More About Ötzi

Ötzi the Iceman is the iconic G2a guy. He lived somewhere around 3400 to 3100 BCE in what is now Northern Italy. His mummified body was discovered in 1991, partially trapped in ice.

DNA testing eventually showed he belonged to yDNA haplogroup G-L91, a “cousin” branch to the Swiss Hauris, who are G-L42.

Information about Ötzi continues to accumulate. We know more about him than ever before.

His death is now known to be considerably more dramatic than was first thought. In fact, many reports suggest he was probably being chased at the time of his death:

Otzi was crossing the Tisenjoch pass in the Val Senales valley when he was shot in the back with an arrow by a Southern Alpine archer and became naturally preserved in the ice. The arrowhead is still embedded in his left shoulder and was not found until 2001. He would have bled out and died shortly after being shot because the arrow pierced a vital artery. There is also a wound on the back of his head, but that may have occurred when he fell after being struck by the arrow.

A cut on his right hand, indicating hand-to-hand combat, never had a chance to heal before he died. This means that conflict happened before he was shot, perhaps hours or days before, and may have led to the second clash that killed him.

The injury to his right hand would have made it difficult for Otzi to prepare his weapons for another attack. This is most likely why the bow and arrows found with him were unfinished: to replace ones that were lost or damaged in the previous fight.

If this is a topic that interests you, I recommend you read the full article at CNN, then search online for other current articles. There’s a wealth of information.

Y-DNA from an autosomal test

According to Chris Morley, it’s sometimes possible to get Y-DNA results from an autosomal test:

“Some autosomal genetic genealogy tests (such as 23andMe, AncestryDNA and MyHeritage – but not Family Finder) also contain a few hundred Y-DNA markers. The Y-DNA data from these tests is of lower quality, but may still suffice for a very, very general Y-DNA haplogroup classification.

“This is useful if you need to make a very basic Y-DNA comparison between two men: if for instance one man is R1b and the other man is I1, then you can be certain their patrilineal connection is not genealogically significant. If both men have the same high-level classification then they will need further Y-DNA testing to confirm a recent patrilineal connection.”

I’ve never tried it, but if you’re interested you can find more information at Steven Frank has also written about it: Updated Method to get YDNA haplogroup from AncestryDNA results (Aug. 10, 2017).

Story of Haplogroup G2a

We’re constantly writing and rewriting the human DNA story. I’m a member of yDNA Haplogroup G2a-L497. When I first started my yDNA journey in 2000, the testing companies were still using STRs only. When they started using SNPs, it wasn’t clear whether I would end up in haplogroup G or haplogroup I. Frankly, I was hoping for I because it was “Scandinavian”.

In the end, it turned out I am Haplogroup G, but even then the L497 SNP was a ways off in the future. There were discoveries, and more discoveries, and more. L42 and L43 were discovered by someone scouting my results at 23andme. Someone smart enough to realize they would turn out to be the defining SNP mutation for a large subgroup of G.

Then we went through the “story years”. Every online DNA group had people advocating different theories of Haplogroup G. It originated in the area north of Caucasus. When and how did it spread into Europe? Was it a marker for Indo-Europeans? Was it spread by Roman soldiers? By Jewish merchants? By barbarian invaders (most popularly the Alans)?

I suggested it was probably linked to the Rhaetians and Etruscans. Ray Banks, our expert, said I was I an idiot, then much later backed down but never did give me credit for being the one to suggest it originally. When I complained to him, his response was that he gets so many crackpot emails he can’t be expected to realize when one of them could be right. (I love that story.)

Throughout these story years, the actual experts were saying Haplogroup G probably came to Europe with the spread of farming during the Neolithic period. The other stories were only really possible because archaeologists (as opposed to geneticists) were entrenched in an ideology that there is something racist about attributing the spread culture to migrations. That idea held sway for a generation, but they were wrong about it.

We’re all looking for stories, I think. So many false starts to ours. I’ve had the impression for several years now that our Haplogroup G story is moving in a particular direction. Once upon a time we were probably one of the main haplogroups in Old Europe, probably predating the Indo-Europeans, and we probably retreated to mountainous areas (or maybe survived mainly in mountain areas) when Europe was overrun by the R1b people, who are now the majority in western Europe.

(I’ve had some push back because it seems to go against the romantic notion that our ancient ancestors preferred mountains and goat herding as a legacy of our origin in the Caucasus Mountains. My counter-argument has been that this goat herding story seems to be contrary to the idea that we came to Europe as Neolithic Farmers.)

Now I find the whole story nicely summarized by Maciamo Hay, Haplogroup G2a (Y-DNA), at Eupedia. He’s always good at getting across complex ideas and arguments in simple language.

Nowadays G2a is found mostly in mountainous regions of Europe, for example, in the Apennine mountains (15 to 25%) and Sardinia (12%) in Italy, Cantabria (10%) and Asturias (8%) in northern Spain, Austria (8%), Auvergne (8%) and Provence (7%) in south-east France, Switzerland (7.5%), the mountainous parts of Bohemia (5 to 10%), Romania (6.5%) and Greece (6.5%). The hilly terrain of southern Europe indeed makes it ideally suited for herding goats, which G2a men brought with them during the Early Neolithic period. But the most likely explanation is that mountains provided refuge for G2a tribes after the Proto-Indo-European speakers invaded Europe from the steppes of Russia and Ukraine during the Late Copper Age and the Bronze Age (see history of R1a and R1b).

If you look at the heat map I’ve attached here, you’ll see a concentration in Switzerland. That’s where our Hauris are from. Probably we’ve been there since the Bronze Age and perhaps since the Stone Age. And that’s the story of Haplogroup G2a in a nut shell.