Haplogroup J2 is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. The oldest known J2 sample at present comes from Kotias Klde in Georgia and dates from c. 9700 BCE (Jones et al. (2015)), confirming that haplogroup J2 was already found around the Caucasus during the Mesolithic period. Its present geographic distribution argue in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent. This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant (which appears to be linked rather to haplogroups G2 and E1b1b). A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy, notably copper working (from the Lower Danube valley, central Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia), and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations.
Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.
There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük. Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete. Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia). The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions). The sacred bull of Hinduism, Nandi, present in all temples dedicated to Shiva or Parvati, does not have an Indo-European origin, but can be traced back to Indus Valley civilisation. Minoan Crete, Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley also shared a tradition of bull leaping, the ritual of dodging the charge of a bull. It survives today in the traditional bullfighting of Andalusia in Spain and Provence in France, two regions with a high percentage of J2 lineages.
Distribution of haplogroup J2 in Europe, the Middle East & North Africa
The world's highest frequency of J2 is found among the Ingush (88% of the male lineages) and Chechen (56%) people in the Northeast Caucasus. Both belong to the Nakh ethnic group, who have inhabited that territory since at least 3000 BCE. Their language is distantly related to Dagestanian languages, but not to any other linguistic group. However, Dagestani peoples (Dargins, Lezgins, Avars) belong predominantly to haplogroup J1 (84% among the Dargins) and almost completely lack J2 lineages. Other high incidence of haplogroup J2 are found in many other Caucasian populations, including the Azeri (30%), the Georgians (27%), the Kumyks (25%), and the Armenians (22%). Nevertheless, it is very unlikely that haplogroups J2 originated in the Caucasus because of the low genetic diversity in the region. Most Caucasian people belong to the same J2a4b (M67) subclade. The high local frequencies observed would rather be the result of founder effects, for instance the proliferation of chieftains and kings's lineages through a long tradition of polygamy, a practice that the Russians have tried to suppress since their conquest of the Caucasus in the 19th century.
Outside the Caucasus, the highest frequencies of J2 are observed in Cyprus (37%), Crete (34%), northern Iraq (28%), Lebanon (26%), Turkey (24%, with peaks of 30% in the Marmara region and in central Anatolia), Greece (23%), Central Italy (23%), Sicily (23%), South Italy (21.5%), and Albania (19.5%), as well as among Jewish people (19 to 25%).
One fourth of the Vlach people (isolated communities of Romance language speakers in the Balkans) belong to J2, considerably more than the average of Macedonia and northern Greece where they live. This, combined to the fact that they speak a language descended from Latin, suggests that they could have a greater part of Roman (or at least Italian) ancestry than other ethnic groups in the Balkans.
Two main subclades divide haplogroup J2: J2a (M410, L152, L212/PF4988, L559/PF4986) and J2b (M12, M102, M221, M314).
- J2a1-M47 is found at low frequency (1-5%) in Anatolia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Gulf states.
- J2a1-M67 is the most common subclade in the Caucasus (Vainakhs, Ingushs, Chechens, Georgians, Ossetians, Balkars) and in the Levant (Lebanese, Jews). It is also common in western India, the Arabian Peninsula, Anatolia (esp. north-west), Greece (esp. Crete), Italy (esp. Marche and Abruzzo) and Iberia. M67 was probably a major Neolithic lineage expanding from the Fertile Crescent to Greece to the west and the Indus valley to the east.
- J2a1-M68 a minor subclade found in Iraq and India.
- J2a1-M319 has been found chiefly in Greece (esp. in Crete) and Italy, and at low frequencies around Western Europe (perhaps diffused by the Romans).
- J2a1-M339 is a very minor Anatolian subclade.
- J2a1-M419 is a minor subclade detected in northern Iran.
- J2a1-P81 is a very minor Anatolian subclade.
- J2a1-L24 is the most widespread subclade of J2a, with a distribution ranging from the Middle East to Europe, North Africa and South Asia.
- J2a1-M158 has been found in Anatolia, Iberia, Pakistan and India.
- J2a1-L84 is a minor subclade detected in the Balkans.
- J2a1-L25 is the main branch of L24 and is subdivided in many subclades.
- J2a1-F3133 is found in Anatolia, Syria, Iran, Central Asia and Saudi Arabia.
- J2a1-F761 is the Western European subclade of F3133, found in Italy, France, the Benelux and England.
- J2a1-L192.2 is found in Anatolia, Iran and Kerala (India). It has also been found in Tunisia (M'saken).
- J2a1-PF4888 is found in the Middle East and among Ashkenazi Jews (F659 subclade: Katz and Cohen).
- J2a1-Z387 and its main subclade L70 (DYS445≤7) are found throughout continental Europe as well as in the Middle East at lower frequency.
- J2a1-PF5169 is a rare subclade that has been found in Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, southern Germany and England.
- J2a2-PF7381 is found at low frequency in southern and Eastern Europe and in the Caucasus.
- J2b1-M205 is found mostly in the southern Balkans and Anatolia.
- J2b2-M241 is found mostly in south-east, central and Eastern Europe and in India.
Notwithstanding its strong presence in West Asia today, haplogroup J2 does not seem to have been one of the principal lineages associated with the rise and diffusion of cereal farming from the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia to Europe. The region of origin of J2 is still unclear at present. It is likely that J2 men had settled over most of Anatolia, the South Caucasus and Iran by the end of the Last Glaciation 12,000 years ago. It is possible that J2 hunter-gatherers then goat/sheep herders also lived in the Fertile Crescent during the Neolithic period, although the development of early cereal agriculture is thought to have been conducted by men belonging primarily to haplogroups E1b1b (southern branch, from the Levant to the Arabian peninsula and North Africa) and G2a (northern branch from Anatolia to Europe).
Mathieson et al. (2015) tested the Y-DNA of 13 Early Neolithic farmers from the Barcın site (6500-6200 BCE) in north-western Anatolia, and only one of them belonged to haplogroup J2a. Lazaridis et al. (2016) tested 44 ancient Near Eastern samples, including Neolithic farmers from Jordan and western Iran, but none of them belonged to J2. Likewise, over 100 Y-DNA samples have been tested from Neolithic Europe, covering most of the important cultures, and only one J2 sample was found, in the Sopot (Proto-Lengyel) culture in Hungary, dating from 7,000 years ago. J2 was also absent from all Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Indo-European cultures, apat from one J2a1b sample in Hungary dating from the end of the Bronze Age (c. 1150 BCE, see Gamba et al. 2014), in the minor Kyjatice culture, an offshoot of the Urnfield culture, which differs from typical Indo-European cultures by its use of cremation instead of single-grave burials.
Middle-Eastern and European J2a: from Kura-Araxes to the Greeks and Romans
It is very likely that J2a, J1 and G2a were the three dominant male lineages the Early Bronze Age Kura-Araxes culture, which expanded from the South Caucasus to eastern Anatolia, northern Mesopotamia and the western Iran. From then on, J2 men would have definitely have represented a sizeable portion of the population of Bronze and Iron Age civilizations such as the Hurrians, the Assyrians or the Hittites. It is very possible that bronze technology spread from the South Caucasus across the Iranian plateau until the Indus Valley, giving rise to the Harappan Civilisation (see below).
The high incidence of J2a in Italy is owed in great part to the migration of the Etruscans from western Anatolia to central and northern Italy, and to the Greek colonisation of southern Italy. Immigration from the eastern Mediterranean to Rome during the Roman Empire, then from Anatolia, Thrace and Greece during the Byzantine period (particularly in north-eastern Italy) further increased the incidence of J2 in the peninsula.
The Phoenicians, Jews, Greeks and Romans all contributed to the presence of J2a in Iberia. The particularly strong frequency of J2a and other Near Eastern haplogroups (J1, E1b1b, T) in the south of the Iberian peninsula, suggest that the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians played a more decisive role than other peoples. This makes sense considering that they were the first to arrive, founded the greatest number of cities (including Gadir/Cadiz, Iberia's oldest city), and their settlements match almost exactly the zone where J2 is found at a higher frequency in southern Andalusia.
The Romans probably helped spread haplogroup J2 within their borders, judging from the distribution of J2 within Europe (frequency over 5%), which bears an uncanny resemblance to the borders of the Roman Empire (once concessions are made for the Germanic invasions that appear to have lowered the frequency of J2 between Belgium and Switzerland).
The highest concentrations of J2a in Europe are found in Crete (32% of the population) and Calabria (26%). J2a-M319, one of the principal J2 subclades in Greece, Italy and Western Europe, reaches is maximum frequency in Crete (6-9%).
J2a in Central & South Asia: the Harappan and Oxus Civilizations
Within the Indian subcontinent, J2a peaks at frequencies of 15-25% around the Indo-Pakistani border, from Punjab to Gujarat and Sindh. This region matches exactly the confines of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilisation, that existed from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE and which practised bull worship like other J2a civilizations. Bronze started being used by the Harappan Civilization circa 3000 BCE, a few centuries after its earliest known regular use around the Caucasus by the Maykop culture (from 3700 BCE) and the KuraAraxes culture (from 3500 BCE). While the Maykop culture was closely linked to the Yamnaya culture in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe and is thought to be associated with Proto-Indo-European speakers and Y-haplogroups R1a and R1b, the Kura-Araxes culture would have allowed the diffusion of Y-haplogroup J1 and J2a around the Middle East, taking over the Neolithic societies primarily associated with Y-haplogroup G2a and G2b.
Archeological evidence of a massive migration from the southern Caucasus to the Indus Valley is elusive at present, but it cannot be excluded as it has been proven now that large-scale Indo-European migrations took place during the same period from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe to Europe and Central Asia. There is no reason to believe that J2a people from the Kura-Araxes culture couldn't have expanded in the same way westward toward Anatolia, Greece and Italy and eastward to Iran, southern central Asia, Pakistan, India.
There is another cluster of J2a with a frequency approximating 15% in Bactria, in southern-central Asia, in what is now northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan. This region corresponds to the BactriaMargiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization, which flourished between 2300 and 1700 BCE. Oxen were used to draw wheeled carts and camels were domesticated in this region c. 2500 BCE, just before the start of this civilization. The BMAC was eventually overrun by the Indo-Iranian migrations from the Andronovo culture and the Sintashta culture further north, and became Indo-Europeanized. The Indo-Aryans pursued their southward expansion, invading northern Pakistan and northwest India from 1800 BCE to 1500 BCE, and eventually bringing about the demise of the Indus Valley Civilisation around 1300 BCE.
J2b: from Neolithic Iran to the Indo-Europeans
J2b has a quite different distribution from J2a. At first sight, the modern distribution of J2b seems to have a stronger association with the Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures of Southeast Europe. Yet, at present, J2b has never been found in Neolithic, Chalcolithic, nor even Bronze Age Europe, nor in the Fertile Crescent during the Neolithic or Chalcolithic. J2b is also absent from western and central Anatolia, but is present in eastern Anatolia and western Iran, as well as in the Volga-Ural region, notably among the Mordvins, Chuvashs and Tatars. The oldest known J2b sample comes from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Tepe Abdul Hosein in western Iran, dating from approximately 10,000 years ago (see Broushaki et al. 2016). This is the strongest evidence that J2b actually originated in the mountains of the Zagros or the Caucasus, rather than in the plains of the Fertile Crescent.
The vast majority of J2b lineages belong to J2b2 and its subclades. While J2b* and J2b1 lineages are mostly restricted to the Caucasus, eastern Anatolia and the Balkans, J2b2 is also found in the Pontic Steppe, in Central Asia and in South Asia, particularly in India.
The most likely hypothesis is that J2b2 penetrated into the Pontic Steppe region during the Neolithic or Chalcolithic period, by crossing the Caucasus from western Iran, then migrated to the Volga-Ural region, where it was absorbed by the R1a-Z93 tribes in the Early Bronze Age. As a minor lineage within the R1a-Z93 dominant populations, it would have expanded from the Volga-Ural region to Central and South Asia with the Indo-Aryan invasions approximately from 4,300 to 3,500 years ago. Other J2b lineages could have ended up in the Balkans during a number of Steppe invasions from the Bronze Age until the Middle Ages.
Another conceivable possibility is that a minority of J2b2 accompanied R1b-M269 from the Caucasus region and migrated to the Volga-Ural region in the early Bronze Age, propagating with them the Proto-Indo-European language and bronze technology to the Caspian steppe before the expansion of this new culture to Central and South Asia. The drawback of this hypothesis is that it doesn't explain why R1b lineages strongly outnumber J2b2 in Europe but not in South Asia.
Distribution of haplogroup J2b (M102) in Europe, the Middle East & North Africa
The Rothschild family, who established an international banking business, acquired the largest fortune in modern world history and established a true dynasty in the 19th century, apparently belonged to haplogroup J2a1-L210 (a subclade of M67) based on the results from the Rothschild DNA Project and of the J2-M172 Haplogroup Research.
Burt Bacharach (b. 1928) is an American singersongwriter, composer, record producer and pianist. A six-time Grammy Award winner and three-time Academy Award winner, he is known for his popular hit songs and compositions from the late 1950s through the 1980s. He belongs to the subclade J2a1-L556/L560.
Mike Nichols (1931-2014) was a German-born American television, stage and film director, writer, producer and comedian. He is one of a small group of people who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. He belonged to the subclade J2a1b.
The American actor and filmmaker Ben Affleck, famous among others for his roles in Good Will Hunting, Shakespeare in Love, Pearl Harbor, Daredevil and Hollywoodland, and his brother Casey Affleck, an actor, film director, screenwriter, and producer, were identified as members of haplogroup J2a1d (M319) through Ben's DNA test, which was revealed by the PBS television series Finding Your Roots. They descend from Robert Affleck (1785-1854), listed on the J2 Y-DNA Project.
Other famous members of haplogroup J2
- Friedrich Engelhorn (subclade J2a): was a German industrialist and founder of BASF in 1865.
- John Lorimer Worden (subclade J2b2): was a U.S. rear admiral who served in the American Civil War. He commanded Monitor against the Confederate vessel Virginia (originally named Merrimack) in first battle of ironclad ships in 1862.
- Sir John Anthony Pople (subclade J2b1b-PF7344): was theoretical chemist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the year 1998.
- Nicholas M. Donofrio : was the Executive Vice President of Innovation and Technology at the IBM Corporation until 2008.
- Dr. Mehmet Oz (subclade J2a1b): a Turkish-American cardiothoracic surgeon, author, and television personality hosting the The Dr. Oz Show.
- Matt Lauer : an American television journalist best known as the host of NBC's The Today Show since 1996.
- Alexander Zhulin : is a Russian ice dancer who won the 1993 World championship, and the 1993 European championship, as well as two Olympic medals (1994 silver, 1992 bronze).
- A. J. Jacobs : is an American journalist, author, and lecturer best known for writing about his lifestyle experiments. He announced on the Dr Oz show that he belonged to haplogroup J2.
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