Ancient DNA Reveals Matrilineal Continuity in Present-Day Poland Over the Last Two Millennia

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 22;9(10):e110839. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110839. eCollection 2014.


While numerous ancient human DNA datasets from across Europe have been published till date, modern-day Poland in particular, remains uninvestigated. Besides application in the reconstruction of continent-wide human history, data from this region would also contribute towards our understanding of the history of the Slavs, whose origin is hypothesized to be in East or Central Europe. Here, we present the first population-scale ancient human DNA study from the region of modern-day Poland by establishing mitochondrial DNA profiles for 23 samples dated to 200 BC - 500 AD (Roman Iron Age) and for 20 samples dated to 1000-1400 AD (Medieval Age). Our results show that mitochondrial DNA sequences from both periods belong to haplogroups that are characteristic of contemporary West Eurasia. Haplotype sharing analysis indicates that majority of the ancient haplotypes are widespread in some modern Europeans, including Poles. Notably, the Roman Iron Age samples share more rare haplotypes with Central and Northeast Europeans, whereas the Medieval Age samples share more rare haplotypes with East-Central and South-East Europeans, primarily Slavic populations. Our data demonstrates genetic continuity of certain matrilineages (H5a1 and N1a1a2) in the area of present-day Poland from at least the Roman Iron Age until present. As such, the maternal gene pool of present-day Poles, Czechs and Slovaks, categorized as Western Slavs, is likely to have descended from inhabitants of East-Central Europe during the Roman Iron Age.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Consensus Sequence
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Female
  • Haplotypes*
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Poland
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Mitochondrial

Grant support

Funding provided by Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education; grant N N303 406836, Estonian Research Council IUT24-1 and the European Regional Development Fund (European Union) through the Centre of Excellence in Genomics to Estonian Biocentre and University of Tartu. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.