A recent study sheds light on the age old question “who were the ancient Egyptians?”
A team of international scientists from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany analyzed the DNA of 93 Egyptian mummies dating from approximately 1400 BCE to 400 CE. The evidence from their study reveals a surprising close relation to ancient people of the Near East such as Armenians.
Our analyses reveal that ancient Egyptians shared more ancestry with Near Easterners than present-day Egyptians, who received additional sub-Saharan admixture in more recent times.
We find that ancient Egyptians are most closely related to Neolithic and Bronze Age samples in the Levant, as well as to Neolithic Anatolian and European populations.
Furthermore, the researchers found that over the 1,300-year period that the mummies represented, the population genetics of the ancient Egypt stayed surprising stable, despite foreign invasions.
The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300-year timespan we studied, suggesting that the population remained, genetically, relatively unaffected by foreign conquest and rule.
said Wolfgang Haak, from the Max Planck Institutes.
The sub-Saharan African genetic influx seems to have only started after the Roman period, which coincides with the advent of monotheism in particularly Islam. Hence why modern Egyptians are more genetically shifted towards African people than the ancient Egyptians.
We found the ancient Egyptian samples falling distinct from modern Egyptians, and closer towards Near Eastern and European samples. In contrast, modern Egyptians are shifted towards sub-Saharan African populations.
So it turns out that modern Egyptians share more genetic ancestry with Sub-Saharan Africans than ancient Egyptians did, while the ancient Egyptians show a closer genetic affinity with ancient people from the Near East and the Levant like Armenians.
Tutankhamun’s paternal lineage
Something similar was revealed a few years ago when a controversy erupted surrounding Tutankhamun’s paternal lineage. Egyptian scholars have tested the autosomal and Y-DNA markers of three Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty : Amenhotep III, his son Akhenaten and grandson Tutankhamun. The aim was to determine the cause of death of Tutankhamun, who died at age 19. They however did not release the genetic data to the public themselves. The Discovery Chanel was making a documentary about this research and perhaps by mistake has recorded and aired some of the results from scientists computers.
Keen observers of the genetics company iGENEA quickly pointed out that the video from Discovery Channel shows the Y-STR results, which appear to be R1b. R1b and its variants is rare among modern Egyptians and the Middle East, it is however quite common in Europe and among the Armenians. This revelation however has not been taken seriously by academia, since the results were never officially published by Egyptian scholars.
Looking back however, with the recent study in mind, it is highly possible that the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs had European or Armenian ancestry.
Ancient Europeans and modern Armenians
The Armenian Highlands and Anatolia form a bridge connecting Europe, the Near East and the Caucasus. Anatolia’s location and history have placed it at the centre of several modern human expansions in Eurasia: it has been inhabited continuously since at least the early Upper Palaeolithic, and has the oldest known monumental complex built by huntergatherers in the 10th millennium BCE (Armenian Portasar commonly known as Göbekli Tepe). It is believed to have been the origin and/or route for migrating Near Eastern farmers towards Europe during the Neolithic, and has also played a major role in the dispersal of the Indo-European languages.
A genetics study by Haber et. al (2015) published not so long ago in the Nature’s European Journal of Human Genetics has demonstrated this connection.
We show that Armenians have higher genetic affinity to Neolithic Europeans than other present-day Near Easterners, and that 29% of the Armenian ancestry may originate from an ancestral population best represented by Neolithic Europeans.
Hence today’s Armenians show genetic affinity to both the ancient Europeans and Egyptians. For more details read the following article: Armenians Have A High Genetic Affinity To Ancient Europeans
One explanation for the ancient Egyptian genetic affinity to Near East and Europe could be the Hyksos invasion. The Hyksos (Egyptian heqa khaseshet, meaning: “ruler(s) of the foreign countries”) were a people of unknown origin who settled in the eastern Nile Delta, some time before 1650 BC and ruled over Egypt well into the Hellenistic era. The Hyksos were often described as bowmen and cavalrymen wearing the cloaks of many colors. They were excellent archers and horse riders, who brought chariot warfare to Egypt.
Various theories have been postulated regarding their origin among them the theory of their Hurrian and Indo-European descent. Their way of life certainly resembles that of the Armeno-Aryan peoples of the time. The Hyksos for example practiced horse burials, and their chief deity was a storm God who later became associated with the Egyptian storm and desert god Set. Ancient Armenians worshiped the storm God Teshub/Teisheba. Teshub was later also identified with Aramazd and Hayk.
Furthermore, the Hyksos brought several technical innovations to Egypt, as well as cultural infusions such as new musical instruments and foreign loanwords. The changes introduced include new techniques of bronze working and pottery, new breeds of animals, and new crops. In warfare, they introduced the horse and chariot, the composite bow, improved battle axes, and advanced fortification techniques. All of this strongly suggests Indo-European origin. Robert Drews (1994) in this book “The Coming of the Greeks: Indo-European Conquests in the Aegean and the Near East” describes the Hyksos as follows:
“Where the hyksos chiefs who took over Egypt ca. 1650 B.C. may have gotten their chariots and charioteers is not known, but eastern Anatolia is not an unlikely source. The most direct evidence for the importance of Armenia in the development and manufacture of military chariots in the Late Bronze Age comes from Egyptian tombs. Since Egypt lacked the necessary woods, one assumes that the pharaohs regularly purchased from abroad either finished chariots or-after Egyptian woodworkers had perfected their skills-the requisite chariot wood. A tomb inscription from the reign of Amenhotep II declares that the wood for His Majesty’s chariot was brought from “the country of Naharin” (Mitanni). Since Mitanni itself was not wooded, we may suppose that the material come from the mountains to the north of Mitanni. In the case of the fifteenth century chariot now in Florance’s Museo Archeologico, studies of the wood done more than fifty years ago concluded that the chariot was made in Armenia, or quite precisely in the mountainous area bounded on the east by the Caspian, and on the south and west by a diagonal line extending from the southern shores of the Caspian to the Black Sea coast in the vicinity of Trebizond. If Egypt was to some extent dependent upon eastern Anatolia for its chariotry during the Eighteenth Dynasty, there are grounds for suspecting that when the chariot warfare first came to Egypt, it came from Armenia.”
That there was plenty of contact between ancient Egypt and ancient Armenia is apparent from Egyptian artifacts that were found in ancient Armenian burials. Whether the Hyksos explain the ancient Egyptian affinity to Armenians and other ancient people of Levant, Anatolia and Europe, or that perhaps this genetic influx extends to far older times remains a mystery. It is not unthinkable that the entire ancient Egyptian civilization radiated from the Armenian plateau after the invention and the spread of agriculture that occurred on the Armenian Highlands and its adjacent territories. The fact that within 1,300-year timespan that these DNA samples represent, there is great genetic continuity among the ancient Egyptians, suggests that it might extend to much older periods even predating the Hyksos invasion. Unless scholars find older Egyptian DNA to analyse and compare, this will remain a subject of discussion.
Another caution regarding the generalization of these findings should be considered. All of the 93 mummies that have been investigated were found in the same place at Abusir el-Meleq. It is possible that they represent only the upper class of ancient Egyptian life or a regional subgroup. However, because of the fairly large time period (1300 years) these mummies belonged to, it is also feasible to assume that they indeed represent a large portion of the genetics of ancient Egypt, with its roots possibly in Armenian Highlands.