Ever since genetics “joined” history and archaeology, some 20 years ago, there has been a huge breakthrough in the study of the origin and development of various human populations. Genetic genealogy, haplogroups, STR markers, SNPs… have made the story much clearer, confirmed many historical assumptions, and even proved some deeply rooted opinions to be wrong. “Genetics” has recently become rather popular among many ordinary people who wanted to know what it was all about. However, naturally, it turned out that some (or, to be truthful, most) brains have problems in accepting scientific way of thinking, cannot handle new, unexpected information well, and therefore, more or less skilfully try to adapt the “inappropriate” discoveries to some political, ideological, national… interests or “truths”. One good example (or is it a consequence?) of this “cognitive impairment” is completely artificially, and unnecessary created controversy regarding the origin and expansion of Y-DNA (paternal) haplogroup I2a1a2b.
This paper is a modest contribution to resolving the issue.
As it is now well known, I2a1 is a typical European haplogroup. It is present all over the continent with maximum frequencies recorded in Bosnia (particularly among Bosnian Croats), Sardinia, Croatia, Serbia (+30%), Montenegro, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Macedonia (20-30%). The percentages of I2a1a2b-L621 clade in Slovenia, Ukraine, and Russia available on the Internet should be taken with caution because they are definitely smaller: up to 13% in Slovenia, 16% in Ukraine, and about 7-8% in Russia. (According to the study of Andrej Zupan /2014/, and data from Ukrainian and Russian DNA projects /2021/)
Haplogroup I2a1a2b-L621, or to be precise, its subclade Y3120, is often considered as another “Slavic” haplogroup (beside R1a-Z282), which is wrong and scientifically inadmissible. The criterion of coherence is unambiguous: “Individuals from genetically distinguishable groups should not be given the same name; individuals from genetically indistinguishable ones should.”
Haplogroups are a genetic, and not a geographical, linguistic, national, or social category. This means that they cannot be designated according to the language their carriers speak, the country they live in, or religion they practice... Each haplogroup denotes a common paternal origin of the people who share it, and they all belong to the same ethno-genetic group which has had its own evolution.
In some cases, haplogroups are easily associated with certain ethno-genetic groups.
For example, it is obvious that most of today’s European R1a people are the Slavs, the R1b people are the Celts (or, to be precise: not all R1b men are the Celts, but all Celts are R1b!!), and I1a people are the “Northmen” or Germans in general. Of course, the ancestors of these people were not known by those names 3000 years ago, but they, nevertheless, inherited the same (basal) Y-DNA lineages which “genetic” Slavs, Celts, and Northmen/Germans inherit today.
Apparently, Y-chromosome studies discovered (and proved) that Slavs and Germans are not just ethno-linguistic but also indisputable ethno-genetic categories – groups of men sharing the same paternal lineages or ancestors. And, for that reason it is necessary to distinguish “I1a Germans” and “R1a Slavs” from the national Germans/Deutsche, Danes, Russians, Poles… (carriers of other haplogroups) who are “Germans” or “Slavs” according to the language they speak (ethno-linguistic) but not according to origin.
Unfortunately, even though the haplogroup I2a is believed to have been one of the haplogroups of the first anatomically modern humans to inhabit Europe, Cro-Magnons, there is no single common name for all I2a people now. Nevertheless, “I2a1 people” still represent a separate, distinct ethno-racial group, and they have always been (and will be) I2a1 people, regardless of the subclade, or nation they belong to, time flow, migrations of their ancestors, place they live in, or the language they speak. And, the most appropriate name for the haplogroup we are talking about is Dinaric-Carpathian – without any ethnic or national connotations.
Nations are mixtures of different haplogroups, but haplogroups themselves do not mix – they are inherited linearly: from father to son. Therefore, not a single I2a1a2b man participated in the ethnogenesis of the genetic/ethno-racial Slavs, but many I2a1a2b people definitely participated in the ethnogenesis of Slavic (or Germanic, Romance…) speaking nations.
According to data collected from an extensive research that has been conducted in the last dozen years, and thousands of ancient and modern DNA test results from different European countries, it seems that the haplogroup I2a-L621 appeared somewhere along the Lower Danube about 12.000 YBP. There is also archeogenetic evidence that some I2a-L621 people lived in the middle of today’s Bulgaria 5000 years ago. However, the carriers of its oldest lineages have managed to survive until today in central-western Europe. (https://www.yfull.com/tree/I-L621/) No one can tell (yet) how or when they arrived in the area, and, besides, it has been impossible to determine if the subclade Y3120 (formed 3400 YBP) “was born” there or not.
Fortunately, the recent publication of the paper "Large-Scale Migration into Southern Britain during the Middle to Late Bronze Age" shed some light on the problem. The study includes genome-wide data from 793 individuals, all from the Middle to Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age, and, as it happens, one of these individuals (“I18719”) was I-CTS10228>Y3120 male who lived in (today’s) Croatia between 1200 and 1000 BCE and had south European autosomal background.
[At present, it should also be pointed out that the “Y3120* men”, negative for downstream branches, live in the Balkans (9 different surnames from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia https://dnk. poreklo.rs/DNK-projekat/ ). And, there are some Montenegrins who are yet to be verified.]
The initial lack of knowledge and information was confusing and it produced (not less than) two contradicted theories about the place of origin of I-Y3120 and, particularly, its subclades Y4460, Y18331, S17250, and Z17855 which were all formed ~2100 years ago:
The debate was mostly futile, and many arguments and premises proved to be insignificant, or simply wrong. Namely, the attention was focused on the issues such as haplogroup frequency, the number of representatives, haplotype diversity, archaeological learning of the distant past…, but it turned out that these parameters were unreliable “tools” in locating the area where Y3120 subclades originated, and they were of little help in explaining their development. However, in the last few years, thanks to BigY and SNP test results, the fog has cleared, and it became evident that genetics and history complemented each other.
The first thing that catches the eye of an interested person is the “I2a1 map” provided above. It unmistakably shows that the south-eastern Europe is the “source” of expansion of haplogroup I2a1- Y3120, but it is not explicit whether it is the eastern or western Balkans. Still, the overall research and some important recent findings go in favour of the eastern side of the peninsula and the Romanian section of the Carpathian Mountains.
Here are some raw facts:
- First of all, the widespread and often cited sentence: “Based on the concentration and the highest diversity of its sub-branches, the I2a-M423>CTS10228>Y3120 originated somewhere in the Poland-Ukraine-Belarus triangle, about 2200-2400 years ago.” - IS NOT TRUE. What concentration and which sub-branches???
- The oldest analysed skeleton of an I2-L621 man who lived in the Common Era was the one from Gomolava site, Serbia – 9th century (I2-CTS4002) /https://haplogroup.info/all-ancient-dna.pdf /.
Two I2-Y3120 samples were reported in the recent study titled Cosmopolitanism at the Roman Danubian Frontier, Slavic Migrations, and the Genomic Formation of Modern Balkan Peoples. They were taken from the archaeological site known as Timacum Minus, Kuline necropolis, I-VI century CE. However, both (?) individuals were carbon-dated to the 10th century and, as well as all others from the same site (E1b, R1b, J2a), labelled as “Serbia Slavic” (?!?). This classification becomes even more perplexing when you consider the actuality that not a single R1a-Z282 man (i.e. ethno-genetic Slav) was buried in any of the seven necropolises which were the subject of the study.
Of course, these results do not prove that I2-L621 haplogroup was present in the south-eastern Europe 1500-2000 years ago. …Or anywhere else, for that matter, because the available archeogenetic findings from the “upper” Europe reveal that the 10th century was the timeline when the I-Y3120 branches started to appear in Hungary, Czech Republic, and then in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia (11-14th century). It is rather interesting that the discovered subclades: I-Y4882, I-Y5596, I-Y4460 mirror the status quo.
Oddly enough, the more definite SNP-s of the Serbian samples are unknown.
- The carriers of Y3120 subclades now live all over south-eastern and north-eastern/north-western Europe. The number of I2a1 people is greater in the north than in the south. But the south-eastern Europe (Hungary included) is the only region where all I-Y3120 subclades are clustered together. It is even more significant that the basal lineages of all Y3120 subclades are found exclusively in the Balkans. (see https://www.yfull.com/tree/I-Y3120/, and Y4460 results at https://bosnjackidnk.com/)
As for diversity, it should be acknowledged that subgroups Y18331, S17250-PH908, and Z17855 are more diverse in the south, while Y4460, S17250-Y4882 and S17250-Y5596 are more diverse in the north.
Annotation: The larger I2a1 population and the “exclusive” variety of Y4460, Y4882 and Y5596 subclades in the north-eastern Europe are the consequences of (frequent) migrations over the course of more than 1500 years and, above all, the development of younger branches.
In order to realise the irrelevance of “number”, and limited relevance of “variety/diversity” arguments in this discussion, one should take a look at the following actuality: The population of Ireland is about 6.3 million, but it is estimated that at least 50 million people around the world have Irish forebears. Who came from where?
- The recently discovered branches immediately below Y3120/YP196/S20602 are:
FT76511 (FGC12098), and it has only few members so far – from Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina (FT256359), and Poland (*). (https://www.yfull.com/tree/I-Y3120/ )
BY154615 (FT80992) – one sample from Germany and one from Hungary (close to the Serbian border - most probably a descendant of a man who came there in the 17th or 18th century from today’s Bosnia, Croatia, or Serbia).
- The subclade Y4460 has many representatives in northern Europe, and very few in the Balkans. Some of the Y4460 people in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia… are positive for the initial branches of this subclade, and all Y4460 people in Bulgaria, Montenegro, Turkey, and Greece (?) belong to a couple of lineages formed 2100 years ago. (The surnames of Y4460 men from western Balkans, who are akin to Bulgarians, can be seen at https://bosnjackidnk.com/baza-bez-markera/ )
The diversity of Y4460 in Hungary and Romania is rather conspicuous, and when everything is considered (geographical position of the countries, historical context, the level of presence of this haplogroup in the Balkan countries), it is safe to say that western Dacia was the probable place from which Y4460 spread towards the north, west, and, to a much, much lesser extent, south.
However, what is even more conspicuous is the following: the younger branches (formed less than 2000 years ago), which represent the majority in eastern and western Slavic countries, have not been found in the Balkans! This could mean that:
In either case, this is the crucial, undeniable piece of information: there was no subsequent migration of I-Y4460 people (in the 6th, 7th, or later centuries) to the Balkans which could have brought the younger branches.
- The oldest lineages of Y18331 are found in Greece, Albania, and Macedonia, while others are scattered mainly across the northern and eastern Europe. (https://www.yfull.com/tree/I-Y18331/)It is obvious where this Y3120 branch originated.
- The subclade S17250 was, most probably, formed somewhere in the Romania-Serbia-Hungary border triangle, but something indeed extraordinary happened 2100-1800 years ago. As it is supposed, this is when the sub-branches PH908, Y4882, and Y5596 appeared. And, for now, it appears that PH908 developed in the western Balkan, and Y4882, Y5596 somewhere over the Danube (from Hungary to Poland).
The following facts indicate that that Y4882 and Y5596 originated in the north: all lineages are there; in the south-eastern Europe Y4882 is represented with only one A1328 branch, and the percentage varies from 0 to 1.5% (of all haplogroups), while Y5596 is practically inexistent. The ancestor(s) of these people could have come to the Balkans from Pannonia with Avars, Slavs..., but also (and more likely) individually, and more recently – because of their small number.
Historically, the north-westward movement of Y4460 and appearance of Y4882 and Y5596 can be attributed to the Roman conquest of Dacia at the beginning of the 2nd century CE. After the second Dacian war (105-106) a part of the native population (including some I-Y4460 and I-S17250 men) retreated to the western Carpathians, out of the Roman reach, and eventually mingled with the surrounding Sarmatian (Slavic) peoples.
It is quite the opposite with PH908 – almost all basal lineages are in the Balkans (https://www. yfull.com/tree/I-PH908/ ); the diversity is remarkable; and it represents the vast majority of I2a1a2b population in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro (~2.500.000 men). This is the only Y3120 (S17250) subclade which should be called “Dinaric”.
There are two historical realities which support the Balkan origin hypothesis of PH908.
- All the data from YFull and various national DNA projects show that Z17855 subclade was undoubtedly formed in the eastern Balkans (https://www.yfull.com/tree/I-Z17855/ ) and most of its representatives still live in the same region.
It seems that its “mild” expansion (together with the further expansion of I-Y4460, E-V13 and R1b lineages) towards the north started in the 9th century when "the Vlachs crossed the Danube and attacked the residing Slavs". With the arrival of Hungarians these people spread over a wider area. Some Z17855 lineages are confirmed in western Balkans too – for example, the members of the Vlach tribe called Mirilovići from Herzegovina.
The facts stated above indicate that a (small) number of I2a-Y3120 men could have lived in lower Danube region (Hungary, Serbia, Romania) about 2100-2300 years ago. One theory proposes that those people came there from the area in which carriers of primary I2a-L621 lineages live today (Germany, Baden-Württemberg) under the influence of Celts (a tribal confederation called Volcae) who invaded Greece in 279 BCE.
As it happened, one or several of those (Celticized) Y3120 men had (at least) six sons who became the common ancestors of all present-day Y4460, S17250, Z18755, Y18331, FT80992, and FGC12098 people in the world. In the centuries that followed some of their descendants went to the north-west and some to the south-west. And, that is how modern “Carpathian” and “Dinaric” I2a1a2b branches came into existence.
Now, if you take a look at these two maps:
you will easily see the correspondence between the territory with the highest I-Y3120 haplogroup frequency in Romania, and the territory of the Wallachian principality from the 14th century. The common denominator is obvious, isn’t it?
When this discovery is supplemented with the already presented information about numerous members of former medieval Vlach tribes and communities from Montenegro and Herzegovina who also predominantly belong to I-Y3120 subclades, the connection becomes indubitable – the expansion of I2a1-Y3120 haplogroup was correlated to the migrations of Vlachs.
And that is not all. This argument/connection does not apply just to the western Balkan. Remember the “Carpathian” I-Y3120 branch(es)? It is an acknowledged historical fact that Vlachs routinely migrated up along the Carpathians between the 13th and 18th centuries. Some of them settled in Moravia, some in Slovakia, and some in Beskid Mountains. Hence, today we have Laccy and Wolosi in southern Poland, Moravian Wallachia in the Czech Republic, and people named Blahnik, Blahovec who inherit I-PH908 haplogroup (Blah = Vlah)… Needless to say, those are the places where the frequency of I2a1a2b is the highest in these countries.
As for Ukraine, which is sometimes (without any corroboration) suggested as the “cradle” of I-PH908, the genetic connection of the I2a1 men from the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine and the I2a1 Romanians and Moldavians was well documented in the study Populations of Transcarpathia and Bukovina on the genetic landscape of surrounding regions.*
And finally, last but not least, it should be pointed out that the word/name Vlach/Wallach (and other variants such as Vlah, Valach, Voloh, Blach, Oláh, Vlas, Ilac, Lah…) is etymologically derived from Wolkā-/Volcae/ Οὐόλκαι – the ethnonym of already mentioned Celtic tribe. Germans adopted the word in the forms Walhaz, walhs… (stranger). Via Latin, the ethnonym took on the meaning “foreigner”, “Roman” or “Romance-speaker”, and Greeks loaned it from Slavs (Vlah → Βλάχοι).
The rest is history… and genetics.
 Eisenmann, S., Bánffy, E., van Dommelen, P. et al. Reconciling material cultures in archaeology with genetic data: The nomenclature of clusters emerging from archaeogenomic analysis. Sci Rep 8, 13003 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-31123-z
 Jones, Eppie R et al. “Upper Palaeolithic genomes reveal deep roots of modern Eurasians.” Nature communications vol. 6 8912. 16 Nov. 2015, doi:10.1038/ncomms9912
 Olalde, Carrión, Mikić et al. “Cosmopolitanism at the Roman Danubian Frontier, Slavic Migrations, and the
Genomic Formation of Modern Balkan Peoples”, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.30.458211
 Ćirković Sima – Herceg Stefan Vukčić-Kosača i njegovo doba, Beograd 1964.; Mužić Ivan – Vlasi u starijoj hrvatskoj istoriografiji, 28-30 (Split, 2010.); Željko Musović, Genetika, istorija i bajke, Internet Archive 2020.
 Neparáczki, E., Maróti, Z., Kalmár, T. et al. Y-chromosome haplogroups from Hun, Avar and conquering Hungarian period nomadic people of the Carpathian Basin. Sci Rep 9, 16569 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-53105-5;
This study is rather important because it undoubtedly showed that R1a men and I2a1 men (most probably Y4460 or Z17855) who lived in Panonia (modern Hungary) in the 9-10th century did not belong to the same ethnic group. Namely, apart from different autosomal and Mt-DNA results, it was discovered that 75%, or 3 out of 4 R1a (Z280-CTS1211) men were lactose tolerant, while 83%, or 5 out of 6 I2a (xS17250) men were not.
- Povijest minulih ljeta ili Nestorov ljetopis, 7, 16; translated by N. Kosović; BG 2003.
 Edvard Ehler, Daniel Vaněk, Vlastimil Stenzl, and Václav Vančata. Y-chromosomal diversity of the Valachs from the Czech Republic: model for isolated population in Central Europe. Croat Med J. 2011 Jun; 52(3): 358–367. doi: 10.3325/cmj.2011.52.358
 Utevska, Olga & Chukhraeva, M. & Agdzhoyan, Anastasiya & Atramentova, Lubov & Balanovska, E. & Balanovsky, Oleg. (2015). Популяции Закарпатья и Буковины на генетическом фоне окружающих территорий. Вісник Дніпропетровського університету. Біологія, медицина. 6. 133. 10.15421/021524.
*Two years later, the same Olga Utevska, a geneticist from Ukraine, wrote her dissertation paper in which she arbitrarily (WITHOUT ANY CORROBORATING EVIDENCE, DATA, SOURCE, STUDY…!!!) stated that the greatest diversity of I2a1a2b DYS448 = 19 (!!) haplotypes was in Ukraine and Belarus. She also implied that the carriers of I2a1a2b I-PH908 haplogroup came to the Balkans with the Slavs in the V-VI century CE from the area which is a part of today’s Ukraine. However, a simple comparative review of the presence/distribution of I-S17250-PH908 DYS448=19 SNP-s or subclades (formed 1700-1800 ybp) in the Balkan and Ukraine respectively clearly shows the magnitude of her error: https://www. yfull.com/tree/I-PH908/
 Tanner, Arno (2004). The Forgotten Minorities of Eastern Europe: The History and Today of Selected Ethnic Groups in Five Countries. East-West Books. pp. 203–. ISBN 978-952-91-6808-8.
Juhani Nuorluoto; Martti Leiwo; Jussi Halla-aho (2001). Papers in Slavic, Baltic, and Balkan studies. Dept. of Slavonic and Baltic Languages and Literatures, University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-0246-5.