Northern European Genetic Biodiversity Revealed

Human biodiversity includes the study of populations through their differences with an eye for their overlapping similarities. While a new study about the ethnic origins of Northern Europeans does not exactly shock the existing model, it does give us further insight into how these populations formed and why they are different today.

The study tracked the migrations into Scandinavia and the Baltics that formed modern European populations:

Previous analysis of ancient human genomes has revealed that two genetically differentiated groups of hunter-gatherers lived in Europe during the Mesolithic: the so-called Western Hunter-Gatherers excavated in locations from Iberia to Hungary, and the so-called Eastern Hunter-Gatherers excavated in Karelia in north-western Russia. Surprisingly, the results of the current study show that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers from Lithuania appear very similar to their Western neighbors, despite their geographic proximity to Russia. The ancestry of contemporary Scandinavian hunter-gatherers, on the other hand, was comprised from both Western and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers.

“Eastern Hunter-Gatherers were not present on the eastern Baltic coast, but a genetic component from them is present in Scandinavia. This suggests that the people carrying this genetic component took a northern route through Fennoscandia into the southern part of the Scandinavian peninsula. There they genetically mixed with Western Hunter-Gatherers who came from the South, and together they formed the Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers,” explains Johannes Krause, Director of the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and senior author of the study.

…The earliest farmers in Sweden are not descended from Mesolithic Scandinavians, but show a genetic profile similar to that of Central European agriculturalists. Thus it appears that Central Europeans migrated to Scandinavia and brought farming technology with them. These early Scandinavian farmers, like the Central European agriculturalists, inherited a substantial portion of their genes from Anatolian farmers, who first spread into Europe around 8,200 years ago and set in motion the cultural transition to agriculture known as the Neolithic Revolution.

Similarly, a near-total genetic turnover is seen in the Eastern Baltic with the advent of large-scale agro-pastoralism. While they did not mix genetically with Central European or Scandinavian farmers, beginning around 2,900 BCE the individuals in the Eastern Baltic derive large parts of their ancestry from nomadic pastoralists of the Pontic-Caspian steppe.

Much as in Germany, Swedish populations are divided between Nordic northern groups and darker, more Central European styled southern groups. A southern Swede is closer to a Dane or a German than what we think of as typically “Nordic.” That element seems to come from the Western Hunter-Gatherers who form the basis of both Nordic and Baltic populations.

Most likely what we are seeing here is a gradual incursion of farming central Europeans into the northern states where they remained as lower castes, while the hunter-gatherer warrior elites remained on top culturally, genetically, and economically. This gives us a basis for European history as a prolonged caste war culminating in the French Revolution, with the farmers finally overthrowing their masters.

Interesting as well is the separation of Russia. People knew, traditionally, that Eastern Europeans/Eurasians were different somehow, but the presence of mostly Eastern Hunter-Gatherer genetics shows that these people are in fact fundamentally removed from the Western genetic legacy.