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Poland Regional DNA Project

Wersja polska Deutsche Fassung

One Family Project

The One Family One World Project is a partnership between Living DNA and Eupedia initiated in 2017. The project aims to map the regional genetic variations of the world with a great level of detail and accuracy in order to improve our understanding of both recent and ancient migrations and see how humans are all connected with one another as one big family.

Genetic variations within Poland

Historical context

Poland emerged as a political entity in the 10th century. Its borders fluctuated a lot through history, particularly with the advance of German expansion in Pomerania, Prussia and Silesia, then the Russian conquest of eastern Poland.

Going back through the ages, ancient DNA studies have showed that modern Poles are remarkably similar to the Corded Ware people of the Late Copper Age and Early Bronze Age. These people were a hybrid of Proto-Indo-Europeans from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe and local Neolithic farmers. Later in the Bronze Age, Proto-Celts also settled in western Poland. During the Iron Age, Germanic tribes from Scandinavia and North Germany migrated to Poland, notably the Goths and the Vandals, whereas north-eastern extremities of present-day Poland were inhabited by West Balts.

The Slavs arrived a few centuries later from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It is only after the Slavs settled down and mixed with the earlier populations that the Poland came into being.

Bronze Age

Immediately before the Indo-European expansion from the Steppe, most of territory of Poland was inhabited by people of the Late Neolithic Globular Amphora Culture (GAC). According to a recent genetic study (Mathieson et al. 2018), GAC individuals from Kierzkowo in Kuyavia (southern part of Northern Poland) had a mix of Neolithic farmer ancestry (75%) and indigenous Mesolithic hunter-gatherer ancestry (25%). Three GAC men carried Y-DNA haplogroup I2a2, making it the oldest confirmed Y-DNA lineage in Poland. Today around 2% of Polish men carry this Y-DNA haplogroup.

Transformation from the Neolithic to the Copper Age in Poland is associated with the appearance of the Corded Ware Culture (CWC). That marks the arrival of steppe ancestry, Indo-European languages and Y-DNA haplogroup R1. Polish Copper Age and Bronze Age samples carry Indo-European Y-DNA lineages R1+ (a man from Obłaczkowo in Greater Poland, dated to 2865-2578 BCE), R1a1a1-M417+ (a man from Łęki Małe in Greater Poland, dated to 2286-2048 BCE and two men from Rogalin near Hrubieszów, dated to 1900-1615 BCE), R1b1a1a2-M269 (three men of the Bell Beaker culture from Samborzec in Lesser Poland, dated to 2400-2200 BCE) and R1a1a1b1a2c-S24902 (a man from Gustorzyn in Kuyavia, dated to 1953-1880 BCE - today up to 1% of Poles belong to the same S24902 lineage). Two Copper Age men from Jagodno in Lower Silesia (dated to c. 2800 BCE) carried Neolithic Y-DNA lineages G and I2, possibly descended from GAC people.

Łęki Małe in Greater Poland was a Kurgan Cemetery of either Late Corded Ware or Proto-Unetice people. A man with R1a1a1-M417 was buried in barrow IV, which is the largest of four surviving kurgans (seven got destroyed during WW2). That cemetery was used by people from a nearby fortified settlement Bruszczewo (established c. 2300 BCE).

CWC people were a hybrid of Proto-Indo-Europeans from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe and local Neolithic farmers. Most of them carried - just like half of modern Poles - haplogroup R1a-M417 and its subclades. The oldest known sample of R1a-M417 is from a cemetery of Sredny Stog II culture near Kupyansk, Ukraine (Kharkov region), dated to c. 3500 BCE.

The Unetice Culture that existed in Western Poland during much of the Bronze Age (around 550 sites), is often associated with Proto-Celts or Proto-Italo-Celts.

Iron Age

During the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, the majority of Poland was dominated by the Lusatian Culture. The most famous archaeological site of the Lusatian Culture is Biskupin, located in Greater Poland. Based on dendrochronological analysis, oak wood used in the construction of Biskupin was cut down between 747 and 722 BCE. It was a large fortified settlement inhabited by around 1200 people.

Shortly after 400 BCE, Celtic people representing the La Tène culture and coming from Bohemia and Moravia, settled in Southern and South-Eastern Poland. Another wave of Celtic settlers came in 279-277 BCE and some more groups even later. Celtic tribes known from historical written sources, who lived in the area of Poland, were the Lugians, the Anartes and the Cotini. The latter are associated with the Púchov culture which existed in northern Slovakia and parts of southern Poland until c. 170 CE.

Throughout the Iron Age, Germanic tribes descended from people of the Nordic Iron Age culture in Scandinavia and the Jastorf culture in North Germany migrated to Poland. Their descendants included historically attested peoples such as the Goths, Gepids and Vandals (who were a confederation of several tribes), but also Burgundians, Lemovians, Rugians, Ulmerugians, Sidinians, Scyrians and Hirrians. Another tribe in ancient Poland, the Avarini, could also be Germanic (possibly a branch of the Varini). Names of some of those tribes later vanished, while other tribes became famous during the Migration Period, when most of them left Poland. Some of them, however, did not move. Procopius in "History of the Wars" (III, xxii, 13-16) wrote about the Vandals who stayed in Poland and became assimilated by Slavs. Also the Old English poem "Widsith" mentioned the Goths who remained in "the "Vistula woods" and defended them against Hunnic incursions. Preliminary results from scientists A. Juras, J. Piontek, M. Figlerowicz and M. Zenczak ("Y-chromosome haplogroup assignment through next generation sequencing of enriched aDNA librariers" and "Comprehensive analysis of microorganisms accompanying human archaeological remains") indicate that Y-DNA lineages such as I1a3a1a1a-L1237, I1a2a-Z59 (possibly I1a2a2a5-Y5384) and I2a2a1b2a-L801 might be related to East Germanic tribes.

North-Eastern parts of ancient Poland, to the east of the lower Vistula, were inhabited by the West Balts, ancestors of Old Prussians. They were known to ancient Romans under the name Aestiorum gentes (the Aestii, Aestian peoples). Ancient texts also mention Galindians (in Masuria) and Sudovians (in Sudovia). Other tribes mentioned by ancient sources, such as the Veltae, Vistula Veneti, Boulanes and Stavanoi, probably also inhabited parts of Eastern and Central Poland. Scholars argue about ethnicity of these tribes, some try to associate them with Proto-Slavs, some link them with Balts or with other groups.

R1a-Z92 and R1a-M558 are Y-DNA lineages often associated with Balts (with the exception of CTS3402, which is a typically Slavic branch of M558), as well as N1c-M2783.

South-Eastern Poland was inhabited by so called Free Dacians - Costoboci and Igylliones. The Buri, who lived to the south-west of modern Cracow, could be a tribe related to Dacian Burs. The northernmost Daco-Thracian toponym is Setidava, associated with Konin in Greater Poland. It could be a Dacian outpost established by Burebista (82-44 BCE).

Other settlements mentioned in ancient texts, which were probably located in Poland, include Carrodunum (likely near Cracow), Kalisia (likely near Kalisz), Askaukalis (likely near Inowrocław), Arsonium (likely near Wieluń or Wieruszów), Leukaristos (likely near Opole), Lugidunon (likely near Legnica), Budorigum (likely near Wrocław), as well as Scurgum, Viritium, Virunum, Gittonium, Helibo, Truso, Bunitium, Rugium, Colancorum, Stragona and Limios alsos. Many of those towns were located along the Amber Road.

Late Antiquity & Early Middle Ages

During the Migration Period, the territory of Poland suffered heavy depopulation. But up-to-date archaeological findings and palynological studies indicate, that in some areas - perhaps especially in Greater Poland and Cuiavia (southern part of Northern Poland) - settlements continued to exist and fields continued to be farmed throughout the whole period.

Slavs colonized all of Poland (except for the north-eastern part inhabited by West Balts) most likely in period 450-650 CE. The main Y-DNA markers of Slavic expansion seem to be R1a-L260, R1a-YP515, R1a-L1029, I2a-Y3120, R1a-CTS3402 and R1a-YP343. Preliminary DNA results from Early Medieval Poland (900-1200 CE) indicate that also other lineages were present (including J2a1a-L26, I1a2a2a5-Y5384, R1b1a2-L150.1). Slavs mixed with and assimilated previous inhabitants, leading to the ethnogenesis of Lechites (tribes speaking Lechitic languages, a subgroup of West Slavic languages), ancestors of Poles.

From the late 7th century onwards, but especially from the 8th century onwards, Slavic tribes in Poland started constructing fortified settlements known as gords. The process of the construction of gords in Polish lands intensified during the 9th century.

The first half of the 10th century saw especially fast developments in Greater Poland, where a characteristic type of gords emerged, associated with the expansion of the Piast dominion. Some of older gords were destroyed by the expanding Piasts and replaced with Piast-type gords. Some other gords show no signs of discontinuity, indicating that they were peacefully incorporated into the Piast realm, or that they had belonged to the Piasts since the beginning. In 966 CE, Poland was baptized by its prince Mieszko I, becoming part of Western Christendom. By the end of the 10th century CE, the Piast Dynasty united most of the present-day territory of Poland, and even some areas beyond this territory. For the next 200 years, borders of what was considered Poland remained relatively stable, encompassing roughly the same area as today. After the death of Bolesław III (1138), Poland became feudally fragmented, but each duchy was still considered to be a part of a larger whole. However, by the end of the 12th century Poland lost influence over most of Pomerania, which came under the control of Denmark and the Holy Roman Empire in 1181. Denmark lost much of its influence there as well, after the battle of Bornhöved in 1227.

Late Middle Ages to Modern Era

The 1200s saw eastward expansion of Brandenburg's House of Ascania, which established its territorial outpost in Lubusz Land, to the east of the Oder River - it became known as Neumark. At the same time, a crusade against Pagan Prussians began in 1218 CE. In 1226 Polish prince Konrad of Mazovia invited the Teutonic Knights to help in the crusade, they arrived in 1228. By 1283 CE Prussian resistance was crushed and the region Christianized. But soon later former allies began to fight and in 1309 CE the Teutonic Order annexed Polish Pomerelia. After 1311 CE, new rulers of the Czech Kingdom, the House of Luxembourg, continued the attempts of their predecessors - the Premyslid Dynasty - to take control of Silesia from Polish Piast Dynasty. They eventually succeeded. The Kingdom of Poland recovered from its period of feudal fragmentation (the official resumption and reunification of the Kingdom took place during the rally of Sulejów in 1318), but without Pomerelia, Pomerania, Neumark (Lubusz) and Silesia. King Casimir III (1333-1370) did not manage to regain Silesia and Pomerelia. Instead, he decided to expand to the east and in 1340 annexed the Principality of Galicia. That marked the beginning of Poland's eastward expansion, which continued during the next three centuries. In the 1400s after Polish-Teutonic wars, Poland finally managed to regain Pomerelia and to subordinate Teutonic Order's lands in Prussia. Poland and Lithuania united creating the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The 16th and the first half of the 17th centuries saw strengthening of Poland's influence in Prussia and Livonia, as well as continued eastward expansion. After that, due to a series of disastrous wars and economic crisis, Poland-Lithuania began to lose power.

Events of the 1700s and the Napoleonic Wars culminated in the partitions of Poland between Russia, Brandenburg-Prussia and Austria. In 1918 Poland regained independence but had to fight for its borders. After WW1 it managed to regain parts of Upper Silesia, but not all of it. Shortly before WW2, the country's area amounted to 390.000 km2. In September 1939, Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and the USSR, who partitioned it again. Almost 3 million Polish Jews and nearly 3 million ethnic Poles lost their lifes during the war. After WW2, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill established new Polish borders. Eastern Poland (181.000 km2) was annexed by the USSR, while at the same time Poland was given 101.000 km2 of pre-war German territories, as well as Free City Danzig (2.000 km2). Large-scale forced population transfers of Eastern Poles and Germans followed. Today Poland's area is 312.000 km2 and its western border similar to 850 years ago.

Non-Slavic ethnic minorities who have migrated to and settled in Poland during historical times include the Germans, Jews, North French, Walloons, Flemish, Dutch and Frisian people (groups such as Olędrzy and Mennonites), Armenians (who spoke Armeno-Kipchak), Scottish people, Vlachs/Walachs (Romance-speaking shepherds), Karaims, Lipka Tatars, Hungarians, Roma people and others. Foreign Balto-Slavic minorities have included Lithuanians, Russian Starovers (Old Believers), Ruthenians/Rusyns, Poleshuks, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Slovaks, Czechs (Czech Brethren, Hussites, etc.), Lusatian Sorbs, Old Prussians, Yotvingians, Latvians and others.

Objective & Methodology

This project aims at unravelling the regional genetic differences between Poles. To determine the boundaries between proposed genetic regions we took into account the areas of settlements of ancient and medieval populations, and the places where the various invaders settled most heavily.

We believe that the historical borders of kingdoms and empires, as well as the perimeters of the various modern dialects also influenced the way genes spread in the population over time, as people tended to marry much more frequently within the confines of their geographic, political and linguistic boundaries.

Proposed genetic regions of Poland

Our preliminary research indicates at least 15 areas of Poland may have distinct genetic differences.

Proposed genetic divisions of Poland - One Family One World DNA Project
  • Central Poland
  • Greater Poland
  • Lesser Poland
  • Lower Silesia
  • Masovia
  • Neumark
  • Northern Poland
  • Oberland
  • Polish Mountains
  • Pomerania
  • Pomerelia (Kashubia)
  • Red Ruthenia
  • Sudovia-Podlachia
  • Upper Silesia
  • Warmia-Masuria

How do I qualify?

The One Family project is open to everyone worldwide and has two parts.

  • 1. To build a genetic family tree of everyone from around the world, regardless of where your family comes from.
  • 2. To build a regional genetic breakdown of ancestry within countries, similar to 'The Peopling of the British Isles project'. This part of the project is looking for people with all four grandparents born within 80km (50mi) of each other inside our project areas of interest.

If you have already tested with Living DNA, all you need to do to join the project is log into your account, click on the Research tab and choose to participate in our global ancestry research project, if you haven't already done it.

If you already tested your DNA with another company (23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, or FTDNA's Family Finder), you can join the project here for free. After submitting the form with your family information, you will receive an email to confirm the creation of your Living DNA account and will be asked to upload your genome there for free.

If you have not yet tested your DNA with one of the above companies, then you will need to order a Living DNA test to take part.

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