This is a very important paper without doubt for two reasons:
- It further develops the phylogeny, distribution and molecular clock age estimates of mitochondrial haplogroup N1a, with possible side implications of its “niece” I, and N1 as a whole.
- It dismisses the idea that the N1a lineages found among Central European early Neolithic people (Western Linear Pottery culture, alias Danubian Neolithic) are, with some possible exceptions, of West Asian origin. Instead they appear as Eastern, Southern or local Central European lineages.
In 2005 an ancient mtDNA research by Haak et al.
on Central European farmers found six individuals with the N1a haplogroup, a very rare clade nowadays in Europe but somewhat more common in West Asia, specially in Arabia Peninsula. Four (4/11) of the six N1a individuals belonged to the oversampled Elbe group of East Germany (a rather peripheral offshoot within Danubian Neolithic context), however another one was found in the Rhine area (1/10) and yet another one in Hungary (1/1), where it has also been detected in later periods (Middle Ages).
This appeared to favor the idea that Central European early farmers were at least partly of West Asian origin, specially when contrasted with diverse hunter-gatherer groups, where haplogroup U (U*, U5 and U4) was clearly dominant.
The current research has unveiled several subhaplogroups within N1a and traced their possible origins, which are in several parts of Europe. These includes four of the six Danubian N1a individuals from Haak 2005. The other two belong to still undefined N1a* which does indeed have greatest diversity in West Asia, specifically in Arabia Peninsula but is also somewhat common in Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Italy) as well as in the Eastern part of the continent.
The evidence from phylogeographic analysis of N1a lineages emphasizes that European farmer N1a lineages might have been originated from different sources- from eastern Europe (for N1a1a1), from Near East via southern Europe (for N1a1b and perhaps for N1a1a3), and from local central European source (for N1a1a2). It is thus clear that Neolithic farmers’ migration into central Europe did not occur in a uniform way; indeed these results indicate that the Neolithic transition process was more complex in central Europe and possibly the farmer N1a lineages were brought in through the ‘leapfrog’ colonization process.
|Detail from fig.1: new phylogeny of N1a.
The authors say that we suppose that the farmer lineages-DEB3, FLO1, and HAL2 might be derived from local communities and that they would have adopted the farming culture indigenously.
They estimate that N1a coalesced some 19,600 to 23,500 years ago in West Asia. Its subclades N1a1 and N1a1a1 may have formed between 6,800 and 10,700 years ago, already in Europe, while N1a1a2 may have coalesced in a later date: 3,400-4,000 years ago, making it a good candidate for a Neolithic-specific expansion.
Notice that I do not endorse these age estimates or any other, just mentioning them for the record – however I did arrive once
to a similar estimate for N1a: 25,000 years ago. N1 was detected in an individual of Gravettian culture at Paglicci Cave in Italy.
Related older posts from Leherensuge (my old blog):