A more recent, revised and updated version of this paper has been published (2019)


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The arrival of N1a1-M46 (previously called N1c1) lineages into Northern Europe has been dated after 5000 BC[Ilumae et al. 2016], coinciding with the TMRCA of N1a1a1a-L708. However, the more recent formation (ca. 3800 BC) and TMRCA (ca. 2300 BC) of common European lineage N1a1a1a1a-L392 point to a late and stepped spread of these hunter-gatherer groups into the Forest Zone, that cannot be associated with the expansion of Pit-Comb Ware cultures.

Cultural assimilation remains the best explanation at the moment for the shared Uralic languages of modern R1a1a1-M417 and N1a1-M46 communities. Eastern groups with N1a1a1a1a-L392 lineages may have brought with them the Altaic traits found in Uralic languages[Kortlandt 2010].

Even though an aDNA sample of haplogroup N1a-F1206 is found in the Forest Zone dated ca. 2500 BC at Serteya[Chekunova et al. 2014], it is tempting to place the mass migration of Siberian hunter-gatherer communities around the Urals later, with the expansion of the poorly understood Seima-Turbino phenomenon (which began ca. 2000 BC in East Asia), since it connected cultures from Mongolia to Finland. Three samples of haplogroup NO (xO) found in the Middle Bronze Age Okunev culture, and two samples later in the Chermuchek culture area[Hollard et al. 2014] may give support to this assumption.

Modern Estonians have R1a-M417 lineages in more than a third of their population[Laitinen et al. 2002], similar to the proportion of haplogroup N1a1-M46[Rosser et al. 2000]. However, Finns show almost two thirds of haplogroup N1a1-M46 in the modern population, and only about 10% of R1a-M417.

Estonians are close genetic relatives to Finns, as well as with Baltic peoples and Russians from the Tver region[Nelis et al. 2010]. Investigation of mtDNA in modern Finns has shown that there was probably a population decline ca. 1500 BC, and later an Iron Age bottleneck with a population peak ca. 500 AD[Översti et al. 2017].

There was probably, then, a long-term, gradual replacement of previously prevalent Y-DNA R1a-M417 subclades in the region, as supported by the prevalent ‘steppe component’ in genome-wide ancestry of modern Finns. A sudden, strong population (and cultural) change associated with the arrival of N1a1-M46 lineages – like the ones seen with R1a-M417 (Corded Ware) and R1b-M269 (Yamna) in eastern Europe has to be rejected.

A founder effect of N1a1-M46 lineages is therefore the most likely explanation for their adoption of Finnic languages, a situation that is also supported by the genetic diversity of the Saami population[Tambets et al. 2004].

bronze_age_early_Asia.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Asia ca. 2250-1750 BC [Anthony 2007][Krause 2013][Hanks, Epimakhov, and Renfrew 2015][Jaeger 2012][Kristiansen and Larsson 2005][Fokkens and Harding 2013][Meller et al. 2015].

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