Scientists have discovered the genomic ancestry of ancient North Africans

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An exhaustive analysis of human remains from the oldest deposit in the world, located in Jebel Irhoud (Morocco), rules out the connection between North Africans and Europeans 15,000 years ago, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Studies of the remains found in this area, considered a critical region to understand human history, reject previous hypotheses that pointed to the flow of genes from southern Europe to northern Africa at that time, known as the late Pleistocene.

On the contrary, the remains analyzed are “closely related” to both the inhabitants of the Middle East and to sub-Saharan Africans, suggesting that there were more people migrating in and out of North Africa than previously believed.

“These findings are really exciting: North Africa has been an important crossroads for much longer than people thought,” Evolutionary geneticist Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania told the magazine although she was not part of the study.

To date, researchers exploring North Africa have discovered skeletons in prehistoric sites, including Morocco, although their origins have not been clear.

Seeking to understand the relationship of these individuals with other global populations, Marieke van de Loosdrecht and Matthias Meyer, of the The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (Germany), extracted DNA from the bone material of several North African ancestors who were thought to have belonged to the so-called Iberomaurus culture. Archaeologists of the 20th century gave this name -Iberomaurus- to the ancestors of the current Moroccans because they thought they were related to the peoples of the Iberian Peninsula.

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By comparing their genetic data with those of other ancient and modern individuals, the researchers identified nearly 600,000 overlapping genetic markers.

In follow-up studies of the models, they concluded that the remains analyzed did not have European ancestors, but shared ancestral components with the former inhabitants of the regions close to the inhabitants of the East, suggesting a connection between Africa and the Middle East, which preceded agriculture, and to the populations of sub-Saharan Africa.

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Eid Lee

Eid is a freelance journalist from California. He covers different topics for The Talking Democrat but focuses mostly on technology and science.