Ă–tzi, first, but not last, farmer?

By Razib Khan | September 14, 2011 9:59 pm

Dienekes relays that Ă–tzi the Iceman carried the G2a4 male haplogroup. He goes on to observe:

We now have G2a3 from Neolithic Linearbandkeramik in Derenburg and G2a in Treilles in addition to Ă–tzi from the Alps. G2a folk got around. He joins Stalin and Louis XVI as a famous G2a.

It was already clear with the discovery of G2a in France and Central Europe, that this otherwise uncommon present-day haplogroup in Europe was more prominent during the Neolithic, and Ă–tzi’s data point seals the case.

In a sense, the triple G2a finds in Neolithic Europe confirm the origins of the European Neolithic population in West Asia, but renew the mystery as to how all the rest of the “players” of the European Y-DNA scene appeared on the scene, with everything except G and I first appearing in the ancient DNA record after the end of the Neolithic.

Yes, I believe that the Paleolithic-Neolithic dichotomy is more hindrance than help in understanding the European past (the Paleolithic itself may have exhibited more population turnover than we can appreciate). I suspect that the two most common European Y haplogroups, R1a and R1b, underwent rapid increase in frequency over the past ~5,000 years. I do not believe that this is necessarily representative of the rest of the genome. The spread of male lineages can be rather unrepresentative.

In other news, Ă–tzi’s genome is going to drop any day now. My prediction that it’s more West Asian than we might have expected seems more plausible, though less surprising and risky, at this point.

Image credit: 23andMe

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Anthroplogy, Human Genetics
  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    The non- African part of the Y-DNA G haplogroup map looks right.

    The African part, does not. Earlier this week I was looking a dozens of Y-DNA studies for Afro-Asiatic linguistic populations in Africa. G was almost invariably in the top five at non-fluke proportions in almost every single Egyptian sample. G was almost completely absent from Berber and Northwest African Arab samples. This is almost the inverse of the distribution shown on the African portion of the map.

    How in the world did 23&me come up with that distribution?

  • qohelet

    I get the sense that they’re using Moroccan Jewish frequency figures for Northwest Africa, which is obviously problematic.

  • Grey

    My theory, admittedly based on minimal evidence except that i like it, is the Milky Bar Kid theory.


    One layer of neolithic population got pushed into marginal terrain in the north-west by later arrivals. Then either because the arable part of their agricultural package was less effective in that terriotory or because they needed to prioritize animals for winter heat they became dependent on cattle and especially milk.

    (Cows producing milk and heat during the winter whereas fields don’t.)

    A fairly dramatic extinction event ensued that weeded out the lactose intolerant and the population regrew from that base but physically bigger because milk is just so great. This group then pushed back out from their circular refuge centred somewhere around Oslo, merging perhaps with the more asia-tinged Indo-Europeans coming from the east.

    Separately i find it interesting that the germanic tribes changed from infantry-based to cavalry-based between Caesar’s time and the fall of Rome c400 years later. Or rather the Caesar-era tribes (and the Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians in the later period) were predominantly infantry-based whereas the Goths and Franks etc had somehow morphed into what was effectively a european version of steppe lancers on heavier horses.

  • Eze

    How in the world did 23&me come up with that distribution?

    The haplogroup maps on 23andMe are often incorrect and/or outdated.

  • http://ruleof6ix.fieldofscience.com/ Connor

    Hey I just got back my 23andme genotype results back and my paternal haplotype came out as I1*. I am from Northern Ireland but can’t really make sense of any of the published European phylogeography stuff. Any plans in doing a post about North-West Europe? Maybe you have already done this but couldn’t find it – if so I apologise.

  • pconroy


    Your Y-DNA haplogroup is found today at highest concentrations in Sweden, and in Ireland is indicative of Viking ancestry.

  • http://ruleof6ix.fieldofscience.com/ Connor

    @pconroy – thanks for this but I’m not sure that this is correct: either my distant relatives colonised Ireland/british isles at the same time as Scandanavia or it is down to Viking/Norman immigration to the British Isles. I live in the North of Ireland where not many Viking strongholds were based. But this is exactly what I was saying – there is not a clear picture about North-West Europe, especially the British Isles.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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