The language ancestral to Armenian is – like Phrygian – believed to have belonged to the peoples that came from the west and overran the Hittite empire in the 12th century BC[Beekes 2011]. The language ancestral to Albanian, sometimes identified with Illyrian, might have also had its origin in the Balkans early during the west migration of Balkan Indo-European.
Both the Albanian and Armenian languages are spoken by modern populations where the majority of R1b-M343 subclades are R1b1a1a2-M269 and R1b1a1a2a-L23 lineages, which point to a resurge of a Proto-Anatolian genetic component (together with European hunter-gatherer lineages) after the southern expansion of Yamna groups of R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 lineages.
In the case of the Armenian highlands, there is genetic continuity and levelling in the Middle East region during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic[Lazaridis et al. 2016], including ancient mtDNA lineages, also partially during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, which may point to a late and heavily male-biased migration[Margaryan et al. 2017].
This genetic continuity has traditionally been explained by a history of genetic isolation from their surroundings[Haber et al. 2016].
The oldest male sample found in the region is of haplogroup R1b1-L278 (x R1b1a1a2-M269), dated ca. 2619-2465 BC, from the Kura-Araxes culture[Lazaridis et al. 2016], suggesting the presence of previous R1b1-L278 lineages in the region, probably from a Mesolithic migration – either from south-eastern Europe or from the Pontic-Caspian steppes –, unrelated to the later migration of Proto-Armenian speakers.
Populations of the western part of the Armenian Highland, Van, Turkey, and Lebanon show genetic affinity with European populations, and their absence in previous studies “should be considered a consequence of the absence in their Armenian datasets of populations from the western region of the Armenian highland” [Hovhannisyan et al. 2014].
Ascertaining the origin of the Armenian population is hindered by the loss of data due to the effects of the Armenian Genocide.
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- Lazaridis, Twitter, 18 June 2016: "I1635 (Armenia_EBA) is R1b1-M415(xM269). We'll be sure to include in the revision. Thanks to the person who noticed! #ILovePreprints."