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


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A sample from the Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer Mal’ta boy dated ca. 22350 BC shows that his paternal lineage diverged from haplogroup R-M207* shortly before its split into R1-M173 and R2-M479 subclades[Raghavan et al. 2014]. His so-called Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) ancestry contributed substantially to the genetic ancestry of Siberians, Native Americans, and Bronze Age Yamna individuals[Lazaridis et al. 2016], being close to modern-day Native Americans, Kets, Mansi, Nganasans, and Yukaghirs[Flegontov et al. 2016].

Haplogroup R-M207 is itself descended from a common ancient lineage shared with the Ust’-Ishim man (ca. 43070 BC), probably belonging to the first wave of humans to migrate out of Africa into Eurasia[Fu et al. 2014].

Main subclades include R1b-M343 and R1a-M420, whose development is traced to the Pontic-Caspian steppes in the Younger Dryas and Boreal periods, and can be related to the reconstructed Palaeolithic languages.

Samples from the earliest modern humans (arrived ca. 43000 BC), who probably displaced Neanderthals (and maybe drove them to extinction), and are related to the Ust’-Ishim and Oase1 samples, seem not to have contributed substantially to the ancestry of modern Europeans.

However, Palaeolithic samples from ca. 35000 (Kostenki14) to ca 12000 BC (Villabruna) seem to have descended from a single founder population, do not share ancestry with the Mal’ta cluster, and form part of the ancestry of present-day Europeans. Four population turnovers are distinguished[Fu et al. 2016]:

First the Goyet cluster appears associated with the Aurignacian cultural complex.

Second, the Vestonice cluster is associated with the Gravettian cultural complex, which shows that its culture may have spread at least in part by population movements.

Third, the El Miron cluster shows the reemergence of a deep branch of the Goyet cluster in Iberia, associated with the Magdalenian culture, potentially representing a post-Ice Age expansion from south-western European refugia.

Fourth, the Villabruna cluster which shows affinity to the Near East, contributes to the ancestry of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of south-eastern Europe, coinciding with the Bølling-Allerød interstadial – the first significant warming period after the Ice Age – and the transition within the Epigravettian in southern Europe and the Magdalenian-to-Azilian transition in western Europe. The Villabruna cluster may therefore reflect migrations or population shifts within Europe at the end of the Ice Age, consistent with the replacement of mitochondrial DNA sequences found. This may be explained by a population expansion from south-eastern European or west Asian refugia after the Ice Age

  • Within the Villabruna cluster, some individuals have affinity to East Asians, which is not driven by Basal Eurasian ancestry.

palaeolithic_cut.jpg Diachronic map of Palaeolithic migrations.


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