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DNA clues to Queen of Sheba tale

Photo: BBC, Modern day Ethiopians show great cultural, linguistic and historical diversity. Get Horn of African news around the world at www.kismaayodaily.com

Clues to the origins of the Queen of Sheba legend are written in the DNA of some Africans, according to scientists.

Genetic research suggests Ethiopians mixed with Egyptian, Israeli or Syrian
populations about 3,000 years ago.

This is the time the queen, mentioned in great religious works, is said to
have ruled the kingdom of Sheba.

The research, published in The American Journal of Human Genetics, also sheds light on human migration out of Africa 60,000 years ago.

According to fossil evidence, human history goes back longer in Ethiopia than anywhere else in the world. But little has been known until now about the human genetics of Ethiopians.

Professor Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, a researcher on the study, told BBC News: “Genetics can tell us about historical events.

“By analysing the genetics of Ethiopia and several other regions we can see that there was gene flow into Ethiopia, probably from the Levant, around 3,000 years ago, and this fits perfectly with the story of the Queen of Sheba.”

The Queen of Sheba

  • Queen mentioned in the Bible, the Koran and the Ethiopian Kabra Nagast
  • Sheba was a rich kingdom that prospered through trade with Jerusalem and the
    Roman Empire, and spanned modern day Ethiopia and Yemen
  • Queen said to have visited Jerusalem with gold to give to King Solomon
  • Some texts record that she had a son with King Solomon

 

Lead researcher Luca Pagani of the University of
Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute added: “The genetic evidence
is in support of the legend of the Queen of Sheba.”

More than 200 individuals from 10 Ethiopian and two neighbouring African
populations were analysed in the largest genetic investigation of its kind on
Ethiopian populations.

About a million genetic letters in each genome were studied. Previous
Ethiopian genetic studies have focussed on smaller sections of the human genome
and mitochondrial DNA, which passes along the maternal line.

Dr Sarah Tishcoff of the Department of Genetics and Biology at the University
of Pennsylvania, said Ethiopia would be an important region to study in the
future.

Commenting on the study, she said: “Ethiopia is a very diverse region
culturally and linguistically but, until now, we’ve known little about genetic
diversity in the region.

“This paper sheds light on the very interesting recent and ancient population
history of a region that played an important role in both recent and ancient
human migration events.

“In particular, the inference of timing and location of admixture with
populations from the Levant is very interesting and is a unique example of how
genetic data can be integrated with historical data.”

The scientists acknowledge that there are uncertainties about dating, with a
probable margin of error of a few hundred years either side of 3,000 years.

They plan to look at all three billion genetic letters of DNA in the genome
of individual Ethiopians to learn more about human genetic diversity and
evolution.

Source: (BBC).

 

Kismaayodaily On June - 22 - 2012

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