a man from the Druze town of Zaroun (Matn District) in Lebanon.  The project administrator told me "his ancestors -at least for the past 1000 years- should have been either residents in Mount Lebanon or migrated as many other Druze families from the Idlib region in NW Syria (Jabal el Summaq Mountain)".

The Druze

The Druze are a Levant community, dispersed primarily through Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.  They consider themselves an Arabic culture, but they follow their own faith system, which according to Wikipedia: "The Druze faith is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based on the teachings of Hamza ibn-'Ali, al-Hakim, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and Akhenaten.".

What makes the Druze particularly interesting to population geneticists, is that they stopped accepting converts one thousand years ago.  They marry within their community only.  Therefore they potentially represent a snapshot of the medieval Levant population, without more recent admixture.  A recent genetic study of the Druze confirms this history:

"The researchers also found that there is no evidence of new genes entering the Druze gene pool over the last 1,000 years. In other words, no additional groups from the outside joined this community. In addition, the researchers found evidence of genetic differences between Druze populations from different regions: Lebanon, the Golan Hights, the Upper Galilee and the Carmel Mountain. This strengthens the evidence that marriages take place only within each clan.

When they went further back in time, the researchers discovered another interesting finding. It came to light that, 500 years prior to the beginning of the Druze religion, around the 6th century AD and at the time of the birth of Islam, a genetic group began to take shape that formed the basis of the Druze community’s ancestors.

According to this study, the Druze genome is largely similar to the genome of other Arab populations in the Middle East. They also found a few genetic elements in the Druze genome that originated from Europe, Central and South Asia (the Iran region) and Africa.".


Studies have found that although a variety of both Y and mt haplogroups can be found in the Druze community, they appear to have been isolated for that time period.  So a haplotype found within the Druze, would have been in the region of North-West Syria and Lebanon, during the 11th Century AD.

Druze Clerics During the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate era (late 19th Century AD). See page for author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

How does this change my perspective on my Y origins into Europe?

L-SK1414 now looks more dispersed across Western Asia, from the Levant, to Pakistan.  That might mean that my medieval Y migrant from Asia to England didn't take a Lascar route from the Persian Gulf / Arabian Sea after all.  It could be that they traveled from the Levant along the Mediterranean, or even across Europe?  They may not have a Balochi connection - they could have been of many Asian ethnicities.  It's a good example of how easy it is to develop a hypothesis based on too little evidence.

As for the origins of L-SK1414, I'm now looking a little more south, and a little more central.  Favourite suggestion now is Tigris and Euphrates Valleys, and the Zagros Mountains, in Iraq and Iran.  L-SK1414 could have dispersed westwards to the Levant, and eastwards to Makran, SW Pakistan.

Here is the distribution of recorded Y haplotype L-SK1414 so far in Western Asia:

Note the centralised nature of the Iran / Iraq "Cradle of Civilisation" to L-SK1414.  Could our Y ancestors have passed through Ancient Mesopotamia?  Now there's an interesting thought!

Was our Y ancestor a Baloch Lascar?

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  "A Portrait of an Indian Gentleman," by A. Smith, 1841.  No.  This portrait was not one of my ancestors.  It is believed to have been painted in England.  However, my Asian Y ancestor must have been here previous to 1700.  This relates to my Y line, inherited down my father's, father's father line and so on.  Descendants for example of Reginald J Brooker, should share this heritage.  My Y-DNA research indicates that I had an Asian ancestor, that most likely moved to Southern England sometime between 1,800 and 500 years ago.  I did find this portrait however, on Wikimedia Commons, whilst searching the subject of who my Y ancestors in Asia were, and why one may have travelled to England.

Let's start a little further back.  My Y-DNA is West Asian in origin.  I share my current terminal Y-DNA SNP (L-SK1414) with a guy that is a Balochi speaker from Makran in SW Pakistan, close to the border with Iran.  I also match fairly well (on STR tests) with a guy who's paternal line hailed from the town of Birjand, South Khorasan, Iran.

Now, although my Australian Y cousin with ancestry in South Khorasan didn't know of any family Balochi link - it's possible.  Balochi, have lived in that region of Eastern Iran.  It may, just may, be a link.  Who are and were the Baloch?

Origins of the Baloch People

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  Iranian Baloch khans in Qajar era, c. 1902.  The Baloch people today are spread across Western and Central Asia, mainly found in SW Pakistan, SE Iran, and Afghanistan.  

The pink areas display the main Balochi areas today.  The red outline suggesting likely homelands for my Y-DNA.  Also marked by red spots, are the homes of the two recorded L-SK1414 in that area.  It is estimated that there are 15 million Baloch people across the World today.  The Balochi language is Iranic.  It has been ascribed by linguists as belonging to the North-West Iranic family, close to Kurdish.  Yet the Balochi today, are in the South-East of the Region.  The traditional origin story told by the Baloch people, is that they were Arabic, and originated in Syria.

However, linguists and historians today usually suggest that they were in fact, refugees from Arabic expansion, that migrated mainly east and south east, over several centuries (starting circa 7th Century AD) from an area close to the Caspian Sea in Northern Iran.  This puts Birjand incidentally, on the route of that migration.  It also leads from what I consider to be the homelands of the mother clade - Y hg L1b (L-M317), between the Caspian and Black seas.  Today, the majority of the Baloch are Sunni Muslim (some are Shia).  However, many early migrants from the North West may have ascribed to other religions including Zoroastrianism.  An attack on Persia by the Seljuk Turks from Central Asia during the 11th Century AD, may have accelerated Baloch migration to present day Balochistan. Today, the Baloch of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan are divided into an estimated 130 tribes.

As for Balochistan itself, when Alexander of Macedonia, passed through it, during the 4th Century BC, it was known as the Kingdom of Gedrosia.  Balochistan has long been sandwiched and pulled between the great empires of Persia, and India.  Even today, it is divided between these two political boundaries.  A large region with a sparse population, but a firmly stamped ethnic identity.

According to Akhilesh Pillalamarri "In the 1500s, Balochistan like Afghanistan to its north, became divided into zones of control between the Safavid Persian Empire to its west and the Mughal Empire to its east. This approximately reflects the Iran-Pakistan border today."

Could this friction even have lead my Y ancestor to move?  When did European ships appear on the coastline?

That's the Baloch hypothesis.  Now for the next, the Lascar hypothesis.

The Asian Lascar

By National Maritime Museum from Greenwich, United Kingdom [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons. Three lascars on the Viceroy of India.

Our Y ancestor may have moved to Southern England for all sorts of reasons:  merchant, diplomat, adventurer, slave, hostage, prisoner of war, trader, mercenary, servant, religious convert, refugee, etc.  Genetic genealogists tend all too often to cling to known historical events such as battles.  I'd be very wary of that. 

With that in mind... here is one new possibility (as opposed to a probability), that I am presently considering.  

The Lascar.

Lascar derives from al-askar, the Arabic word for a guard or soldier.  When European ships first started to sail the trade routes to India and the Middle East, they often suffered losses of life on the way.  Subsequently, they would recruit new sailors at their ports of call.  Arab traders had scattered seamanship and sailing skills along the coast line around the Persian Gulf, and the practice of Lascars may have already been established before the first Portuguese ships picked them up.  The European practice of taking on Lascars is believed to have started as early as the 16th Century.  It continued through to the 20th Century.  Just about in time, to account for my Y-DNA in Southern England, that turns up during the early 18th Century in two surname families.  It's possible.

Apparently, the Lascars received even poorer food and water than even the late British sailors that they replaced.  Therefore, many jumped ship when they reached England.  Their intentions may not have been immigration, but they couldn't risk the return voyage.  This, it is said, was the very first root of the present day Asian settlement of Britain. It has been speculated that the portrait at the top of the post, may have been of a former Lascar, or ... servant!  Why not though, a traveller that has succeeded?

Why would a 16th or 17th Century European trading ship visit Balochistan?  Did it?  Our ancestor may have already moved either westwards or down to an Indian port.  He may have been a professional sailor!

It's one possibilty.

By National Maritime Museum from Greenwich, United Kingdom [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons. Lascars at the Royal Albert Dock in LondonThree lascars on the Viceroy of India. 1936.