The study just published in the Nature publishing group’s periodical Scientific Reports was conducted by the ELKH BTK Institute of Archeology’s archaeogenetic research group and presents the first results of a project aimed at researching the history of the early Hungarian population and the analysis of the maternal and paternal lines of DNA samples within the framework of Hungarian-Russian scientific collaboration.  The genetic analyses performed under the direction of Veronika Csáky and Anna Szécsényi-Nagy included the analysis of samples collected during the Russian phase of prehistoric Hungarian archeological research in Eastern Europe led by Attila Türk (PPKE Institute of Archaeology, Department of Archaeology of Early Hungarian History and Archaeology of the Conquest Period, ELKH BTK Ancient Hungarian History Research Group). Russian archaeologist colleagues also participated in the preparation of the archeological chapters of the article.

Locations of the examined cemeteries; archaeological parallels between the individual cemeteries of the Carpathian Basin and the Urals

The genetically focused study first published in this periodical addressing complex research described a genetic examination of anthropological samples from the Trans-Uralian cemetery (Uyelgi, late Kusnarenkovo culture, 9th-11th centuries) displaying the closest parallels with the Hungarian archaeological finds from the period of the conquest of the Carpathian Basin, as well as of the four famous cemeteries (Brody, Szukhoy Log, Bartym, and Bayanovo, Nevolino and southern Lomovatovo cultures) located in the western foothills of the Urals. The samples originate from the Volga–southern Ural region, considered important from the point of view of the ethnogenesis of the Hungarians, from sites that archaeologists have so far directly or indirectly linked to the ethnogenesis and migration of the Hungarian ancestors based on the finds.

The staff at the Archaeogenetic Laboratory analyzed a total of 36 anthropological samples from the Ural region dating from the sixth through 11th centuries and nine from the Carpathian Basin dating from the conquest period, with the primary emphasis on uniparental (maternal – mitochondrial DNA; paternal – Y-chromosomal) markers. In addition, complete genomic analyses of five samples from the Uyelgi cemetery was also carried out.

(a) frequencies of the mitochondrial haplogroup originating from the foothills of the western (Cis) Ural and eastern (Trans, Uyelgi) Ural regions and (b) diagram of the PCA plot based on it.

The maternal lines of the studied samples indicate a mixed population in both phylogenetic and phylogeographic terms. One of the most important results of the study is the fact that a portion of the eastern elements found among the conquerors of the Carpathian Basin were also present in the groups taken from the examined region. This puts the Central Asian origins of a significant part of the early Hungarians in a new light. In addition, the paternal lines show a much more homogeneous picture, with most of them belonging to the special N1a (N-Tat) type characteristic of the Volga – southern Ural region, the environment of the studied site. This is also a characteristic of some of the men from the conquest period.

The genetic relationship of the studied burials in the Uyelgi cemetery based on mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal markers

The researchers found several direct or indirect individual phylogenetic relationships between the samples from Uyelgi and those from the conquest period. In aggregate, they reveal a clear population relationship, but at the same time, complex events in the population’s history. The genetic results indicate a basic continuity in the population between the three chronological phases of the Uyelgi cemetery. This had not been archaeologically demonstrable previously, due in part to the high degree of disturbance in the cemetery and the use of the kurgans for multiple burials. At the overall genomic level, the population fits neatly into today’s trans-Uralic genetic environment, showing the closest links with the Siberian Tatar and Mansi peoples.

The phylogenetic tree of the N1a1a1a1a mitochondrial haplogroup

Based on the data of only a few samples per site in the western foothills of the Urals, the Cis-Uralian population in some cases showed a phylogenetic relationship with the conquerors of the Carpathian Basin and at the population level was close to the pre-conquest population, although no clear population relationship could be demonstrated. The reason for this similarity may lie chiefly with the physical proximity between the areas populated by the early Hungarians and the neighboring peoples.

Finds from the Trans-Uralian Uyelgi cemetery

In summary, the Volga – southern Ural region has indeed played an important role in the ethnogenesis of the Hungarian people, and this has now been confirmed by archaeogenetic research. By showing the biological connections, it was also confirmed that the understanding and study of archaeological finds from Eastern Europe, as with those left by the conquerors of the Carpathian Basin, is highly relevant to the research of early Hungarian history.

As a result, the connections shown here can be further specified – or explored in more detail – in future studies by including an archaeogenetic analysis of other cemeteries linked to the Hungarians’ hypothesized route of migration and through a high-resolution analysis of entire genomes.

As a continuation of the project, in the next phase, the staff of the research group will publish the genetic results of other important, archaeologically significant Uralian cemeteries (Bol’shiye Tigani, Tankeyevka, Karanayevo) and “subbotsi”-type sites (Ukraine, Moldova) that are presumed to be legacies of the Etelköz homeland.

The study, titled “Early Medieval Genetic Data From the Ural Region Evaluated in the Light of Archaeological Evidence of Ancient Hungarians” can be accessed here.