A detailed study of the DNA of mummies has found ancient Egyptians were more closely related to Europeans and Turks than Africans. Researchers looked at the remains of several people from a site close to the Nile and found their closest ancient populations were from the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey and elsewhere in Europe.
They found that modern Egyptians share more ancestry with sub-Saharan Africans than their ancient compatriots.
The people whose mummified remains were studied died between 1400BC to 400AD and came from an archaeological site called Abusir el Meleq, about 50 miles (80km) south of Cairo.
Experts from the University of Tuebingen and other institutions were able to collect mitochondrial DNA -- passed down the maternal line - from 90 subjects and the full spectrum of DNA from three individuals.
The study found that the ancient Egyptians were most closely related to ancient populations in the Levant -- modern day Syria, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon.
They were also closely related to stone age populations from Europe and the Turkish mainland on the Asian side.
At the time the mummified people died, although there is a limited historical record, archaeologists believe there were widespread trading networks crisscrossing the Mediterranean, taking people as well as goods from one side to the other.
The researchers found that modern populations in the area have 8% more sub-Saharan DNA than ancient populations.
Wolfgang Haak, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, said: "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."
Stephan Schiffels, another group leader at the Max Planck Institute, added: "This suggests that an increase in sub-Saharan African gene flow into Egypt occurred within the last 1,500 years."
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