DNA reveals secrets of historical events

2014-02-14 08:30


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Berlin - Telltale relics of Europe's colonial period, the Mongol empire and the Arab slave trade can be found in the genes of modern humans, scientists said on Thursday.

Researchers from Britain and Germany used almost 1 500 DNA samples from 95 different populations across the world to produce a map showing genetic links stretching back 4 000 years.

By examining the moment when a particular part of DNA first appears, they were able to tie the genetic mixing of populations to historical events.

Some of these links have long been assumed, but others came as a surprise, said Daniel Falush, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who co-authored the paper published in the journal Science.

DNA samples from the Tu people of China indicate they mixed with a European group - related to modern Greeks - around 1200 CE (Common Era). One likely possibility is the European DNA came from traders travelling the Silk Road.

Genetically isolated

Another interesting find seems to bolster the legend among the Kalash people of Pakistan they are descendants of Alexander the Great's army, Falush said.

Samples show that the Kalash were genetically isolated for a long period going back to about 300 CE - around the time of Alexander's military campaign in Asia.

"Our dating fits very well with their legend," Falush said.

Using a technique called "chromosome painting", the researchers were also able to illustrate the genetic flow caused by other historical events, such as the Arab slave trade that introduced African DNA to populations around the Mediterranean, the Arab Peninsula and what is now Iran and Pakistan from 800 - 1000 CE.

The results help scientists to pin-point the population effects of such historical events, said Graham Coop, an associate professor of population genetics at the University of California, Davis.

"We have historical records of some of these events, but rarely do we know the demographic impact of such events," said Coop, who wasn't involved in the research.

Similar studies may become harder to perform in the future, as population mixing speeds up because of global migration, Falush said.

"We hope this will encourage people to collect samples soon," he said.
Read more on:    genetics

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.