A study by the University of Birmingham and the Wellcome Sanger Institute has reconstructed the genetic history of people across the Middle East over the past 125,000 years. Scientists from the UK, UAE, and Saudi Arabia analyzed DNA from hundreds of Middle Easterners to piece together a clearer picture of the region’s human history than was previously possible. Among its findings, published in Cell magazine: The development of agriculture around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent helped to differentiate between the populations in the Levant, which settled down and were able to grow, and those in the Arabian Peninsula, which remained static. Lead author Dr Mohamed Almarri, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Dubai Police GHQ, said: “Our analyses illustrate the effect of lifestyle and climate on the demographic history of the populations in the region, and the contrasts between the Levant and Arabia.” Corresponding author Dr Marc Haber from the University of Birmingham said the team has reconstructed “Middle Easterners’ genetic history in unprecedented detail to resolve longstanding questions in population genetics.” The research also found that Bronze Age people from the Levant or Mesopotamia may have spread Semitic languages to Arabia and East Africa, and uncovered why Arabians have less Neanderthal ancestry than other non-Africans.
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