27 June 2022 The Future is the Product of the Past

Study Reveals Mysterious Avars Origin

Ruled much of Central and Eastern Europe for 250 years, the Avars were less well known than Attila’s Huns, but undoubtedly more successful.

In the AD 560s, the Avars established an empire centered on the Carpathian Basin.

The Avars, we know that they came from Central Asia in the sixth century CE, But the question of who exactly they were has occupied ancient and modern historians ever since.

They are primarily known from Byzantine historical sources, who documented and questioned the sudden appearance of Avars in Europe. Modern historians have wondered whether they were a well-organised migrant group or a mixed band of fugitives.

Archaeological research has pointed to many parallels between the Carpathian Basin and Eurasian nomadic artefacts (weapons, vessels, horse harnesses), for instance a lunula-shaped pectoral of gold used as a symbol of power. We also know that the Avars introduced the stirrup in Europe. Yet we have so far not been able to trace their origin in the wide Eurasian steppes.

Now, a multidisciplinary research team of geneticists, archaeologists, and historians, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, obtained and studied the first ancient genomes from the most important Avar elite sites discovered in contemporary Hungary.

The study included the eight richest Avar graves ever discovered, overflowing with golden objects, as well as other individuals from the region prior to and during the Avar age. “We address a question that has been a mystery for more than 1400 years: who were the Avar elites, mysterious founders of an empire that almost crushed Constantinople and for more than 200 years ruled the lands of modern-day Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, and Serbia?”, explains Johannes Krause, senior author of the study.

Grave associated with the Avars. Photo: Szilvia Döbröntey-David
Grave associated with the Avars. Photo: Szilvia Döbröntey-David

Fastest long-distance migration in human history

The Avars did not leave written records about their history and these first genome-wide data provide robust clues about their origins. “The historical contextualization of the archaeogenetic results allowed us to narrow down the timing of the proposed Avar migration. They covered more than 5000 kilometres in a few years from Mongolia to the Caucasus, and after ten more years settled in what is now Hungary. This is the fastest long-distance migration in human history that we can reconstruct up to this point,” explains Choongwon Jeong, co-senior author of the study.

Guido Gnecchi-Ruscone, the lead author of the study, adds: “Besides their clear affinity to Northeast Asia and their likely origin due to the fall of the Rouran Empire, we also see that the 7th-century Avar period elites show 20 to 30 percent of additional non-local ancestry, likely associated with the North Caucasus and the Western Asian Steppe, which could suggest further migration from the Steppe after their arrival in the 6th century.” The East Asian ancestry is found in individuals from several sites in the core settlement area between the Danube and Tisza rivers in modern day central Hungary. However, outside the primary settlement region we find high variability in inter-individual levels of admixture, especially in the south-Hungarian site of Kölked. This suggests an immigrant Avars elite ruling a diverse population with the help of a heterogeneous local elite.

These exciting results show how much potential there is in the unprecedented collaboration between geneticists, archaeologists, historians and anthropologists for the research on the ‘Migration period’ in the first millennium CE.

This research is a part of HistoGenes, an ERC-funded project investigating the period of 400 to 900 CE in the Carpathian Basin from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Cover Photo: Ilona C. Kiss

Banner
Related Post

On a 5,300-year-old skull, archaeologists find evidence of the first known ear surgery

20 February 2022

20 February 2022

Humans may have begun performing ear surgery more than 5,000 years ago, say Spanish archaeologists. Spanish researchers say the skull...

New Discoveries of Sanxingdui Ancient City to be Announced

19 March 2021

19 March 2021

Sanxingdui, which literally means “Stacks of Three Stars”, is a cultural relic of the Kingdom of Shu in ancient China....

A new study shows that the cave paintings at Cueva Ardales are the work of Neanderthals

21 August 2021

21 August 2021

A study of pigments used in murals in the Cueva Ardales caves in southern Spain has revealed that Neanderthals, long...

The first settlement of the Cimmerians in Anatolia may be Büklükale

7 June 2022

7 June 2022

Archaeologists estimated that the first settlement in Anatolia of the Cimmerians, who left Southern Ukraine before Christ (about 8th century...

In Cyprus, an important early Christian site has been discovered

12 September 2021

12 September 2021

An important Christian settlement was discovered with mosaics bearing clear inscriptions in Greek during the excavations carried out by the...

Bronze Age Treasure Found in Swedish Forests

30 April 2021

30 April 2021

A man who studied the forest to make a map for the orienteering club in western Sweden made an incredible...

INAH Archaeologists recover the coyote-man of Tacámbaro

26 January 2022

26 January 2022

Archaeologists win the coyote-man trial that lasted 30 years in Mexico. The litigation regarding the coyote-man of Tacámbaro, an important...

45,000 years ago, Neanderthals in the Swabian Jura used complex tool-making techniques

13 September 2021

13 September 2021

Findings that will change our perception of Neanderthals’ sophistication A team from the University of Tübingen have proved that Middle...

7,000-year-old Ritual Complex Found In Jordan Desert

23 February 2022

23 February 2022

The team of French and Jordanian archaeologists has discovered a 7,000-year-old ritualistic complex near what is thought to be the...

An Ampulla was discovered for the first time in the ancient city of Dara, Turkey

11 January 2022

11 January 2022

An ampulla was found for the first time in the ancient city of Dara, located in the province of Mardin...

Homo Sapiens are older than we previously thought

16 January 2022

16 January 2022

Researchers have discovered that Omo I skeletons, previously thought to be less than 200,000 years old, are 230,000 years old....

The oldest evidence of human use of tobacco was discovered in Utah

11 October 2021

11 October 2021

According to recent research, burnt seeds discovered in the Utah desert suggest that humans used tobacco initially and that some...

Neanderthals caused ecosystems to change 125,000 years ago

16 December 2021

16 December 2021

Researchers say Neanderthals changed the ecosystem by turning forests into grasslands 125,000 years ago. Around 125,000 years ago, these close...

Ancient Ruins of an Ancient Capital Found in Beijing

15 March 2021

15 March 2021

After two years of excavation, Chinese archaeologists recently exposed Zhongdu, the capital city of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) next to...

Stone reliefs describing the Persian-Greek wars were found in the ancient city of Daskyleion in northwestern Turkey

16 August 2021

16 August 2021

A relief depicting a fifth-century BC battle between the Greeks and Persians was discovered in the ancient city of Dascylium...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.