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

Paleo-Balkan languages

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Balkan languages

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 Armenian, this has 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 – possibly from southward Mesolithic migrations from the Pontic-Caspian steppes –, unrelated to the later Armenian migration.

Also, 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), which is also hindered by the loss of data in modern populations due to the effects of the Armenian Genocide.


Beekes, Robert S.P. 2011. Comparative Indo-European Linguistics. An introduction. 2nd ed. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Haber, M., M. Mezzavilla, Y. Xue, D. Comas, P. Gasparini, P. Zalloua, and C. Tyler-Smith. 2016. Genetic evidence for an origin of the Armenians from Bronze Age mixing of multiple populations. Eur J Hum Genet 24 (6):931-6.

Hovhannisyan, A, Z Khachatryan, M Haber, P Hrechdakian, T Karafet, P Zalloua, and L Yepiskoposyan. 2014. Different waves and directions of Neolithic migrations in the Armenian Highland. Investig Genet 5 (1):15.

Lazaridis, I., D. Nadel, G. Rollefson, D. C. Merrett, N. Rohland, S. Mallick, D. Fernandes, M. Novak, B. Gamarra, K. Sirak, S. Connell, K. Stewardson, E. Harney, Q. Fu, G. Gonzalez-Fortes, E. R. Jones, S. A. Roodenberg, G. Lengyel, F. Bocquentin, B. Gasparian, J. M. Monge, M. Gregg, V. Eshed, A. S. Mizrahi, C. Meiklejohn, F. Gerritsen, L. Bejenaru, M. Bluher, A. Campbell, G. Cavalleri, D. Comas, P. Froguel, E. Gilbert, S. M. Kerr, P. Kovacs, J. Krause, D. McGettigan, M. Merrigan, D. A. Merriwether, S. O'Reilly, M. B. Richards, O. Semino, M. Shamoon-Pour, G. Stefanescu, M. Stumvoll, A. Tonjes, A. Torroni, J. F. Wilson, L. Yengo, N. A. Hovhannisyan, N. Patterson, R. Pinhasi, and D. Reich. 2016. Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East. Nature 536 (7617):419-24.