Celebrating my Steppe and Beaker Ancestors

Ecoregion PA0814

The Pontic Steppes, by Terpsichores [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I've previously dealt with my Ice Age hunter-gatherer ancestry, as indicated by DNA test result calculators, and with my Neolithic Farmer ancestry.  That leaves the third major late prehistoric contributor to the Western European Genome.  The most recent, and perhaps the most character defining - the Chalcolithic Steppe pastoralists or Yamnaya element.

My Yamnaya ancestors

Y-DNA haplogroup enthusiasts of European descent absolutely LOVE this one.  This is because the majority of men of Europe have a Y haplogroup that arrived here from the Eurasian Steppes with this immigration wave.  All of those R1a's and R1b's.  My personal Y haplogroup didn't!  But I'm a nonconformist with a nonconforming Y-DNA haplogroup. Populations such as the modern Irish men, on the western edge of Europe, can trace most of their R1b haplogroups to the Steppes!  That some of of the earlier hunter-gatherer and Neolithic DNA here earlier still survives in most of us, suggests that this long migration consisted mainly of men.  My mtDNA haplogroup though, as usual, is atypical - because H6a1 is one of the few maternal lineages in Europe that DOES also trace back in ancient DNA samples to the Yamnaya pastoralists.  So, I DO have a Steppe haplogroup, only through my motherline.

The Eurasian Steppes have been a super highway of people, goods, culture, and genes, for thousands of years - linking Asia to Europe.  A long, sometimes narrow corridor of natural grasslands.  The wild ancestors of the domestic horse lived there.  They had adapted to life in harsh environments such as this.

The Yamnaya themselves appear to have been admixed between different earlier Ice Age populations, including Caucasus Hunter-Foragers, East European Hunter-Gatherers, and the enigmatic Ancient North Eurasian Siberian ghost population, that were also among the ancestors of Native Americans.

One of the successes of the Steppe pastoralists, was that they embraced the horse.  They rode their horses, enabling them to control larger herds of sheep, goats, horses, and cattle.  That was one element of success.  They also utilised the wheel, and built the first wagons and carts to be pulled by those horses and ox.  This gave them a greater mobility, to move their livestock seasonally to further pastures.  Biologically they were also adapting to a dairy based diet with lactose tolerance.  Finally, they embraced the new metallurgy of copper, and then bronze working.  The raw materials of this new technology shifted along the Steppes, and through their contact with many peoples, including with the new towns and kingdoms south of the Caucasus.

Another factor that needs to be considered, is that according to some scholars, they brought the Indo-European group of languages to Europe, which are ancestral to most European languages today.

Recent evidence has been produced that suggests that some of the pastoralists carried a plague virus, transmitted from a Central Asian origin.  A new hypothesis is that they may have unintentionally passed this plague onto the Neolithic Europeans, weakening their populations and societies.

Whether this hypothesis ever substantiates or not, the archaeological and genetic evidence is that the Second Millennium BC saw many of these Steppe men (and my mtDNA ancestor) spill westwards into Copper Age Europe.  After 2,900 BC, their arrival, and fusion with local populations and traditions may have inspired the Corded Ware Culture of Central and Eastern Europe.  My mtDNA haplogroup H6a1a suddenly appears in Central Europe, associated with this culture.

These horsemen of bronze, or their descendants didn't stop the Westward advance.  Within a few hundred years, they also dominated Western Europe.  There, their arrival may have spawned another fusion culture - the Bell Beaker.

Above image, bell beaker burial exhibited in the British Museum.

My Bell Beaker Ancestors

The Maritime Bell Beaker Culture may have originated when these horsemen arrived in Iberia.  When I was a keen amateur archaeologist and field walker, I'd feel a lot of contact with them.  Many, if not the majority of the struck flints that I recorded in Thetford Forest were considered "bronze age".  I would also survey the surviving round barrows in the forest, and look for unrecorded examples.  I also spent a week with Suffolk archaeology, studying new aerial reconnaissance photographs, and helping to chart the soil and crop marks of long ploughed out barrows.  I had no idea then, that this barrow burial tradition had actually been brought from the Steppes of Eurasia.  Archaeology at the time didn't see the Bell Beaker as the arrival of people.  They saw it as a cultural transference from Iberia.  Genetics is now telling us differently.

A barbed and tanged flint arrowhead from one of my surveys.  A classic Bell Beaker artifact.

The Maritime Bell Beaker Culture of the Early Bronze Age appears to have gradually evolved by the beginning of the Iron Age, into what we traditionally call the Atlantic Seaboard Celtic Culture, so strong in places such as Ireland and Scotland.  Yet, most Irishmen carry the Y haplogroup R1b SNPs such as L21. A recent Irish DNA Study revealed that they found the modern Irish not only a fairly homogeneous population, but that it had its roots, particularly on male haplogroups, firmly in the Pontic and Caspian Steppes of what is now Ukraine and Southern Russia.  They also studied the DNA from remains of Bronze Age, and the earlier Neolithic people that lived in Ireland, and pronounced them to have had different origins.  The earlier, Neolithic Irish largely descended from population that originated in SW Asia.

http://www.pnas.org/content/113/2/368.full

Here in Britain also, the majority of men carry R1b Y-DNA.  I have a Steppe mtDNA haplogroup from my mother.  Additionally autosomal DNA calculators suggest that maybe circa 30% of my Copper Age ancestors were Steppe.  However, where did my Steppe ancestry come in?  The obvious would be from British Celts - but that is an unsafe assumption.  My recorded ancestry is totally SE English, and strongly East Anglian.  My autosomal DNA "flavour" though is atypical for a Brit, and is unusually Continental, with a tertiary pull from Southern Europe, that I can't explain.  If many of my ancestors two thousand years ago actually lived outside of the British Isles, most likely on the Continent, then they could have inherited much of this Steppe there.

Image above. A local round barrow burial mound hidden in Thetford Forest.

Ultimately of course, I know where maybe a third of my ancestors lived 4,000 years ago.  They were pastoralists on the windy Pontic Steppes, looking to the west, and wandering, what opportunities lay there?

My Ancient DNA Calculators

David Wesolowski's K7 Basal-rich test

Ancient North Eurasian

Another Ice Age hunter-gatherer "Ghost" population, but this one has been associated with human remains and an Upper Palaeolithic culture (Mal'ta-Buret') at Lake Baikal, Siberia.  We know that it significantly contributes to modern West Eurasians, through earlier admixture on the Eurasian Steppes.  Copper Age pastoralists then carried it westwards into Europe with their later expansion.

David gives the English average as 16.6%.  My result is 14.0%

Global 10 Test

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

  • 38% Yamna_Samara (Eurasian Steppe Pastoralist)

FT-DNA My Ancient Origins

  • 9% Metal Age Invader

My MDLP K16 Modern Admixture

  • 22% Steppe (sourced from ancient genome of European Bronze Age pastoralists)
  • 22% Caucasian (derived from genomes of mesolithic Caucasian Hunter-gatherers)

My MDLP Modern K11 Oracle:

Closest Genetic Distances:

Using 1 population approximation:
1 British_Celtic @ 6.948432
2 Bell_Beaker_Germany @ 8.143357
3 Alberstedt_LN @ 8.426399
4 British_IronAge @ 9.027687
5 Halberstadt_LBA @ 10.273615
6 Bell_Beaker_Czech @ 12.190828
7 Hungary_BA @ 12.297826
8 Nordic_MN_B @ 12.959966
9 British_AngloSaxon @ 12.993559
10 Nordic_BA @ 13.170285

mt DNA Haplogroup H6a1 Resource Page

Above image by Marta D. Costa, Joana B. Pereira, Maria Pala, Verónica Fernandes, Anna Olivieri, Alessandro Achilli, Ugo A. Perego, Sergei Rychkov, Oksana Naumova, Jiři Hatina, Scott R. Woodward, Ken Khong Eng, Vincent Macaulay, Martin Carr, Pedro Soares, Luísa Pereira & Martin B. Richards [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I'm gathering here, data on H6a1a, in preparation for my expected FT-DNA mtFull Sequence test results later this month.  23andMe has previously tested me to H6a1.  The James Lick and Wegene analysis services both predict me to be H6a1a8. What will FT-DNA say?

A collection of ancient references for mitochondrial DNA haplogroup H6 so far (2017-01-02) harvested from Ancestral Journeys

Palaeolithic Western Eurasian aDNA

No mtDNA H6 so far found.  Mainly U

Mesolithic Western Eurasian aDNA

No mtDNA H6 so far found.  Mainly U.  Other H found in Russia, Georgia, and Sweden.

Near Eastern Neolithic aDNA

No mtDNA H6 so far found.  Some H.

European Neolithic aDNA

No mtDNA H6 so far found.  Many other H.

Copper and Bronze Age aDNA

  • H6.  Israel Wadi el Makkukh. 4240-4065 BC
  • H6a1b.  Yamnaya.  Russia Kutuluk River, Samara. 3300-2700 BC
  • H6a2.  Potavka.  Russia Kutuluk River, Samara.2867-2484 BC
  • H6a1a.  Corded Ware.  Germany.  Esperstedt.  2465-2395 BC
  • H6a1b.  Okunevo.  Russia.  Verkhni Askiz.  2201-2036 BC
  • H6a1b3.  Unetice.  Germany.  Leau.  2200-1550 BC
  • H6a1a.  Srubnaya.  Russia.  Spiridonovka, Samara River.  1913-1629 BC

Iron Age aDNA

No mtDNA H6 yet found.  Many other H.

Ancient Roman aDNA

  • H6a1a.  Romano-British.  England.  York.  100-400 AD
  • H6a1b2. Romano-British.  England.  York. 100-400 AD.

Medieval and later European and Western Asian aDNA

  • H6a1b1.  Lombard.  Italy.  600-800 AD
  • H6.  Viking.  Oppland, Norway.
  • H6a1a.  Magyar.  Karos-Eperjesszög, Hungary. 800-850 AD
  • H6a1b. Magyar.  Karos-Eperjesszög, Hungary. 900-950 AD
  • H6a1a.  Medieval English.  East Smithfield, London, England.  1347–1351 AD.

Discussion

Above image by User:Dbachmann [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Although this is based on limited samples (albeit rapidly growing samples over the past year), there is of mt haplogroup H spread across Western Eurasia, certainly by the Mesolithic period.  Today, it is the most common haplogroup in Europe, found in 41% of Europeans.

H6 however, is less certain.  It has been suggested that it is more frequent in Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus.  The above ancient DNA references, collected so far, might suggest that H6a1 arrived into Europe with the Yamnaya expansion off of the Eurasian Steppes, carried by Steppe pastoralists migrating westwards, during the Copper Age / Early Bronze Age.  H6a1a itself, first appears in the Corded Ware Culture, which has recently been recognised as a fusion culture, that developed in Eastern / Central Europe, as a result of the arrival of the Steppe pastoralists.

The samples above suggest that H6a1a was present in Britain previous to the Anglo-Saxon period, and was also present in Medieval London.

H6a1a Today

Harvested from the FT-DNA MT-DNA H6 Haplogroup Project (2017-01-02).  These samples are most likely affected by a bias in sampling, to people of European heritage.

H6a1a - T11253C.  Britain, Ireland, Netherlands, Central Europe, Italy, Iberia, Balkans.  A cluster in SW Britain probably caused by sampling bias.

  • H6a1a* - G16526A.  Czech Rep.  Poland.
  • H6a1a* - T3548C.  Sweden, and Sicily.
  • H6a1a2a - C41T, G16482A.  Lithuania
  • H6a1a2a* - A297G, A14970G.  England
  • H6a1a3 - T5785C.  England (Norfolk), Germany, Poland, and Ukraine.
  • H6a1a3* - T7094C.  Finland.
  • H6a1a3a - A827G.  Scotland
  • H6a1a4 - T10237C.  Norway, Poland, England, and Ukraine.
  • H6a1a5 - C10936T.  Very Eastern Europe - Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldovia, and Romania.
  • H6a1a5* - T5302C.  Russia.
  • H6a1a6 - A288G.  Poland.
  • H6a1a8a - T6185C, G16145A.  Wales.

Haplogroup.org.

The Haplogroup.org website proposes the following dates:

H6a1

Age: 8,669.7 ± 1,905.2; CI=95% (Behar et al., 2012b)

Origin: Undetermined
Mutations: A4727G

H6a1a

Age: 7,139.5 ± 1,993.2; CI=95% (Behar et al., 2012b)
Origin: Undetermined
Mutations: T11253C

H6a1a8

Age: 2,023.7 ± 1,898.9; CI=95% (Behar et al., 2012b)
Origin: Undetermined
Mutations: T16298C

Facebook Group



2017-01-04 UPDATE


I received my FT-DNA mtDNA Full Sequence test results.

Confirmed H6a1a8.


Matches mainly North America and Australasia without many Old World provenances.  However, I'm getting the distinct impression that it's been in the British Isles for some time.  I'm starting to research, but I'm seeing England, Ireland, Wales, maybe Finland.

Using the above Behar et al dating of H6a1a8, I age this haplotype to between 1970 BC and 1825 AD.  It's not old, although most likely late prehistoric.  It must have formed after Corded Ware, Unetice, etc.  Might date towards the end of the Bell Beaker Culture at a stretch, but most likely later - Iron Age perhaps?

My main interest is origins, with genealogy only as a bonus. I'm interested in knowing where H6a1a8 originates! H6a1 has been found in Yamna context. H6a1 and H6a1a have been found in Corded Ware context. No earlier H6a1 found in European atDNA. So it appears likely, that H6a1/a was an mt DNA type that followed the many Y-DNA types of the Copper Age Steppe migration across Europe - despite the usual dominance of Steppe Y haplogroups in Western Europe that indicate a male sex bias. 

Behar et al., 2012b, dates H6a1 to 8,669.7 ± 1,905.2; CI=95%, H6a1a to 7,139.5 ± 1,993.2; CI=95%, and H6a1a8 to 2,023.7 ± 1,898.9; CI=95% So I see H6a1a8 as pretty young, most likely Bronze Age or Iron Age. I'm curious as to when it distributed through Europe, and when it likely entered the British Isles. My mt-line has been in Norfolk, England for at least 290 years, when my earliest mt ancestor, Susannah Briting was born. She married my ancestor at Bunwell, Norfolk in 1747. I'd say that the probability is that it had been here in East Anglia long before that paper trail. So when did it likely move here?

23andMe had previously tested me to H6a1. Both the James Lick mthap analyser, and WeGene, looking at the 23andMe raw data, took that to H6a1a8. They were correct:

The FT-DNA mtFull Sequence confirmed my mt haplogroup to be H6a1a8.

My HRV1 mutations are: A16129G, T16187C, C16189T, T16223C, G16230A, T16278C, T16298C, C16311T, T16362C, A16482G, C16519T
My HRV2 mutations are: G73A, C146T, C152T, C195T, T239C, A247G, 522.1A, 522.2C, 309.1C, 309.2C, 315.1C
Extra mutations are: 309.1C309.2C315.1C522.1A522.2CC16519T

HRV1 matches are:

England 3
Hungary 1
Ireland 4
UK 1
USA 1

HRV1 + 2 matches are:

England 2
Hungary 1
Ireland 3

I have a "HRV1, HRV2, and Coding Region" exact match: Ireland 2

On Matches I get four GD0, but all appear USA/Aus, etc. I have emailed them. Three replied. No paper or geographical correlations. They can't follow their mt lines previous to emigration. They could come from anywhere in Europe, although English surnames keep dominating on their maternal sides.

On Matches map, a little more hope:



I've joined the H6 project, but being a development of the pretty massive mt hg H Project, it is drowned in submissions, with a long waiting queue of "ungrouped". The only other H6a1a8 on the results is USA. There is a H6a1a8a ungrouped as private located as "Finland", and another H6a1a8a located to Wales.

Other Links


H6a1a/H6a1b linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer's Disease