September 12, 2013

Ancient mtDNA haplogroup M from Syria

This is quite an unexpected finding; there has been a paucity of ancient DNA from the Middle East, perhaps due to a combination of high temperature, less scientific development, and well-known recent problems in many parts of the region, and it would be great if additional research in the area is possible.

PLoS ONE 8(9): e73682. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073682

mtDNA from the Early Bronze Age to the Roman Period Suggests a Genetic Link between the Indian Subcontinent and Mesopotamian Cradle of Civilization

Henryk W. Witas et al.

Ancient DNA methodology was applied to analyse sequences extracted from freshly unearthed remains (teeth) of 4 individuals deeply deposited in slightly alkaline soil of the Tell Ashara (ancient Terqa) and Tell Masaikh (ancient Kar-Assurnasirpal) Syrian archaeological sites, both in the middle Euphrates valley. Dated to the period between 2.5 Kyrs BC and 0.5 Kyrs AD the studied individuals carried mtDNA haplotypes corresponding to the M4b1, M49 and/or M61 haplogroups, which are believed to have arisen in the area of the Indian subcontinent during the Upper Paleolithic and are absent in people living today in Syria. However, they are present in people inhabiting today’s Tibet, Himalayas, India and Pakistan. We anticipate that the analysed remains from Mesopotamia belonged to people with genetic affinity to the Indian subcontinent since the distribution of identified ancient haplotypes indicates solid link with populations from the region of South Asia-Tibet (Trans-Himalaya). They may have been descendants of migrants from much earlier times, spreading the clades of the macrohaplogroup M throughout Eurasia and founding regional Mesopotamian groups like that of Terqa or just merchants moving along trade routes passing near or through the region. None of the successfully identified nuclear alleles turned out to be ΔF508 CFTR, LCT-13910T or Δ32 CCR5.



eurologist said...


You posted a link to a set of unidentified women's (?) names in that general region a while ago which I and others thought were likely of Indian origin.

The ones described here may have been slaves or "trading goods" in the same vein.

Ezr said...

That area was the centre of the Mitanni Empire, and the Mitanni elite was clearly Indo-Aryan, which could explain the later specimens. The older ones, however, IF correctly dated, are indeed surprising.

SB said...

This is excellent! I wonder if Subcontinent related Haplogroups were much more common all the way upto Anatolia, and possibly moved east, while keeping ahead of desertification,
If it is traders, it is a remarkable coincidence that the samples excavated in different sites and different times, were all mtDNA haplogroup M.

Seinundzeit said...

Pretty cool. You always hear about the prehistoric diffusion of genes into the sub-continent, but rarely of a South Asian genetic signature this far from the sub-continent.

bmdriver said...

The Indian Dravidian ANI migration and settle of Sumeria NOT ASI.

Nathan Paul said...

Eurologist seems adding colour to the discussion.
Syria has high Y -L also.
L+M is typical of that flow.

Rokus said...

Bottom line is the Orientalist assertion that the Middle East was an important Neolithic expansion region, can now count on strong paleogenetic counter evidence.
I wonder how this will evolve further. Will PPNA once be recognized as a fraud to articifially prolong the Neolithic in the Orient, while actually probably not even at the Mesolithic level? Maybe one day some will even start to wonder where the current Middle East haplogroups really came from.

Ram Prasad said...

I highly doubt the slave theory can explain the fact that all these individuals from different time lines had the Indian mtdna. To suggest something like that is quite a stretch. Could the Mittani have come from India? The prevailing theory is that the Mittani came before Vedic Indo Europeans. Now I have my doubts.

eurologist said...

Here is the discussion of the women's names I referred to earlier:


Any trade ships would have gone along the Euphrates, and there was sufficient Assyrian-Babylonian continuity to make a slave theory plausible. I have to read the paper to see if the graves had any context.

Kurti said...

@ Ezr

The Indo-Aryan Elite of Mitanni never reached India to begin with that they would have brought this Haplogroup with them. the Indo-Aryans reached West Asia roughly at the same time they reached India this is because both belonged to the same Indo-Aryan wave which split and has gone different ways.

This Haplogroup M found in Syria must be of older date and shows a general South-Central Asian- West Asian gene flow.

Kurti said...

@Nathan Paul

The yDNA L was found mainly in Southeast Syria among some Arab speaking tribes and Also Haplogroup L was found among Druze in Israel in high frequency.

Va_Highlander said...

Ram Prasad:

"I highly doubt the slave theory can explain the fact that all these individuals from different time lines had the Indian mtdna. To suggest something like that is quite a stretch."

Not really. Much of the trade network that would later become the Silk Route is at least a thousand years older than the oldest specimen in this study. Evidence of long-distance trade does not necessarily imply the presence of people from distant lands, of course, but it should hardly surprise us when evidence for such people comes to light.

Creative said...

Sounds more like the far reach of the Indus Valley Civilization.
The two men from the fresco of Zimri-Lim(18thCentury BC. Mari ,Syria) always gave me a Indian vibe.

Angelic Stormz said...

Finally I can rest on this subject completely. As I harbor the M49/M61. I knew there had to be a Tibet route from Mesopotamia but couldn't prove it, until now.
This includes Maternal and Paternal Kalash (aka Dard) lineage with us. Many thanks to Professor Olivier Rouault & Professor Maria Grazia Masetti-Rouault.