Ancient DNA

John Colclough. 19 January 2021

Truncated for Bwrdd:

I was fascinated by Cheddar man, the Mesolithic skeleton discovered in 1903 at Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge. His ancient DNA has helped Natural History Museum scientists depict one of the oldest modern humans discovered in Britain. He lived about 10,000 years ago, was a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer with dark skin, blue eyes and was about 166cm tall. After the DNA had been processed the local area was checked and a resident was shown to be ‘related’ to Cheddar man.

I cannot compare my DNA results to Cheddar man, his is not out there in my accessible world. But I haven’t let that stop me looking. Using online tools, I compared my DNA results to some other ancient people…

I share about 0.43% DNA with an individual found at Ludas-Varjú-dűlő, in The Great Hungarian Plain. Living about 3,200 years ago, they probably had light brown skin and brown eyes and predicted to have lactose tolerance, a response to a dietary focus on raw milk from domestic cattle.

Now, Loschbour man, found in Luxembourg, a pre-agricultural European circa 8000 years ago. A Mesolithic hunter gatherer, lactulose intolerant into adulthood, dark skin, and >50% probability of blue eyes, not unlike Cheddar man. Loschbour and I have about 0.28% DNA in common.

I match about 0.22%  very ancient DNA with the 45,000-year-old remains of an early modern human from Ust-Ishim, Siberia, appearance was similar to a modern Tibetan. They had 2% Neanderthal DNA, roughly the same as all today’s non-Africans. My proud connection to Neanderthal.

Found near Stuttgart, a female European farmer of circa 7500 years ago and I share about 0.17% DNA, she was from the LBK Culture, makers of distinctive banded decorated pottery. Lactose intolerant in adulthood, she had a > 99% probability of dark hair and brown eyes.

Hungary again, from Polgár-Ferenci-hát, a female living about 7,200 years ago in the Central European Neolithic period, lactose intolerant, dark skinned and brown eyes comparable to present day peoples local to Sardinia, we have circa 0.15% DNA in common.

Discovered at Sabinka, a male possibly blue eyed, fair skinned with light coloured hair, living about 3200 years ago, probably of the bronze age Karasuk culture around Minusinsk Basin, far eastern Russia. We share about 0.14% DNA.

Next, a small match, to the male Clovis baby, lived between12,500 and 12,800 years ago in Montana. Clovis culture is often characterized by the distinctive style on projectile points used by an early North American. We share 0.09% DNA. The match is more of a measure I suspect, of the origin of two paths one leading to Ireland and one to Montana, than me being an American.

Lastly, a Battle ‘Axer’, an adult male lived 3,700 years ago, buried at Lilla Bedinge, Sweden. Battle Axe Culture named from the distinctive shape of their axe heads. We share a small amount of DNA, 0.05%, minimal battle axe in me, but I’ve worked with one or two.

Another utility says, I’m 50% 45,000-year-old Hunter Gatherer, who chased the large herds as the climate warmed, 38% Farmer, who migrated after the last Ice Age 7,000-8,000 years ago, into the European continent from the Near East. Then 12% 3,000 year old Metal Age invader from the eastern steppes, lactulose tolerant, who brought domesticated horses, wheeled vehicles and metal tools.

Summing up, Hunter Gatherer, as a child I fished for trout in the local ‘burn’ in Donegal, I’d struggle killing a creature now. Farmer, all my great grandparents were ‘of the land’. Metal age invader, I’ve seen Deep Purple a couple of times. I let my imagination run…

Full text here:

Test your DNA with one of the commercial databases, receive your results, provided you are sanguine about using public data processing utilities you can let your imagination run free. Which I have…

I was fascinated by the story of Cheddar man, the Mesolithic skeleton discovered in 1903 at Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. His ancient DNA has helped Natural History Museum scientists depict one of the oldest modern humans discovered in Britain. He lived about 10,000 years ago, was a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer with dark skin, blue eyes and was about 166cm tall. There is a good explanation of the extraction of the Cheddar man’s DNA on the Natural History website[1]. After the DNA had been processed the local area was checked and a resident could be shown to be ‘related’ to Cheddar man, in that there had been a common maternal ancestor to them both[2].

As it is, I cannot compare my DNA results to Cheddar man, he is not out there in the accessible world yet. But I haven’t let that stop me looking. Using a free utility called GedMatch I have compared my DNA results to some other ancient people.

Working from the largest (albeit in quite small amounts) percentage of shared DNA I have found the following, setting minimum parameters to try to eliminate chance matches, some of which the matches may well be.

DNA was sequenced from an individual found at Ludas-Varjú-dűlő, Hungary, a person with probably light brown skin and brown eyes living about 3,200 years ago, given the identifier BR2, classified now as Central European Genotypes. Within this period the trade in commodities across Europe increased and the importance of the Great Hungarian Plain as a node or intersection of cultures is indicated by the growth of heavily fortified settlements in the vicinities of the Carpathian valleys and passes linking North and South. The individual BR2 was predicted to have lactose tolerance, a response to a dietary focus on raw milk from domestic cattle. It has been postulated that this change/mutation happened circa 5,500 years BC, possibly in association with the Neolithic LBK culture within Central Europe, but it has also been shown its appearance is delayed until the more recent Bronze Age individuals, who lived only 1,000 years BC, including the BR2 person[3]. The BR2 DNA I share is shown on Chromosome 1, 3.5cM and 3.3cM on two sections, Chromosome 10, 5.2cM, Chromosome 11, 3.3cM and 4cM on two segments, Chromosome 14, 3.1cM, Chromosome 17, 3.8cM and Chromosome 21, 3.1cM, see Isogg wiki[4] for a definition of cM. The percentage total autosomal DNA we share is about 0.43%.[5]

The second match of note is to Loschbour man, who was found in Luxembourg, this person’s DNA indicated they were from pre-agricultural Europeans from circa 8000 years ago, and possibly one of the last of the culture, a likely Mesolithic hunter gatherer Lactulose intolerant into adulthood, dark skin, and >50% probability of blue eyes [6], so not unlike Cheddar man. The DNA analysis was used in a basis for proposing a ‘metapopulation’ in Europe of Western Hunter Gatherers (WHG)[7], I share 2 segments on Chromosome 2, 3.2cM and 3.4cM, Chromosome 8, 3.7cM, Chromosome 10, 3.1cM and o Chromosome 17, 5.7cM using the same calculations above about 0.28% shared autosomal DNA.

The oldest of the ancient DNA I can match to is a person found at Ust-Ishim,Siberia, so called Ust’-Ishim man the 45,000-year-old remains of one of the early modern humans to inhabit western Siberia. The fossil is notable in that it had intact DNA which permitted the complete sequencing of its genome, the oldest modern human genome to be so decoded[8]. It is noted that… “The most intriguing clue about his origin is that about 2% of his genome comes from Neanderthals. This is roughly the same level that lurks in the genomes of all of today’s non-Africans, owing to ancient trysts between their ancestors and Neanderthals. The Ust’-Ishim man probably got his Neanderthal DNA from these same matings, which, past studies suggest, happened after the common ancestor of Europeans and Asians left Africa and encountered Neanderthals in the Middle East.

Until now, the timing of this interbreeding was uncertain — dated to between 37,000 and 86,000 years ago. But Neanderthal DNA in the Ust’-Ishim genome pinpoints it to between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago on the basis of the long Neanderthal DNA segments in the Ust’-Ishim man’s genome. Paternal and maternal chromosomes are shuffled together in each generation, so that over time the DNA segments from any individual become shorter.” [9]

Comparing myself and Ust-Ishim man we share, on Chromosome 2, 3cM, Chromosome 6, 4.7cM, Chromosome 20, 3.9cM, Chromosome 22, 3.4cM, about 0.22% autosomal DNA shared, my proud connection to Neanderthal.

Next match I identified was LBK, Stuttgart, LBK being Linearbandkeramik Culture, a description of the distinctive banded decorated pottery associated with early European farmers[10]. The DNA was sequenced and reported that LBK was a an early (probably female) European farmer of circa 7500 years ago found near Stuttgart, Germany, the DNA analysis suggested they were lactose intolerant in adulthood, had a > 99% probability of dark hair and brown eyes, the DNA was part of a basis for describing a ‘Metapopulation’ Early European farmers (EEF)[11]. This individual and I share DNA, on Chromosome 6, 3cM, Chromosome 14, 5.3cM. Chromosome 15,3.1cM, roughly we share 0.17% autosomal DNA.

Heading back to Hungary, my DNA sequence has some vestige of the individual known as NE1, who was found at Polgár-Ferenci-hát, Hungary, lived about  7,200 years ago, this person very likely female, lactose intolerant, dark skinned and brown eyes comparable to present day peoples local to Sardinia, the DNA sequenced, there is some evidence from DNA to tentatively support the incorporation of local male hunter-gatherers into farming communities during the Central European Neolithic period.[12] NE1 and I share on Chromosome 1, 3.1cM, Chromosome 18, 3cM, and Chromosome 22, 4.1cM, thus sharing about 0.15% autosomal DNA.

Found in Sabinka, Russia was RISE493, this male lived about 3200 years ago, probably of the bronze age Karasuk culture which thrived from about 1200 to about 70 BCE—the dawn of the Iron and historical age—the Karasuk culture was located in the Minusinsk Basin, on the Yenisey River and on the upper reaches of the Ob River. Its creators must have been in touch with East Asia, for certain bronze objects, notably elbow-shaped knives, are related to those used between the 14th and 11th centuries BCE in China during the Shang period. Stone pillars topped either with ram’s heads, stylized animal forms, or human figures have also been discovered. Dzheytun, northwest of Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) in the Kyzylkum Desert, is the oldest known agricultural settlement in Central Asia. It possessed a thriving Neolithic flint industry[13]. The area in the present day is in Khakassia the far east of Russia. The male was possibly blue eyed, fair skinned with light coloured hair. [14] We share on Chromosome 1, 3.6cM, Chromosome 2, 3cM, and Chromosome 14, 3.6cM, so sharing about 0.14% autosomal DNA. Not far from Genghis Khan.

Next result was a small match, possibly little enough to be ‘noise’ or chance, but interesting, it is to the Clovis baby, a male baby lived between 12500 and 12800 years ago in western Montana USA. Clovis culture is often characterized by the distinctive Clovis style projectile point on an arrow or spear of sorts, they were probably the widest spread of the early N. American peoples about 13,000 years ago [15]. On Chromosome 7, the infant and I share 3.1cM and on Chromosome 9, 3.3cM or about 0.09% autosomal DNA in total, I’m not a native American but I might be more than one petulant multibillionaire springing to mind, if the match is valid it is more of a measure I suspect, of the origin of two paths one leading to Ireland and one to Montana.

Lastly Scandinavia, and indexed as RISE98, Sweden, an adult male lived 3,700 years ago, buried at Lilla Bedinge, in Grave 49. Someone of The Battle Axe Culture appearing in the archaeological record of south, central and west Sweden around 2800 BC, marking the start of the Middle Neolithic period. Named from the distinctive shape of the axe heads associated with this culture. They are most often made from polished flint stone as a curved shape resembling a boat. The axe heads are almost exclusively double headed and some examples show a great attention to detail. It is likely that these heads were of a ritual significance and were most certainly a symbol of status within the society. The ritual axe heads that have been found are often worked from black stone with angular sides and a pronounced lip, together with a rounded crushing end. The axes were deposited in burials as grave goods, and might have had a ritual or funerary significance, alongside being a status symbol for the wearer. Such axes were definitely a deadly weapon that gave the Battle Axe culture an advantage in warfare: numerous burials from the era display catastrophic, crushing head wounds, giving rise to the name “Age of Crushed Skulls”[16] a regional variation of the continental Corded Ware Culture [17]. A note on the Corded Ware Culture… “In historic and archaeological terms, the Corded Ware culture is crucial. It emerged as an offshoot of the Yamnaya culture, which today is considered to be the source of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and their language. Thus, as the Corded Ware culture spread eastwards and northwards, it displaced the Proto-Indo-European populations of Europe and brought with it a new language and advanced technology. Through these migrations a new world was created that would come to reshape the course of history”[18]. I share a small amount of autosomal DNA 3.5cM on Chromosome 18 about 0.05%, minimal battle axe in me, definitely not a crusher of skulls.

In another type of DNA analysis on FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA), I’m 50% Hunter Gatherer, an Anatomically modern Human (thank goodness) arrived continental Europe about 45000 years ago following the large herds as the climate warmed[19], my Ust’-Ishim man above and possibly Loschbour too. FTDNA tells me I’m about 38% Farmer, 8,000–7,000 years ago, after the last Ice Age, modern human farming populations began migrating into the European continent from the Near East. This migration marked the beginning of the New Stone Age, modern humans practicing a more sedentary lifestyle as their subsistence strategies relied more on stationary farming and pastoralism, further allowing for the emergence of artisan practices such as pottery making[20].

The same era as NE1 above. My last bit of make up according to FTDNA is 12% Metal Age invader, the Bronze Age people, fitting nicely with BR2 above as these people were largely lactulose tolerant, also the bringers of domesticated horses, wheeled vehicles and metal tools[21].

To sum up, Hunter Gatherer, I used to go fishing for trout in the local ‘burn’ in Donegal as a child, I think I’d struggle killing a creature now. Farmer, well all my great grandparents were ‘of the land’ in Ireland. Metal age invader, I’ve seen Deep Purple a couple of times. So, I could have done all the above in this last paragraph. But as I said let your imagination run…


[1] Natural History Museum. Cheddar Man: Mesolithic Britain’s blue-eyed boy. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/cheddar-man-mesolithic-britain-blue-eyed-boy.html : accessed 02 January 2021.

[2] BBC. Cheddar Man: DNA shows early Briton had dark skin. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42939192 : accessed 02 January 2021.

[3] Gamba, Cristina et al. (2014). Genome flux and stasis in a five millennium transect of European prehistory. Nature communications. 5 (5257). October. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4218962/ : accessed 02 January 2021.

[4] Isogg. CentiMorgan. https://isogg.org/wiki/CentiMorgan : accessed 02 January 2021.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lazaridis, Iosif et. al. (2013). Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans. Nature. 10 (1038). December. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/001552v1.full : accessed 02 January 2021.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Ust’-Ishim man. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ust%27-Ishim_man: accessed 02 January 2021.

[9] Callaway, Ewan (2014). 45,000-Year-Old Man’s Genome Sequenced. An analysis of the oldest known DNA from a human reveals a mysterious group that roamed northern Asia. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/45-000-year-old-mans-genome-sequenced/ : accessed 02 January 2021.

[10] Hirst, K. Kris. Linearbandkeramik Culture – European Farming Innovators. www.thoughtco.com/linearbandkeramik-culture-farming-innovators-171552. : accessed 02 January 2021.

[11] Lazaridis et. al. (2013). Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans. Nature. 10 (1038). December. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/001552v1.full : accessed 02 January 2021.

[12] Gamba, Cristina et al. (2014). Genome flux and stasis in a five millennium transect of European prehistory. Nature communications. 5 (5257). October. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4218962/ : accessed 02 January 2021.

[13] Brittanica. Visual Arts-Prehistoric cultures- Paleolithic cultures. https://www.britannica.com/art/Central-Asian-arts/Visual-arts#ref314158 : accessed 03 January 2021.

[14] Keyser, C. et. Al. (2009). Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people. Human Genetics. 126, pp.395–410 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00439-009-0683-0 : accessed 03 January 2021.

[15] DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy. Clovis People Are Native Americans, and from Asia, not Europe. https://dna-explained.com/2014/02/13/clovis-people-are-native-americans-and-from-asia-not-europe/: accessed 03 January 2021.

[16] Vuckovic, Alekska. (2020) The Battle Axe Culture: Piecing Together the Age of Crushed Skulls. https://www.ancient-origins.net/human-origins-science/battle-axe-culture-0013895: accessed 03 January 2021.

[17] Fornander, Elin. (2013). Dietary diversity and moderate mobility – isotope evidence from Scanian Battle Axe Culture burials. Journal of Nordic Archaeological Science 18.  pp. 13–29. http://www.archaeology.su.se/polopoly_fs/1.166262.1392032716!/menu/standard/file/Fornander.JONAS18.pdf : accessed 03 January 2021.

[18] Vuckovic, Alekska. (2020) The Battle Axe Culture: Piecing Together the Age of Crushed Skulls. https://www.ancient-origins.net/human-origins-science/battle-axe-culture-0013895: accessed 03 January 2021.

[19] FamilyTreeDNA. My Ancient Origins-Hunter Gatherer. https://learn.familytreedna.com/user-guide/family-finder-pages/ancientorigins-family-finder-pages/ancient-origins/ : accessed 04 January 2021.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

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