The Basques are the only people in Western Europe that have a non-Indo- European language. In fact, there is no clear relationship between Basque and any other existing language: it is an isolate, as far as we know.

The Basques are also genetically different from their neighbors. There is a component found generally in Europeans – the light purple at the bottom. You see it in Spaniards, Tuscans,CORE.10

Tuscans, Russians, Lithuanians, Utah whites (mostly British),  the French –  but not in the Basques or Sardinians. They look to be a two-bean salad, made up from a mixture of the old Mesolithic hunters (Hyperboreans)  and the first farmers (Cardial culture and LBK, from the Levant, maybe).  While other Europeans are a mix of three ancient populations: Hyperboreans, southern farmers, and something else we call ‘west Asian’ for lack of a better name.  But this graph hints at interesting details.  The red component, the Hyperborean fraction, is lower in the old-fashioned two bean population than in Europeans generally. Surely this means that invading Indo-European populations already had a lot of red in them – possible, since the Hyperboreans extended very far to the East, all the way to Lake Baikal.   Note also that the ‘west-Asian’ component does not vary too much. If the last wave of invaders had mixed a lot with the LBK, you’d expect to see less and less of that ‘west-asian’ component as you move west – but it’s almost the same in Orcadians as it is in Russians or Lithuanians. It’s some lower in Spain, but there’s an obvious explanation for that, which I leave as an exercise for my readers…

Anyhow, that constancy, which is closely related to the fact that Fst across the entire North European plain is very small, has another obvious implication.  Not one that LBK-fans are going to like.

The Basques have certainly mixed with other peoples, but it must have been almost entirely outward gene flow, at least in the core of the Basque country.  Many Basques helped resettle Spain in the Reconquista, few non-Basques inmarried.  They would have had to learn the language.  Altogether, the Basques are a genetic relic from about six thousand years ago, based on what we know today.

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79 Responses to Basques

  1. Handle says:

    It’s interesting to note that the Iraqi and Iranians Jews have almost no Hyperborean in them. It stands out with being enveloped by the red sections of the Iranians and Turks.

    • Nick says:

      Can someone explain what “Hyperborean” means in this context?

      • gcochran9 says:

        Back before the Neolithic, there was a population of hunters that occupied a region ranging from Western Europe to Lake Baikal. From what we know, they seem to have been pretty genetically uniform over that entire region. They account for a significant fraction of the ancestors of Europeans, especially northern Europeans, but also of Amerindians. Seems to me that they need a name. ‘Ancestral north Eurasians’ doesn’t have much pizzazz: I like Hyperboreans, used by the Greeks to denote a far northern people they didn’t know much about. And of course they existed in the world of Conan.

      • Nick says:

        I’m a layman but very interested in this. I’ve read lots of Dienekes and Razib, but often find myself unable to follow lots of the shop talk. If you would consider writing a guide for laymen to understanding lots of the pre-historical populations that seem to show up in admixture analyses, it would definitely help me understand this a lot more.
        Aside, your site is amazing. It’s like it answers all the questions that I have had for years…

      • a very knowing American says:

        Or how about “Polaroids,” by analogy with Mongoloids, Australoids, etc.? Fewer syllables than “Hyperborean.” Or is the name trademark-protected?

      • drwhat says:

        it specifically means, “beyond the northern wind” in greek iirc.

  2. Ilya says:

    Just from looking at the enclosed plot, I don’t see that Basques have a lower red component in them as compared to general Europeans (though they are definitely a “two-bean” population). Maybe I’m not reading it correctly.
    The Sardinians definitely have a smaller red component. Actually, they look more than 50% original-farmers.
    Barely any idea about the reason for smaller “west Asian” component in Spaniards. Maybe something to do with topographic features?

  3. tommy says:

    What exactly do the colored components represent? I assume they’re correlated clusters of genes. Does this involve some application of PCA or does it involve another mathematical technique?

    • Sandgroper says:

      It’s ‘ancestry painting’ as per or similar.

    • Matt says:

      As far as I know, ADMIXTURE is an algorithm that works to explain the allele frequencies of a sample set of individuals by describing them as combinations of K components, where K is specified by the user* and where each component has a particular allele frequency. E.g. Individual A’s allele frequency is 59% like component 1 and 41% like component 2, etc.

      ADMIXTURE can’t explain much of the total variance this way (because allele frequencies are largely unstructured), but the structured variance does exist tends to be population level, with populations tend towards being similar in their balance of components.

      Again, as far as I know, the algorithm is iterative and proceeds until the maximum amount of total allele frequencies which can be explained under that level of k are explained. Presumably there is some combination of randomized assignation to begin with, then checking the variance explained against the total and continuing to tinker in a non-random way until no further improvement occurs between cycles.

      Now, when we apply ADMIXTURE to a panel of Uyghurs, African Americans, Yoruba, Europeans and Han Chinese, at K=3 it would correctly infer (as we know from our knowledge of history) three clusters, a Chinesian, European and African, and that the Uyghurs and African Americans have mixed membership in the European and one of the other clusters.

      Extrapolating from this basis, people use ADMIXTURE as a basis of inferring modern human populations as mixtures of ancient populations which may or may not have existed and no longer exist, even though it is not a formal test for this purpose.

      If I’m wrong, hopefully more enlightened minds will correct me.

      * The choice of N isn’t totally arbitrary because there are metrics which tell user which is the best K to choose for a particular sample set in terms of explaining the total allele frequencies, and where forcing the algorithm to higher or lower K results in a less accurate compression of the allele frequencies.

  4. Ian says:

    It’s some lower in Spain, but there’s an obvious explanation for that
    Admixture with Basques and North Africans or Jews (the light blue component, I suppose), perhaps?
    I have a further question: as far as we know, how did Indo-Europeans look alike? It seems that fair complexion and blond hair are Hyperborean features. From historical evidence, it also looks like Indo-Europeans were also light-skinned, but that does not imply they were also blond-haired (though Achilles, Menelaus and the rest of the crew were probably blondes). Am I wrong?

    • drwhat says:

      aristotle describes the pontic greeks as blonde and blue eyed.

      • Ian says:

        … and Daruma (Bodhidharma in Japanese) is traditionally described as “the blue-eyed barbarian”, pointing to a Greco-Bactrian origin. They still paints blue eyes on Daruma dolls.

  5. I’d like to see how Sami/Laplanders look on this graph. Presumably they’d have lots of red and little or no dark purple, right?

    • Sandgroper says:

      Mesolithic mtDNA is at 50% frequency among the Saami.

      Yes, I think you are right. Lots of red.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Sorry, let me correct myself – I am thinking of one particular Mesolithic mtDNA haplogroup subclade that is at 50% among the Saami. The haplogroup U may occur among them at much higher frequency than that. It’s the same mtDNA haplogroup as the Siberian boy.

      • The Sami are actually pretty much derived from pre-Neolithic Europeans so I would presume their DNA to demonstrate what early Europeans were like during the Mesolithic.

  6. JayMan says:

    For the curious, here’s the whole plot, by Razib Khan:

    An informative ADMIXTURE plot (perhaps?) – Gene Expression

    • dave chamberlin says:

      I found your additional admixture plot useful and interesting. I keep going back and forth between the two admixture plots assuming that countries that were still overwhelmingly one solid color were the likely near the original source of that group.

  7. Arntor says:

    My norwegian wikipage says invading (proto)-german tribes brought with them “The battle axe-culture” around 3200 BC i North-Europe. Also called “the era of the crushed skulls” because a lot of mass graves have men, women and babies with crushed skulls. Regular graves after that shows a new, more individual perspective of thinking , people buried alone or two and two, in a sleeping posisition.
    Is this the same event as wave two?

  8. prime8 says:

    I’m confused about where Y-haplogroup G2a fits into all this. It appears to be historically associated with the Purple component — Mediterranean farmers from somewhere south/east, and with Oetzi and almost all other male skeletons from that time. But today, G2a has very high levels only in Sardinia and the Caucuses and shows up in a few other remote/mountainous parts of Europe. So, if the Sardinians and Basques are similar remnants of a Hyperborean-Cardial mix, why is there almost no G2a in Basques? And why is there *so much* in the Caucuses — also the place where the Pink presumably Indo-European component peaks?

  9. Sid says:

    We need a name for the Levantine farmers. How about Stygians?

  10. chrisdavies09 says:

    Sardinia and Basque have peak European frequencies of North African HLA haplotype A*30:02 : Cw*05:01 : B*18:01 : DRB1*03:01 : DQA1*05:01 : DQB1*02:01

  11. SpaghettiMeatball says:

    Is it lower in spain because the spanish were only indo-europeanized recently in the last 2,000 by romans?

    • Ian says:

      No. There were Celts in Spain long time before the Roman conquest.

      • SpaghettiMeatball says:

        Celtiberians? I though they arrived several hundred years before the romans. Anyways the pyrenees and the mediterranean acted as a barrier to the spread of indo-european: the rest of europe was indo-europeanized at least a thousand years before the iberians.

        Or maybe its just that the LBK farmers, who presumably carried a lot of the west asian component, never reached iberia, because they travelled into central europe along its water ways.

      • Ian says:

        That’s true: Celtiberians only push the time horizon a few years back. But then, there are Old-indoeropeans hydronyms accross all the peninsula (if they really are an Indoeuropean relic). And Lusitan was a language atested in Portugal, which seems to predate Celtiberian. Of course, all of this is only linguistic evidence.

    • Justin Irving says:

      It is lower in Spain because “Basque Country” used to be bigger. Presumably you have a series of IE invasions which push the Basques into the more easily defensible regions (like Saxons did to the Welsh). Then you have a slower process where interbreeding and Indoeuropean language creep chip away at the Basques. This second process could give you high Basque admixture (and thus lower IE ancestry) in the Spanish speaking areas around Basque country. Plus the Reconquista settlement effect and you get a slightly lower IE component.

      Or maybe the IEs didn’t make much progress into Spain in the horse riding, milk swilling days of yore, and the IE component is from much later Celtic and Roman migration?

  12. TWS says:

    Why is Basque an isolate? Was it rare to begin with? Is it a remnant of a far flung language family that has been greatly reduced like most Indian languages today?

    How much has it borrowed

    • Sid says:

      From what I recall, Basque has borrowed vocabulary extensively from Latin and modern Romance languages.

      Basque is a language isolate because there are no other living languages related to it. Its grammar is completely different from Indo-European languages, and all other languages that we have looked into. It was probably part of a language family spoken by the Levantine farmers (Stygians?), of which Basque is the only remnant.

  13. Matt says:

    The idea of near-uniformity is a little bit of an overstatement for Europe as a whole, but fair for the North Europe, where there isn’t much difference. But then that’s true of the other two components in Europe (and Fsts), not much of a difference in North Europe.

    In Southern Europe, the percentage of the West Asian component is about twice in Greeks, Bulgarians and Southern Italians compared to North European average. In Italians its intermediate the North European average and the Greek. In Spanish it’s at a minimum for non-IE speakers (although not hugely different from Northwest Europeans) and by far at the minimum for IE speaking Southern Europeans.

    This is from Dienekes Pontikos admixture runs, which contain a fair few more populations than Razib’s.

    The reasoning for this difference might be due to a bit more population structure in Southern Europe. Populations got larger early and stuck around where they were, while populations were small and farmers moved around more (and conquered one another more, etc) in Northern Europe, homogenizing the fraction to a greater extent. Originally it might have been that the “Eastern” North Europeans got most of the West Asian, but intra-North European population movements diminished the difference. I am not sure if this is a viable idea.

  14. That Guy says:

    The way I view it, Y-DNA haplogroup P, the father of R and Q, arose in todays Pakistan/NW India (Gujurat) Region.
    From there it split over time into R and Q, giving us:
    1. R* = Ma’lta Boy, some Amerindians (maybe R1)
    2. R1b = Mergarh, Northern Iran, Assyrians, Armenians, Alawites (Lebanon) and then via island hopping Western Europe.
    3. R1a = Central Asians, NE Chinese, Eastern Europeans, Scandinavians, Indians
    4. R-V88 = NE Africans, Levant, Cameroon
    5. Q = Ket and Native Americans, some Scandinavians, Eastern Europeans and Central Asians

    IMO, Indo-European correlates with the “Light Purple” above, and is the component “missing” in the Basque and Sardinians, and at lower frequency in the Spaniards too, as they were one of the last Indo-Europeanized peoples of Europe. The Indo-European component may have been carried by R1a males mostly.

  15. Difference Maker says:

    Typos galore!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Do I spy a couple Gypsies in the Romanian column?

  17. If its of any interest, cultural traits appear to link the Basques with conservative upland cultures as far away as the Hindukush, and their language seems to be related to Buruso and the languages spoken in the northern Caucasus (both NWC and NEC). The evidence seems to point towards the former existence of a common upland pastoralist culture area extending from the Pyrenees across eastwards to the Hindukush. For examples of the evidence see this paper by Kevin Tuite.

    Click to access Origin%20of%20Burushos.pdf

  18. JS says:

    “It’s some lower in Spain, but there’s an obvious explanation for that, which I leave as an exercise for my readers…”
    The Pyrenees?

  19. Bob says:

    I’m curious how the Sami would look on that chart. Almost all hyperborean?

  20. Pingback: Linkage | Uncouth Reflections

  21. Bob says:

    People used to say things like, she gets angry easily, it’s the Italian in her. I wonder if they weren’t too far from the truth in that these different combinations might produce different psychological propensities.

  22. drwhat says:

    the hungarians and finns do not speak indo-european languages, even if greg says they do.

  23. SpaghettiMeatball says:

    Still there doesn’t seem to be much admixture in Europe, i.e., Europeans are still very much derived from the mesolithic inhabitants (the red bar) and not from neolithic incomers.

  24. SpaghettiMeatball says:

    In all the other cases in history, farmers have overcome hunter-gatherers completely…except europe? That has to mean something too…

    • Sandgroper says:

      As Greg explained, Hyperborians (the ‘red’ people) ranged from Western Europe to Lake Baikal before the Neolithic.

      As he also said in the original post: “Surely this means that invading Indo-European populations already had a lot of red in them – possible, since the Hyperboreans extended very far to the East, all the way to Lake Baikal.”

      So, with the exception of Sardinians and Basques (and the Sami), it is not possible to distinguish from that Admixture plot how much Europeans are derived from the original Mesolithic HG inhabitants of Europe, and how much from the ‘red’ component of invading Indo-Europeans.

    • Matt says:

      It’s not clear that “In all the other cases in history, farmers have overcome hunter-gatherers completely…” is what happened in the Americas, in India (Ancestral South Indian), East Asia (population expansions plausibly pre-date the Neolithic, but we don’t have a great deal of ancient dna – estimates vary on how much replacement of the Jomon happened with the Japanese), or the Near East (hunter gatherer populations there should be theoretically genetically closer to farmers, making it hard for there to be any clues from ADMIXTURE).

      how much from the ‘red’ component of invading Indo-Europeans

      This could be almost nothing given that Indo European South Asians have almost no red and that non-Indo European Basques have almost no purple-pink.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Yes, point taken.

      • Sandgroper says:

        There is a bit of ‘red’ in Indo European South Asians, but it’s not a lot.

      • JayMan says:

        Perhaps all Indo-Europeans weren’t created equal. If the red part of the ADMIXTURE plot is the Hyperborean component, it is probably not horrendously surprising that there is less of this in the eastern Indo-Europeans; if Peter-Frost is correct, the splash of color in hair and eyes found in Western Eurasians are likely Hyperborean characteristics. These features are less common in eastern Indo-European groups (e.g., Persians, northern Indians), though of course, not absent.

        For that matter, these features clearly did not yet appear in the branch of Hyperboreans that went on to contribute to the gene pool of modern Native Americans, so again, what you see in South Asia shouldn’t be too surprising.

      • Matt says:

        Perhaps all Indo-Europeans weren’t created equal.

        A neon pink component “Indo-European” population who migrated to / invaded Europe could have been more red than the one which went elsewhere, due to picking up red along the way or some other process. That seems very possible. It just feels rather complicated to add that in unless there’s a reason it’s absolutely necessary.

        the splash of color in hair and eyes found in Western Eurasians are likely Hyperborean characteristics

        Someone who was really interested and had the data could in theory work out correlations between population mean frequencies of pigment related SNPs and population mean levels of each component, and exploit this to estimate mean frequencies of pigment snps (and thus pigment) for each one of the components.

        Of red and purple, while neither would probably have a correlation with variants at (or close to) fixture in West Eurasia, red seems it would otherwise likely generally be correlated with non-fixed light pigment variants, purple with darker variants. The light pink component in South Asians would probably be more correlated with dark variants than the purple.

        It’s unclear to me where the neon pink (West Asian) would sit with its correlations. However, we can compare the French-Hungarian and Georgian-Spanish-Basque sets as populations with similar levels of purple who trade off red for neon pink. Other population pairs are more complicated due to the presence of other components. But doesn’t seem like populations who just trade off red for neon pink (while leaving purple unchanged) tend to have darker pigmentation (visually comparing national sports team and so on).

  25. Philip Neal says:

    I think you are saying that Europe was populated in three waves: Hyperboreans (present in the Mesolithic, LBK (arrived from the Levant with agriculture), and west Asians (part Hyperborean back where they came from) partly displacing earlier populations as far as the Pyrenees. Modern Basques are not descended from the final wave and speak a non Indo-European language so, you imply, Indo-European arrived with Bronze Age invaders and not with Neolithic agriculturalists.

    To those of us who are at home in historical linguistics and know nothing about genetics this is plausible for other reasons. But should we proceed to identify Basque with the pre-Indo-European language(s) of Europe? The dawn of literacy reveals a complex linguistic pattern in Spain and neighbouring regions. Ancestral Basque is known from inscriptions throughout the Aquitanian region of south-east Gaul, while a city on the Mediterranean coast had a Basque name (I have not got the reference but I can supply it), surrounded by intrusive Romans and Carthaginians and separated from the Pyrenees by Celtiberian and Tartessian speaking areas.The fact that the western Pyrenees escaped a genetic and linguistic intrusion 6000 years ago need not mean that the language spoken there now has been spoken there for 6000 years.

    • Pre-Indo-European probably was very linguistically diverse with many unrelated families and isolates; Basque just happens to be the last living remnant of this.

      The post below should answer many of your questions:

      “But not all pre-state areas are equally diverse linguistically; that was one of the many interesting findings of Nichols 1990. Her discussion of the patterns and causes of linguistic diversity (Nichols 1990:477-94) is worth reading in detail, but some of the basic principles underlying the patterns are most relevant here. In the following discussion note that “lineages” refers to genetic units of any size—languages, obvious families (such as Germanic or Romance or Slavic), or “stocks” (differentiated families of the largest size discoverable by scientific methods, such as Indo-European); it is assumed that comparisons will be made between comparable units in evaluating an area’s linguistic diversity. The following general principles hold:

      “Other things being equal, density of lineages is substantially greater at low latitudes than at high latitudes.” (Nichols 1990:484)
      “Other things being equal, the coastal area of a continent will generally have substantially greater lineage density than the interior. Not every coastal area is high in lineage density, but the extensive areas of high density are all on or near coastlines. … [Because of its richer resources, the] seacoast offers the possibility of economic self-sufficiency for a small group occupying a small territory.” (ibid. pp. 484-5)
      “The discrepancy in the lineage density of coastline and interior is most pronounced where the interior is relatively dry … . (ibid. p. 485)
      “The cause of high lineage density in mountain areas is generally attributed to the fact that mountainous geography naturally isolates populations, resists large-scale economic integration, and creates refuge zones.” (ibid. p. 485)
      “Density of lineages is low in areas dominated by large-scale economies,
      higher in areas with smaller-scale economies. … Reduction of lineage
      density in response to increased scale of economy is not immediate, as
      shown by the ancient Near East.” (ibid. p. 486)”

      • Sorry I meant Pre-Indo-European Europe.

      • gcochran9 says:

        “Basque just happens to be the last living remnant of this.”

        Come on. Southern Europe had been colonized by farmers over a fairly short period, with a common culture. They’re genetically similar – we know that. We also know that they are quite different genetically from the Mesolithic hunters who preceded them.

        You’re saying that these guys must have spoken lots of unrelated languages. No way. It’s pretty much inevitable that everyone in the Impressed Ware culture spoke related languages. The LBK culture and its descendants are genetically related – they might well have a related language to the Impressed Ware peoples.

        A later wave of peoples overran these early farmers, almost totally replacing them in northern Europe and partially replacing them in Southern Europe.

        This last wave must have been Indo-European speakers.

        If you go a long time between major waves of expansion, sure, you’ll see lots of very diverged local languages.

      • tommy says:

        Perhaps our Levantine farmers spoke the Tyrsenian languages or an even wider proposed Aegean language family. In some proposals it’s suggested these could in turn be related to the Hurrian and Northeast Caucasian languages. As far as the Northeast Caucasian languages go, here’s something worth noting:

        The Proto-Northeast Caucasian language had many terms for agriculture, and Johanna Nichols has suggested that its speakers may have been involved in the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. They had words for concepts such as yoke, as well as fruit trees such as apple and pear that suggest agriculture was already well developed when the proto-language broke up.

        There’s apparently at least one linguist who seriously suggests a link between Basque and Northeast Caucasian, but it seems to be a much more remote one than, say, proposed links between Hurrian and Northeast Caucasian. Perhaps it’s possible that in the same way the Basque country mostly resisted Indo-Europeanization, it also largely resisted the linguistic encroachment of earlier waves of migrants and the language itself is, at least in large measure, some kind of Mesolithic holdout.

  26. gcochran9 says:

    Obviously there is a lot we don’t know, and history is one damn thing happening after another.. But I think that historical linguists could benefit by taking advantage from the newly available genetic data – including data from ancient DNA. As far as I understand things, linguists have not yet done so.

    The Levantine-origin agriculturalists came in two waves, one along the Mediterranean coast (Cardial culture) and another up the Danube (LBK culture). I think it likely that the Cardial colonists spoke related languages, and that the LBK colonists also spoke a group of related languages. Since those two populations are genetically close, it is also possible that the the LBK languages and the Cardial languages were related, but we may never know.

    Some think that people in Sardinia once spoke a language related to Basque. Considering the genetic similarity of those two groups, that is plausible.

    • ignatius says:

      i wonder regarding the original inhabitants of spain, is there any truth to tacitus’s surmise in agricola?

      “… the swarthy faces of the Silures, the curly quality, in general, of their hair, and the position of Spain opposite their shores, attest to the passage of Iberians in old days and the occupation by them of these districts; …” (Tacitus Annales Xi.ii, translated by M. Hutton)

      the mediterranean appearance of some welsh is striking even today.

      • The people in question are the Plynlimmon type, which can be reckoned as close to the Berid, Coarse Mediterranean and Paleosardinian types of certain authors that are local in Iberia, Sardinia and North Africa (ie. the late Colenol Gadaffi.) They are plesiomorphic enough to be regarded as ‘Upper Palaeolithic survivors’ yet this shouldn’t be taken for granted, seeing their association with uplands and less settled existence. Much as feral domesticated animals revert to an ancestral, plesiomorohic ecotype, so too can humans revert to a state of robusticity.

    • nevada says:

      i wonder regarding the original inhabitants of spain, is there any truth to tacitus’s surmise in agricola?

      “… the swarthy faces of the Silures, the curly quality, in general, of their hair, and the position of Spain opposite their shores, attest to the passage of Iberians in old days and the occupation by them of these districts; …” (Tacitus Annales Xi.ii, translated by M. Hutton)

      the mediterranean appearance of some welsh is striking even today.

    • tommy says:

      In the linguistic vein, perhaps supporting the idea of Hyperboreans spreading all the way east to Lake Baikal at one point and the notion that Indo-Europeans may have carried a heavy component of their ancestry, there appears to be either some common vocabulary or some fossilized loan words from Indo-European that made their way into the Uralic languages very early. It’s difficult to ascribe these to recent contact as they’re apparently found in Uralic languages, such as Samoyedic, that split early and spread out to the far east, and not merely, say, Hungarian and Finnish.

      Linguists aren’t sure whether these words imply the two language were once closely related or whether Indo-European and Uralic speakers were simply in close contact before their respective language families broke up, but these seem to be the only two possible explanations and each is intriguing with the idea of close contact perhaps more likely.

      In regards to the “Proto-Uralic homeland hypothesis,” Wikipedia says:

      More recently also the loanword evidence has been used to support a European homeland [as in west of the Urals]: Proto-Uralic has been seen borrowing words from Proto-Indo-European, and the Proto-Indo-European homeland has rarely been located east of the Urals. Proto-Uralic even seems to have developed in close contact with Proto-Aryan, which is seen to have been born in the Poltavka culture of the Caspian steppes before its spread to Asia.

      From the article “Uralic languages”:

      In recent times, linguists often place the Urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Uralic language in the vicinity of the Volga River, west of the Urals, close to the Urheimat of the Indo-European languages, or to the east and southeast of the Urals. Gyula László places its origin in the forest zone between the Oka River and central Poland. E.N. Setälä and M. Zsirai place it between the Volga and Kama Rivers. According to E. Itkonen, the ancestral area extended to the Baltic Sea. P. Hajdu has suggested a homeland in western and northwestern Siberia.

    • Philip Neal says:

      I have been thinking about this some more, if it is not too late to comment again. I believe that historical linguistics is an important source of information about prehistory, but if the Indo-European trail leads eastwards out of Europe, that is where we must look for correlations between genetic and linguistic change. Dienekes pointed to this last June European genetic features associated with the Yamnaya culture and subsequent genetic change in the steppe population. It rather nicely fits the idea of a linguistic expansion into Europe before the centum-satem split, and a linguistic innovation (centum to satem) affecting the steppes but not Europe. Tommy rightly points out that proto-Uralic was apparently in contact with the satem variety of Indo-European.

      It is true that historical linguists have not yet got to grips with ancient DNA, but I also think that geneticists have been too impressed by slapdash linguistic work of the Nostratic variety.

  27. Nanonymous says:

    In fact, there is no clear relationship between Basque and any other existing language: it is an isolate, as far as we know.

    The idea that Basque is related to Georgian was popular for a while. Georgian is not Indo-European either. But then it fell out of favor. I have no idea why.

    • Mainly there were some grammatical similarities, e.g. both Basque and Georgian have an ergative-absolutive case system, where subjects of intransitive verbs and direct objects share the same case, unlike Indo-European, which is still mostly nominative-accusative. But no lexical correspondences could be established which is how you have to prove relationship. Some historical linguists are just starting to figure out how to do reconstruction based just on grammatical features, but there’s a ways to go on that front.

      • Reconstruction based on abstract grammatical features ought to yield interesting results, since such systems change more slowly than sound change or vocabulary replacement. But it’s also harder to do than the traditional method.

  28. Bruce Banner says:

    Regarding the ancient peoples of Europe, I´d like to know the following:
    1) how far back in time and space can the Cardial colonists be traced (place names all over Europe, particularly rivers, including the Iberian peninsula, are of an older Indo-european type, called Old European)?
    2) Iberians proper: Can we dig up some Iberian remains and look into its DNA? Are they linked to Sardiians?
    3) Basques used to live on both sides of the Pyrenees, as far back as Aquitaine. I say test the modern locals, dig up their ancestors, round up the usual suspects…

    There´s so much to do.

  29. SpaghettiMeatball says:

    Btw, on the matter of the basque language: even though it is not spanish, it has a sort of “spanishness” to it, especially the pronunciation of the fricatives how “c” is sometimes pronounced in spanish. Is this because of an ancient iberian substrate or is it just because of contact?

    • Anthony says:

      I would guess contact. There is a lot of borrowing in both directions between Euskara and Castellano – “ferrum” was reduced to “hierro” due to Basque influence, and “izquierda” is from “esker”; while the Basque language has borrowed lots from Latin and Spanish. There are more fricatives than in Spanish, but Wikipedia tells me they don’t have a θ, even though the rest of Spain lisps.

      • The southernmost Spanish dialects, e.g. Andalusian, do not have the θ sound. But yes, Spanish and Basque have been in close contact for a long time now, and often in those situations you get some interference. E.g. southern Bantu languages borrowed click sounds from Khoisan, and Indo-Aryan languages may have borrowed retroflex sounds from Dravidian, though that’s less certain.

  30. Simon in London says:

    So the Indo-Europeans arrived in Europe ca 6,000 years ago; and the milk-drinking Germanic peoples are (among) their descendants, yes? Do we know when the Levantine farmers arrived? Something that just occurred to me: as I recall the first farming in the ME is from ca 10,000 years ago, around the end of the Younger Dryas cold period, but I also seem to recall seeing that the first post-ice-age hunter gatherers only reached northern Europe about 8,000 years ago, is that right? So, was there actually much time between the arrival of the Hyberboreans, and the arrival of the first farmers? And then the Indo-Europeans not long after? Did the Levantines even reach Scandinavia before the Indo-Europeans came to replace most of the Hyperboreans? And then the bulk of the post-Ice-Age period of human habitation of Europe has not seen much change?

    • Simon in London says:

      By northern Europe I mean northernmost NW Europe – the British Isles and Scandinavia.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “the first post-ice-age hunter gatherers only reached northern Europe about 8,000 years ago”

      Bear in mind the hunter-gatherers may not have arrived as such as they might have been there once already then got pushed back by the ice and then returned.

      • SpaghettiMeatball says:

        The mesolithic hunter-gatherers lived in europe from before the ice age. But they weren’t europeans per se because they also stretched out into siberia and contributed to the ancestry of native americans and some modern siberians. They were present in europe all the way from iberia to scandinavia and beyond. They seem to have been the first people to have blonde hair and blue eyes (the european branch of the hyperboreans).

        Then farmers from the levant arived and displaced the hunters in southern europe and mixed with them everywhere else. This was around 7,500 BC. The basques and sardinians are the remnants of this old european population.

        And then, around 2,500 BC, Indo-european herders invaded europe from the pontic steppe, and increased the hyperborean ancestry of europeans, AND their west asian ancestry. They also changed the language permanently.

        I think something like this?

  31. Greying Wanderer says:


    “I’m confused about where Y-haplogroup G2a fits into all this…So, if the Sardinians and Basques are similar remnants of a Hyperborean-Cardial mix, why is there almost no G2a in Basques?”

    Speculating purely based on looking at the map:

    1. Hyperboreans (A)

    2) First Farmers start somewhere in the general vicinity of Gobekli Tepes and then they split with some (B) going west into Anatolia and some (C) going south into the fertile crescent and the Levant – so similar base genetics but some divergence culturally (e.g language) and maybe also haplogroup percentages?

    3) The Anatolia population (B) crosses into Thessaly and then splits with B1 going up the Danube and B2 taking the coastal route.

    4) Population C from the Levant *also* takes the coastal route.

    So maybe *two* farmer populations (B2) and (C) separately dotted along the coast and islands (pre-figuring the later Phoenician / Greek split) and one farmer population (B1) up the Danube to LBK land.


    (Separately (imo) a more herd-centered population (D) adjacent to the First Farmers in the general vicinity of Gopekli Tepes goes north and east instead of south and west with the eastern group eventually becoming the ANI and the northern group – much mixed with Hyperboreans – eventually becoming the scary chariot guys.)

  32. Anthony says:

    Basque Country – a good place to be from for the past 10,000 years!

  33. Greying Wanderer says:


    “I think something like this?”

    I mostly agree with that except i think there was a phase of cattle-centric expansion from the atlantic coast (funnelbeakers) before the indo-europeans.

    “The basques and sardinians are the remnants of this old european population.”

    Either that or there were multiple distinct farmer groups (or farmer / miner-metalworker groups).

    (I find it interesting that european mythologies seem to have a recurring element of ancestor gods fighting “giants” with weapons supplied by a third group of metalworking creatures – whether they be norse dwarves or grecian cyclopes.)

  34. sestamibi says:

    … and they all settled here in northern Nevada!

  35. tzopilotl says:

    allow/hallow/hallelujah, first mention of Allah. Basques accepted the evangel of
    Quetzalcoatl who set off fm Gipuzcoa, 3309BCE, to look for Amerind copper, beginning
    the Naolin, 10mzo3309BCE, oldest Mayan date. sagar/sagara(B)=apple/middle of the mass,
    and the river in Bithynia, Turkey of same name. the cave basques who could, bred up with them,
    but as late as 1937, there were the Cagotz(cave Basques)=ca/being Oz/oztotl(N)=cave,=os(L)=
    bone, who were cut out by the Basque community and lived apart.

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