Category Archives: Hungary

Hungarian ancient DNA and the origins of Central European Neolithic

Davidski leads me to this interesting article where the Neolithic mtDNA of what is now Hungary is detailed far beyond of what I used to know:

Eszter Banffy, German-Hungarian bioarchaeological research project in the Archaeological Institute of the Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungarian Archeology, 2013. Open accessLINK 1, LINK 2
Note: the second link, even if unofficial (Banffy’s page) provides (at least in my browser) with a better formatted PDF.

Most interesting is this map:

previous CE data

The results are roughly similar to those obtained for early Neolithic Germany. For comparison, to the right there is a pie chart I built recently with the German data (plus one Austrian and another Eastern Hungarian samples, which were already known – H and N1a respectively). 

The main difference is the much greater presence of U(xK) in Germany, surely remnant of pre-Neolithic peoples. Otherwise it is quite similar to the West Hungarian pie (consider R* as most likely H, just that untested for the relevant markers). No wonder if we consider that West Hungary (along with nearby areas in Austria, Slovakia and Moravia) is at the origin of the Western Linear Pottery Culture, also known as Danubian Neolithic or LBK. 

However the Eastern Linear Pottery of the Tisza basin is generally understood to be at the origin of LBK itself, being somehow transitional between Starcevo (part of the Red & White Painted Pottery complex, originated at Sesklo) and LBK. And we do see some differences with the Western group, notably the Tisza group has much less H (but more H5), less J and also some less N1a.

Lacking by the moment ancient DNA data from Starcevo, Sesklo and other Balcan Neolithic groups at the origin of European Neolithic, we are limited to speculation but I suspect that the greater amount of haplogroup H was incorporated from pre-Neolithic peoples. After all H has been found in great amounts in Paleolithic Iberia (Portugal, Cantabria and Basque Country) and (to a lesser extent) also in Karelia, what clearly indicates that it was present in the European continent before the agricultural revolution, being the Swabian and Baltic cases (no H found to date) probably exceptional in this aspect. On the other hand H was found but only at low levels in Neolithic Kurdistan (15%, up to 23% incl. R*), suggesting it did not come from West Asia (unlike what is probably the case of K, reaching 53% in the Kurdish tells and never reported in Paleolithic Europe). 

A similar but stranger case may be that of N1a, found to belong to an exclusively European subclade, nowadays very rare. It’s quite plausible that this lineage was restricted to some Central European pockets in the Paleolithic and found occasion for expansion in the Neolithic… only to dramatically recede later on.

It is very worth mentioning that the profile of Eszter Banffy at has a lot of papers (many in Hungarian or German but many others also in English) with focus on Central European and Balcanic Neolithic.

Concern for the use of genetic tests for Nazi purposes

As Van Ardsdale explains purity is not a genetic reality, first of all because each time a new person is conceived (by the enjoyable but quite impure act of sex) admixture takes place (and if mum and dad are genetically too similar, then inbreeding happens what is generally bad). So whoever would wish to imagine themselves as pure should not look into genetics but into Platonic solids or something.
But the right tools in the wrong hands typically has the wrong results. And the tool of genetic analysis in the hands of Hitler* or the like could be used to entice racist discrimination. 
Nature reports that a Hungarian genetic testing company, Nagy Gén, has issued a certificate by which a person, a Hungarian Nazi member of the criminal Jobbik party, was said to have no Jewish nor Roma ancestry. 

Nagy Gén scanned 18 positions in the MP’s genome for variants that it says are characteristic of Roma and Jewish ethnic groups; its report concludes that Roma and Jewish ancestry can be ruled out.

It’s difficult to imagine how the company could certify that because there are no absolute lines defining such ethnic categories, not in the genetic aspect either, just clinal trends.
I understand from the context (18 positions) that the test is one of those biometric AIM-based tests that police uses sometimes to attempt to guess (without any certainty) the ancestry of suspects.
The scandalous certificate was first posted at a Nazi site, which praised the intent but (correctly) dismissed the scientific quality of the test. It was later republished at a Magyar-language news blog
The affair underlines the dangers of all kind of biometrics, be them genetic or anthropometric, when used for reasons that are not pure science. That’s a reason why I do not generally favor private, commercial genetic testing but rather academic studies of populations with prehistory reconstruction intent. 
Personally I have never got myself tested nor I really care much because what matter for me is not “my” private ancestry but, if anything, the ancestry of the diverse peoples and communities, what can tell us something about their history and prehistory.
* Incidentally, I suspect that Hitler would have got serious problems promoting his racist ideas if he would have got access to genetic analysis because his paternal lineage was quite Mediterranean and ultimately rooted in Africa (it could even be Jewish, although hard to tell ultimately). He would have had to lie even to himself, abandon his racism or maybe kill himself (mostly good results).
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Europe, genetic testing, Genetics, Hungary, race