The origin and genetic history of the Avars


TRAVERSO Luca GNECCHI-RUSCONE Guido Alberto HIß Alina Naomi HERBIG Alexander HOFMANOVÁ Zuzana KRAUSE Johannes

Year of publication 2022
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Archaeological finds and limited historical evidence suggest that multiple ethnic groups inhabited the central European Carpathian Basin during late Antiquity and the early medie- val period. The origins and impact on later populations of many of these groups remain largely unknown. Some of them are thought to have had central- or east-Asian origins and to have migrated to Europe from the Eurasian steppe, among them the Huns and the Avars. The latter occupied the region for over 200 years, establishing the Avar Khaganate (king- dom) around 568. Some historical sources connect the Avars with the east-Asian Rouran Khaganate, which dominated the eastern Mongolian steppe from the 4th–6th centuries. Others, however, suggest that the Avars were merely a loose federa- tion of individuals of eastern European and central Asian descent. In this study we present genome-wide data obtained from the remains of 66 individuals from the Carpathian Basin during this period, including the occupants of some of the richest burials in the khaganate and other elite Avar graves from its core region. We found that the genetic material from the majority of elite individuals differentiated them from the 5th and 6th century local population that preceded the Avars. Almost all the elite individuals carried a high proportion of east-Asian ancestry, for which the best matches are found in the limited available genomic data from Rouran Culture and related individuals previously published. Some individuals carried a small amount of more recent central-Asian and eastern-European ancestry. The majority of the elite individu- als, however, lacked local genetic ancestry, suggesting limited genetic admixture with the local population. Overall, the results indicated that the early medieval Avars were of recent east-Asian origin that dates to the mid-1st milenium and had migrated rapidly across Eurasia within a few generations.
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