According to hvg.hu, it seems that the argument about the Hun origin of Hungarians re-emerges. Based on the analysis of findings from the time of the Hungarian conquest, geneticists state that our ancestors’ DNA was quite similar to the Huns’. Moreover, they assume that it weren’t the conquerors who spoke the Hungarian language, but the Avars, who lived in the Carpathian Basin when the Hungarians arrived.
Archaeological genetics is a young field in science, which tries to reconstruct historic events and origins with the help of DNA mainly extracted from bone remains. The oldest findings that were successfully analysed genetically are tens of thousands years old. This was how scientists found out that the Neanderthal didn’t vanish completely, because 2-4% of human DNA originates from them.
Tibor Török and his team study the genetics of conquerors at the Genetics Department of the University of Szeged. The researchers try to figure out the prehistory of Hungarians by analysing mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) extracted from bone remains.
In their study, they came to the surprising conclusion that the conqueror Hungarians partly spring from the Huns.
This view, which was dominant for a long time, was claimed to be false by the linguistic/archaeological approach of the last times. So it’s no surprise that the genetic findings made quite a noise in the scientific world.
Several studies have proven that only 4% of the DNA of today’s Hungarians show Asian origin. However, this is still the highest rate compared to neighbouring nations, which is probably due to the Hun, Avar inflow. But the Szeged research group is also interested in the components of the remaining 96%. It seems that the majority of the components can be found in the ancient European layer of the Neolithic-Bronze Age. More details could be found out from an elaborate, well-structured genetic size-up.
Regarding the genetics of Hungarian conquerors, the scientists found a 30-40% Asian component. The fact that this rate has fallen to 4% means that the examined conquerors contributed to the genetic face of today’s Hungarians in 10%. Since no major change of population happened in the Carpathian Basin after the conquest, the results support previous data, according to which there weren’t many conquerors.
The research group spent a lot of time on trying to figure out the origins of the Asian component. They resequenced the entire mtDNA genome to get as many information as possible. Theoretically, the Asian component could be originated from Finno-Ugric nations, Scythians, Huns and Avars. They excluded the Finno-Ugric origin right away and came to the conclusion that it is the Huns who fit the concept the best. However, the contribution of the other two groups can’t be excluded completely.
According to Tibor Török, the approach of archaeologists nowadays is mostly determined by the Finno-Ugric theory. Although, this is actually not an archaeological theory, since the remains of the conquerors imply a steppe culture. Nonetheless, archaeologists reacted quite adversely to the results of the new study, because they believe that the linguistic relation is independent from the genetic relation, so the research group is contradicting a non-existent viewpoint.
Still, the team of Tibor Török firmly believes that linguistics and genetics are not completely independent of each other.
Moreover, the dominant theory claims that the Hungarian language was brought by the conquerors, so researchers would think that they had more genetic prints than today’s Hungarians. Also, academics still originate the conquerors from proto-Uralic nations as no one has come up with a better alternative. He added that it says quite a lot if someone gets so angry hearing the Hun affinity.
The social strata of the conquerors is one of the most important archaeological questions. For a long time they were thought of as an armed elite of few. The real question concerns the numbers, because an elite few couldn’t bring the language, or, at least, couldn’t make their language dominant against the crowd. Even though the genetic data of around two hundred conquerors support this idea, the examination of “barer” cemeteries of common people only started recently.
The other main statement of the study is that Hungarian could have been the language of the people already living in the Carpathian Basin when the conquerors arrived.
This would mean the Avar population, but the research group didn’t go as far as to state that they spoke Hungarian, because they can’t draw linguistic conclusions from the genes. This hypothesis is actually not new among the debates of archaeologists and historians.
The genetic data also seem to support this theory, since the Onoğur Bulgarians spoke Turkish, and if it was truly an Onoğur team, few in number, that undertook the conquest, then they must have found the language in place. If this hypothesis is true, then only the population of the Avar era could be taken into account when looking for the people speaking the language, and, of course, not the chiefs, because they were probably a similarly small elite as the Hungarian conquerors were.
All in all, their findings seem to support the well-known hypothesis, according to which the conquerors could’ve been a group among the Onoğur Bulgarians, who originated from Middle Asia and previously had a tight cousinship-alliance with the Huns.
The issue remains a topic of debate.
Featured image: Invasion of the Barbarians or The Huns approaching Rome (colour painting) – Wiki Commons By Ulpiano Checa