Sunday, 4 August 2013

Y-DNA Haplogroups of Europe

Child of the Indo-Europeans tribes? Actress Ivana Baquero is from Catalonia
(Spain) where haplogroup R1b is represented by over 80% of men
Last week I discovered what Y-DNA haplogroups are and I was fascinated, for they represent the most reliable analysis of the genetic make up of nations that science has offered to date. Being a child of Europe I was most interested to learn about the ethnic/genetic make up of people from this region (excluding post WW2 immigrants). As I did I was surprised, amused and somewhat discomfited to learn that there really is no such thing as ethnic purity and just about everyone is related to everyone else – and not just in Europe. I also realised that the pride I have felt regarding my Indo-European ancestors (probably represented by haplogroups R1a and R1b) should perhaps be balanced with an acceptance that the Indo-Europeans encroached on lands traditionally belonging to the “native” inhabitants of Europe (represented by haplogroup I) – who did not die out, but interbred with their possible conquerors – and who are also almost certainly my ancestors. Then there is the real possibility that I have some ancestors belonging to various other haplogroups with diverse origins, such as J2 and G2 (west Asian), N1C1 (north Asian) and E1b1b (north African) – which are found across European populations.

Tentative conclusions that can be drawn about the genetic origins of European populations from studying the occurrence of Y-Chromosone DNA haplogroups in regional populations are as follows (but note that Y-DNA haplogroups only refer to ethnicity via the male line): 

Selected regions of Europe
I1, I2, I2a & I2b
G (esp G2a)
R1a & R1b
Italy – Sardinia
Italy – Sicily

* The study only used 250-500 people in the study of the occurrence of Y-DNA haplogroups in these nations therefore the results may be somewhat flawed. All of this information is sourced from

Summary of haplogroups common in Europe
Footballer Mateo Kovacic's parents
are Bosnian-Croats; where more than
55of men may be Haplogroup I2. 
Haplogroup I: (origin = probably the first people of Europe. Notable cultural attributes = hunter-gatherers par excellence) the oldest haplogroup of Europe; present during the mesolithic era – this haplogroup is mostly found in Europe and in small amounts in the regions bordering on Europe. Mesolithic Europeans were hunter-gatherers who, at least occasionally, practiced cannibalism on the one hand but carefully buried their dead on the other – usually in collective graves. It would be a mistake to regard haplogroup I people as crudely backward, for they were very likely the artists of the famous prehistoric caves in southern France, such as the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc. It is believed they originally had dark skin but subsequently developed blue eyes and fair skin; some retained dark hair while others, especially in the north, acquired fair hair. They are thought to have been tall for the age. Studies suggest that Bosnian Croats have particularly high levels of I2 (55%+) and are thus perhaps most indicative of what indigenous Europeans looked like. Haplogroup I is associated with the many Venus figurines found across Europe and thus perhaps with the worship of a fertility/mother Goddess (or Goddesses). The culture of I people is thought to have been matrilineal and more egalitarian than that of the Indo-Europeans with whom they later interbred. Haplogroup I2 is found right across Europe and appears to derive from SE Europe (circa 17,000 years ago). In our own times I2 is most prevalent in the upper regions of the Balkans, as well as Sardinia and Corsica. Haplogroup I1 is specifically associated with Germanic ancestry, for it originated in Scandinavia and is estimated to have been present in all ancient Germanic populations to a degree of between 15-50%. I1 is present in every region of Europe except for Cyprus, Corsica, Sardinia and Andalusia in Spain. It's prevalence is indicative of the success Germanic men had in spreading their paternity across Europe, presumably following the collapse of the Roman empire. Regions which have more than 15% of I1 indicate that Germanic ancestry is predominant. This includes Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, southern Scotland and most of England (Cumbria, Cornwall, Kent, Sussex, Surrey and London are exceptions, with I1 only present in those regions to a degree of between 5-10%). Other regions which indicate a significant degree of Germanic ancestry include Switzerland, Austria and Belgium. More surprisingly, I1 is present at a degree of between 7-10% (suggesting a reasonable percentage of Germanic ancestry, perhaps around a third or more of the male line) in northern regions of France and Italy, eastern Ireland, east central Europe and Serbia.

A Nenet girl from Siberia - Nenets are 95% N1C
Haplogroup N1C1: (origin = east Asia. Notable cultural attributes = Shamanic nomads of the extreme north) neolithic age immigrants – this haplogroup is most common across northeast Europe (esp. Baltic nations and Russia), but is also found across northern Asia, especially in Siberia. It ultimately derives from haplogroup N which probably originated in east Asia 15,000-20,000 years ago. N1C1 people are associated with the comb ceramic culture, which means they were innovative nomads who lived by hunting, fishing and gathering plants. They had domesticated dogs and used superior tools made of slate, including arrowheads, which gave them an edge when hunting; they were especially skilled at hunting sea mammals. They were early adopters of pottery-making and some of their ceramic vessels had the capacity to hold over 100 litres. Theirs is referred to as "comb ceramic culture" because their pottery was often decorated with a comb like tool. They probably traded their wares, facilitated by the use of the skis and sled runners they are known to have used (other items they traded would likely have included slate and amber); they also used canoes, if not boats. Their burial customs suggest they had a more hierarchal society than Haplogroup I people. Ethnohistorical data (based on studies of northeastern Europeans and Siberians) suggests their religion was animistic. Offerings were made to the Gods/spirits to ensure good health, welfare and success in hunting. The remains of hunted animals, after being eaten, were the subject of some kind of rite to prevent their spirits, or divine protective spirits (for certain animals were sacred to certain Gods/spirits), from taking vengeance. Shamans, who could be male or female, were community leaders who communicated with the spirit world, which was likely facilitated by "practicing techniques of ecstasy", aided by ritual equipment such as drums or other musical instruments, special clothing (eg, cloaks), horned masks or headgear and models of animal spirit helpers. Water birds were the most prominent spirit helpers (due to their ability to both fly and swim, which signified they could lead the shaman to the spirit worlds above and below), as were bears, elk and deer  such animals were thought to be "messenger animals", encompassing channels of communication with the world of the  Gods/spirits (Bailey at 44).

Haplogroup G: (origin = west Asia. Notable cultural attributes = early adopters of farming and mountain specialists) neolithic age immigrants – this haplogroup is present in around 10% of men in Italy and Turkey (and 7.5% of Austria and Switzerland), but is most commonly found in the Caucasus region, though it likely originated further south. It is present in less than 5% of men in most other nations in Europe. G2a is the most common G haplogroup in Europe. Interestingly, its related lineage, G2b, is almost exclusively found within Ashkenazi Jewish populations – the split between the G2 lineages would have occurred over 8000 years ago. It is theorised that G2 people were amongst the first people to adopt agriculture, in the Levant region, over 10,000 years ago. Haplogroup G2a is also associated with the domestication of sheep and goats, making G2a people experts in surviving in mountainous regions. They were also highly skilled at pottery-making. Ancient Romans appear to have had a comparatively high concentration of haplogroup G2a (circa 15%). Ötzi the Iceman belonged to haplogroup G2a.

Njomza Miftari is from Kosovo where
where around 20-45% of men are 

E1b1b. Source:
Haplogroup E1b1b: (origin = north Africa. Notable cultural attributes = early adopters of agriculture) neolithic age immigrants – this haplogroup is most commonly found in north Africa, but is found in almost every nation of Europe, especially in the south, particularly the Balkans. It occurs in over 20% of men in, inter alia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece and Sicily. Note that in the prehistoric past Tunisia and southern Italy were considerably closer than they are today and the earliest E1b1b crossings into Europe almost certainly took place via that route. The cosmopolitan Phoenician, Greek and then Roman periods also contributed to the spreading of E1b1b across Europe, as did the Moorish occupation of Iberia in the middle ages. It is theorised that E1b1b people were among the first in the world to adopt agriculture, although they probably did not invent it but may have learnt it via assimilation with G2 people. Most ancient Egyptians belonged to haplogroup E1b1b (as well as G, R1b and T). No wonder Westerners are so fascinated with ancient Egypt;p. 

Actress Karen Gillan comes from Scotland where
the R1a and R1b haplogroups (combined) are
represented by over 80% of men
Haplogroup R1: (Indo-European, origin = north/central Asia/southwest Russia. Notable cultural attributes = highly mobile warriors and cattlemen with superior weaponry and metal work) bronze age immigrants – this haplogroup is strongly represented across Europe; R1a is mostly found in northeast Europe but is also common in parts of central and south Asia; R1b is mostly found in western Europe, especially Celtic, Italic and Germanic regions, but is also reasonably common in parts of central Asia. Both R1a and R1b are found in every nation in Europe. The Indo-Europeans are believed to have been responsible for the domestication of horses, the invention of the chariot and the early adoption of bronze age weapons, hence the presence of the R1 haplogroups over a very large geographic area (from as far east as northwest China to as far west as Ireland). Conquest was certainly one of their primary means of expansion but trade, of highly sought after bronze items such as axes, swords, daggers, spearpoints and jewellery, was another means of advancement, which may have opened the door to intermarriage with the pre-existing communities of Europe looking for wealthy and successful sons-in-law. R1 has been the most common haplogroup in Europe since the iron age, from this time the (likely) distribution of Y-DNA haplogroups amongst ancient Europeans was as follows (I include certain other ancient civilisations as a point of contrast):
  • Ancient Celts: mostly R1b, with some interbreeding with I2, G2 and E1b1b people – the darker hair of these latter haplogroups are the likely origin of the thick, dark hair common amongst Celtic peoples (R1 is typically associated with fair hair).
  • Ancient Germanic: a blend of R1b, I1 and R1a, with some I2 (5-10%). R1b tended to be more strongly represented among western Germanics (eg, Saxons, Angles, Frisii and Franks), whereas among eastern Germanics (eg, Goths, Vandals, Lombards and Heruli) I1 and R1a were more strongly represented. However I1 was, uniquely, present in all Germanic populations to a degree of between 15-50%. 
  • Ancient Romans (at the time of Caesar): mostly R1b (circa 45%), as well as J2 (circa 20%), G2a (circa 15%), E1b1b (circa 15%) and I2 (circa 5%).
  • Ancient Hellenes: they varied – the first Greeks were probably a mixture of haplogroups I2, E1b1b, T and G2a; the Minoans were mostly J2 and possibly some E1b1b; Mycenaeans were mostly R1a; Dorians and Trojans were mostly R1b.
  • Ancient Thracians and Dacians: mostly R1a (circa 30%), R1b (circa 10%), I2a (circa 25-30%), E1b1b (circa 10-15%) and smaller percentages of G2a, J and T.
  • Ancient Illyrians: mostly R1a and I2.
  • Ancient Slavs: mostly R1a and I2 (10-20%).
  • Ancient Baltics: a blend of N1C1, R1a and I.
  • Ancient Scythians: mostly R1a with some R1b, G, J2, Q and T.
  • Ancient Anatolians: the first Anatolians were E1b1b, G2a, J1, J2 and T; the Hittites, Lydians, Lycians, Phrygians and proto-Armenians were mostly R1b; the Cimmerians were mostly R1a.
  • Ancient Assyrians: mostly J2, as well as R1b (20-40%), with some J1, E1b1b, G and T.
  • Ancient Arabs: mostly J1, with smaller percentages of J2, E1B, R1, T and G.
  • Ancient Indians: Indo-European invaders were mostly R1a with some G2a, J2, R1b and R2; they interbred with the pre-existing communities of India, represented by haplogroups C5, F, H and L.  
  • Ancient Egyptians: mostly E1b1b with some G, R1b, T and possibly J1.
Note that the Indo-Europeans are thought to have been more or less one people as recently as 5000 BCE and were strongly associated with cattle herding, horse riding, the use of copper and bronze items (and thus mining) and a patriarchal and hierarchical social structure which placed a high value on heroic feats in war. Ancient R1 people are known to have been fair skinned and fair haired (especially blond and red hair). They conquered Europe in phases during the bronze age and the ethnic groups which split off from the Indo-Europeans (by interbreeding with other haplogroups) did not emerge until the iron age. 

Singer Valanto Trifonis is from Cyprus where
J2 may be represented by circa 37% of men
Haplogroup J2: (Greco-Anatolian. Notable cultural attributes = early adopters of superior sea navigation, literacy and urbanisation) bronze age immigrants – this haplogroup is reasonably common in southern Europe (circa 10-20%) and is found in lower percentages (circa 3-5%) in almost every nation in Europe; it is associated with, inter alia, the Minoans, Phoenicians and Etruscans. J2 people were the great seafarers of the ancient Mediterranean. They were successful merchants, which led to the creation of early cities and colonies across the Mediterranean, as well as the development of early literacy and sophisticated art. They were also famed for their cloth working, including dying and embroidery, which was an important trade item. J2 is most commonly found in modern day Turkey, Syria and Iraq, but is less common in Arab nations to the south (who are J1 dominant; note that the split between J1 and J2 occurred over 10,000 years ago). Its widespread presence across European populations is theorised to have come about via Roman colonisation (including the stationing of Roman troops all over the empire). About 20% of Romans belonged to haplogroup J2, probably via Etruscan and Greek ancestors. This haplogroup is apparently associated with bull worship – which was probably not common among early Indo-Europeans. People from regions where J2 is strongly represented (eg, the Ingush people from the north Caucasus region are 88% J2) tend to have pale olive skin, with dark hair and eyes.  

Other haplogroups of Europe: haplogroups J1, T and Q are also found in Europe in usually very low concentrations. 
  • J1 probably originated in eastern Anatolia. With the exception of Cyprus and Turkey, where it is found in between 6-9% of the population, J1 is found in 2-5% of the population in Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Hungary, Italy, and Portugal. J1 tends to be associated with Semitic (including Jewish) ancestry, and is common throughout the Middle East.  It is the main Arabic paternal lineage – though note that many contemporary people who call themselves Arab are not so from an ethnic point of view. Ethnic Arabs are mostly confined to the Arabian peninsula, though J1 represents a sizeable minority (20-35%) in certain parts of coastal north Africa, Jordan and Palestine, as well as J2 dominant Syria and Lebanon. J1 people were early adopters of farming, especially goat and sheep herding, making them well adapted for mountain living (hence outside of Arab lands J1 tends to cluster around mountainous regions of southern Europe and the near east); they also domesticated the camel. They would have come to Europe via various means – some would have migrated as early as the neolithic age as mountain specialist farmers, some would have hitched a ride with their J2 cousins (especially the Phoenicians) from the near east, some would have come initially as traders and merchants (especially during the the Roman age) and some would have come via the Jewish diaspora, amongst other means. People from regions where J1 is strongly represented (eg, the Kubachi and Dargi people from Dagestan) tend to have pale olive skin with dark hair and eyes. 
  • T is more commonly associated with east Africa in our own times but it probably originated in west Asia. T is also found in 2-5% of the population in certain parts of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. It likely spread across Europe, albeit in lower numbers, in roughly the same way as J1, with whom there was a degree of assimilation. T people were early adopters of goat and sheep herding.
  • Q is more commonly associated with Siberia, central Asia and Native Americans but is also found in 2-5% of the population in certain parts of Sweden, Germany and Turkey. Q is thought to have found its way into Europe via the Huns (possibly Gothic tribes forged marriage alliances with Huns in eastern Europe, with their descendants returning to Sweden after being displaced by Slavs), Mongols and Turks.  

Guide to the Ages
  • Mesolithic Age: c. 25,000-7000 BCE (note that before the mesolithic age Neanderthals also populated Europe – the last attested trace of Neanderthals dates from c. 24,000 years ago. Our species is thought to have arrived in Europe as early as 40,000 years ago)
  • Neolithic Age: c. 7000-3500 BCE
  • Bronze Age: c. 3500-1000 BCE
  • Iron Age: c. 1000 BCE-c. 350 BCE  (at which point the Hellenistic and then Roman ages begin, but they commence in different centuries for different regions)

The information in this post (including all of the maps above) almost completely derives from - which comes with a disclaimer stating that the information on that website “should not be read as hard facts, but … as a model in constant evolution based on the present knowledge and understanding (of the authors) [emphasis added].” Note that my summary of genetic genealogy is necessarily fallible as I am a total novice when it comes to the subject - I apologise for any errors (any of which are unintentional). Additional resources include; Bailey and Spikins, Mesolithic Europe; Hulse, The Difference Between Dirt and Other Dirt and Livo, The Enchanted Wood.

Written by M. Sentia Figula. Find me at neo polytheistRoman Pagan and on Facebook.


  1. I have also learned of DNA groups. I have read of the "Seven Daughters of Eve". Not the Eve from the Bible, but what the Anthropologists consider Eve. My DNA comes from the youngest "daughter". I am from the mTDna Haplogroup v. Or what is called the Tribe of "Velda".

    1. Thanks for that:) I confess I know very little about mtDNA groups, I gather they are not as clear cut as Y-DNA groups when it comes to ascertaining ancient ethnicities so I haven't explored them so much. However, I just looked haplogroup v up and I must say I do like the idea of belonging to a tribe called "Velda", sounds sort of lovely and misty and intriguing:).

  2. Nice article.

  3. Very explanatory Article!
    I loved it!

  4. I'm from Serbia. I recently tested my Y-DNA. My haplogroup is I2a1b - Dinaric South. This is most dominant haplogroup in my country.

    1. Awesome:) I guess that means you know for sure that you have ancestors who have lived in Europe for tens of thousands of years, which is very, very cool!