Mitochondrial haplogroup H is today predominantly found in Europe, and is believed to have evolved before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). It first expanded in the northern Near East and Southern Caucasus between 33,000 and 26,000 years ago, and later migrations from Iberia suggest it reached Europe before the Last Glacial Maximum. The clade has also spread to parts of Africa, Siberia and inner Asia. Today, about 40% of all maternal lineages in Europe belong to haplogroup H.
Haplogroup H is a descendant of haplogroup HV. The Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS), which until recently was the human mitochondrial sequence to which all others were compared, belongs to haplogroup H2a2a1 (human mitochondrial sequences should now be compared with the ancestral Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence (RSRS)). Several independent studies conclude that haplogroup H probably evolved in West Asia c. 25,000 years ago. It was carried to Europe by migrations c. 20-25,000 years ago, and spread with population of the southwest of the continent. Its arrival was roughly contemporary with the rise of the Gravettian culture. The spread of subclades H1, H3 and the sister haplogroup V reflect a second intra-European expansion from the Franco-Cantabrian region after the last glacial maximum, c. 13,000 years ago.
In July 2008 ancient mtDNA from an individual called Paglicci 23, whose remains were dated to 28,000 years ago and excavated from Paglicci Cave (Apulia, Italy), were found to be identical to the Cambridge Reference Sequence in HVR1. This once was believed to indicate haplogroup H, but researchers now recognize that CRS can also appear in U or HV. Haplogroup HV derives from the Haplogroup R0 which in turn derives from haplogroup R is a descendant of macro-haplogroup N like its sibling M, is a descendant of haplogroup L3.
The majority of the European populations have an overall haplogroup H frequency of 40%–50%. Frequencies decrease in the southeast of the continent. The clade reaches 20% in the Near East and Caucasus, 17% in Iran, and <10% in the Arabian Peninsular, Northern India and Central Asia.
Among all these clades, the subhaplogroups H1 and H3 have been subject to a more detailed study and would be associated to the Magdalenian expansion from SW Europe c. 13,000 years ago:
Projected spatial frequency distribution of haplogroup H1.
H1 encompasses an important fraction of Western European mtDNA lineages, reaching its local peak among contemporary Basques (27.8%). It also occurs at high frequencies elsewhere in the Iberian Peninsula, as well as in the Maghreb. The haplogroup frequency is above 10% in many other parts of Europe (France, Sardinia, parts of the British Isles, Alps, large portions of Eastern Europe), and above 5% in nearly all the continent. Its subclade H1b is most common in eastern Europe and NW Siberia.
So far, the highest frequency of H1 has been found among the Tuareg inhabiting the Fezzan region in Libya (61%). The basal H1* haplogroup is found among the Tuareg inhabiting the Gossi area in Mali (4.76%).
Ancient Guanche (Bimbapes) individuals excavated in Punta Azul, El Hierro, Canary Islands were all found to belong to the H1 maternal subclade. These autochthonous fossils were dated to the 10th century and carried the H1-16260 haplotype, which is exclusive to the Canary Islands and Algeria.
Frequencies of haplogroup H1 in the world (Ottoni et al. 2010)
Region or Population
No. of subjects
Tuareg (West Sahel)
Guineans (Guiné Bissau)
Volga-Ural Finnic speakers
Greece (Aegean islands)
Arabian Peninsula (incl. Yemen, Oman)
Dubai (United Arab Emirates)
H3 is found throughout the whole of Europe and in the Maghreb but does not exist in the Far East, and is believed to have originated among Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in south-western Europe between 9 000 and 11 000 years ago. H3 represents the second largest fraction of the H genome after H1 and has a somewhat similar distribution, with peaks in Portugal, Spain, Scandinavia and Finland. It is common in Portugal (12%), Sardinia (11%), Galicia (10%), the Basque country (10%), Ireland (6%), Norway (6%), Hungary (6%) and southwestern France (5%). Studies have suggested haplogroup H3 is highly protective against AIDS progression.
H5 may have evolved in West Asia, where it is most frequent and diverse in the Western Caucasus. However, its H5a subclade has a stronger representation in Europe, though at low levels.
H2, H6 and H8
The H2, H6 and H8 haplogroups are somewhat common in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. They may be the most common H subclades among Central Asians and have also been found in West Asia.H2a5 has been found in the Basque Country, Spain, and in Norway, Ireland and Slovakia.H6a1a1a is common among Ashkenazi Jews.
H4, H7 and H13
These H4, H7 and H13 subhaplogroups are present in both Europe and West Asia; the H13 subclade is also found in the Caucasus. They are quite rare.H4 is often found in Iberia and along with H13 and H2 account for 42% of H lineages in Egypt.
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^ abLoogväli EL, Roostalu U, Malyarchuk BA, et al. (November 2004). "Disuniting uniformity: a pied cladistic canvas of mtDNA haplogroup H in Eurasia". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 21 (11): 2012–21. doi:10.1093/molbev/msh209. PMID15254257.
^ abU. Roostalu et al, Origin and expansion of haplogroup H, the dominant human mitochondrial DNA lineage in West Eurasia: the Near Eastern and Caucasian perspective, Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 24, no. 2 (2007), pp. 436-448.
^Bekada, Fregel, Cabrera, Larruga, Pestano, Benhamamouch and. González . (2013). "Introducing the Algerian Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Profiles into the North African Landscape". PLOS ONE.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
Loogväli EL, Roostalu U, Malyarchuk BA, et al. (November 2004). "Disuniting uniformity: a pied cladistic canvas of mtDNA haplogroup H in Eurasia". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 21 (11): 2012–21. doi:10.1093/molbev/msh209. PMID15254257.