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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Neolithic Migrations in the Near East and Aegean

Dr. Roy King has contributed a very interesting chapter to a 2009 book, Ancient Human Migrations, where he provides some insight into the earliest migrations of Haplogroups J1 and J2. He applies linguistic and archeaological research to the current spread, diversity and frequency of Y-Chromosome haplogroups J1 and J2 to theorize on their deepest origins. Among some of the noted general observations was the trade in Obsidian dating from 9000BC originating from sources near Lake Van in Eastern Anatolia and found in the southern Levant.

His observations on Haplogroup J2 are especially interesting, noting its highest variance which is one component of a possible origin, being found in South Eastern Anatolia, Northwestern Iraq, the Mediterranean and among Palestinians living in coastal Israel. He notes these variances are higher than in other areas such as Iran and the Caucasus where high levels of J2 are also found. Using STR mutation rates of .0007 per generation (rates theorized by Zhivotovsky et al), he theorizes an expansion of J2 between 19,000 and 25,000 BCE presumably placing J2 during the Last Glacial Period at refugia areas in the middle Euphrates and southern Levant. From there, he theorizes, J2 was well positioned to participate in the Neolithic Expansion to areas like Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, Iran and India.

Dr. King also notes an interesting correlation with a subclade of Haplogroup J2, M67, and place names in the Aegean, Balkans and Italy while citing a deeper origin for subclade M67 in Northern Syria or southern Anatolia. The age and spread of M67 seems associated with proto-greek substratum in the Aegean.

Some of the most interesting theories put forth in the chapter deal with linguistics. While noting that multiple haplogroups are likely involved in the spread of languages through the middle east, Dr. King noted a correlation between very old Middle Eastern languages of uncertain origin and Haplogroup J2 while at the same time theorizing that Haplogroup J1 may have been involved in spreading Semitic languages through the region. These old languages possibly linked to J2 are known to have existed in Mesopotamia and the Northern Levant and this substratum is sometimes referred to as "Banana" languages due to their syllabic duplication.
Underlying both these migrations, there may have been a population dating to the LGM characterized by J2 Y lineages whose set of languages is unknown but may have included syllabic reduplication in their morphology... Immediately after the LGM, southeast Anatolia, northern Syria and coastal Palestine may have provided refugia to populations marked by J2 lineages of uncertain linguistic character.