January 13, 2009

Population history of ancient Egyptians

The non-inclusion of population samples from outside Egypt for comparison makes it difficult to assess the population affinities of ancient Egyptians. Nonetheless, this study is to be commended for trying different biodistance measures on the skeletal samples. From the paper:
The relative uniqueness of Gebel Ramlah suggests that this particular Neolithic group did not contribute substantially to the ancestry of subsequent predynastic Nile Valley groups. It is important to note that Gebel Ramlah is also geographically distant from the Nile Valley. Similarly, because the Greek Egyptian sample is an outlier across MDS plots, genetic isolation from local Egyptians seems likely.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20976

Further analysis of the population history of ancient Egyptians

Michael A. Schillaci, Joel D. Irish, Carolan C.E. Wood


The origins of state formation in ancient Egypt have been the focus of recent research utilizing biological data to test hypotheses regarding in situ development of local groups, or large-scale in-migration, possibly by an invading army. The primary goal of the present research is to further test these hypotheses. Our secondary goal is to compare different distance measures and assess how they might affect interpretation of population history. We analyze craniodental nonmetric data using several different measures of biological distance, as well as a method for estimating group diversity using multidimensional scaling of distance estimates. Patterns of biological variation and population relationships were interpreted in temporal and geographic contexts. The results of our analyses suggest that the formation of the ancient Egyptian state likely included a substantial in situ process, with some level of contribution by outside migrants probable. The higher level of population structure in Lower Egypt, relative to Upper Egypt, suggests that such influence and migration by outsiders may not have been widespread geographically. These findings support, but serve to refine further those obtained by the second author in a previous study. Moreover, our comparison of distance measures indicates that the choice of measure can influence identification and interpretation of the microevolutionary processes shaping population history, despite being strongly correlated with one another.


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