Changing Planet

DNA Results from Asturias, Spain Add to the Genographic Project Human Family Tree

Genetic results from Asturias, Spain, or Espana Verde (Green Spain), go deeper than the delightful cidre and fabada asturiana. From low hominin ancestry to high numbers of unique European lineages, the Genographic Project sheds new light on the history of Espana Verde. 

by Rachel Bruton

Last year, the Niemeyer Center of Aviles (Asturias) invited the Genographic Project to visit Asturias and celebrate with them the region’s heritage. After a series of Genographic related activities, a group of 100 excited participants lined up to swab with the Geno 2.0 DNA Ancestry Kit, test their DNA, and gain a better understanding of the area’s migratory history. This week, the Genographic Project revealed the interesting findings about the region.

One of the participants was the Aviles Mayoress, Ms. Pilar Varela. She commented how collectively the Asturias results “show how we all can trace our common roots to Africa, yet each one’s path to reach Asturias is somewhat different.”

Ties to all of Europe

Map of Asturias Maternal Ancestry
Map of Asturias’ Maternal Ancestry

Among the 100 people who participated, most (>80%) of their maternal lineages belonged to one of the seven major European haplogroups (branches on the human family tree). Lineages from the Middle East and North Africa were also present, but in smaller numbers (between 5 and 10% each), and one participant had Native American maternal ancestry, not commonly found among the Spanish.

Maternal haplogroup H was the most common branch among participants, accounting for more than a third of lineages. Interestingly, the ancestral haplogroup HV, with ties to early agriculturalists from the Middle East or possibly Europe’s earliest settlers, was found in eleven Asturians present. Overall, the maternal results showed a high frequency of some of Europe’s oldest lineages, a pattern similar to their Basque neighbors, also from northern Spain.

Map of Asturias' Paternal Ancestry
Map of Asturias’ Paternal Ancestry

Haplogroup R1b was the reoccurring lineage for paternal ancestry, accounting for nearly 75% of male participants in this group. R1b is the most common European Y-chromosome branch, and nearly 60% of European men carry this lineage. One interesting finding revealed, however, was that many of the men came from lesser known branches of the R1b, suggesting their exact origin remains a mystery. Among the paternal lineages only one had ties to Europe’s fist modern humans.

Ancient Cousins

A photo of a reconstruction of a Neanderthal woman.
A reconstruction of a Neanderthal female.
Photograph by Joe McNally, National Geographic Daily News

Before modern humans arrived in Iberia about 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals ruled Spain. And although most anthropologists agree that humans and Neanderthals mixed, a point of interest among the participants was the unusually low percentage of Neanderthal in their DNA. The people from Asturias on average carried only 1.5% Neanderthal DNA, compared to the 2.5% average observed among most other modern European groups.

National Geographic’s roots in Asturias go deeper than DNA. In 2006, it was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication in 2006 for its efforts to inspire people to care about the planet. To learn more about National Geographic’s Genographic Project and discover your own ancient ancestry, visit

Dr. Miguel Vilar is the Science Manager for National Geographic's Genographic Project. Miguel is also a molecular anthropologist and a science writer. His fieldwork has taken him to remote places throughout the South Pacific, East Africa, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean. In the laboratory he researches the modern genetic diversity of human populations from Melanesia, Micronesia, North and Central America, and the Caribbean. Miguel has published in several anthropology and genetics journals, as well as popular science magazines.
  • Dr Chhotelal Jain

    This is a noble project. I also desire to participate in this project.Please guide me.How can I get your kit and how can I send it back to your laboratory for further analysis.

  • Debbie Kennett

    You can buy a Geno 2.0 kit here:

    Select “All others” from the country menu. When you’ve got your Geno 2.0 results make sure you do the free transfer to Family Tree DNA where you can look for genealogical matches and join projects. There is a project for India:

    I’m sure that the Families in British India Society would be interested in your results too as their members are hoping to find connections in India:

  • Rafa

    I think there´s a mistake in paternal heritage figure: central europe haplogroup incoming was mainly R1b (and lower frequencies of R1a). I2b is a minor subclade from germany, Scotland or Iran.

  • Gareth Henson

    Are details available of which subgroups of R1b were found? I tested R-Z205 with Geno 2.0.

  • Robert Carrasco

    My grandparents on my mother’s side came from Wales to Chile. My father came from Los Angeles, Chile (in the south).
    It seems the Carrascos initially came from Spain, either the Barcelona area or Extremadura, in the west.

    Would the test cover these areas?

  • Jerili Chance

    My ancestors came from Italy. Before I bought this kit, I knew that my ancestors originated from Aftica. I am not Hispanic so your information does not appear to apply to me. Am I missing something? Are you saying that all of us migrated from Europe to some Hispanic country so your info applies to my heritage. Please explain this. Thank You

  • Crystal Solana Bryan

    I’m the president of Los Floridanos Society; Florida’s First Spanish Families, 1565-1763, and while most of our members come from two main families, there are several families represented in the Society. We have long been curious about possible Timucuan ancestry since not as many Spanish women came to Florida as men in the early years.
    Who would I contact about our Society and non-member cousins participating as part of our 450th First Spanish Families Reunion in Sept of 2015 in St. Augustine?

  • Stephen Asciak

    It is pleasing to see Genographic presenting finally facts on the Ancient Europeans…the untold story of Ydna Haplogroup G… it is however quite disconcerting that certain interest groups are continuing a campaign for shutting down this information that the Ydna G haplogroup origins is in Europe and continue to present and inform people that haplogroup Ydna G has its origins in the Middle East or Caucasus. Genograthic presentation here disputes this.

  • Iberia Soares

    My grandparents, parents my husband and I were born in the Island of S. Miguel Azores.
    Do you perform analysis from the areas.?

  • Sarah

    I was informed that my Geno 2.0 was available on line today. I was thrilled, hoping to learn about my ancestry.
    I can’t download anything (I called Nat Geo but couldn’t fix it, my problem is being worked on.
    From the bits and pieces, I now gather that this is a science project and just gives me general comments on how our world been……It sure didn’t give me a clue about me. Maybe if someone can help me to download my findings I’ll find something personal.
    Very disappointed I spent the money

  • Santiago Xavier Espinosa MSc.

    It’s a fantastic study. But I think that Native American maternal haplogroups are not so uncommon as we could expect in Spain. We must remember that many early conquistadors came back to Spain such as Hernando Pizarro with his niece, Francisca Pizarro, daughter of Francisco Pizarro and the Native American Inés Huaylas, princess cacica of Ancash. On the other hand the coming of other “mestizo” and indian nobles to Spain was neither so uncommon, like the case of Melchor Carlos Inca, a noble inca prince, who died in Spain and the Marquises of Santiago de Oropesa (Beatriz Clara Coya the daughter of a spanish nobleman Captain General of Chile and an Inka Coya or Princess), whose descendants mixed with many spanish noble families, and with many descendants in Spain. Not to mention the bastards sons of many other conquerors who went to Spain and stayed there and have offspring even today.

    • Normandie Kent

      This is documented history, that most Native Spanish never even heard of. Now they are scratching their heads wondering how this is possible, even though this was fairly common. Wait till they do a larger study of the Spanish population! Latin America is not the only land with Mestizos!!

    • Anthony

      There certainly was some folks that made it to the old world from the new world, but not many. At least not compared to the population flows in the other direction. The trip was arduous, expensive, and old Europe did not need more people, they were overpopulated. The diseases old world settlers brought to the new world, warfare and abuse depopulated huge portions of the Americas, meaning there was a lack of people, after a while, and plenty of land for new settlers and mestizo populations to expand into in the new world. However, Spain was already a mixed group thanks to their geography and history of having been invaded by Germanic people, Celtics, Romans, North Africans, etc… Now, in the era of mass transit, global migrations, millions of Mestizos, thousands of Indigenous people have finally brought their DNA/Cultures to Spain in large numbers. I saw a lot of Latin Americans on my recent trip to Madrid.

  • Janet Smith

    The Asturias results are interesting to me. My 2X great grandfather was from Oviedo, Spain and I can see his influence in my results. I also have the same lower percentages of Neanderthal DNA. He was the only ancestor from this area mixed up with Italians, Hungarians, French, British and Dutch but it’s good to see some of him in my results.

  • Jana

    I’m a female and did the Geno 2.0 project. Found out that my maternal line is h2a2b1. However, I also did an autosomal test (STR) with DNA tribes and found out that my #1 population group was the Azores by far. Does anybody know if the National Geographic covers the Azores (as they are a little different from Portugal with more African influences).
    Have a nice day!

  • Ingrid Li

    LIke Sarah from Florida I’m a bit disappointed with the very general results. I was born in Austria, so to find out that I am 50m % northern European and 50% mediterranian was not exactly a revelation.
    The general info was interesting, but I could have gotten that without a personal test.
    I feel that I spent the money to support the research on the project, and while I think this is worthwhile I would not have done it if I had know this beforehand. I almost feel that the test should be offered for free to gather research data

  • JK Meaders

    My maternal grandfather was 100% American Indian (I am told) but my DNA didn’t show ANY trace of American Indian. How is that possible? Or is it possible American Indian DNA can show up as something else, like Middle Eastern?

    • Normandie Kent

      No it cant! What this shows is that you are a victim of the White American families Native American Blood Myth, because if your Grandfather was 100% NA, your mom would 50% NA, and you would be 25% NA. And no, Middle Eastern DNA means Middle Eastern, they are not a proxy for Native American! Native Americans have been Isolated from the rest of the world for at least 35,000 years, They have their own unique genetic markers that are not closely related to Asians , let alone Middle Easterners and Europeans. Are you a Mormon or something?

  • Laurence Daley

    Not all from the Americas were nobility. Thus, do not forget the Slave Market of Seville (Sevilla) where people, especially females of Indigenous Americas were sold.

    As late as the 1840 slave raiders were still capturing partially indigenous people from the palenques (escaped slave settlement, for example Palenque de la Cruz in the Sierra Maestra). These peoples were often from the so called Cabrera band that originated from the first settlements in old Oriente Province.

    I do not know if these captured peoples ever reached Spain, but it is probable that some from eastern Cuba did…

    Laurence Daley [Garcia-I~niguez]

    • Normandie Kent

      The Native American women who were enslaved wouldnt last more than a few months at best, killed by European disease, let alone live nine months to birth a babe to pass their DNA on!! Or did you forget they died by the droves from Nasty Euro diseases!? Most likely a mestizo descendant of a Spaniard who married into the nobility, Moctezumas daughter Marina and Hernan Cortez’s descendants married into the Bourbon Nobilty and have descendants today of Aztec noble heritage. A2 Mtdna Haplogroup is a typical Meso-American maternal marker. This is just one instance of Native American descendants marrying into Spanish Nobility, im sure there were more just like this case.

  • Michelle Nicholson

    I was very satisfied with the DNA test done by National Geographic. It’s a mtDNA, so it’s not complete; I could only find out where my mother came from. All European women come from Africa (I don’t like the idea but this is what it is…ha, ha). So far, nothing else was discovered to contradict this theory….. but I am sure there is more to find out. I also did another DNA test at…which is about my more recent history. I am disappointed that they don’t know more about my haplogroup H6a1b. What I did I googled it and found out that a high percentage of H6a1b is found in Sweden. But National Geographic did not tell me that; but you could find more details if you reserch it.

  • Dan O’Neill

    I had the great privilege of spending two weeks among Asturians this past year . Celtic culture seamed everywhere. Bagpipes , clog dance , primitive structures ,ect . And now thru the Genome Project we see our meandering genetic drift toward our individual headwaters …Africa !

  • Williams Alvarez

    Do it in Guatemala! please! come here!!! we need to know our diversity!

  • Vicki

    Is there an academic paper on the Asturias Spain genetic study – or are we stuck with these few sound bytes from a journalist’s blog?

  • Nena Morton

    Interesting information, my paternal grandparents came Asturias and Galicia. I did the National Geographic DNA program several years ago when it first began.

  • khanei k

    I must say you were right on with my DNA results amazing i always felt and people always said i was greek and middle Eastern and by God that is exactly what I’am even the region is correct to the letter. This is such an exciting journey of my life story.. I must tell you my mom was convinced she was Portuguese and French not only did i not have these two nationalities which i knew i did not look like that lineage neither is my mom and her brother took the DNA test as well and we all came up GREEK…That is a fact,,,so now i tell everyone just because your ancestors came from a particular country means NADA means nothing you don’t know until you get DNA done,,, People went into different countries to eat to escape from wars to make a living and adapted and decided to stay,,, Simple …Thank you for your continued research and especially for making it so exciting doe our own human story to be revealed.

  • Susan House

    I’ve already participated in the Genome project. Will prior results be updated to see if these areas are included?

  • Allen Meyer

    I, too, was surprised at the rather general information provided by Geno 2.0, especially when I later saw one of the episodes of Finding Your Roots, in which fairly precise locations of one’s genetic background were obtained. Can Geno update the analyses to provide greater detail and specificity?

  • Michel Ameruoso

    I bought two of your kits 1.0 years ago for my 2 children, but I never use it, is possible yet send the samples ???

  • Maria Fdez de Pedro

    My maternal heritage is also from Asturias but I unfortunately didn’t see anyone with my maternal halpogroup (Uia) which seems to be pretty rare. Oh, well……………..interesting article anyhow.
    🙂 Maria

  • Gregory A.

    Why do you think that G is Hunter-Gatherer? As far as I know only C and I was ever found in European HG DNA until now. Of course we do not have too much pre-Neolithic DNA at all, so maybe there was G after all, just isn’t found yet, but I still do not understand why did you pick out G as the only definite HG lineage – opposed to everything else found in Asturia. Even if that is true, it needs an explanation.

    (Also technically even finding G in European HG is still not sufficient to prove that a G in Asturia came from then, unless you also show that the particular sub-group was not present in the Middles Easterns.)

  • Anonimous

    This study is totally irrelevant and standards are inadequate. Avilés was a small harbor with people coming from all sides till in the 60’s, there was an enormous growth in population due to the arrival of several large factories to the town, most of the inhabitants, coming almost all from other parts of Spain, mainly Castile, Andalucia and Galicia, and also from northern Portugal. They were called “Korean” just for having a somewhat different physiognomy compared with the local people ( usually darker features) . Therefore I believe that Avilés is the least suitable site for a genetic study of Asturias, absolutely not representative. For instance, even the mayor has a foreign name “Varela” which is Ultra-Galician.

  • Jay Grossi

    I really enjoy reading Miguel Vilar’s very informative and interesting articles! The latest one in Spain was also very good.
    I wish the Genographic Project would do DNA testing in Ticino, the Italian speaking canton of Switzerland! I would truly be interested in the results since my grandparents came from that region.

  • Joe Smith

    I’m sorry Miguel but almost everything Geno 2.0 tells you is wrong. National Geographic needs an update, because they’re several years behind.

    This Y DNA and mtDNA sampling of Spaniards is nothing new, and isn’t discovering anything.

    If you want to know about the ancient origins of Spaniards look here.

    BTW, Geno 2.0 STOP LYING TO THE PUBLIC. This is miss information.

  • Joseph Falguera

    Estimado Miguel;

    Donde están los resultados completos de las investigaciones: DNA Results from Asturias.
    Muy atentamente


    Hace ya unos años me hice el ADN, con el The Genographic Project, y los laboratorios de la Universidad de Arizona.
    Tengo mi KIT y PASSWORD y en la actualidad no he podido entrar en mi web y quiero entrar en contacto con el Proyecto.
    ¿Que debo hacer?

  • Asturcon

    The Muslim presence in Asturias was almost nonexistent, as is well known.

    La presencia musulmana en Asturias fue muy reducida como bien se sabe. Si se han documentado con todo como con eso, parece muy poco fiable.

  • Leoncio Garcia

    Although my father was born in La Ordobaga (near Luarca), Asturias, his genetic lineage in my profile ends in central France. Why is that?

  • Miguel Vilar

    Thank you for your questions and comments:

    The project is continuosly being updated, and we learn a lot from our participants. In other words, we like to get feedback on the science, your impressions, and our stories. Please email us: (address is on our website) if you have questions or suggestions. To join visit us at

  • cici13

    The 1% native DNA in this (Asturias, Spain) study doesn’t represent “back migration” in terms of indigenous family migration movement back to the “Old World” (as the map suggests). Rather, the most likely explanation for this 1% native DNA evidence is representation of the European slave trade and slavers capturing indigenous females and human trafficking them across Europe. Speaks volumes to the extent of human slavery across transatlantic Europe 500 years ago! I’m native Haplogroup A2 as well, although I’m fortunate that my ancestors remained rooted here and didn’t suffer slavery like this native woman’s ancestors in this study.

    • Normandie Kent

      I doubt that very much because in account after account of any Native Americans being forced in the slave trade into Europe they would die within weeks or months of arrival because of the insidious European infectious disease that were prevalent. They would not even make it to the full nine months of pregnacy, let alone have a viable baby that would go on to spread its Mtdna. The only credible way they could of passed that A2 haplogroup on is if they were the descendant of a Spaniard and a Native American woman born in the Americas, to move back with their husband to Spain and have female descendants with an American Haplogroup. Also Marina/Malinche, Moctezumas daughter and Hernan Cortez mistress had descendants who where Mexican Nobility who married into the Hapsburg/Boubon noble family, and have descendants to this very day. The only way the daughter who brought the A2 would survive the filthy diseases of Europe is if they were already mestizo and had European antibodies.

  • Maria

    The person who show native american probably was born in south america, Colombia, Perú o Ecuador, because we have a lot of this inmigrants that came to Spain a few years ago . Not an ethnic spaniard.

    • Normandie Kent

      Bull Shit! I think The scientists would now if she was a recent immigrant, and you have to have ancestors in Austria going back at least 7 generations before they even qualify for such a test.

  • Rick

    I would like to know what the DNA profile of a Hungarian would look like. I see Polish and other ethnicity but would like to know what the NDA the typical Hungarian looks like.

  • miqui rumba

    Asturias is one of Spain’s regions where my mtdna haplogroup U3a1 is presented higher than 1% but in Aviles anyone tested were my clade. I am looking for asturian people or descendants that belong to U3a1c subclade.

  • mohamed

    I dont think the north-african part is from the Moorish periode but from the cro-magnon periode. The muslim moors never conquered or settled in Asturias.

    I think the dna comes from the neolithic age also and that they form and migration from north africa. the ibero-maurasians or the capsians??

    • Anthony

      They can distinguish between stone-age peoples and modern Moors. The Moors occupied big parts of the rest of Spain for centuries, mixed with those, then sometime after, those “mixed Spanish people” moved to Asturias, that’s how their DNA wound up there.

  • Baroque

    I don’t know who made those maps but Haplogroup R1b is not British. That is ridiculous. It is like stating that the indoeuropeans came from the British Islands and not the other way around.

    And yes, there is a realtively decent component of north african haplogroups (even when still minoritary) in Asturias and in other northern Spanish regions.

    The chronicles tells us that bereber lord married took wives among the local nobility women and even today, one of the most distinguishable ethnic groups in Cantabria has a very high component of bereberian haplogroup.

    Paradoxically there is more north african haplogroups among the northern spaniards men than eastern andalusians because of the “ethnical cleansing” that took place after the Reconquista.

  • Kevin Guerra


    Hi, just wanted to point out that based on:
    “I don’t know who made those maps but Haplogroup R1b is not British”

    The map shows the R1b incursions from the isles at around 600 BC. However, note that R1b originated much earlier than that. So the likelihood is that the group first was established there and later migrated to Asturias. So, it’s still congruent with the current data.

    • Random Icelander

      R1b entered the British Isles many times over; first in many Celtic migrations/invasions, then with Romans and at last with Germanic tribes.

  • Keith Tonkin

    My personal results showed 57% Western European, 37% British and 6% Eastern European yet my paternal grandmother was half Spanish but born in Cornwall where my paternal grandfather was born. I’ve assumed her Spanish was from Asturia or Galicia as that part of Spain has many Cornish connections. I am wondering though why the Spanish in my family doesn’t appear in my results. Does my paternal line only follow the male lineage and my maternal line only follow the female lineage? If so then a mystery remains of my mother’s father’s mother who was said to be dark skinned whom we had assumed was Maori. Only European lineages appeared in my results (and no Southern European?)

  • FistofJade

    National geographic has continually and grossely obsessed about over sampling North African haplogroups in Spanish and Portuguese. As a Portuguese having lineage in mainland Portugal and Madeiran island, although being on the far dark skin spectrum for a Spaniard/Portuguese I still only represent 7-8% North African. Therefore I find these results extreamly debatable. Putting that aside, everyone knows Austurias was the last stronghold of the Suebi and Visigoths for 300 years and remained untouched by the moors. There is no way paternal North African haplogroup at 9% was introduced in the gene flow during Medevil Spain. The North African haplogroup is practically entirely from the bronze age or earlier, especially for the north. This sounds like a Nordicist piece to me

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