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Ancient Egyptian mummies 'more closely related to Turkey and Europe than Africa'

The findings suggest there was an increase in sub-Saharan African gene flow into Egypt within the last 1500 years.

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A detailed analysis of DNA of ancient Egyptian mummies has shown they were more Turkish and European than African.

The study found that ancient Egyptians were most closely related to ancient populations in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey and Europe.

Modern Egyptians share more ancestry with sub-Saharan Africans than ancient Egyptians did, the authors said.

Egypt
(sculpies/Getty Images)

Tests of the DNA of mummies have been rare because of methodological and contamination issues.

But an international team of scientists has recovered and analysed ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies dating from around 1400BC to 400AD.

Their research sampled 151 mummified individuals from the archaeological site of Abusir el-Meleq, along the Nile River.

Experts recovered mitochondrial genomes from 90 individuals, and genome-wide datasets from three individuals. 

“In particular, we were interested in looking at changes and continuities in the genetic make-up of the ancient inhabitants of Abusir el-Meleq,” said Alexander Peltzer, one of the lead authors of the study from the University of Tuebingen, Germany.

Ancient Egyptian mummies
(David Cheskin/PA)

The study found that ancient Egyptians were most closely related to ancient populations in the Levant – modern day Syria, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon - and were closely related to Neolithic populations from Europe and the Anatolian Peninsula. 

Modern Egyptians share approximately 8% more ancestry on the nuclear level with sub-Saharan African populations than with ancient Egyptians.

“The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300-year timespan we studied, suggesting that the population remained genetically relatively unaffected by foreign conquest and rule,” said Wolfgang Haak, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.

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