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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ancient DNA from early Medieval Muslim graves in France

A new paper at PLoS ONE reveals that three individuals from early Medieval burials in southern France belong to Y-chromosome haplogroup E1b1b1b-M81 and mtDNA haplogroups H1, K1a4a and L1c3a, and thus were probably of North African origin.

Abstract: The rapid Arab-Islamic conquest during the early Middle Ages led to major political and cultural changes in the Mediterranean world. Although the early medieval Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula is now well documented, based in the evaluation of archeological and historical sources, the Muslim expansion in the area north of the Pyrenees has only been documented so far through textual sources or rare archaeological data. Our study provides the first archaeo-anthropological testimony of the Muslim establishment in South of France through the multidisciplinary analysis of three graves excavated at Nimes. First, we argue in favor of burials that followed Islamic rites and then note the presence of a community practicing Muslim traditions in Nimes. Second, the radiometric dates obtained from all three human skeletons (between the 7th and the 9th centuries AD) echo historical sources documenting an early Muslim presence in southern Gaul (i.e., the first half of 8th century AD). Finally, palaeogenomic analyses conducted on the human remains provide arguments in favor of a North African ancestry of the three individuals, at least considering the paternal lineages. Given all of these data, we propose that the skeletons from the Nimes burials belonged to Berbers integrated into the Umayyad army during the Arab expansion in North Africa. Our discovery not only discusses the first anthropological and genetic data concerning the Muslim occupation of the Visigothic territory of Septimania but also highlights the complexity of the relationship between the two communities during this period.

Gleize Y, Mendisco F, Pemonge M-H, Hubert C, Groppi A, Houix B, et al. (2016) Early Medieval Muslim Graves in France: First Archaeological, Anthropological and Palaeogenomic Evidence. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0148583. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148583


Krefter said...

K1a4a is typical of Europe. I'll have to look at the H1, to see if has a North African or European subclade. But the K1a4a might be European.

andrew said...

H1 is the modal Berber mtDNA haplogroup (the highest proportion of H1 of any population in the world involves some sub-populations of Berbers), so there is every reason to think that it is consistent with the hypothesis offered, although H1 would also be common in Iberia and the South of France.

The Y-DNA haplogroup is likely the modal Berber Y-DNA haplogroup.

These remains are from ca. 700-750, a couple centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent expansion of the Islamic empire from Arabia to North Africa and then, in turn to Iberia and Southern Gaul.

During the roughly 1200 year long existence of the Roman State, there were intense trade relations between North Africa and what we now call Italy with North Africa serving as a bread basket for the Roman empire. So, if there is a European mtDNA type (I won't weigh in on that issue in this comment) it could very plausible be derived from Roman era migration to North Africa by a European woman whose matrilineal descendant at some point ended up marrying a Berber man.

European mtDNA could also have made its way into North Africa via the Vandals, Greek trade, or Phoenician trade, to suggest just a few historic era examples that predate these individuals.

andrew said...

A quick search reveals that K1a4 is also common in the Levant and has been found in Neolithic Catalonia. Either source would be plausible in the factual circumstances presented. The Levant assuming a source moving from the epicenter of the Islamic expansion, Catalonia or the vicinity assuming genes picked up locally.

The paper lists the mutations used to make the H1 classification and no other mutations pertinent to classification were detected. Given the circumstances, a North African origin is probably more likely for the H1.

The paper notes that either North African or local European provenance is possible for H1 and K1a4. The L1 is mostly sub-Saharan but also peaks near the Strait of Gibraltar in North Africa (presumably due to intra-African slave trade which has been documented in that era).

Chad said...


André de Vasconcelos said...

Very unsurprising, considering the date.

The H1 could have been in North Africa for a long time, it's not like people were stuck on either side of the Mediterranean until the Roman period.

Unknown said...

Nimes was part of the Visigoth realm. No Frankish at this point (yet)
According to the Chronicles, Abd el-Aziz conquered Nimes in 725. It is to be supposed that Nimes remained under muslim rule until some point between 750 and 759. There were three main muslim military actions in France: the one ending in 725, the Poitiers Battle (732) and the Umayyad invasion as a consequence of the loss at the Poitiers Battle (735-739) We know that the armies which conquered most of the Iberia were made mainly from berber soldiers, and that they were given the most dangerous missions and given the less attractive lands to settle in. For the Umayyad invasion, we know that the army was arranged at Saragosse, so it was probably a pan-Iberian levy. I suppose that the indigenous Iberian forces were treated by the Arab rulers even worse than berbers. Therefore, these findings are not surprising. Expect Berbers and Iberian types, if no local ones, and even the sons of Berber ex-soldiers with Iberian wifes, soldiers themselves.

Fanty said...

Where does one get data about the distribution of K1a4?
Eupedia makes the claim that this lineage was brought to Europe with the neolithic farmers and must have been picked up and carried around with R1b people since it suposedly mimmicks (in Europe) the distribution of R1b? (but cant find any distribution maps/lists. -.-

Castor said...

I would have liked they took the aDNA also , it could have give us some insight on the genetic composition of these berbers and their relation to modern iberian and north african

J.S. said...

It is also worth noting that this subtle archeological testimony echoes the absence of any noticeable genetic heritage from these Muslim groups in the modern-day French population. The genetic impact of the Muslim occupation on the European gene pool has been assessed by analyzing the extant European gene pool (mainly from Southern Europe). For example, the analysis of extant populations in Iberia has noted the presence of mitochondrial haplogroups of North African origin at low frequencies. Authors have suggested that these lineages may have resulted from the Muslim occupation of the Peninsula but also from a more ancient gene flow that may have occurred during prehistoric times [50–51]. Apart from the mitochondrial haplogroup H1, the maternal and paternal lineages detected in the three Nimes individuals are relatively rare in modern-day France [52]. In comparison to the Iberian Peninsula or Italy, it appears clear that the genetic impact of the Arab rule was less significant in France.

Ariel said...

"it appears clear that the genetic impact of the Arab rule was less significant in France."

J.S. said...

Eupedia 's map is just maciamo'a fantaisy. On what sdutiy(ies) is it based?
No geogenealogical study of the y chromosome for the whole country which take into account the real region origin of the individuals has been made.
This kind of study is almost forbidden in France because of ideological reasons. Ethnic/native Frecnh officially does not exist.

J.S. said...

I do not know if there is any correlation between autosomal result and uniparental frequency,but according to Aude Saint-Pierre & al study The fine-scale genetic structure of the French population,
" Combining the 1000 Genomes individuals with the French population confirmed this trend with the West (GO) andNorth (NO) regions of France classified with the CEU and GBR populations from 1000 Genomes."

I wonder how possible it is to have such haplogroup E "range of frequencies" on eupedia's map, especially in Paris area.

Helgenes50 said...

In France, the data are too scarce
How to draw maps without testing ?
Without forgetting that most of the population in Paris area is not of origin.

E-M81 is probably present in France via a spanish ancestryr and not via
the Islamic conquest.

André de Vasconcelos said...

Just because a certain area has E-M81, it doesn't necessarily mean it was introduced by North African invaders during the islamic expansion period, history goes a long way back, and it didn't stop in the middle ages. I guess that the fact the highest E-M81 frequency found in Europe is in Cantabria should point to that.

Unknown said...

There is no question that there was gene-flow from north Africa into southern and south-western Europe long prior to the Moors. At least as early as Neolithic. For example mtDNA L in ancient DNA from Chalcolithic Iberia, and the age of certain clades of L in Iberia, Italy, and Czech/Slovak Republic. Plus E-M81 in Cantabria is surely ancient. However in the case of the Paris Basin can we be sure that the frequency of E-M81 is not due to the French not permitting collection of data on ethnicity from their citizens? Hence a lot of French citizens of north African background classified only as 'French' and leading to inflated % of E-M81.

AlexDeLarge said...

I dunno about Sardinia, but in Sicily and surroundings, 60% of E-m81 does not come from Berbers/North Africans. A neolithic origin is the most plausible hypothesis.

Stefania Sarno et al.
Besides the low frequency (1.5%) of E-M81 lineages in general observed in our SSI (Sicily and Southern Italy) dataset, the typical Maghrebin core haplotype 13-14-30-24-9-11-13 [8] has been found in only two out of the five E-M81 individuals. These results, along with the negligible contribution from North-African populations revealed by the admixture-like plot analysis, suggest only a marginal impact of trans-Mediterranean gene flows on the current SSI genetic pool.

Cossue said...

The high frequency of m81 in the Pas valley in Cantabria is no doubt due to founder effect. But this haplogroup there could be plainly medieval, because of the settlement of a bunch of Moor serfs by local monasteries.
Certainly the "Pasiegos" don't look northafrican.

Nirjhar007 said...


Anything on testing the Kum6?. (Its low coverage, yes, but still) ..

J.S. said...

" The high frequency of m81 in the Pas valley (in Cantabria)is no doubt due to founder effect"
No way...due to reasons explained above.

Cossue said...

J. S.

Sorry, I'm feeling a little slow today: where in this page or outside of it is the evidence that the high frequency of E-M81 among the pasiegos is not due to a founder effect? Honestly.

J.S. said...

i was only talking about France.

Olympus Mons said...

There is a lot of "History Bias" as to the analysis one makes to DNA. As if differentiated population movement was/is as Proficuous as much "history" one can amount by History itself. Quite au contraire. the more Historical times we are referring to, the more likely there was a lower genetic shift of population. By then all was pretty much settled. Therefore I tend to considerer the likelihood of that M-81 was actually part of the package of R1b population arriving in Iberia 5,000 year ago. R1b (Caucasus), E-M81 (berbers) a long side with H1 (not sure NA), K1a4 and U4 (Caucasus), U6 and L1 (North Africa) – They just had a sort of swift travel trough North Africa due to the already speeding desertification of the 5.9 Kiloyear climatic event.

Olympus Mons said...

Just to ad Just to ad something.
The most Southern part of Portugal, Algarve, as a lot of Islamic influences on naming, architecture and so forth- However no E-M81 or north Africa Haplogroups. But, just 60 miles up north, is the Alentejo and lots and lots of E-M81. Difference? – Algarve had “no Chalcolithic” and the Alentejo is the mother lore of chalcolithic Europe, that saw the bell beaker culture rising (from Zambujal).

Maju said...

@Olympus: Algarve did have a rich Chalcolithic with several early towns, like Santa Justa, near the mouth of the Guadiana. These towns disappeared only in the Bronze Age, with a cultural change that began precisely in the Algarve and spread northwards in the following centuries until it reached the Tagus boundary centuries later.

@In general: no mystery here, these guys seem to be of direct North African patrilineal ancestry, regardless of the matrilineage. Otherwise it's most unlikely that they were all three E1b-M81. They surely arrived with the Muslim invasion that quickly took over the Visigothic Kingdom (which included the Septimania, modern Languedoc), struggled for much longer in Basque-Aquitanian lands but eventually succeeded here as well and was finally stopped at the famous battle of Poitiers/Tours, near the Aquitanian/Frankish border of the time. It illustrates that the invaders were (mostly) not "Arab" but North African, but all that is something we already knew.