Neolithic and Bronze Age Sample Data

There are a couple of recent papers published in Nature that have some interesting supplemental data attached. Of course, I’m trying to hunt down samples that are related to me, always waiting to get a clear Y DNA relative and keeping tabs on those MTDNA relatives in the ancient world.

One is an analysis of the kinship within a single neolithic tomb: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04241-4#MOESM5

The second is a larger study of bronze age migration into Britain: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04287-4

Neolithic Tombs

In the neolithic data, although the MTDNA haplogroups were pretty diverse including T2e, I didn’t find any T2a or T2a1a people. There also weren’t any Haplogroup R men. All the men in the single neolithic tomb were in haplogroup I under I2a1. There were adopted sons in the data with different I haplogroups. The men seem pretty homogeneous on the Y outside of adoptees. FTDNA once described Haplogroup I as Europe’s native sons and this tomb makes that seem like the case.

The results from that single tomb seem similar to the neolithic results from this paper that sampled multiple tombs from Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Central Europe: https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/early/2019/04/09/1818037116.full.pdf. Lots of different MTDNA haplogroups, but no T2a or T2a1a and haplogroup I for men pretty much across the board. The dates for the samples from the single tomb are in the early 3000s BCE. The pdf paper linked the above samples from 2800 BCE to the 4000s BCE.

All of this is in keeping with the accepted timeline that has haplogroup R1b off to the east near the Volga or in the steppes. I tend to think that T2a1a also followed that plan of westward expansion…although I don’t know if that is an accepted interpretation by the larger genetic community. No unexpected results.

The article in Nature and the pdf from a previous article are interesting for other reasons though, having to do with familial relationships (including adoptive relationships) in high-status neolithic burials and the cultural inferences you can make from them about family ties.

Bronze Age Migration to Britain

The second study is apparently more contentious because it points to a late bronze age migration from the continent (particularly an area in France) and ties that to early Celtic language movement and cultural exchange in southern England and Wales. I believe the article is mainly focused on autosomal DNA and ancestry composition, particularly Early European farmer DNA, along with lactose persistence as markers of similarity with continental Europeans and of differences. My focus on Y and mtDNA haplogroups is taking it out of context a bit.

In this data set of 793 people, there were two T2a1a MTDNA individuals. First, we have I13728 from 381-179 BCE in Cambridgeshire England. A little too young to be in the bronze age. This sample appears to be a middle iron age person in Britain (if the Wikipedia dates for the bronze and iron age in Britain are to be believed). This is roughly a thousand years older than the Saxon female sample in Cambridgeshire and a thousand to two thousand years younger than the Beaker culture females in Amesbury England. I13728 has R-P312 YDNA which is a very large branch under R1b.

Next, we have I23911 who has MTDNA haplogroup T2a1a from 891-797 BCE in Smiljan Croatia, 500 or 600 years younger than the Nordic Bronze age female from my previous post on T2a1a in ancient DNA. This sample is from the Croatian Early Iron Age. Again, by this time T2a1a Bronze Age people had been buried in Amesbury England for a thousand plus years. I23911 has Y haplogroup J2. I’m less familiar with J although I know it’s pretty widespread in Europe and the Middle East. Here is a map showing Smiljan Croatia:

Looking at Y DNA in this data set there were about eight samples with R-U106 YDNA. Notably, I13025, a Bell Beaker from around 2000 BCE in Molenaarsgraaf Netherlands. Most of the others seemed to fall under the R-Z156 branch with one farther back up at Z381.

The R-Z156 samples span quite a bit of time and are mainly from the continent in the middle bronze age, Late Bronze Age and Iron age in Czechia, Slovenia and the Netherlands. There was one R-Z156 sample from England in Cambridgeshire roughly 733 – 397 BCE, listed as Early Iron Age. This is a different branch under U106 than my R-Z18 and R-DF95 line.

It’s not a surprise that most of the R-U106 is on the continent, but I think it has been odd that there wasn’t more of it sampled. U106 isn’t the most popular branch of R1b in Europe. I don’t know that it is a majority of Y DNA anywhere, but R-Z156 isn’t even the biggest branch of R-U106. Where is everybody else hiding out?

map showing Molenaarsgraaf in Netherlands
Molenaarsgraaf, Netherlands where the U106 Late Neolithic Early Bronze age sample was found

I guess another question could be if U106 is in Sweden around 2200 BCE (Rise98) and in the Netherlands around 2000 BCE (I13025) why is there such a gap before we pick it up in Iron Age Britain? 1500 years to get across the channel? Is the lack of finds due to different cultural practices surrounding death or weird luck of the draw in sampling? It’s just…a weird blank spot.

Wrapping Up

The Neolithic tomb data is interesting, maybe even more so because I also found that older study of other neolithic tombs and they lined up pretty well. It’s not a Y DNA study or an MTDNA study. I think it’s more of a family tree for a high-status family and a cultural study on Patriarchy, Matriarchy, and adoption among such neolithic high-status families. It’s interesting how homogeneous the Y DNA was in both neolithic tomb studies (even across long distances in Europe). Haplogroup I for the win.

I did see some Neolithic haplogroup R and even a couple of R1b neolithic samples, but they were in the Bronze Age migration study as comparisons between Neolithic and Bronze Age samples. The three that weren’t “Questionable” (possibly due to contamination) were all in the Czech Republic around Prague roughly 3500 to 5000 BCE.

The Bronze Age Migration study was not a Y DNA study (that I’m aware of, the paper has a paywall the supplements are free). It wasn’t an MTDNA study either, so their findings and their sources are all about autosomal DNA and early European farmer influence on later iron age Britons. They’re sampling areas across Europe but the samples may be focused on Celtic language speakers and known sites for Celtic culture since one main focus of the paper is on the spread of Celtic language to the British Isles.

Perhaps the samples are just bumping the edges of a more U106 world in the Netherlands or Czechia or Slovenia. To my quick glance, the Netherlands appears to be the most northerly location in their continental sample. Germany, Austria, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Belarus, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland are either missing or not well sampled. There are like 150 plus samples from the Czech Republic…5 from Russia. 50-some odd from France and 3 from Austria.

It seems like a study of the roots of the Celtic world and pre-Roman Britain that accidentally caught a few U106 men bumbling about.

Roughly half the samples are from the UK and are distributed in such a way that I can’t complain that U106 strongholds in Britain today aren’t covered. There just don’t appear to be any U106 strongholds in these samples in the UK in this timeframe. One R-Z156 sample from Cambridgeshire in the early iron age seems to be the exception. That guy may have been lost or something.

There are eventually more U106 UK remains (again R-Z156 men) buried as Roman gladiators in the early 200’s AD near Driffield York. That’s a big gap though too. 700 years or so.

At this point, I have to agree with the sentiments of the people posting in the U106 group about these same results which seem to be that if you’re on the Z156 branch, there is a chance you may be in Britain in the Iron Age and during the Roman era, but there really isn’t evidence of any other U106 men in Britain until the end of Roman rule. So for my little branch and most of the rest of U106 with families in Britain, it’s back to the usual suspects from the continent: Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Scandinavians of various sorts, Normans, and migration from the Low Countries.

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