The oldest people in Europe

Everyone wants the people they belong to to be the oldest, the strongest, the best, with the most glorious history. Even the search for the oldest people in the Balkans brought me to the forefront of the Bosniak DNA project. Three years later, what did we learn? Who is the oldest people in the Balkans, in fact, who is the oldest in all of Europe?

Author: Usame Zukorlić

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We will go back 12,000 years, according to how scientists believe and look at Europe. It is inhabited by the first inhabitants, with underdeveloped technology, due to which they were mostly engaged in hunting and gathering food, and that period is scientifically known as Palaeolithic. An analysis of their archeological remains from that period revealed that they mostly belonged to the I haplogroup, while in northern and eastern Europe the members of the C haplogroup were more dominant, who soon disappeared from Europe and whose descendants are mostly found in Mongolia, Australia and America.

The haplogroup I was divided into I1 haplogroup and at that time a much more dominant I2 haplogroup, which again in the later period split into two more dominant subgroups I2a1 and I2a2.

By analyzing the archaeological remains, it was determined that until some 6000 years before the new era, the I2a1 haplogroup was dominant in Western Europe, while I2a2 was dominant in the Balkans. The famous Iron Gates culture belonged to that culture.

If you belong to the I2a2 haplogroup, you are in some way connected with the inhabitants of Iron Gates culture. It is technically possible that you are also descendants.

But if you are an I2a1 haplogroup, Western Europe was your homeland at the time. Many in the Balkans who consider themselves to be great experts in the field of population genetics mix these two haplogroups.

In the period after 6000 BCAcross Anatolia and the Balkans, the people of the Neolithic culture, who are mostly engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding, infiltrate Europe. Before them, the culture of Iron Gates disappears and the cultures of Vinča, Starčevo and Vučedol emerge, with a visibly dominant G2a haplogroup, but also other haplogroups such as E1b, J2, T1 and others. In that period, I2a1 and I2a2 haplogroups mostly retreated to the north and west of Europe, and Europe remained in that division of power until Indo-European migrations.

Some freelance historians consider today’s Balkan peoples to be descendants of Vinča, Starčevo and Vučedol. But they will be disappointed to discover that Indo-Europeans between 3000 and 2000 BC, mostly R1b haplogroups, first wiped out most of the I2 haplogroup from Europe, and in a later raid J1 and J2 haplogroups from the Caucasus actually wiped out the dominant G2a haplogroup from the Balkans.

Vinca and similar cultures disappeared there, and in their place came the Greeks, then the Illyrians and Thracians from the direction of the Alps, across Pannonia, who would later form the first powerful countries in the Balkans.

During this time, some branches of the I2a1 and I2a2 haplogroups survived in Central Europe.

As an example, we will cite one branch of the I2a1 haplogroup. The I-L621 we find today predominantly in the eastern half of Europe is genetically 11,500 years away from the I-L161.1 found predominantly in the western half of Europe, while for example all surviving descendants of the I-L621 haplogroup are descended from just one ancestor who lived 6,500 years ago. YFull points out that the budget may vary by a thousand up or down, but this calculation shows us that members of the I2a1 haplogroup survived mass destruction during the period of Indo-European infiltration into Europe and that only individuals survived.

These surviving oldest Europeans were largely Germanicized.

In the period of 1600 and 1200 years, in the area north of the Alps to the Carpathians, the Tumulus culture spread. The branch I-CTS10228, from which most of the Western Balkans originate, was located in that area. According to one hypothesis, the relocation of this branch from Central to Eastern Europe to the north region of the Carpathians could be related to the migration of the Germanic tribe Bastarnae which is known to have been in the 3rd century BC from the area between the Oder and the Vistula where it was the dominant Gubin-Jastrof culture migrated to the area east of the Carpathians where the proto-Slavic Zarubintsy culture was dominant. This hypothesis is supported by scientific research, as well as the fact that there are currently no archeologically better candidates than Bastarnae. The invasion Bastarnae of the Balkans in the 2nd century also explains well the emergence of the I-Y18331 sub-branch among the Greeks.

In the area of Transcarpathia, I-Y3120 is experiencing a boom in reproduction. Mixed with the proto-Balto-Slavic R1a haplogroup, with the branches R-M458 and R-Z280 they create a Slavic identity. From the area of Transcarpathia, Slavs migrated en masse to all four parts of the world at the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century, so members of the I2a1 haplogroup inhabited the Balkans, with the greatest concentration in the area of the then Illyricum. The inhabitants of Illyricum, previously pressured by epidemics and numerous crises and wars in the Roman Empire, retreated en masse to the mountains, with the greatest concentration in Prokletije, while members of the I2a1 haplogroup settled in the wider area of today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina and participated in the ethnogenesis of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs and other peoples of the Western Balkans.

Let us now look at the statistics of all descendants and haplogroups in Europe today and understand which nation is today the purest heir of the oldest Europeans, based on research from scientific papers.

  1. Bosnians – 49% – I2 – Doğan et al. 2017
  2. Swedes – 42% – I1 – Karlsson 2006
  3. Danes – 39% – I1 – Nasidze 2004
  4. Serbs – 38% – I2 – Mirabal et al. 2010
  5. Croats – 37.7% – I2 – Mršić et al. 2014
  6. Norwegians – 37% – I1 – Dupuy 2005

Thus, we come to the conclusion that Bosniaks are the most typical representatives of the old European I2 haplogroup, but in a significant percentage also both Serbs and Croats, while Swedes are the most typical representatives of the I1 haplogroup in Europe, but in a significant percentage also both Danes and Norwegians.

Although Bosniaks, especially in Bosnia, are one of the most homogeneous peoples in the Balkans, they have not remained immune to interference. Thus they mingled with the natives of Illyrian origin through the centuries. If we look at the autosomal genetics of Bosniaks, we will come to the conclusion that there is no Bosniak who does not carry Slavic and Illyrian origins at the same time. The same thing applies to Croats, Serbs and Montenegrins.

Finally, let’s underline. The thesis that was popular before that Bosniaks are natives of the Balkans since the time of Vinca has been blown away by scientific research, but it has been proven that Bosniaks are:

A mixture of Slavic, Illyrian and Germanic peoples and the most typical heir of the oldest inhabitants of Europe.


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