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Thread: Where did mt-haplogroup H4 originate?

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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Question Where did mt-haplogroup H4 originate?

    Haplogroup H is the most common maternal lineage in Europe today. It is made up of over a hundred basal subclades. Some were already present in Europe during the Mesolithic period (e.g. H10 and H11), while others came with Near Eastern Neolithic farmers (e.g. H5). Others still were spread from the Caucasus region (H2a1, H6, H8, H13, H15) to Europe by the Indo-European migrations and by Bronze and Iron Age migrations from the Near East to Greece and Italy.

    Very little is know about many minor subclades. Among more common subclades, the origins of H4 remain controversial. It hasn't been found in any Mesolithic European or Neolithic Near Eastern samples to date. No H4 emerged from the hundreds of Neolithic samples from Southeast or Central Europe. Its first appearance (as H4a1a) was in the Cardium Pottery culture in Spain and Portugal some 7,000 years ago. The Basques and the Sardinians have higher than average levels of H4, and both descend from Cardium Pottery farmers, but with relatively high Mesolithic South European ancestry. Could it be native to Southwest Europe? It is possible as very few Mesolithic samples have been tested from France, Iberia, or even Italy for that matter. I have longed argued that southern Mesolithic Europeans could have carried various H lineages, including H1 and H3, but also possibly H4.

    The modern distribution of H4 doesn't provide a lot of clues about its origins either. Perhaps that is because data is so scarce at present, especially in France, Iberia, Italy and the Balkans. What we see is very conflicting data. On the one hand, a strong presence in northern Europe, especially Iceland, Ireland, Scandinavia, Poland and Lithuania, all places with very high Mesolithic European ancestry. But on the other hand H4 is also high in Northwest Africa, Turkey, Armenia and among Ashkenazi Jews.

    Gauging their respective Mesolithic European ancestry, Maghrebis are close to 0%, Armenians have only 5%, Turks 12% and Ashkenazi Jews 24%. What they do have in common though is Mediterranean ancestry, which in admixture calculator blends Neolithic Near Eastern with Mesolithic South European. Using Dodecad K12's Mediterranean admixture, Moroccans and Turks have 27%, Armenians 28%, Ashkenazi Jews 34%. Very similar ranges. Using K12b's Atlantic Med, Armenians 9.5%, Turks have 11.5%, Algerians have 21.5%, Moroccans have 24% and Ashkenazi Jews 25%. Both admixtures peak in Sardinians.

    Behar et al., 2012b estimate that H4 appeared about 10,000 years ago (+-1,500 years), which matches either Mesolithic Europe or the Neolithic Near East. In terms of subclades, the vast majority of European H4 belong to H4a1. H4b is mostly found in the northern Middle East and Caucasus. So a split between a more European H4a and a more West Asian H4b is possible. If H4 originated, say in the Balkans or Anatolia at the end of the last Ice Age, H4a could have spread west to Europe and east to Armenia and Iran during the Mesolithic. Unfortunately too little data about subclades is available for the Balkans and Anatolia.


    I would like to thank the administrator of the mt-haplogroup H4 Project for the data on H4 frequencies that allowed me to make the above map.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 19-01-17 at 21:34.
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