J2b-FT33373 an Iron Age Line of J2b-Z1043 with Significant Western Balkans Diversity

Until a few months ago, J2b-FT33373 was a lineage comprising of only five geolocated samples on the YFull YTree.

There were:

  • Tiranë, Albania
  • Varna, Bulgaria
  • Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 2x England

Only two child lineages had been discovered, J2b-FT198500 consisting of a Bulgarian and J2b-FGC62445 consisting of one German and English sample.

While modern presence in the Balkans was undeniable, there was not a preponderance of samples to suggest a likely Iron Age origin.

Two YSEQ WGS I Purchased at the Same Time Turned Out to be J2b-FT33373*

I was very surprised when, in the last batch of WGS tests I ordered at YSEQ this summer, two of the men ended up being positive for this rare line.

Prior to ordering the WGS tests, I had tested the men for many of the J2b-Z1043 lineages via a la carte SNP testing at YSEQ and knew they were negative for most lineages.

Their 37 STR signatures did not lead me to predict that they would be J2b-FT33373. Hopefully we can find some inherited signal in the additional STRs that YFull will extract from their WGS tests. STR Match Finder is the automated tool I use to visualize shared rare alleles among a set of STR test results.

Western Balkans Diversity Greatly Increased

One new sample traces his male line to Spodnja Pohanca, Artiče, Krško, today Slovenia. He informed me that he believes that further back his ancestors lived in Slavonia, the eastern part of Croatia. I'm marking his sample as Krško until more details can be clarified regarding a possible deeper origin.

The second new sample from Greece traces his male line to Grevena, Greece, but his male line ancestors were likely originally not ethnic Greeks. His male line ancestor lived in the village of Lavdas and belonged to an ethnic group known as Koupatsarei. This group is described as likely having descended from sedentarized Vlachs in this paper.

The Vlachs in this region speak a Pindus variant of the Aromanian languages classified as South Aromanian according to this map of South Balkan Romance languages from Wikipedia.

Thoughts About the Ancient Origin of J2b-FT33373 and parent J2b-Z1043

Presently, given that we have not yet found ancient J2b-Z1043 samples dating to the Iron Age, before any Roman-mediated migrations would have occurred, the geographic origin of J2b-Z1043 and its immediate child J2b-FT33373 is not precisely known.

Refer to this map of ancient J2b-L283 samples maintained by the researcher Flor Veseli.

Going by the living samples, it makes sense that the actual geographic origin of J2b-FT33373, who lived in about 800 BCE, was further north than Grevena, because all the other samples are from further north in the Balkans. Likewise, the origin should be further west than Varna, Bulgaria, which is a geographic outlier to the east.

Of ancient J2b-L283 samples dating to the Iron and Bronze Ages, we see that J2b-Z1297+ samples (this is the segment of the tree containing J2b-Z1043 and FT33373) are found further to the south along the Adriatic coast of the western Balkans than ancient samples of other J2b-L283 lineages. More detailed discussion about this here - What 1100 BCE Velika Gruda sample means for J2b-Z1297 origins

One other line of J2b-Z1043 with an Iron Age TMRCA and significant diversity in the Balkans is J2b-FTA62354. This is a branch of J2b-FGC55778, an easily identified branch as nearly all of these men have DYS385a = 10 (a denotes the first number in the hyphenated pair). These men trace descent to Montenegro, northern Albania and North Macedonia. More info on this branch here - Sandžak Bosniak, Albanian, Macedonian and Balkan Turk attest to Iron Age origin of J2b-FT117099 and by implication J2b-Z631 and J2b-Z1043

A growing number of J2b-Z1043 ancient samples have been found in the recent months, but to my knowledge they all date to after the Roman colonization of the Western Balkans. So while the ancient J2b-Z1043 found in a Roman military burial in Timacum Minus may have originally lived in the general area around Ravna, Serbia, we don't know for sure.

Given that several high resolution ancient J2b-Z1297 samples have been found in the western part of the Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age Glasinac-Mati culture, and all were negative for prolific J2b-Z1043, I think that the eastern range of Glasinac-Mati could represent the homeland of J2b-Z1043.

"Its appearance coincides with a population boom in the region as attested in numerous new sites which developed in that era." - Glasinac-Mati wikipedia article

J2b-Z1043 does fit the description of exhibiting rapid growth starting in the Early Iron Age. In one line, of six subsequent branching points, starting in 800 BCE, five of six are defined by a single-SNP - this indicates rapid growth over several centuries. This line is J2b-Z1043>Z8427>CTS10587>Z8424>Z8429>A25649>Y12007. Note that CTS10587 is a newly discovered split visible on the live version of the YFull tree.

The theory that I currently think makes the most sense is that many J2b-Z1043 lived among the Dardani, a tribal confederation attested as a kingdom since the 4th century BCE that waged several wars against Macedon. The wikipedia article states that present day Kosovo formed their core area. However later in the Roman empire they are described as having lived in southern Moesia Superor, which appears to encompass parts of northern Albania, southwest Serbia and northwestern North Macedonia.

The Dardani (or people otherwise living in Moesia) were first conquered or defeated by the Roman proconsul of Macedonia in 75 BCE and then followed up by M Licinius Crassus in 29 BCE.

During the time of the Great Illyrian Revolt, or Bellum Batonianum, "War of the Batos", the governor of Moesia, Aulus Caecina Severus, is recorded as having sent troops to quash the rebellion of tribes living further to the northwest. I take this to mean that Dardanians in Moesia itself were not revolting at that time (otherwise he would have had his hands full in Moesia), so Dardani may have actually numbered among the auxilia supporting the Moesian legions, though I have no sources for this.

It appears that in the subsequent years, J2b-Z1043 living in the more accessible areas of Moesia would have mostly Romanized, gained Roman citizenship and served as regular legionaries. A combination of heavy recruitment over several centuries, devastation due to invading peoples over the first few centuries CE and culminating in a great migration of Slavic speaking people may have reduced the numbers of J2b-Z1043 living in their ancestral homelands.

According to wikipedia:Moesia, "The Slavs allied with the Avars invaded and destroyed much of Moesia in 583–587 in the Avar–Byzantine wars."

The complicated population dynamics of the western Balkans compounded with the fact that many J2b-Z1043 successfully established themselves along the periphery of the Roman Empire continues to obscure the ancient geographic origin of J2b-Z1043.

But at the rate that additional ancient samples are currently being discovered and DNA tested, I think we will have found Iron Age ancient J2b-Z1043 sample within the next 1-3 years.

What Language did the J2b-Z1043 MRCA Speak?

The western Balkans in the Bronze Age are assumed to have been inhabited by tribes speaking Illyrian languages, a branch of the Indo-European languages.

If you read about the ancient Balkan peoples you may find linguists mention three related Paleo-Balkan languages, Illyrian, Dacian and Thracian, and their contact-zones. I am not a linguist (though I am fluent in several living languages), so I cannot evaluate any of these hypotheses myself.

I accept the prevailing linguistic theory that Albanian is a surviving Paleo-Balkan language with heavy Latin admixture. This seems like the Occam's Razor way to interpret it.

One particular branch of J2b-L283 is found almost exclusively in Albanians, namely J2b-PH4679 with TMRCA that lived 1400 BCE.

Contrast this with J2b-Z1043 which, while found in some Albanians, is mostly found in people living outside the Balkans. Within the Balkans it is not exclusive to Albanians but is represented by men of every ethnic group and region.

I think this means that the J2b-Z1043 MRCA was not living in the same place as the J2b-PH4679 MRCA. The J2b-Z1043 MRCA was likely living somewhere more conducive to Romanization and then subsequent population displacement. For example in urban centers, near rivers or valuable mines.

I think it then follows that if the J2b-PH4679 MRCA was speaking proto-Albanian, the J2b-Z1043 MRCA would have spoken a perhaps closely related Illyrian language of a neighboring tribe.

It may have even been the exact same language if the Glasinac-Mati culture had adopted a single lingua franca by the Bronze Age.

By the time the Romans conquered the western Balkans, the numerous lineages of J2b-Z1043 had had 800 years to migrate away from the origin. It is interesting that J2b-Z1043 migrated so widely compared to J2b-PH4679.

Maybe, due to J2b-Z1043's Iron Age prolificness, if there were a Glasinac-Mati lingua franca in the Iron Age, it would have been the language spoken by the J2b-Z1043 MRCA that he and/or his offspring were perhaps able to impose on their neighbors due to their sheer strength of numbers.

Advanced SNP Theory

This section goes a little into the weeds on standards for determining whether a SNP should be used for genetic genealogy purposes. You don't need to understand this to be interested in the results of our research. That is why I put this at the end.

According to UCSC hg38 BLAT tool, FT33373 is 98.9% identical to a 1008 base pair long segment of the X chromosome starting at 91651492. YSEQ does not offer the FT33373 a la carte SNP test product because the chances are greater that such a mutation could be inherited from the X chromosome relative to other SNPs from regions that are not homologous to other chromosomes.

For a remarkable example of how our DNA repair mechanisms replace and rewrite damaged sections of DNA with a segment from a different chromosome, check out this article:

Six or Seven at one Blow – an A1b1 and J2b-Y33795 Ancestor’s Tale

Nonetheless, the YSEQ WGS result indicated clear positive reads for these men and YFull added them to their tree under J2b-FT33373. Each company has their own standards for determining whether SNPs should be defined or used for genetic genealogical purposes.

The more closely related we know two men to be based on other SNPs, the more it makes sense to assume that a shared SNP, even if from a homologous sections of the Y, is indicative of inheritance from a more recent male line ancestor.

If their confirmed-by-other-more-reliable-SNPs terminal subclade were 10,000 years old instead of just 2800 years old, we would be going more out on a limb to assume that the homologous region's SNP was indicative of inheritance exclusively through the Y from a man who lived 10,000 years ago.

These posts are the opinion of Hunter Provyn, a haplogroup researcher in J-M241 and J-M102.

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