A newly released study of human genetic history offers new insights into relations of Armenians with nations of the world, including significant presence of Armenian-like DNA in as far-flung populations as Italy, Russia’s North Caucasus and even China, the Armenian Reporter informs.
“A Genetic Atlas of Human Admixture History” was published in the Science magazine on February 14 and an accompanying map posted. The study – prepared by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, Oxford University and University College London (UCL) – looked at genetic samples from 1,490 individuals in 95 populations across the world, including Armenia and most of its neighbors.
“When individuals from different groups interbreed, their offspring’s DNA becomes a mixture of the DNA from each admixing group,” researches note in the summary of the article. “Pieces of this DNA are then passed along through subsequent generations, carrying on all the way to the present day” allowing researchers to establish genetic histories of nations over millennia.
Perhaps most striking is the significant presence of Armenian-like DNA in several Italian populations, particularly that of Tuscany (10.7 percent); only English and German samples show greater affinity to Tuscany’s. The study also shows notable Armenian genetic links to populations in southern Italy (6 percent) and Sicily (about 4 percent). The findings appear to point to migrations from Armenia possibly as early as Byzantine re-conquest of Italy in the 6th century or as late as the collapse of the Armenian kingdoms and the emergence of the Florentine republic in the 11-12th centuries.
Armenians’ other far-flung genetic connections include the Han of northern China (3.9 percent), Persian-speaking Hazara of Afghanistan and Pakistan (3.7 percent) and Indian Jews (3 percent), all most likely a result of the activity of Armenian merchants along the so-called Silk Road in the 11th-13th centuries.
Not surprisingly, some of the greatest genetic affinity to Armenians is found in their immediate neighborhood. Lezgins, who inhabit northeastern Azerbaijan and southern portion of Russia’s Dagestan, had the largest share – nearly 14 percent. Samples from among Armenia’s immediate neighbors, showed the following Armenian connections: Georgia – 12 percent; Turkey – 10 percent and Iran – 7.5 percent; Azerbaijani sample is not part of the published study. There are also significant Armenian connections with the population of Cypriots (but not the mainland Greece), the Druze (who have shunned intermarriage for centuries) and the Adygei of Russia’s northwestern Caucasus.
Findings from the study’s Armenia sample point to anticipated ties to Iranians (23 percent of the Armenia sample genetic material) and Georgians (11 percent). There also appears to have been significant genetic input from Poles and Lithuanians, at 8 and 7 percent, respectively. Authors, however, are uncertain about specific admixture events in the genetic make-up of modern Armenians.