By NICHOLAS WADE FEB. 13, 2014
... Now, geneticists applying new statistical approaches have taken a first shot at both identifying and dating the major population mixture events of the last 4,000 years, with the goal of providing a new source of information for historians.
Some of the hundred or so major mixing events they describe have plausible historical explanations, while many others remain to be accounted for. For instance, many populations of the southern Mediterranean and Middle East have segments of African origin in their genomes that were inserted at times between A.D. 650 and 1900, according to the geneticists’ calculations. This could reflect the activity of the Arab slave trade, which originated in the seventh century, and the absorption of slaves into their host populations.
The lowest amount of African admixture occurs in the Druse, a religious group of the Middle East that prohibited slavery and has been closed to converts since A.D. 1043.
Another mixing event is the injection of European-type DNA into the Kalash, a people of Pakistan, at some time between 990 and 210 B.C. This could reflect the invasion of India by Alexander the Great in 326 B.C. The Kalash claim to be descended from Alexander’s soldiers, as do several other groups in the region.
A lot of things peoples say about themselves aren't completely made up.
The genetic atlas of human mixing events was published on Thursday in the journal Science by a team led by Simon Myers of Oxford University, Garrett Hellenthal of University College London and Daniel Falush of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Having sampled genomes from around the world, they found they could detect about 95 distinguishable populations.
Though all humans have the same set of genes, their genomes are studded with mutations, which are differences in the sequence of DNA units in the genome. These mutations occur in patterns because whole sets of mutations are passed down from parent to child and hence will be common in a particular population.
Based on these patterns, geneticists can scan a person’s genome and assign the ancestry of each segment to a particular race or population.
The team led by Dr. Myers has developed a statistical technique for identifying the chromosomal segments with particular precision. This enables them to perform a second feat, that of assigning a date to the one or more mixing events that have affected a population.
... One of the most widespread events his group has detected is the injection of Mongol ancestry into populations within the Mongol empire, such as the Hazara of Afghanistan and the Uighur Turks of Central Asia. The event occurred 22 generations ago, according to genetic dating, which corresponds to the beginning of the 14th century, fitting well with the period of the Mongol empire.
... Dr. Myers and his colleagues have detected European ancestry that entered the Tu people of central China between the 11th and 14th centuries; this, they surmise, could be from traders traveling the Silk Road.
They find among Northern Italians an insertion of Middle Eastern DNA that occurred between 776 B.C. and A.D. 550, and may represent the Etruscans, a mysterious people said by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus to have emigrated from Lydia in Turkey.
The Etruscans apparently turned into the Tuscans (e.g., Florence). They've always had a lot of style.
The Myers group has posted its results on a web page that records the degree of admixture in each population. The English, however, known to be a rich medley of Celts with invaders such as the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Norwegians, carry the notation “No strong evidence of admixture.” Dr. Myers said his method cannot yet detect genetic mixing between very similar populations, as was the case with the English and their invaders from Scandinavia and Northern Germany.
Dienekes has more here:
While reading this study, it is important to remember its limitations. Two are immediately obvious: (i) admixture events can only be detected for the last few thousand years, as this method depends on pattern of linkage disequilibrium which decays exponentially with time due to recombination, and (ii) detection of admixture seems to depend on the presence of maximally differentiated populations from the edges of the human geographical range; for example, the Japanese appear unadmixed even though they are clearly of dual Jomon/Yayoi ancestry. On the other hand, the method does detect the admixture present in the San at a similar time scale.
The case of Northwestern Europe appears especially striking as none of the populations from the region show evidence of admixture. This may be because the mixtures taking place there (e.g., between "Celts" and "Anglo-Saxons" in Great Britain) involved populations that were not strongly differentiated. Alternatively, population admixture history may have preceded the last few thousand years and is thus beyond the temporal scope of this method.
Here's a companion website.