When did Ws split from the N haplogroup?
Only research published in the last year, based on extensive tests of Asian populations, has provided a more complete answer to this question. The first migration of modern humans out of Africa began 60,000 to 80,000 years ago. Among these were ancestors of the the M and N haplogroups, descended from the African L3. These first Eurasian descendents of genetic Eve are believed to have expanded quickly along the Indian Ocean coastline (in this period there was dry land across what are now the mouths of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf). After a quick initial expansion along the coast, all the way to Australia, there was a slower conquest of the interior of Asia. Wilma, the first member of the W haplogroup, was born between 49,000 and 26,800 years ago in what is now northwest India or northern Pakistan. In the same area and in the same time periods women of the U7 and R2 haplogroups were born as well.

By between 40,700 and 23,300 years ago, these people were distributed in a band across southwest Asia, from Anatolia to northern India (the salmon-colored swath on the map). By a third route, through the valleys of Kashmir, a small group of W people reached central Asia between 36,000 and 19,100 years ago.

With the onset of the last glacial maximum, the area became extremely arid and the mountains blocked by glaciers. There are indications that the W-U7-R2 people were broken into two groups, separated by an arid desert that stretched from the Indian Ocean up to the glacier-bound Asian mountains. These tribes managed to survive in two areas of 'glacial refuge' (the red zones on the map). A similar refuge has been proposed in Spain for the ancestors of the H and V haplogroups that dominate in Western Europe.

After the glaciers receded and the deserts retreated 14,000 years ago, the way was clear for the expansion of modern humans from their ice age prisons. Wilma's descendants entered Europe through the Balkans, spreading in several directions. One lineage with a distinctive mutation at letter 119 in HVR2 settled in what is now France. Descendants of a woman with a change at letter 16362 of HVR1 spread from Central through Northern Europe and then to the British Isles. Lineages with very little change from their Wilman ancestor settled in sparsely-populated Finland and Scandinavia. But everywhere in Europe there were also other W lineages that shared ancestors with cousins still living in India, Pakistan, and Iran.

Echo of the past - average number of mutations from basic W haplotype in HVR1. A larger number indicates greater time depth.

Eurasia at the height of the last Ice Age (adapted from An Atlas of the Ice Age Earth).

Addendum: Definitions and Comments on W in the Scientific Literature