The Great Southern Migration Theory: Some Thoughts on Y-hap T and Boating Technology – by Terry Toohill

The Wikipedia entry for Y-chromosome haplogroup T claims:

“The distribution of haplogroup T in most parts of Europe is spotty or regionalized”. As it is through much of the rest of the world.

However from the map at Wiki we can see that Y-hap T is largely distributed along coastlines and up major river systems.

Y Hap T wiki

Haplogroup T
Time of origin 25,000-30,000 years BP
Place of origin Asia[1]
Ancestor K
Defining mutations USP9Y+3178=M184, M70, M193, M272
Highest frequencies Saccensi/Sicilians, Fulbe, Eivissencs, Stilfser/Tyroleans, Xibe, Egyptians, Gaditanos

I realise it’s risky to draw conclusions about ancient migrations from modern haplogroup distribution, but I believe that if we consider the possibility that Y-hap T was originally associated with some sort of a boating expansion we are easily able to explain the spotty distribution.

Perhaps we should start at the ‘beginning’ and examine the (doubtful) possibility that T, and boating, originated in Africa. So we’ll first visit the ‘easily crossed’ Bab al Mandab.

Y-hap T is well established to the south, on the African side. For some reason it was able to spread easily through the whole Horn, and even into the Ethiopian Highlands, probably by moving up the rivers flowing down from them. And perhaps then on down the Nile. Note that Y-hap T is not found through the Red Sea though. This suggests that the Bab al Mandab is not so easily crossed, or entered, after all. And T is virtually absent from the ‘inviting’ Yemeni coastline, for some reason or other. It’s not until we reach the actually much more benign Oman coast that we find T well established again. So T probably crossed the Gulf of Aden east of the Bab al Mandab. Is T, as well as Y-hap J, found on Socotra?

Y-hap T makes a substantial contribution to populations right around both the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. And way upstream through Mesopotamia, the region that later developed into a major urban culture. This later development was probably related to Eurologist’s comment at Dienekes blog about transporting commodities efficiently: “Another big problem with large-scale shepherding is the transport of final products and exchange for foodstuff like cereals”.

Anyway the urban culture that developed in Mesopotamia was based on controlling the water that flowed through the region from the Anatolian highlands. So the place was wet. Ideal for boats.

In keeping with the boating connection there is, naturally, a hiatus between the Mesopotamian and Mediterranean Y-hap Ts. We would expect a boat-adapted population to find little of interest as they crossed what has become known as ‘the Fertile Crescent’. However the technology would be easily transported to the Mediterranean without necessarily transporting the actual boats. And Y-hap T and the technology could have entered the Mediterranean from the Nile. Or from both places. Technological hybrid vigour? A similar hiatus in Y-hap T’s distribution also occurs to the north, between Mesopotamia and the Caspian Sea. But a similar explanation suffices, as it does for the more distant T around lakes in Central Asia.

So Y-hap T entered the Mediterranean. It’s found in Crete and Greece, which makes sense. The islands through the Aegean would have been chickenfeed for any substantial boating technology. T also entered the Adriatic, but didn’t establish a foothold in the Dalmatian islands. Perhaps they were already occupied? T got a better reception across the Adriatic in Italy. Y-hap T and boating also set up home on the Tunisian coast, around the Ebro and on many Mediterranean islands, ultimately reaching the Atlantic coast of Spain/Portugal.

But did Y-hap T originate in Africa? I doubt it. It’s also found in India. As is its closest relation L. This particular haplogroup is spread along the Indus valley as well as south right along the west coast:

Hap group L

Haplogroup L
Time of origin 25,000-30,000 years BP
Place of origin South Asia[1]
Ancestor K
Defining mutations M20
Highest frequencies Indians, Pakistanis

But we find another Y-hap T hiatus along the ‘easily navigated’ Makran coast. T reappears in the Indus Delta and a little way down the west coast of India from there. But T’s distribution in India looks much more likely to be the product of a first arrival on the east coast and subsequent movement up the rivers flowing into the Bay of Bengal.

What is the possibility that L and T originate even further east? Y-haps N/O and P have become so widespread it’s possible to come up with almost any theory concerning their place of origin. But among L and T’s other close relations are S and M. Found in New Guinea, Melanesia and Australia, a region we know people must have reached using boats of some sort a very long time ago.

So we have evidence for a southern coastal migration. But not from Africa. The migration is into that continent. The fact that Y-hap T, along with L to some extent, appears to have effortlessly established itself in all the desirable coastal and riverine ecosystems along the southern Eurasian margin suggests that this habitat was actually unoccupied until T’s expansion. And that argues against any other more ancient great southern coastal migration.

17 thoughts on “The Great Southern Migration Theory: Some Thoughts on Y-hap T and Boating Technology – by Terry Toohill

  1. i am not much convinced, the map of europe doesnt strongly suggest it has ado with rivers or the sea to me. otoh it is quite sure that the distribution of any gene is influenced by them so a low correlation does not make much of an impression either, actually the distribution in the balkan and central europe suggests (nowhere near certainty) that it is not strongly related with transport over water since there is only little seafaring or boating in these nations, i would guess the northern france branch originates from austriam in the middle and late middle ages. that it is found in estonia unlike in lithuania and east of it may be due to a lack of sampling of the small remains of indigenous populations in russia, the occurence in sweden is most probably a result from early viking ages expeditions from estonia. the original culture(language bearer) of estonia (wich must be the carrier else u’d find it in scotland or in northern germany)) was the result of a (rather typical) steppe migration, agriculturalists that brought domestic animals and maybe still the wheel. just a guess but it seems there is a correlation with surpressed populations, wich suggests the typical carrier used to be of a different genotype visibly at the respective moments of introduction. (since surpressed people solidarise easier with refugee’s) that is not for every occurence , perhaps the goteborg area carries the clue, i wonder if the gene is common in gipsy’s but i’d expect more of it north of flandres in that case. another possible clue appears to be in lubeck, or perhaps its leipzig? wich may also indicate a austrian origin (in wich case it had been refugee’s from the austrian empire) or something completely different. interesting.

  2. Terry, have you considered a possible link of open-hulled boats (dugouts) and the salt trade, where a ‘secret recipe’ for salt brine dehydration aka boiling might have given a reason for traders to seek salt brine deposits (and wood), to trade for other inland goods? Many of the map sites seem to fit that, including the Afar – Djibouti region. The Red Sea may contain the ‘wrong’ chemical composition (too much Mg or Mn?) to use in food salts, and thus bypassed for better NaCl-rich areas. One discrepancy is that Nigeria coastal salt marshes show no T, perhaps the traders avoided the rough Atlantic.coasts south of the Mediterranean Sea. Kostenki site near Moscow had ancient seashells from the Black Sea indicating river transit, possibly salt trade for amber/honey etc.

  3. “the map of europe doesnt strongly suggest it has ado with rivers or the sea to me”.

    It does have a lot to do with the northern shore of the Mediterranean though. And there is no shortage of rivers north of the Black Sea.

    “the distribution in the balkan and central europe suggests (nowhere near certainty) that it is not strongly related with transport over water since there is only little seafaring or boating in these nations”

    Not much boating in the Aegean Islands? It seems the islands were not occupied until around 10,000 years ago, but once occupied they would provide easy access to the Balkans and the Black Sea.

    “i would guess the northern france branch originates from austriam in the middle and late middle ages”.

    I have no doubt that once established in a coastal or riverine region further expansion need not be associated with water or boating at all. However T is very much associated with the Indian Ocean coast, presumably it’s early distribution before it had got anywhere near Europe.

    “have you considered a possible link of open-hulled boats (dugouts) and the salt trade”

    It’s a possibility but I suspect humans themselves were the main cargo.

  4. The distribution of K is closely aligned with places linked culturally to early Sumerian culture, both the North Caucuses (which also have high levels of J1 linked to Near Eastern pastoralists) and the classic area of Harappan trade. The increased concentration of K in Harappan and North Caucuses areas could indicate that those areas were later diluted by subsequent inmigration to Sumeria, which as one of the most advanced civilizations on the planet for a long time, would have drawn immigrants (most notably the Semites whose Akkadian language ultimately replaced Sumerian). Alternately, there could be a founder effect in the Harappan society from a small founding Mesopotamian population.

    The distribution of T in India lines up well with the South Indian Neolithic culture associated with the early Dravidians, but overlaps very little with the Harappan range, consistent with the lack of archeological association between the two. The K is Mesopotamian in origin, perhaps its sister clade T is also Mesopotamian in origin, and the areas where it is found only thinly in Europe correspond more or less to the earliest Neolithic farming expansion (consistent with ancient DNA from the oldest very early Neolithic Basque and South Scandinavian areas). The Yemeni and Horn of Africa populations fit with long standing early trade by Sumerian/Harappan ocean trade.

    So how does it wind up in the Nile River Valley with increasing frequency up the valley and a very high percentage in North Cameroon? What if a founder effect of K in the Harappans is paralleled by a similar founder effect of T in the Nile Valley.

    Perhaps the men associated with T are the people who bring the Near Eastern crop package to the Nile Valley. Later influxes of people dilute it significantly in Egypt, but less so in Sudan, and even less so in Northern Cameroon, which is where you end up if you follow the White Nile to its source and hop a very low ancient mountain range to the next river basin over, and which has received only one subsequent influx (R1b – the Atlantic modal type as mostly Chadic speaking herders who are much less diluted).

    Why did the T lineage (and the R1B lineage) stop at Northern Cameroon? Because E lineage farmers already filled the rest of the farming niche with non-Near Eastern crops better adapted to the area (this crop set was developed before Sumeria’s). The T people who stayed were stuck reverting to a pastoral lifestyle. But, suppose that these people had remained aware of reports of lands to the East of Harappa and realized that the Sahel crop set was a good fit for that land after some of them have adopted that kind of farming and the African language the T people of Cameroon speak now. They return to Mesopotamia via the Nile Valley (without their women) and from there by boat to Southern India where they have great success and become a large share of the Dravidian population supporting Sergent’s Afro-Dravidian hypothesis which has very strong linguistic and cultural and crop genetic support.

  5. Some interesting observations. I’m very much in agreement with your obseravtions concerning the haplogroups’ association with Sumeria and the subsequent Mesopotamian expansions. However:

    “The K is Mesopotamian in origin”

    Probably not. Its greatest diversity is wat to the east, east of Wallace’s line in SE Asia, so it probably coalesced there. As to:

    “perhaps its sister clade T is also Mesopotamian in origin”

    Possibly. But with K in SE Asia it places T’s origin somewhere along the route there. I’m inclined to place its origin somewhere in India, or perhaps it too originated in SE Asia.

    “there could be a founder effect in the Harappan society from a small founding Mesopotamian population”.

    And I very much suspect that’s associated with Y-hap J, which would also support an Afro-Dravidian connection.

    1. I intended to write ““[If] the K is Mesopotamian in origin” as part of an if/then statement but lost a word in typing. Sorry for the confusion.

      The Indus River Valley orientation of Y-DNA type L is also striking. If it was ancient South Asian in origin, one would expect a more uniform distribution in South Asia.

  6. I agree with you concerning L. It seems definitely centred on the Indus, and interestingly expands from there. It may provide a clue as to the possible connection between Elamite and Dravidian.

  7. “mtDNA R0a has the similar distribution with ChY T. They are probably both related to the seafaring and the trade in the whole area from the Horn of Africa to the Indus valley which started at 6th millennium BC”.

    Interesting possibility. And Y-hap J* is found in Soqotra off the Arabian coast, as well as in parts of SE Asia. I’m quite convinced that open-water boating is nowhere near as old as the OoA event. In fact it seems to me it was invented somewhere in SE Asia where it made possible the human expansion across Wallace’s Line into New Guinea and Australia. Like most technologies once it had been invented it spread, and that spread carried along several haplogroups.

  8. Recently i have published my research about T-M70 and K*-M9(xNotSubtyped). T-M70 is originated in Central Asia. Turks from Central Asia have brought T-M70 to India, East Asia and Middle East.

    1. How do you figure that? There is no other indication of a Turkish component of the Dravidian expansion that T seems to be associated closely with, and the Turks never made it to Somolia or Egypt, two of the places that it is most common, either.

  9. …y hap T arises when gobekli tepe disperses, so
    i put my chip on T originating at gobekli tepe.

  10. Terryt, I’m Hg T1, my male line is from Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales UK. It’s the deepest natural harbour in Europe, which must be a reason that my Ancestor came to be here in the first place. The percentage of Hg T in Wales is extremely small and could be indicative of one or two original males to the area. whenever that ‘original’ time might be.

    Whenever I read anything about Hg T the UK is never factored in, why is that?

  11. “Whenever I read anything about Hg T the UK is never factored in, why is that?”

    I don’t know why. Perhaps because it is so low there and, as you say, ‘could be indicative of one or two original males to the area’.

    “whenever that ‘original’ time might be”.

    I think Andrew’s (ohwilleke) arlier comments have largely been vindicarted since I wrote the original article. T seems to have spread fairly early in the Neolithic.

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