MTA Régészeti Intézet - Archeogenetikai Laboratórium

Former research projects

Current research projects

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 HAS, University of Szeged

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

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

Human population genetics of the present-day Carpathian basin

The fundamental task of this research is collecting approximately 300 human DNA samples from three regions of the Carpathian basin, where Hungarian-speaking communities live relative 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 genepool 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.

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 genepool 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 genetic basis. Project number: FK 127938 (NKFIH)
Project leader: Anna Szécsényi-Nagy

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

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

The 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 artefacts, as well as the various dimensions of the burials (the choice of burial location, the imprints of rituals, artefacts 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 Familiy 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 Transdaubian 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 Transdaubia?

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

Genetic investigations of Bronze Age societies

Multiple burial at Érd As 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 (IA RCH HAS), Vajk Szeverényi, Gabriella Kulcsár (IA RCH HAS), Kitti Köhler (IA RCH HAS), Balázs G. Mende (IA RCH HAS), Dániel Gerber (IA RCH HAS, FS 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 horse The 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 (IA RCH HAS, FS ELTE), Anna Szécsényi-Nagy (IA RCH HAS) 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)

    Uelgi The 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 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 indicate 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 compare the data with other 7-12th century DNA results from Eurasia.

    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 (IA RCH HAS), Bea Szeifert (IA RCH HAS, FS ELTE), Veronika Csáky (IA RCH HAS), Dániel Gerber (IA RCH HAS, FS ELTE)

    Partner institute: Archaeological Department of the Péter Pázmány Catholic University

    Mobility and population transformation in the Carpathian Basin during the 5th to 7th centuries AD: changing societies and identities

    The interdisciplinary OTKA project (NN 113157) involves the ancient DNA study of ca. 20 individuals, found in preciously furnished graves from the early Avar period. These people, buried with golden or silver embossing swords, could have been the leaders of the inner-Asian or Eastern-European nomad tribe. Based on ethnographic studies, this highest social class of the Avar society was organized by kinship relations. These affiliations are the focus of our genetic study, using well established archaeogenetic methods, and forensic tools. Studying of the early Avar period specimens has population genetic aspect as well.

    Comparing the enlarged Avar mitochondrial DNA dataset to other early medieval ancient DNA results and to genetic diversity of modern-day Eurasian populations, we will be able to estimate the Inner Asian portion of the Avar (elite) population's genetic variability. We aim to sequence whole mitochondrial genomes with Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques, and large number of nuclear SNPs (1240k).

    Participants: Dr Tivadar Vida (leader of the project, IA RCH HAS), Veronika Csáky (IA RCH HAS), Dániel Gerber (IA RCH HAS, FS ELTE), Anna Szécsényi-Nagy (IA RCH HAS), Balázs G. Mende (IA RCH HAS)

    Partner institutes:

  • Institute of Archaeological Sciences, ELTE University, Budapest
  • Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Szeged
  • Department of Anthropology, Natural History Museum, Budapest

    International partner institute in the project:

  • Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena (Prof. Dr Johannes Krause)

    First results about the Inner Asian genetic connections of the Avar period nomadic elite can be read on BioRxiv (2018).

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