Molecular anthropological research for the Hungarian ethnogenesis

The aim of the molecular anthropological research launched within the framework of the Thematic Excellence Program won in 2019 is to research the history of the Hungarian people with scientific tools by examining both the populations living today and the archaeological human remains.
The research of the history of the Hungarian people is carried out in three complementary areas:

1. Archaeogenetic studies

The prehistory of the Hungarian people took place in a wide geographical environment, but we basically classify the finds to be examined into two large groups. On the one hand, it includes the legacies of populations belonging to all historical eras in the Carpathian Basin - including the times before and after the Hungarian conquest, as they are also considered to be the ancestors of the Hungarians living today - on the other hand, the legacies of the eastern migration of the conquering Hungarian tribes.

The aim of our molecular anthropology research group is to find answers to the basic questions of Hungarian ethnogenesis: to what extent the populations that have appeared, settled or migrated in the Carpathian Basin for centuries have participated in the formation of today's Hungarian people; how we relate to other European and Asian peoples; from which Eurasian areas did the peoples of the Hun, Avar and Hungarian conquest eras come to Hungary, and what ethnogenetic relationship do they have with each other and with other populations.

In the coming years we want to achieve new results in three stages of Hungarian ethnogenesis:

  1. We begin the study of the autochthonous population of the Carpathian Basin with the only cemetery with a large number of graves, which was already open before the Hungarian conquest and was in continuous use for almost three centuries: Halimba-Cseres, 9-12 century.
  2. We would like to continue the characterization of the genetic diversity of the conquering Hungarians by examining a region that has been left out of the research so far: Hungarian Conquering cemeteries of Heves county.
  3. We will start the genetic study of the later joined peoples with the only Árpádian-era Ishmaelite cemetery in the country: Orosháza-Bónum, Faluhely, 11-13 century.

Participants of the project: Fóthi Erzsébet (Institute of Archaeogenomics Research Centre of Humanities), Fóthi Ábel (IAG RCH), Makra Szabolcs (RCH IAG), Krizsik Virág (RCH IAG), Dudás Eszter (Hungarian Institute for Forensic Sciences), Évinger Sándor (Hungarian Natural History Museum), Madaras László (Damjanich János Museum), Szigeti Judit (Castle guardianship), Rózsa Zoltán (Castle guardianship), Balázs János (University Szeged, Department of Anthropology), Dóra Szegő (IAG RCH).

2. Recent population genetics

The aim of recent population genetic research is to compile a population genetic atlas of the Carpathian Basin. By genetic testing of today's populations, we want to create a population genetics database of the Hungarian-inhabited areas of the Carpathian Basin and eastern regions of origin of the conquering Hungarian tribes, which can serve as a reference not only in our own research group but also in other Hungarian and foreign scientific workshops. After the Bodrogköz, Rétköz, Csallóköz and Szeklers of Bukovina, the study of the genetic composition of new regions begins, including Heves county, Őrség and Sárrét.

Participants of the project: Erzsébet Fóthi (Institute of Archaeogenomics, Research Centre of Humanities), Ábel Fóthi (IAG RCH), Szabolcs Makra (IAG RCH), Virág Krizsik (IAG RCH), Pamzsav Horolma (Hungarian Institute for Forensic Sciences), Alexandra Kovács (IAG RCH).

3. Stable isotope analysis

The proportion of stable isotopes (C, N, O, and Sr) incorporated into the human body through nutrition provides an opportunity to study the diet and migration path of people in history.
The focus of the study was on the remains of the conquering Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin. By analyzing the findings of the Great Plain and the Upper Tisza region, we hope to obtain new data on the nutrition of the ancient Hungarians, the route and direction of their movement.

Participants of the project: Erzsébet Fóthi (Institute of Archaeogenomics, Research Centre of Humanities ), Attila Demény, and Ariana Gugora (Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research). 
The Thematic Excellence Program is supported by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (Commitment ID: ZH690024). The governing body is the National Research, Development, and Innovational Office (1121-1 / 2020).




Project code: HistoGenes 856453

The timeframe of the project: 2020-2026

The aim of the project “Integrating genetic, archaeological and historicalhistogenes perspectives on Eastern Central Europe, 400–900 AD (HistoGenes)” supported by one of the most prestigious research grants (Synergy Grant) of the European Research Council (ERC) is to gain a deeper understanding of the history of population in Eastern Central Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, in the period of large-scale migrations and early medieval political and cultural changes. One of the principal investigators of this international project is Tivadar Vida, director of the Institute of Archaeological Studies at Eötvös Loránd University.

The IAG RCH is a beneficiary partner in the program, where the project is led by Balázs G. Mende and Anna Szécsényi-Nagy. Participants of the project: Balázs Gyuris, Viktória Bódis, Sára Gábriel, Daniella Pokker, Viktória Oravecz, Koppány Kerestély.

It is a significant success for Hungarian archaeology archaeogenetics anthropology, and history to launch and work in such an ambitious six-year programme within the framework of international collaboration, which obtained €10 million funding for the integrative research of the Late Antique and early medieval population of Eastern Central Europe, combining palaeogenetic, archaeological, anthropological, and historical approaches. Researchers at the Institute of Archaeological Studies, Eötvös Loránd University and the Institute of Archaeogenomics of the Research Centre for the Humanities, Eötvös Loránd Research Network play a vital role in this international programme implemented through cooperation among Austrian, German, American, and Hungarian scholars. Researchers at the Hungarian National Museum, the University of Szeged, and the Museum of Natural Sciences will also take part in the work in Hungary.hg logo

Webpage of the project:
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Árpád dynasty program: The anthropological and genetic composition of the Árpád Age Hungarian population (V.1 subproject)

Leader of the consortium: Dr. Zoltán Korsós (Hungarian Natural History Museum)
Duration of the project: 2018-2023
Collaborating institutions: Hungarian Natural History Museum, Institute of Archaeology RCH, University of Szeged

Objectives of the Institute of Archaeology RCH within the project: genetic investigation of the 7-13th century populations of the Carpathian Basin

ZalavárThe project intends to lay modern tools for a comprehensive anthropological and genetic examination of the population of the Árpád-era Carpathian Basin, including the sampling of 10-13 individuals living in the country of Árpád ages. We planning to analyze these samples with natural science methods and laboratory instruments of the currently known international level. The primary task is the complex osteoarcheological and comparative genetic examination (continuity and discontinuity) between samples spring from 8-13. centuries (avar age, conquest age, and Árpád era). This population has the historically highest importance in this field. Sampling is based on recommendations of anthropologists, archaeologists, historians and aimed at the widest genetic characterization of the groups, which may respond to archaeological-historical contexts. To this end, the project aims to achieve an anthropological database, domestic and international conferences and publications, the implementation of a Hungarian project closing book. Goals of the project in Institute of Archeogenomics: the Carpathian Basin in 7-13. century genetic examination of the populations.

Colleagues working on this project: Elek Benkő (IA RCH), Szabina Merva (IA RCH), Balázs G. Mende (IAG RCH), Anna Szécsényi-Nagy (IAG RCH), Bea Szeifert (IAG RCH, ELTE), Dániel Gerber (IAG RCH, ELTE)


Human population genetics of the present-day Carpathian basin

Carpathian BasinThe fundamental task of this research is collecting approximately 300 human DNA samples from three regions of the Carpathian basin, where Hungarian-speaking communities live relatively isolated (Drávaszög/Baranja in Hungary and Croatia, area of Odorheiu Secuiesc in Romania and Zobor region in Slovakia). Our primary goal is to detect in these datasets old locally preserved maternal and paternal genetic lineages. We will type maternal lineages by sequencing 300 complete mitochondrial genomes, which will be one of the largest projects of this kind in Europe, using state-of-the-art technology. Testing approx. 100 Y chromosomes, we would like to gain insights into the natural diversity of the paternal gene pool of the three regions.

Our next research topic is the study of traits related to genetic origin and heritage on the autosomes, using cost-efficient microarray technology. The obtained genotypes allow statistical determination of genetic similarities or differences between several modern or between modern and ancient populations.

The further research area is the analyses of ancient mitogenomes from 60 medieval graves excavated in the surrounding villages of Odorheiu Secuiesc. We would study, how the maternal gene pool of the local population transformed from the Middle Ages to the present day.
With all of this, we aim to get to know the genetic composition of the populations in the Carpathian basin in geographical and historical context, but we do not wish to define or justify the "Hungarians" on a genetic basis. Project number: FK 127938 (NKFIH)
Project leader: Anna Szécsényi-Nagy

Participants of the project: Balázs Egyed (ELTE), Horolma Pamjav (NSZKK), Balázs G. Mende (AIG RCH), István Máthé (Sapientia), Noémi Borbély (IAG, RCH), Robert Selan (IAG, RCH)

Partner institutes of the project: Genetic Department of the ELTE University, Laboratory of Reference Samples Analysis in the Department of Genetics of the Directorate of Forensic Expertise in the Hungarian Institute for Forensic Sciences (HIFS), Sapienta Hungarian University of Transylvania, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Haáz Rezső Museum

Publications of the project:
High Coverage Mitogenomes and Y-Chromosomal Typing Reveal Ancient Lineages in the Modern-Day Székely Population in Romania

Complex analyses of the Late Copper Age burials in the Carpathian Basin

vorsThe team of the NKFIH K-18/128413 research project is led by Mária Bondár (IA RCH HAS). The Carpathian Basin was often the core territory of major cultural complexes and it also acted as a mediating or transit region in prehistoric periods. The archaeological record thus preserves evidence of contacts with diverse regions, whose vestiges can be found in the grave inventories too. Only a small portion of the customs and rites associated with the mortuary domain can be identified using archaeological methods. When archaeologists uncover a grave, they find human remains in various states of preservation. They can document the location of the burial, the grave pit, and the artifacts, as well as the various dimensions of the burials (the choice of burial location, the imprints of rituals, artifacts articulating status and social prestige), all of which reveal much about the position of the individual in the community and his/her cultural and other contacts (ancestry, place of origin, trade, etc.) as well as about the community's beliefs and attitudes to death. The remains preserve the biological condition of the once-living person (inherited traits, environmental influences, health). The overall goal of the project is a complex assessment of the period's burials combining archaeological and archaeometric analyses, and the integration of the findings in order to identify the differences between individuals interred according to widely differing mortuary practices through an examination of the biological social, and cognitive dimensions of funerary customs. Moreover, the research project is also a useful exercise for determining to what extent the application of these analytical procedures can provide meaningful data about prehistoric communities that left no literary records.

Partner institute: HAS, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research

Participants of the project: Zoltán Kern, János Jakucs, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy, Ariana Gugora, Kitti Köhler, Erika Gál, István Hegyi


What happened to the Avars?

With the aid of the Szilágyi Family Foundation, we launched this project in 2018.
We concentrate on the following research questions:
What is the difference in the genetic composition of the late Avar populations and the 10-11th century population of the North Transdanubian region?
Is the late Avar continuity demonstrable, and if yes, in what form?
If any, was there rather maternal or paternal genetic continuity in North Transdanubia?

Participants of this project: Bea Szeifert (IAG RCH, ELTE), Balázs G. Mende (IAG RCH), Péter Tomka, Szabina Merva (IAG RCH)


Genetic investigations of Bronze Age societies

Multiple burial at ÉrdAs part of Viktória Kiss' Moment project we investigate Bronze Age multiple inhumations from sites Érd and Balatonkeresztúr in Hungary. Our research focuses are the study of possible kinship relations between the individuals and the molecular pathological screening of the Bronze Age population.

The prehistoric genomic project of the laboratory is now extended with the analyses of further 60 samples from the Middle and Late Bronze Age populations, in collaboration with the Harvard Medical School.

Participants of the project: Viktória Kiss (IAG RCH), Vajk Szeverényi, Gabriella Kulcsár (IA RCH HAS), Kitti Köhler (IAG RCH), Balázs G. Mende (IAG RCH), Dániel Gerber (IAG RCH, ELTE), Tamás Hajdu (ELTE), Szilvia Fábián (HNM)

Partner institutes:

  • Department of Anthropology, Natural History Museum, Budapest
  • Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston (Prof. Dr. David Reich)


Horse domestication in the Carpathian Basin

Przewalski's horseThe ERC #681605 project led by Prof. Ludovic Orlando aims to reveal the human-horse relationships in prehistory with special attention to horse domestication. To achieve this, complex and wide genetic analyses are under implementation, where our laboratory takes part in collaboration with the Momentum Mobility Research Group of our institute. The genetic results of the already closed OTKA NF 104792 project led by Dr. Erika Gál are included in this current research.

Participants of the project: Dániel Gerber (IAG RCH, ELTE), Anna Szécsényi-Nagy (IAG RCH), and the fellow researchers of the Momentum Mobility Research Group


Eastern connections of the Hungarian Conquest period archaeological remains in context of the Hungarian prehistory

Archaeological database and archaeometric researches (OTKA -106369 project)

Excavation of the Uelgi siteThe ancient Hungarians originated from the Ural region in today's central Russia and migrated across the Eastern European steppe, according to historical sources. The historically and linguistically assumed homeland of the ancient Hungarians was in the Central Ural region, which is an easily accessible part of the mountain range. The Finno-Ugric groups might have settled on both sides of the Urals during the early Medieval period. Archeological records, for example, from central-eastern Uralic site Uelgi, indicate an archaeological cultural mixture of northern Ugric and eastern steppic Turkic elements. These eastern components show cultural connections toward the region of the Emba River in today's western Kazakhstan and toward the Srostki culture, which indicates that the ancient Hungarian population could already have been reached in the Central Ural region by several cultural and genetic influences. Our laboratory studies the genetic composition of the people buried in 7-11th century cemeteries of the Ural region and compares the data with other 7-12th century DNA results from Eurasia.

The latest results of the project can be read in the conference book of the "IV. Early Hungarian History Conference"

Participants of the project: Dr Attila Türk (leader of the project, Péter Pázmány Catholic University), Balázs G. Mende (IAG RCH), Bea Szeifert (IAG RCH, ELTE), Veronika Csáky (IAG RCH), Dániel Gerber (IAG RCH, ELTE)

Partner institute: Archaeological Department of the Péter Pázmány Catholic University