Author: Maciamo Last update: September 2013
Outside Europe, E1b1b is found at high frequencies in Morocco (over 80%), Somalia (80%), Ethiopia (40% to 80%), Tunisia (70%), Algeria (60%), Egypt (40%), Jordan (25%), Palestine (20%) and Lebanon (17.5%). On the European continent it has the highest concentration in Kosovo (over 45%), Albania and Montenegro (both 27%), Bulgaria (23%), Macedonia and Greece (both 21%), Cyprus (20%), Sicily (20%), South Italy (18.5%), Serbia (18%) and Romania (15%).
Distribution of haplogroup E1b1b in Europe, the Near East and North Africa
Origins and History
Haplogroup E1b1b (formerly E3b) represents the last major direct migration from Africa into Europe. It is believed to have first appeared in the Horn of Africa approximately 26,000 years ago and dispersed to North Africa and the Near East during the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. E1b1b lineages are closely linked to the diffusion of Afroasiatic languages.
The highest genetic diversity of haplogroup E1b1b is observed in Northeast Africa, especially in Ethiopia and Somalia, which also have the monopoly of older and rarer branches like M281, V6 or V92. Ethiopians and Somalians belong mostly to the V22 and V32 (downstream of V12) subclades, but possess also a minority of M81, M123 and V42 subclades. Among the main subclades of E1b1b only V13 and V65 are absent from the Horn of Africa and probably originated in northern Africa (V65) or the southern Levant (V13).
Haplogroup E1b1b may well have been associated with the earliest development of Neolithic lifestyle and the advent of agriculture, which is so far believed to have arisen in the Fertile Crescent, but could have developed earlier in parts of Northeast Africa now covered by the Sahara desert. Agriculture spread from the Near East to Europe, at first mostly ovicaprid (domestic sheep or goat) and cattle herders. E1b1b men (accompanied by G2a, J and T men) appear to have been associated at least with the diffusion of Neolithic painted pottery from the Levant to the Balkans (Thessalian Neolithic) and with the Cardium Pottery culture (5000-1500 BCE) in the Western Mediterranean. The only concrete evidence for this at the moment is the presence of the E-V13 subclade, commonest in the southern Balkans today, at a 7000-year old Neolithic site in north-east Spain, which was tested by Lacan et al (2011). The African origin of some Neolithic cattle was confirmed by Decker et al (2013), who reported that Iberian and Italian cattle possess introgression from African taurine.
Judging from modern frequencies, E1b1b would have been a major Near Eastern haplogroup linked to the propagation of agriculture in Europe. It is the only Near Eastern haplogroup consistently found throughout Europe, even in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Baltic countries, which are conspicuous by the absence of other Neolithic haplogroups like G2a (bar the Indo-European G2a3b1), J1 and T (except in Estonia).
E1b1b lineages would have been part and parcel to virtually all Neolithic and subsequent cultures in Europe, if only as a tiny minority in Scandinavia, Northeast Europe and in the Pontic Steppe. Although E1b1b represents the last major migration out of Africa, E1b1b individuals may have been among the first people to have acquired the alleles for fair skin. European hunter-gatherers were still dark skinned as recently as 7000 years ago (Olalde et al. 2014), while the Early Neolithic farmers from the Near East possessed alleles for fair skin found in modern Europeans. Those Neolithic farmers would have included members of haplogroup E-V13 (confirmed) as well as E-M34 (inferred). It is still unclear exactly when and among which haplogroup fair skin arose, but it has been suggested that the new diet brought by cereral agriculture would have caused deficiencies in vitamin D, which was traditionally absorbed from fish and meat among foragers. Mutations for light skin would have been positively selected among Neolithic agriculturalists to stimulate the production of vitamin D from sunlight in order to compensate for the scarcity of meat. So ironically the first white-skinned Europeans may have been farmers partially descended from people recently arrived from Northeast Africa.
Expansion of agriculture from the Middle East to Europe (9500-3800 BCE)
The ancient Greeks contributed to the diffusion of E1b1b to places such as Cyprus, Sicily, southern Italy, Liguria, Provence and eastern Spain, while the Phoenicians and Carthaginians brought more E1b1b to Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Ibiza and southern Iberia. Migrations within the Roman Empire probably played a role, although a minor one, in the redistribution of E1b1b in Europe.
Did E1b1b cross directly from North Africa to Europe due to climate change?
It is still unclear when haplogroup E first entered Europe. The earliest known prehistoric sample to date is an E-V13 from Catalonia dating from 5000BCE. So we know for sure that E1b1b was present in southern Europe at least since the Early Neolithic. Nonetheless, the possibility of other migrations of E1b1b to southern Europe during the Mesolithic or Late Palaeolithic cannot be ruled out.
E1b1b in Iberia
It is highly probable that the E-M81 subclade, most commonly found in Northwest Africa, settled in Iberia before Neolithic herders from the Cardium Pottery culture arrived. Nowadays E-M81 is far more frequent in western Iberia than anywhere else in Europe or the Near East. One could argue that E-M81 came during the Moorish occupation of Spain during the Middle Ages. But then E-M81 would be found chiefly in southern Iberia, and certainly not in the north-west, which was never conquered by the Muslims. Actually the highest percentage of M81 is Iberia is found in the northern region of Cantabria, the most sheltered place in the peninsula, which has been inhabited continuously since the Paleolithic. Modern Cantabrians belong overwhelmingly to mtDNA lineages H, HV, V and U5, and of three samples tested from Palaeolithic Cantabria all belong to one of these haplogroups, a sign of genetic continuity hinting that E-M81 could already have been present in the region back then.
Besides, Neolithic sites in Spain have yielded several samples of African mtDNA (e.g. L1b1 in Andalusia, L2 in the Basque Country and L3 Valencia). L1b1 is specific to West Africa and could not have come with Near Eastern farmers. Consequently, E-M81 must have come to Iberia at latest during the Neolithic. However, since no Neolithic culture is known to have originated in the Maghreb, it would make more sense if E-M81 came during the Late Paleolithic.
At the Last Glacial Maximum, sea levels were 120 metres lower than today and the Strait of Gibraltar was just a few kilometres wide, permitting even the most primitive raft to cross it easily. Is it merely a coincidence that the last attested trace of Neanderthal in Iberia (actually in Gibraltar itself) dates from 24,000 years ago, a short time before the Last Glacial Maximum? Could their disappearance be the result of an an absorption by Homo Sapiens from North Africa? The last Iberian Neanderthals did show some signs of hybridization with Homo Sapiens. Whereas Homo Sapiens indisputably colonised Paleolithic Europe from the Near East, a counter-current colonisation from Northwest Africa is plausible too.
E1b1b in South Italy and the Balkans
One might wonder why E1b1b is more common in the southern Balkans (Greece included) and southern Italy than anywhere in the Near East, except in Egypt. What's more, the dominant form of E1b1b in Southeast Europe is E-V13, a subclade absent from the Horn of Africa and only present at low frequencies in North Africa (peaking in Lybia), the Levant and western Anatolia. It is usually assumed that E-V13 and other E1b1b lineages came to the Balkans from the southern Levant via Anatolia during the Neolithic and that the high frequency of E-V13 was caused by a founder effect among the colonisers. An alternate hypothesis is that E-V13 migrated directly from North Africa to southern Europe, crossing the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Sicily, then to Italy and to the southern Balkans.
The Sahara changed many times from a lush green place to a hot and arid desert in the last 20000 years. It was as arid as today at the end of the last Ice Age 13000 years ago, then the warming climate brought tropical monsoons again from 10000 to 7000 years before present. The desertification taking place today started around 6200 years ago. This series of severe transformations of their environment surely had a tremendous effect on the indigenous (E1b1b) people, causing populations booms during the green millennia following the Last Glacial Maximum, then again during the Neolithic period and prompting migrations to milder climes once the rain had gone. The region most affected by the desertification would have been around modern Libya. The northern Maghreb enjoys the protection of the mountains that stopped the advance of the desert. Egypt had the Nile and its delta. As a result, if desertification did prompt North Africans to cross the Mediterranean at one time or another, they would most probably have crossed to Sicily first.
In such a scenario, North Africans would have belonged primarily to haplogroup E-V13, but might have carried other subclades too, including E-M81. If a founder effect caused the higher frequency of E-V13 in Europe it would have taken place during the migration from Africa to Sicily. That would explain why E-V13 is more common in Lybia today than anywhere in the Near East, and why E-M81 is found in Italy and the Balkans. The small presence of E-V13 (and perhaps even E-M81) in the Near East that could be explained by the extremely long Greek presence in the eastern Mediterranean from the time of Alexander the Great until the end of the Byzantine domination over the region during the Middle Ages.
The strongest evidence in favour of E1b1b crossing directly from North Africa to southern Italy is that it has more African admixture than the Balkans, Greece or Anatolia. This is true of the Northwest African admixture and the East African (Red sea) admixture.
The Neolthic farmers who migrated from the southern Levant to the Balkans would have brought mostly Southwest Asian admixture with such lineages as E-M34, E-V22, E-V12, G2a, J1 and T, and perhaps some more E-V13 too. The elevated incidence of E1b1b in the Balkans, Greece and South Italy would therefore have two different origins: a first migration from Tunsia to South Italy then to the Balkans during the Late Paleolithic and the later migration of Levantine herders and farmers via Anatolia during the Early Neolithic. The Thessalian Neolithic would have emerged, like in many other places, as fusion of Near Eastern immigrants and indigenous ones. In this case both might have carried a considerable percentage of E1b1b lineages.
The hypothesis of E1b1b settling Italy and the Balkans since the Late Paleolithic would also explain:
1) ... why South Italians are remarkably dolicocephalic (long-headed) like North Africans (and Iberians), while North Italians are quite brachycephalic (broad-headed) like Central Europeans and Eastern Europeans and West Asians. A direct migration from North Africa to South Italy would have resulted not only in higher African admixture in South Italians, but also in a similar morphology. The Greeks are intermediary because they would have been blended with broad-headed West Asian Neolithic farmers. Further north in the Balkans the broad head shape won over time thanks to the combined West Asian and Eastern European (including Indo-European) migrations.
2) the almost complete absence of other Paleolithic lineage (notably I2) from southern and central Italy, except in Sardinia, which was presumably not settled by Paleolithic North Africans due to its distance from the nearest coast. The same applies to Greece, Macedonia, Albania, etc. where I2a1b lineages only came between the Bronze Age (Thracians, Illyrians) and the Middle Ages (Slavs). Why would indigenous Paleolithic lineages be wiped out from the Balkans and most of Italy with the arrival of Near Eastern farmers, but survived and remained the dominant lineage in Sardinia, which was an important Neolithic centre belonging to the same Cardium Pottery culture as the rest of Italy? The best explanation is that E1b1b was already the dominant Paleolithic lineage in the Balkans and Italy apart from Sardinia, and therefore wasn't wiped out at all.
Five major subclades of E1b1b (V12, V13, V22, M81, M123) originated in Northeast Africa before the Neolithic. Consequently most of them are present virtually in all regions where E1b1b is found. One exception is Norway, Sweden and Finland, where only E-V13 seems to be present.
The frequency of E subclades has varied geographically over time due to founder effects in Neolithic populations, i.e. the migration of a small group of settlers carrying among whom one paternal lineage was much more common than any others. Examples of founder effects include E-V12 in southern Egypt, E-V13 in the Balkans, E-V32 in Somalia, E-V65 on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, and E-M81 in Northwest Africa.
E-M78 is the most common variety of haplogroup E among Europeans and Near Easterners. E-M78 is divided into 4 main branches: E1b1b1a1 (E-V12), E1b1b1a2 (E-V13), E1b1b1a3 (E-V22) and E1b1b1a4 (E-V65), each subdivided in further subclades.
E-V13 is one of the major markers of the Neolithic diffusion of farming from the Balkans to central, eastern and western Europe. Like all the other subclades of E-M78, E-V13 originated in north-east Africa toward the end of the last Ice Age. Its frequency is now far higher in Greece, South Italy and the Balkans than anywhere else either because E-V13 migrated directly from North Africa to southern Europe (see framed explanation above) or due to a founder effect among the Neolithic colonisers from the southern Levant. Archeological evidence shows that the region of Thessaly, in northern Greece, was the starting point (circa 6000 BCE) for the diffusion of agriculture through the Balkans and the Danube basin, which spread as far as west as northern France, and as far east as southwestern Russia. The modern distribution of E-V13 hints at a strong correlation with the Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures of Old Europe, such as the Vinča, Boian (aka Giuleşti-Marişa) and Karanovo, cultures. The genetic testing of three male samples from the Linear Pottery culture (LBK) only revealed the presence of haplogroups F and G2a. The sample size was nevertheless too small to rule out that E1b1b was part of this culture. E-V13 was later associated with the ancient Greek expansion and colonisation. Outside of the Balkans and Central Europe, it is particularly common in southern Italy, Cyprus and southern France, all part of the Classical ancient Greek world.
1. The E-L17 subclade has been found from Ukraine to Portugal and from Sardinia to England.
2. The E-L143 subclade has only been found in England.
3. The E-L241 subclade has been found in the Czech Republic and England.
4. The E-L540 subclade has been found in Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Belarus and Sweden.
Distribution of haplogroup E-V13 in Europe, the Middle East & North Africa