Monday, June 12, 2017

Short Story: Not Out of Africa?

Recent DNA analysis apparently showing that the ancient Egyptians were more Levantine than African has created controversy among Egyptian archaeologists. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Early this week, scientists and researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History at the University of Tubingen in Germany revealed that the ancient Egyptians were genetically related to ancient Turkey and the Levant and not as African as had previously been thought.

The results were published in the journal Nature Communication after a DNA analysis on 151 Egyptian mummies from a period lasting from 1388 BC to 426 CE when Egypt become a province of the Roman Empire had been conducted.

The mummies came from an area named Abusir Al-Meleq, an ancient community in the middle of Egypt, and the DNA samples were extracted from the bones, teeth and soft tissues of the mummies.

Johannes Krause, a paleogeneticist from the University of Tubingen who made the study, told the US newspaper the Washington Post that the major finding was that “for 1,300 years, we see complete genetic continuity”. Despite repeated conquests of Egypt by Alexander the Great, the ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Assyrians, the ancient Egyptians showed little genetic change. “The other big surprise,” Krause said, “was that we didn’t find much Sub-Saharan African ancestry.”

Comparing of the results was done with modern Egyptians and Ethiopians, and the results showed that the ancient Egyptians were closely related to people who lived along the eastern Mediterranean coasts and that they also shared genetic material with residents of the Anatolian Peninsula at the time and Europe. African genes were found in only 20 per cent of the material, and this was due to trade exchange.

In their paper, the researchers acknowledged that “all our genetic data were obtained from a single site in Middle Egypt and may not be representative for all of ancient Egypt.” In the south of Egypt, the authors wrote, Sub-Saharan African influences may have been stronger.

The study has triggered anger among several Egyptian archaeologists who have questioned the results. Egyptologist Zahi Hawass described the studies as “hallucinations” and told Al-Ahram Weekly that they were not accurate for several reasons.

The mummies that were subjected to the DNA tests dated to the Graeco-Roman period when the mummification process was very poor, he said. They also belonged to people who came from Italy or to Greeks who lived in ancient Egypt and not to native ancient Egyptians.

“How can the ancient Egyptians be genetically from Europe,” Hawass asked, adding that when the ancient Egyptians were busy building their civilisation Europe did not exist in civilisational terms.

“There is no scientific or archaeological evidence that could support such results,” Hawass said, adding that the only discovery that scientists think could indicate the origin of the ancient Egyptians was the Naqad Necropolis discovered by archaeologist Flinders Petrie which houses .... READ MORE.

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