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 the Armenian highlands, there is ancestry levelling and genetic continuity 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 continuity has traditionally been explained by a history of genetic isolation from their surroundings (Haber, Mezzavilla, Xue, et al. 2016). The oldest male sample found in the region is of haplogroup R1b1-L278 (x R1b1a1a2-M269)[1], 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.

bronze-age-late_greek.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in south-eastern Europe ca. 1250-750 BC[Butler, Arnoldussen, and Steegstra 2011/2012][Wels-Weyrauch 2011][Kristiansen 2000][Przybyła 2009], LDA-LSA.


  • [Beekes 2011] ^ Beekes, Robert S.P. 2011. Comparative Indo-European Linguistics. An introduction. 2nd ed. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • [Haber et al. 2016] 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 et al. 2014] ^ 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.
  • [Kristiansen 2000] ^ Kristiansen, K. 2000. Europe Before History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • [Lazaridis et al. 2016] ^ 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. https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19310
  • [Margaryan et al. 2017] ^ Margaryan, Ashot, Miroslava Derenko, Hrant Hovhannisyan, Boris Malyarchuk, Rasmus Heller, Zaruhi Khachatryan, Pavel Avetisyan, Ruben Badalyan, Arsen Bobokhyan, Varduhi Melikyan, Gagik Sargsyan, Ashot Piliposyan, Hakob Simonyan, Ruzan Mkrtchyan, Galina Denisova, Levon Yepiskoposyan, Eske Willerslev, and Morten E. Allentoft. 2017. Eight Millennia of Matrilineal Genetic Continuity in the South Caucasus. Current Biology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.05.087
  • [Przybyła 2009] ^ Przybyła, Marcin S. 2009. Intercultural Contacts in the Western Carpathian Area at the Turn of the 2nd and 1st Millennia BC: Narodowe Centrum Kultury.
  • [Wels-Weyrauch 2011] ^ Wels-Weyrauch, Ulrike. 2011. Colliers nur zu Zierde? In Bronzen im Spannungsfeld zwischen praktischer Nutzung under symbolischer Bedeutung: Praehistorische Bronzefunde, Abtailung XX, 13 Band, edited by U. L. Dietz and A. Jockenhövel. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.


  1. 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."