Study Reveals Genetic Link between Indian Subcontinent and Mesopotamia
A new study published in the journal PLoS ONE, has added to the debate regarding the origins of people inhabiting ancient Mesopotamia during the region’s long history. Results showed that the remains of individuals uncovered in Mesopotamia belonged to people with a genetic affinity to the Indian subcontinent and, in particular the region near Tibet (Trans-Himalaya). This suggests that the individuals are descendants of migrants from much earlier times (Palaeolithic) who spread through Eurasia founding regional Mesopotamian groups, or they are from merchants moving along trade routes passing near or through the region.
Mesopotamia is considered to be the cradle of civilization in the West and corresponds to modern-day Iraq, the north-eastern section of Syria and to a much lesser extent south-eastern Turkey, smaller parts of south-western Iran and Kuwait.
The researchers analysed DNA sequences extracted from the unearthed remains (teeth) of over 350 individuals buried in Tell Ashara (ancient Terqa) and Tell Masaikh (ancient Kar-Assurnasirpal) – Syrian archaeological sites in the middle of Euphrates valley. The remains were dated between the Early Bronze Age and the Late Roman period (between 2500 BC and 500 AD). These were used for comparison with remains obtained on the Indian subcontinent.
The Euphrates valley region showed a stable population until after the Mongolian invasion which resulted in a large depopulation of northern Mesopotamia in the 13 th Century AD. The final major change occurred during the 17th century with Bedouin tribes arriving from the Arabian Peninsula.
Using DNA methodology, the scientists were able to gain information about the ancestry of the individuals.
The studied individuals carried specific mtDNA haplotypes, which are believed to have arisen in the area of the Indian subcontinent during the Upper Palaeolithic and are absent in people living today in Syria. However, these same haplogroups are present in people inhabiting today’s Tibet, Himalayas, India and Pakistan.
The obtained data has enriched the modest database of Mesopotamian ancient DNA and suggests a possible genetic link of the region with the Indian subcontinent in the past. There are no traces in the modern Syrian population, which is explainable by later depopulation and recolonisation.