Friday, September 21, 2012

Vandals DNA: Leaving Genetic Graffiti Across Europe

   I have been fascinated by barbarian history since my sixth grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Rose, handed me the textbook on the subject.  I still read everything I can on the topic.  The biggest draw is the mystery of where each tribe came from, appearing out of the shadow of mythology and for many, disappearing into obscurity.  I’m finding that DNA can help answer the questions of ‘Where are they now?’ and ‘Where did they come from?’

   The word barbarian is first seen in the Greek language as barbaros.  One possible origin of the word is that it was coined from the sound of the language used by these nomadic tribes – ‘bar bar bar’.  The Vandals (Vandali) appear in the history books as early as 166 AD and are described as an East Germanic tribe.  The theories on their origins include having Scandinavian roots in the parish of Vendel, Sweden or Germanic roots with a connection to the word meaning to wander (wandeln).

   Even if the Vandals’ name wasn’t derived from the word wandeln, wandering was what they did the most.  Perhaps chased is a better description.  Around 300 AD, the Goths fought with the Vandals and pushed them west along the Danube River.  By 400 AD, the Huns pushed the Vandals further west to the Rhine River.  At the Rhine, the Vandals fought with the Franks, won and moved into Aquitaine (western France), pillaging and plundering the whole way.

Historical Vandali migration

   I’m reminded of an old cartoon where the barbarian leader is addressing his troops – ‘This time, remember: pillage, then burn.’  The term vandalism is directly attributed to the Vandals’ ruthless pillaging and destruction of culturally significant objects.

   In 409 AD, the Vandals crossed into the Iberian Peninsula, only to be chased by the Visigoths and the Roman army into North Africa in 429 AD.  Over the next decades, the Vandals conquered North Africa and made Carthage their capital.  From there they invaded Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and in 455 AD they sacked Rome. Fortunes fade, the Vandals were defeated by the Byzantine Empire in 534 AD and disappeared into history.  The name Vandals may have disappeared but the people didn’t.  They were either assimilated into the local cultures or dispersed as slaves, the spoils of war.

   To figure out ‘Who were the Vandals?’, first I had to figure out ‘Where are they now?’  Based on their historic origins, the Vandals would probably fall into a small group of y-DNA haplogroups.  The ethnic descriptions that I’m using are overly simplistic, just enough to give you a feel for the possible cultures present.


   We can’t assume that the Vandals were genetically homogenous.  At various times they were associated and allied with the Alani and Suevi tribes.  Any DNA trail found, could just as easily belong to a group along for the ride.  I started researching all these haplogroups along the Vandals’ 400-year migration route to find a DNA footprint. The key datasets included records from Sicily, Sardinia, Tunisia, Spain, France and Germany.  These locations create a triangle of migratory patterns, clockwise, counterclockwise and dispersion.  If these sets have evidence of Vandals DNA, there should be a counterclockwise flow around Europe and a west to east flow across the Mediterranean.  Immediately I was able to remove haplogroup N from the running, there were no records.

   I have to admit that going into this project I thought that the Scandinavian I1 haplogroup would be my most likely suspect.  I had built a picture in my mind that all the Germanic tribes had come out of Scandinavia.  I researched this group first, looking for genetic flow across time. Usually I work with an individual record and trace backward through time.  For this project, I’m analyzing large groups in multiple datasets.  At a high level I’m searching for DNA that has migrated from Germany, through France and Spain to Tunisia and then to Sicily and Sardinia.

   Using TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) and my own TribeMapper techniques, I was able to identify that the Scandinavian I1 haplogroup formed a parallel dispersion pattern.  The y-DNA genes flowed from Germany down into the Italian peninsula and into the Iberian Peninsula at roughly the same time.  Haplogroups G2a and R1a also fall into this category of dispersion.  These DNA records don’t fit the pattern of the Vandals’ migration.

I1, G2a & R1a migration pattern

   The R1b Celtic-Iberian haplogroup proved more difficult to decipher.  This is a major group in Europe, representing over 60% of the Western European population.  For over 10,000 years, there has been a strong flow out of the Iberian Peninsula toward the British Isles, Germany and Scandinavia.  Detecting a counterflow against that tide is problematic.  The apparent direction of migration across the datasets I researched shows a clockwise pattern out of Spain, into France and Germany and then down the Italian peninsula.  R1b doesn’t look like our Vandals, but I’m going to reserve judgment until better analysis tools are developed.

R1b migration pattern

   I’ve left haplogroup I2a, the Danubians, for last because they have the best correlation to the Vandals.  Their genetic migration does show a counterclockwise flow from Germany, through France and Spain and into Sicily and Sardinia.  This DNA can be found in the historic Vandali regions of Aquitaine, Galicia, Lusitania and Andalusia.  Haplogroup I2a is a dominant Germanic group associated with the Danube River, giving them the nickname Danubian.  This matches the Vandals earliest historical references.

I2a migration pattern

   Myles Standish of Mayflower fame was also haplogroup I2a.  Standish is not closely related to the DNA that I am chasing.  His tribe and the Vandals parted ways over 5,000 years ago.

   Have I found the Vandals, Alans or Suevi?  So far, I have been looking at the past 2,000 years.  If I expand the datasets and research back further in time, additional patterns appear.   The DNA takes me to Georgia, Armenia and Iran.  The timing and the location of these records put us in the historic Alani homeland on the Asian steppe.  The Huns were also responsible for driving the Alans west into Europe around 300 AD.  I’ve been looking for Vandals and I’ve found the Alans instead.

   The I2a1 tribal haplotype that I have identified has remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years and has allowed me to follow a migration in and out of Asia and across Europe.  I cannot say that I have found the DNA of all the Alans or that the Alans were only haplogroup I2a.  The correlations that I have made are based on records currently available and it is impossible to say what additional future DNA records may reveal.

   The mystery of the Vandals remains a mystery.  I now have an unexpected peek at a piece of the Alani origins and migrations.  When clients want to know more about their DNA, I can check them against this data.  I’d love to be able to get to a point where I can tell folks - ‘Hey, you’re a Visigoth!’  One of the biggest parts of DNA testing beyond finding family, is connecting ourselves to history, knowing that your ancestors played a role.

© Origin Hunters & OriginsDNA


  1. As always great information. I like the way you do your research. My haplogroup for my dad does not match those you listed.

    What great fun.


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  3. The Ossetians are the only western Iranian group remaining in the Caucasus, they are the Alans themselves as is attested in the name of their Republic: Alania. And as you mention they would mesh with migrating conquering tribes through the time; Germanic tribes (Vandals, Goths), later theMongols and later on Slavic invasions.
    For the Germanic (Vandal) problem haplogroup in the Iberian peninsula I think by co-relating the Gothic strands will be very useful to untangle the mark of the Vandals in their transit and settling in N Africa and Sicily. The Visigoths in Spain become the dominant nobility from 500 to 700 AD, controlling Spain from Toledo and creating the grand Duchy of Cantabria, from this last enclave the higher nobility (los Grandes de España) came the newer line of royals, from Alphonse I to the current lines of the monarchy (now dominated by the Bourbons), which from the Old Castile (Asturias-Cantabria) descended to conquest the rest of Moorish Andalusia and stablished the hub in Cordova....there; in the Spanish nobility you'll very likely find the group that can related to the Vandals. Since the Goths, Vandals and Longbardians were the original true germanic tribes that migrated from Scandinavia to Poland and later on westwards . I hope that this make sense...

  4. Our common Ancestory is as close as 95% going back many generations. This little information can help you read up on the Ancient Livorno region and those Tuscans, on my maternal side, who lived there. No doubt the best part is the Medici family. Other than your Welsh, I can only point to Ligurians as a possible connection. Best Regards.

  5. Your Vandals please consider the possibility that the F is the Noahic Y-DNA to the IJK: then the I Y DNA the true Shemitic Y-DNA and the Vandals carried I Y-DNA and their own Tiras R1a-l664 Y-DNA as the Thracian Getae migrated into Scandinavia and then migrated to Central East Europe and finally into the southern Roman Empire the with R1a-Z284 subclade from Scandinavia. The Vandals, Visigoths and Ostrogoths are Tiras and the Alans are Madai Sarmatians:Aryans

    1. Many thanks for clarification. May I ask for the source? This makes perfect sense. I was always puzzled where has Thracians disappeared. By the way German language was developed in Scandinavia as a combination of protoslavic and celtic language. This was around 500BC. According to Kingas paper this also suggest that Vandals could not be a germanic tribe.

  6. I propose that the Ligurians are also a Madai tribe of the Orelum from the Loire Valley: as their cities are name Mediollanum. Fortified cities land of the Medes: not a Celtic word for the middle land: the cities were mostly on hill tops! over 60 place names in France and Italy and why their languages does not quite fit with Italic or Celtic languages. And why there are Aryan words in Sicilian as the Ligurians seem to be allies of the ancient Sicilian tribes. fafdc51@gmail,com

  7. The mystery of Vandals have been solved. They were associated with Przeworska culture and the scientists collected their DNA comparing with current inhabitants of Europe. They matched the most with Poles, the people of Przeworska culture lands.
    This is all described here:

  8. I am Tunisian, when I did my ancestor DNA, I did found Swedish and Slovak..
    Although I am not sure if that is Vandals effect or not.

  9. I read the paper from Kinga and I need to confirm that this puts Vandals as protoslavic tribe that was forced to leave their homes. Thanks Kinga for sharing

  10. The Vandals were relatively few to effect the native population, as the latest estimates no longer consider the classical 80,000-strong tribe, but a mixed horde of some 20,000 people. Many were Alans, and some were also of diverse origin. The great Gaiseric had himself a slave mother. During the war of 533-34, some warriors were killed, whereas others were transported east. I think only a large scale genetic study can uncover some Vandal influence.

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  13. I think my H1 DNA is Vandal. I put maternal dna in MT dna search and the place name Asturias came up.I looke that up and it's in Spain. I read somewhere that Vandal name was give to Andalusia. I have a lot of matches in Poland, Ukraine, Spain, and Portugal. I Our family is Italian. I think the Byzantine men married the Vandal women.

  14. Hello Michael,

    Great blog. I think u may be on to something... I recently did a 37marker Y-Dna test to identify my paternal ancestry and my results came back I2A1*! 42-47 matches are Allens. (Alleyne, Allyn, Allin or Alan) All may be a form of FitzAlan (Son of Alan) I may be a LONG LOST descendant ofThomas "The Elder" Alleyne, Knight, of Outwell" This particular lineage of the Allen's may also be related to Queen Charlotte, Queen Phillipa & Prince Edward the "Black Prince". The haplogroup is prominent in 40% of Sardinians and is found in Morocco, Algeria and pretty much all the places u listed. If u are still active on this post please keep me updated.

  15. Hello Michael,

    In order to add more data to your blog, I am spanish blond folk tested to be I2a. I did the Y-DNA test cause my surname: "Salvador" comes from one of the oldest nobiliary families from North Spain: "Los doce Linajes de Soria", were experts agree to be descendent from Visigoths.

    Therefore, there is high probability that my ancestors were form the Germanic tribes, I suspect that could be Visigoths (tervingios line more in specific) but as they were mixing with Alans, Suebi and Vandals we will never know exactly.

    Thanks for the article and good blog ;)

    1. Yeah you probably have ancestors from the Spanish Galacian kingdom founded by the Suebians.

      The Suebi were the most badass Germanic tribe that ever lived.

    2. I am I1 Z140 - A196 and still processing at YSEQ. From the Mendes line which has earliest record in Asturias. My autosomal is a lot of northern Iberia and traces in eastern Europe following suspected Visigoth trail.

  16. My hg is R-Z93>YP5578. It is extremely rare outside of Asia. To my knowledge found in western Europe, only in that part of Britain that was known as the Saxon Earldom of Northumbria.

    It entered Britain with the Norman Conquest. And quite possibly the Briton, who if he is the forebearer, was most certainly of Alani ancestry. One such was Alan the Red or Alan Rufus, the only Breton honored by William with a Barony his seat was at Richmond, north Yorkshire, after it was depopulated by William during the Harrying of the North.

    The area from which Alan Rufus originated in Brittany, had been an Alani enclave, settled there during the administration of the Praetor/General Aetius.

    Would appreciate anything at all on the Alani hg in northern France and in particular the Brittany/Normandy area.

  17. What if we have got the picture completely wrong?
    Think of this alternative hypothetical scenario: that all barbarian Germanic invaders (of the roman empire, of course) belonged mostly of the R1b haplogroup, whereas Celts were groups of various ethnic origins, like I1, I2a, N, G, spread and loosely distributed in western Europe.
    The invaders, all or mostly R1b (according to this hypothesis), were culturally different groups, who were pushed to the west, and colonized all the West of Europe.
    The present R1b distribution seems to conform to that hypothesis. But, is there evidence to support it?

  18. It is amazing that in the present time, we are still totally ignorants of the genetic identity of the several Germanic tribes that surged into the Roman empire, and shaped what is now Europe.
    Why there is no evidence?!! Most likely, ancient DNA science is well behind because of little interest and previous technical difficulties. But extraction of DNA from ancient bones is now much easier, and I hope that archaeologists and geneticists get to work together to solve these mysteries, or to put it more clear: to fill up the EMPTINESS in this field, which fuels false theories and complicates the interpretation of history.

  19. Anita is right. There seems to be a peculiar neglect to identify the composition, identity and true origin of the last major change in European History before the French Revolution and Old Regimes fall with the Demographic boom of the XIX century. Actually, the reason why we had more or less the plural nations of Europe instead of an unified successor State off the Old Empire or "Barbarian" elsewhere. But Politics may be behind, as European powers -the major bone financing Science institutions and investigations- in their current dynamics must not view digging for Truths of identity as these, but as counterpoint to the panEuropeanism they drumming to make all march to, that wants to erase borders or ethnic divisions in the interest of an "anonymous" European Union easier to claim and rule by modernistic burocrats. As if both were mutually exclusive....when they could find out as Anita points out, there is a larger family Reality right under.
    At any rate, only Truth sets us truly Free. But maybe that is exactly what feared.

  20. did you take into account that ROMANS themselves were R1b? Did R1b spread in the conquered territories thanks to romans?

  21. Hello. Just found your site and decided to subscribe. Looks quite interesting and this entry actually relates to something I'd like to share:

    So far I know I am a "typical Spanish" R1b-DF27. Based on the information published so far I always assumed my ancestor was an indoeuropean, probably a Celt who crossed the Pyrenees or reached the northern coast at some point during the first millennium bC.

    However, very recently a Y-DNA match showed up sharing one mutation that so far was only shared by me with a bunch of Spaniards and Portuguese and this gentleman happen to be Polish. The block of mutations that contains this one is estimated to have appeared during a date range covering from 300BC to 900AD but it gives a small probability to dates in BC and the most of the weight is placed in dates AD. I have no idea how accurate this estimation is it opens interesting possibilities.

    Above my clade I had already seen another Polish match and a couple of Germans but the mutations shared were old enough to confirm my initial hypothesis.

    I cannot contact this person because he hasn't released his contact details and I am trying to do it via a DNA project admin.

    I read the comments from Evita above and I just wanted to say that perhaps I am on the way of fiding some evidence that could give some credibility to what she suggests.

    If I happen to share more modern mutations with this Polish gentleman whose creation time is assumed to have happened in historic times and there is no hint of Iberian ancestry in his lineage (perhaps an uncommon case of a Sephardic R1b-DF27 or whatever), I think the hypothesis of Germanic tribes carrying R1b-DF27 becomes an interesting one to be taken into consideration.


    1. Update: I am confirming that many Polish actually have Spanish ancestry due to sefhardic ones due to Jewish heritage. This makes much more sense.

  22. Salutations !
    Nice article, thanks a lot.
    I'd like to add some historical references :
    After Belisarius defeated them, the majority was enslaved "to death" or sent to the front in the battles where they died... But there is a minority who ran away and hid among the Berber people, they kept their tribe "closed" only procreating from their own blood... Today, there is still a closed family in the East of Algeria where they hid, away from Carthage, who's called "Those from Wandal" (in the local language).
    Also, the "blondinism" isn't so "Berberian"... So I guess that many of the "blonde" people from North Africa, especially the East of Algeria and the West of Tunisia do have of their blood.

  23. I have recently been working on finding the origins of my I-P109 y Haplogroup. We at first though it might be Viking incursion but the clad Y14999 throws a monkey wrench into that theory. Our SNP path and the migrati N path of the Vandals closely parallel each other and the Kings Pamplona and Navarre and Asturias of the Jimenez Dynasty in Spain wind up right in that path. I’d love to be able to chat more about this. Ken Ramirez de Arellano.


Relaunching Origin Hunters

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