Changing Planet

Afghans Share Unique Genetic Heritage, DNA Study By The Genographic Project

A Common Ancestor Discovered

In a study released by The Genographic Project, DNA analysis shows that the majority of all known ethnic Afghans share a unique genetic heritage that can be traced back to a single common ancestral population. A total of 204 Afghan DNA samples were investigated along with over 8,500 samples from surrounding populations concluding that the emergence of these early civilizations most likely occurred 10,000- 7,000 years ago during the Neolithic revolution and the formation of early agricultural communities. Published on March 28th, 2012 in the journal PLoS ONE, the study was led by principal investigator Pierre Zalloua and Marc Haber.

“Afghanistan embraces a rich diversity of multi-ethnic and multi-lingual communities. The goal of our study was to determine whether the various Afghan groups arose from a common population with different social systems but with the same genetic stock or whether cultural and ethnic differences were founded on already existing genetic differences,” said Zalloua.

An Islamic man and child leave a mosque after prayer. Photo by Thomas J. Abercrombie

Results of the study also indicate that fragmentation within these early civilizations began during the Bronze Age, probably due to migrations and invasions into various regions including Iran, Greece, India, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and East Asia.

The Genographic Project

Led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells, The Genographic Project has continued to surface numerous studies revealing new developments on shared genographic history. Not only has DNA analysis been applied to nearly 75,000 participants from over 1,000 indigenous populations around the world, but also more than 440,000 members of the general public who have purchased a testing kit online to discover their own family genealogy.

Dr. Spencer Wells noted, “This study, the first detailed analysis of Afghan populations, demonstrates the unprecedented geographic breadth of Genographic’s sampling. The project is striving to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of human migratory history, and Afghanistan has always been a gaping hole in the map. We now have a much better picture of how these groups relate to each other and to the surrounding regions. Moving forward, we hope to fill in the details of Afghanistan’s demographic history with studies of other genetic markers in these populations.”

To read the full text of the article, visit PLoS ONE: Afghanistan’s Ethnic Groups Share a Y-Chromosomal Heritage Structured by Historical Events

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