Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe

Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe

The debate concerning the mechanisms underlying the prehistoric spread of farming to Southeast Europe is framed around the opposing roles of population movement and cultural diffusion. To investigate the possible involvement of local people during the transition of agriculture in the Balkans, we analysed patterns of Y-chromosome diversity in 1206 subjects from 17 population samples, mainly from Southeast Europe. Evidence from three Y-chromosome lineages, I-M423, E-V13 and J-M241, make it possible to distinguish between Holocene Mesolithic forager and subsequent Neolithic range expansions from the eastern Sahara and the Near East, respectively. In particular, whereas the Balkan microsatellite variation associated to J-M241 correlates with the Neolithic period, those related to E-V13 and I-M423 Balkan Y chromosomes are consistent with a late Mesolithic time frame. In addition, the low frequency and variance associated to I-M423 and E-V13 in Anatolia and the Middle East, support an European Mesolithic origin of these two clades. Thus, these Balkan Mesolithic foragers with their own autochthonous genetic signatures, were destined to become the earliest to adopt farming, when it was subsequently  introduced by a cadre ofmigrating farmers from the Near East. These initial local converted farmers became the principal agents spreading this economy using maritime leapfrog colonization strategies in the Adriatic and transmitting the Neolithic cultural package to other adjacent Mesolithic populations. The ensuing range expansions of E-V13 and I-M423 parallel in space and time the diffusion of Neolithic Impressed Ware, thereby supporting a case of cultural diffusion using genetic evidence.

ydna clustering ymaps

Most relevant /interesting bits from my POV

Hg J is most common (B50%) in the Middle East and Anatolia,27,29,47 with a spread zone spanning from northwest Africa to India.12,55 It has been related to different Middle Eastern migrations.12,56 In addition to Hg J-M410, Hg G-P15 chromosomes, which are also common in Anatolia,29 have been implicated in the colonization and subsequent expansion of early farmers in Crete, the Aegean and Italy.38,46 – 48 Earlier studies have concluded that the J-M410 sub-clades, J-DYS445-6 and J-M67, are linked to the spread of farming in the Mediterranean Basin,38,47 with a likely origin in Anatolia.29 Interestingly, J-DYS445-6 and J-M92 (a sub-lineage of M67), both have expansion times between 7000 and 8000 years ago (Table 1), consistent with the dating of the arrival of the first farmers to the Balkans. The first detection of milk residue in ceramic pottery occurs in sites from northwest Anatolia 7000–8500 years ago,58 an age that approximates the Hg-expansion times.


On the other hand, the expansion times of Hg V13 (Table 3) are consistent with a late Mesolithic time frame. The Greek Mesolithic, although different in its material culture from the Natufian Mesolithic of the Levant, bears some resemblance to the Mesolithic of southern Anatolia. 60 This archaeological congruence between the Mesolithic of the Balkans and southern Anatolia may mirror the similar E-V13 expansion times observed for Konya, Franchthi Cave and Macedonian Greece, all approximately 9000 years ago. Moreover, E-V13 YSTR-related data from Bulgaria and Macedonia,28 both with a variances of 0.28, suggest an expansion time of approximately 10 000 years ago. It is likely that the origin of V13 occurred somewhere
within the zone of these sample collections. In addition, it is also worth noting that in the Anatolian region of supposed Einkorn wheat origin , only one V13 chromosome out of 43 is found (PA Underhill, unpublished data). Therefore, as no evidence at present supports the association of E-V13 Hg with the attested origin of farming in southeast Anatolia, the possibility of farming adoption by Balkan E-V13- associated people is plausible.

I’d like to comment that a possibly V13 people migrated into Southern Greece from Anatolia in the Mesolithic into Francthi cave, although the expansion is a good deal early than the dates given (always treat Y chr dating with scepticism) at 13,500 BP. Although this still sees V13 in the Mesolithic, as observed, and within the range for Francthi cave given at 9.4 +/- 4.3 ky.

Konya-Turkeyc (10)                                             9.4 ± 2.9
Macedonian Greecec (8)                                     8.5 ± 4.5
Nea Nikomedeia (North Greece) (6)               8.6 ± 4.0
Seklo and Dimini (Central Greece)d                4.3 ± 1.8
Lerna and Franchthi Cave (S.Greece)             9.2 ± 4.3

Observing that the older numbers here seem to match the migrations, it would seem V13 entered Conya about 12,000 years ago. But my provisional dates on the domestication of lentils and vetch seem to predate this ( about 14,000 years min) so it seems v13 carriers didn’t bring agriculture into Turkey, and the paper comments that M78 isn’t common in Southern Turkey where the first domesticates come from.But attributing the northwards move of M78 to the Mesolithic isn’t correct, about 22k ago is the date for the Egyptian derived Kebaran to arrive in the Levant.

Compare this to the dates for the JM241..

Turkey               10.1 3.4
Albaniad           5.4±2.5
FYROM              2.4 1.2
Greece                2.9±1.2
Central Italy     5.8±1.4
Apulia                 9.6 3.4
Sicily                   10±5.4

Although it does have some suspiciously old dates for Sicily. But I’d agree with the paper that I-M243 shows a nice match to the spread of the Neolithic.

10 responses to “Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe

  1. Matilda,

    The graphics are so small – any chance you could enlarge them, or add a click to enlarge??

  2. First a technical warning: two of the thumbnails do not expand when clicked (you open a pic but same tiny size).

    I’d like to comment that a possibly V13 people migrated into Southern Greece from Anatolia in the Mesolithic into Francthi cave

    Sounds plausible.

    Most interesting is that the highest diversity for E-v13 is precisely in that area of southern Anatolia, suggesting a founder effect in Greek Meslithic (or earliest Neolithic maybe?).

    Find also interesting that haplogroup I2a has highest diveristy in Ukraine, supporting the old idea that haplogroup I is most directly related to Eastern Gravettian, even if it also participated in the Neolithic and IE expansions.

    • Aargh, bloody links!!!

      I think a couple of sources I’ve read now have suggested a leapfrogging into Southern spain from Anatolia in the pre Neolithic era.

  3. Matilda,

    Do you mean Tartessos:

    And the Tartessian language:


  4. …leapfrogging into Southern spain from Anatolia in the pre Neolithic era.

    Intriguing but outmost imprecise note. I wonder what you mean.

    • Leapfrogging is used here to mean ‘skipping a step’ or ‘moving past an intermediate are or stage’. If that’s what you meant.

  5. My question was rather about “the pre-neolithic era” and the archaeological indications I assume you know and I do not. AFAIK, the pre-Neolithic is Epipaleolithic and there’s absolutely no indication in Iberia of any migration from Anatolia or elsewhere (except France) at that time.

    I did mention once or twice an alleged Andalusian pre-Cardium Neolithic of unknown origin but Zilhao argues that it’s just a matter of wrong datations in disturbed sediments and that it’s actually nothing but epicardial.

    There could be “leapfrogging” arguably later on since the Chalcolithic era (most likely from Cyprus first, and from Crete-Greece in the Bronze Age) but the evidence for the Chalcolithic is very scant (a glass bead or two, nothing compared with the aboundance of evidence of trade with Northern Europe and Africa) and he evidence for the Bronze Age is mostly cultural (Greek burial customs adopted in Iberia and vice versa, again with very limited material evidence).

    I know that, in the Neolithic, a few locations (notably Alicante and Valencia provinces, as well as Balearic islands) were colonized rather than just assimilated the natives. But the general picture is one of cultural assimilation or even I would dare say, hybridation, with native stone utillage and imported pottery styles and agriculural practices. It is the same picture in Italy and SE France. The origin of Cardium anyhow seem to be in the western Balcans, with a precursor at Otzaki (pre-Sesklo).

    Linguistically the only language that Iberian (or even mysterious Tartessian) has been related with tentatively is Basque-Aquitanian, what doesn’t seem to suggest a remote origin.

  6. I am interested in the history of food and growing it seems to have been a very common idea all around the world (New Guineans grew bananas 7000 years ago). Our creative side would not have developed so well without our desire to secure our food supply. And now we can retrace our steps by the study of food. Ah ! Science is amazing. I am not sure I understand the process though…?

  7. I didn’t quite understand this article. but i think it’s great to have people doing such researches.

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