Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Attila, Native Americans and DNA: A Hunny Story

   Recently at a conference, I was talking to some folks about DNA and the migration of tribes based on haplotypes.   A question came up, "What about the Huns?"  I had to answer that I had never looked into the Huns. That night I started looking for evidence that the Huns left a genetic footprint.

   I usually take the DNA of an individual and work backwards to find their origins.  In this case, I started with the origins and tracked forward in time.  The Huns were a nomadic tribe of people that arrived from eastern Asia around 150 AD.  They built a European empire that lasted until 469 AD.  The height of the empire was under the reign of Attila.

   The Huns were not a homogeneous group.  They integrated those that they conquered.  The Alani and the Ostrogoths were a few of the assimilated groups.  Their DNA would have been eastern European, perhaps R1a, G2a, I1 or I2 and a minority proportion, but the core and the majority of the Huns, based on historical reference, would have been East Asian.

   By the end of the Hunnic Empire, the Huns had spent over 300 years, 12 generations, in Europe.  Unlike the later Mongol invaders, the Huns had no Asian home to return to.  They, in turn, were assimilated into the cultures they once ruled and left descendants across Europe.

   Most likely the Huns were from eastern Asian origins.  That limited them to haplogroups C – ‘Mongol’, D – ‘Tibetan’, N – ‘Han/Finn’, O – ‘Manchurian’ and Q – ‘Altaic’.  The ethnic descriptions that I’m using are overly simplistic, just enough to give you a feel for the possible cultures present.   I surveyed DNA record sources for Russia and Europe, looking specifically for these haplogroups.  Groups D and O were isolated individuals, easily attributed to Silk Road travelers who settled in Europe.  Group C was predominantly C3 and related to the later Mongol invasion.  N was either heavily Finnic or a few isolated Siberian individuals.  Q was a different story completely.

   Haplogroup Q has origins in Siberia, most likely north of the Altai Mountains.  Q is also the origin of the Native Americans.  The majority of the Native America haplogroup is Q1a3a.  What I found was a significant Q1b and Q1a2 population in Eastern Europe.  When I map the Q1b genetic footprint using TribeMapper they fall exactly north of the Danube River and east of the Rhine.  This corresponds to the territory of the Hunnic Empire.  The Q1a2 group maps to Hungary, the royal seat of the empire.

   These Q1b and Q1a2 are close-knit tribes each with common ancestry within the last 2100 years.  The timing of their common ancestry and their geographic footprint make a strong argument that these two Q groups were the genetic core of the Hun invaders.

   A few caveats.  Not every European in haplogroup Q is a Hun.  There is a population of Q1a3a, a closer relation to Native Americans, living in Sweden that doesn't correlate.  Not every Hun is a Q, there are bound to be some other groups mixed in like the isolated N individuals as well as the folks the Huns picked up along the way.

   When we think of the Huns, probably the first person who comes to mind is Attila.  Attila was the second to last ruler of the Huns at the height of the empire.  He died in 453 and the empire crumbled in 469 AD.  There is no evidence to say that Attila fits into either the Q1b or Q1a2 group.  If I had to pose a theory, I would say that Attila is Q1a2, part of the royal class of Huns living in Hungary.

    The Huns (Q1a2 & Q1b) and the Native Americans (Q1a3a) share a common Asian ancestor around 18,000 years ago, most likely from the Altai Mountain region.  Not all of the ancestral Q1a3a traveled to the new world.  Some remained in the old world and are found across Siberia and into Scandinavia.  If you live in the Americas and you have been tested as a Q, don’t automatically assume that you are Native American.  Get a deep clade SNP test for confirmation.

   The combined evidence of DNA, geography and history leads to the conclusion that at the end of the Hunnic Empire, the core East Asian Huns assimilated into the eastern European cultures.  They left behind a strong genetic footprint in the same territory that they historically inhabited.  The next time I’m asked, “What about the Huns?”  I can point to Europe and say, “They’re still there.”


  1. Very interesting! My husband is Q1a3a and I've been racking my brain trying to figure out how his English ancestors had that DNA...Thank you for your insight. It makes sense!
    "Some remained in the old world and are found across Siberia and into Scandinavia." And, were Vikings, as were my male ancestors.

  2. I would place the common ancestor of Huns and Native Americans in the Dyuktai culture, along the Aldan river, Eastern Siberia.
    The ancestors of the Huns were the Xiongnu, who raided the Chinese empire.
    The Chinese built the Great Wall and eventually defeated the Xiongnu, who fled west towards the Aral Sea area, where they became known as Huns.

  3. I think we can say Haplogroup Q1b is DEFINITELY Hun, but that the Huns also included other Q as well as N, O, and especially Q's closest relatives P and R as this whole cluster seems to travel together in a group around the Q royalty perhaps.
    Nice study :)

  4. European Huns are Indo-Europeans, not Xiongnu.

  5. their descendants are now in Bulgaria, check

    Dulo clan

    and also

    the other ruling dynasty of Bulgaria is Uokil and can be traced to Yuezhi - indo-european nomads defeated by Xiongnu during 2-1 century BC and pushed to west. Yuezhi were practicing artificial cranial deformation, as European Huns and many graves found in Northern Bulgaria. Hungarians have nothing to do with Huns - they arrive at these lands 500 years later -- this is as stupid as if people from Syria to say that they have sth to do with macedonians because Alexander the Great has his capital in Syria for a couple of years. Genetic test are of little help here - I have been through this.

    1. i can't find information about uokil.Can you help me?


  7. War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

  8. European Huns were not Xiongnu

  9. " Groups D and O were isolated individuals, easily attributed to Silk Road travelers who settled in Europe". This statement is blatantly wrong, especially with respect to D. They were among the earliest arrivals to Asia from Africa, along with YAP+ and were certainly hunter-gatherers/nomads settled in situ thousands of years before the Silk Road was formed.

  10. According to some website I just came across, the Huns know exactly who they are even today. They apparently still hold a yearly tribal meeting where they show off their horses and trick riding. The men also look like the ancient physical description of Huns. I believe the festival is called the Kurultaj and takes place in Hungary The website mentions their DNA as being Madjar/Magyar related.

  11. Could atilla the hun actually have been in north america the horses were already here the Spanish did not bring them and other explorers said they ran into men of great stature that were excellent archers far superior to anyone seen before. That and the fact that the Canadian people that are native appear also mongal

  12. There is a mention of a population of Q1a3a individuals living in Sweden. I have tried to find confirmation of this statement on the internet and have not found it. Does anyone know where I might find information about this group of people. From all sources I have found individuals with the Y haplotype Q1a3a are only found in the Americas. Thanks.

  13. @David Fulford: Many Swedish men do carry a variation of YHG Q1a2a1a2 (L804) that is a fraternal subclade of Native American YHG Q1a2a1a1 (M3). (See There are various theories about YHG Q in Europe, but I doubt whether all of it can be attributed solely to the Huns. M3 has also been found in western China and has even been found in bulk DNA testing in eastern and central Europe. Because M3 is thought to have originated in North America, this suggests that at some point, Native Americans may have migrated back into Eurasia. DNA studies indicate that Europeans may have admixed with a population related to Native Americans about 4,500 years ago, coinciding with the arrival of Indo-European speakers. Interestingly, one prominent American Sanskrit scholar, Edward Washburn Hopkins in his volume “The Religions Of India”, noted striking parallels between the mythology of the early Indo-Iranian peoples and Native American cultures.

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  15. I'm in the UK with no connection to the USA. My chromo2 test with Cymru DNA showed 1% Native American, which I appreciate could be noise or possibly from the Huns. Y haplogroup U106 sub-type S11136. I'm not good with the technical side, could further testing or analysis clarify a possible Norse origin please? There is an interesting "Popular Social Science" article on the subject "Never Marry a Swede". Unfortunately unable to provide link here.

  16. My grandfather claimed that our family is descendant from Atilla The Hun. My grandmother laughs at the idea and apparently never inquired about the possibility. When speaking to my grandfather in private, he was very stern and displayed no humour concerning the subject. It is a family oral history on his side. I'm expected to continue the history. I've refused to have children.

  17. The tradition is that atilla was a descendant of Nimrod who was a Cushite. if this is the case Atila himself would be Either from haplogroup D or E. There are a group in Hungary who claim descent from Atilla and they are seeking recognition as a distinct ethnic community. I would be most interested in knowing their DNA results

  18. The tradition is that atilla was a descendant of Nimrod who was a Cushite. if this is the case Atila himself would be Either from haplogroup D or E. There are a group in Hungary who claim descent from Atilla and they are seeking recognition as a distinct ethnic community. I would be most interested in knowing their DNA results

  19. Michael you're right, because:

    in the ancient cemetery of the Hunnic-Sarmatian culture in Altai Mountains the archaeologists have discovered human remains, from which you could obtain genetic material (aDNA). At least three samples belong to the haplogroup Q1a2 (Q-M25) Y-DNA and very likely to its subclades Q-L712, Q-L715 and Q-L713 and have matches with living people.

    Sample RISE600, archaeological site Verh-Uimon, iron Age – without dating (*L713).
    Sample RISE601, archaeological site Verh-Uimon, iron Age – without dating (*L715);
    Sample RISE493, archaeological site Sabinka 2, Karasuk, bronze Age, 1500-1400 years BC (*L715).

    This may indicate the Hunnic provenance of above mentioned haplogroups. See also:


  20. Very interesting. My family history goes back to the Szekelyfold (in Transylvania, today's Romania) and our tradition is that our people were left over Huns after the dissolution of Attila's empire. Our language is the same as the language of the Magyars of Hungary, with whom my ancestors merged in the 9th Century when the Magyars came and established their country in Central Europe, of which Szekelyfold was a part until it was annexed to Romania. My first name is Attila.

  21. Hello - my son Edwin is adopted from Guatemala and is Q1A3A*. He comes out at about 95% NA (Maya) on most tests. Always excited to learn more about him. Thank you

  22. Haplogroup O is Han Chinese not Manchu

  23. Very interesting. My father is Q-L54 and it has been suggested that his male ancestors may have been Huns.

    My husband is O-M175. Both men have paper genealogies that only take us to England.

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