Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Villabruna Hunter-Gatherer R1b (Qiaomei Fu et al, 2016)

There's a lot to digest out of the Qiaomei Fu et al, 2016 paper. 

As to be expected, the overwhelming majority of Paleolithic Europeans belonged to paternal lineages that have effectively gone extinct or have been several times superseded.  Maternal lineages have mostly suffered from frequency changes because most women who ever lived had offspring.

The most interesting part of the paper is the blue-eyed, dark-skinned man from Villabruna Cave 1, directly dated to about 14,000 years ago and belonging to paternal haplogroup R1b1.  He was buried with a bag of implements and covered in red-painted rocks in the Dolomite Mountains.

There's more that is interesting about him than just the y-chromosome, but for a little background see the BBC story...
Fig 2 LUP burial of Villabruna 1.  (Vercellotti et al, 2008)
Since the Gravettian was an expansion of mammoth and bison hunters from north of the Black Sea going west, and because of some cultural, economic and mobility similarities with the Mal'ta-Burets hunters where this lineage was previously found, it might make some sense to see R1b1 lightly sprinkled as a minority lineage among a communities dominated by haplogroup I.  But a picture where Gravettian and Mal'ta cultures have anything common other than material borrowing doesn't square with the authors of Fu et al.  The two peoples are genetically distinct, and in fact, the Gravettians appear very distinct from even the Epi-Gravettians, who we might as well now more accurately call, Villabrunans.

So the first interesting thing is that Villabruna man's body proportions are intermediate between modern Europeans and Africans.  In fact, he generally clusters with North Africans on several skeletal metrics, although facially he is Caucasian.  This doesn't mean he is  <North African> and it doesn't mean mixed, but it does suggest some meaningfully deep ancestry in a sufficiently warm climate, possibly the Southern Near East(?).

Genetically, he and his cluster represent a shift towards the Near East from earlier Europeans, and really from the earlier 'true' Gravettians in Eastern Europe.  When looking at his physical proportions, Vercellotti et al (2008) seemed to suggest that his long-limbed features were a relict of early AMH or possibly some sort of new response to a warming climate.  It now seems migration offers the most plausible explanation for his body type in light of DNA.  To be clear though, his cluster extends all over Western Europe even though his unique lineage is so far only seen in Italy.

Fu et al, 2016
As far as I understand, Western Hunter Gatherer (WHG) might be mostly Middle Eastern with some ancestry of the oldest native hunters.  This will be an interesting complication to various memes, including my own memes.

See also  [Maju's post on Ahmarian culture]

Vercellotti, Alciati, Richards, Formicola (2008)  "The Late Upper Paleolithic skeleton Villabruna 1 (Italy): a source of data on biology and behavior of a 14.000 year-old hunter" Journal of Anthropological Sciences.  Vol. 86 (2008), pp. 143-163   [Link]


  1. Thanks for sharing the link to that 2008 study on Villabruna. Now that we have his DNA he's a very interesting individual. He didn't just have R1b1, it looks like based on amateur analysis he had pre-R1b1a1a. He was pretty deep on the R1b tree. It's amazing to see someone who lived so long ago belong to a lineage that only became popular in Western Europe in the last 5,000 years.

    It's important to remember he wasn't a stranger to Paleolithic Europe. Since at least 37,000 years ago people apart of the large "West Eurasian" family that Villabruna was apart of inhabited Europe. The "El Minro" cluster which the 19,000-15,000 year old genomes from Spain and Germany belonged to is very closely related to Villabruna. Very related. It does look like Villabruna's people replaced them, but they were replacing brothers.

    The media is miss interpreting the rise of VillaBruna/WHG's people and their Near Eastern origins. We have no idea where they came from. Western/Central Europe, like Italy, is a good candidate. Middle Easterner's today and in the Stone age(especially in Turkey/EEF) do infact have VillaBruna/WHG related ancestry. But this doesn't mean VillaBruna/WHG is from the Middle East. It might instead be that WHG/Villabruna is from (West)Europe and migrated to the Middle East.

    1. Or they were from Dnieper basin (or volga, or whatever) and went round the black sea and a bit west (Villabruna) and naturally south to Anatolia and levant?

      Isn't it what people having been saying? did anyone expect them to be under a rock for 15,000 years and just pop up to become ruling western Europe Patrileneage?

  2. "ince the Gravettian was an expansion of mammoth and bison hunters from north of the Black Sea going west"

    That's news to me , given the earliest Gravettian sites are in (east-) Central Europe (?)

    1. I believe that was true until Buran-Kaya III in Crimea dated to 32,000 years ago.

      I think the trend is away from local development to something more intrusive, perhaps again ultimately radiating from earlier Middle Eastern people.

      A number of people associate with IJK expanding from that area.

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  4. Yes actually I have seen that same suggestive data, but there are equally early dates in the Danube . Naturally; we'll need aDNA from Eastern Europe to confirm what shift exactly happened with the Gravettian.
    To be sure, it appears to have some links with certain earlier Aurignacian lineages from even west Central Europe - did it not ?

    Also, hg I was already present in Italy ~ 33 ky BP.

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    2. Looked at it again, Vestonice- Gravettians are mostly Kostenki-like (90%); which was found with in a local Russian form of the Aurignacian ; the rest deriving from more West European forms

      Another thing: whg is in no way middle eastern . This is an apparent ohenomenon due to common admixture from a 3rd source

      The paper spells this out clearly : it's not the BE portion of CHG, nor CHG cluster itself which has admixed into villabruna; which must mean its the ANE part of the Satsurblia-like population - who's source is yet to be sampled: but 99% chance it's Balkan- Black Sea HGs

    3. Rob. Just to clear. Is it satsublia into villabruna or vilavruna like people into stasurblia?

    4. Rob. Just to clear. Is it satsublia into villabruna or vilavruna like people into stasurblia?

    5. OM
      Neither of the two;
      Rather- it seems like a 3rd source mixed into both of them; hence drawing proto-WHG and CHG together

      *subject to further aDNA * ;)

  5. This seems very early to have R1b south of the Alps. I was firmly convinced of an origin in the Eurasian plain, but an R1b in Italy that cannot be far in time and space from the very first R1b is hard to explain. Does anyone know what the Villabrunan ate/hunted?

    I wonder what the implications are as regards to the R1b/R1a bifurcation point - I suppose we'd need DNA from the Crimea region in the same time frame to clear this up.

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  7. R1b at 14,000 years ago? So how did he get to Italy? Maybe he was on his way back to the Steppes where his Y-dna would have sat around for 10,000 years waiting for Yamanaya to show up? I thought those people stayed in one place until it was time to leave the wonderful Steppes and head to Italy. And pasta.

    BTW, this is pretty big news.

  8. I love this. But the Pontic-Steppe proponents won't be happy..

    Just shows that if R1b1 was hanging around Southern Europe 14,000 years ago, I'd bet my bottom dollar that R1b originated not much further away than that (think Anatolia or the Levant, but not the Pontic Steppes) before it catapulted along the coastal areas of Western Europe and worked its way north up the mainland. Looking at R1b maps of Western Europe, an entry into south central/ western Europe fits with how R1b prevalence in Europe looks like today..
    The original pioneers of this work might have got the time period of R1b origin wrong, but they were certainly not far off the mark in deducing the point of entry into Europe if this study is anything to go by. R1b may have simply entered Western Europe via the more central routes of the Mediterranean before 14,000 BCE and worked upwards and westwards towards Iberia and Britain (where it would reach its crescendo).Fascinating stuff indeed.