A recent paper in the “Science” journal published by Hellenthal et al. (2014) revealed extensive admixture in human populations during the last few thousand years. Being a result of meeting and breeding of past populations, admixture leaves genetic traces within the descendants’ genomes. Unfortunately, over time, the genetic evidence decays and becomes hard to track.
Hellenthal et al. describe a method with which it is possible to follow the genetic traces of admixture back to the nearest extant population. The technique is called chromosome painting. This approach uncovered the details of worldwide human admixture history over the last 4,000 years.
With the results of their research, Hellenthal et al. created the Genetic Atlas of human admixture history showing genetic traces for a variety of world populations. In regards to Armenians, it can be seen what populations they left genetic traces in. The below map demonstrates significant percentages of Armenian DNA present in a number of non-Armenian populations.
Traces within the Etruscan population
Significant Armenian genetic presence is observed in Italy, especially, in Tuscany. Tuscany has been identified to be the homeland of the Etruscan civilization, etymology of which derives from the Latin “Tusci”. Several scholars have proposed an Armenian-Etruscan connection. For instance, British scholar Dr. Robert Ellis writes in his book “The Armenian Origin of the Etruscans”:
“The Armenians, like the Celts, are now few in number. They belong once to a longer extent of a country where they spread westward from Armenia to Italy under the names of Phrygians, Thracians, Pelasgians, Etruscans and also spread to other locations.”
We have featured the Armenian-Etruscan connection in one of our recent materials: Recent Study Revealed the Armenian Origins of the Etruscans
As for admixture traces within Armenians, the study is inconclusive. It shows Armenians among the no-admixture or of uncertain admixture populations. Dienekes also correctly noted that the Armenians appear to be the only identified people between the Pacific and Atlantic to bear no certain admixture traces. But Armenians do share significant genetic affinity with a number of foreign populations (including Irish), but the “admixture signal is either too weak or too complex for the model to describe”.
Most probably, admixture among Armenians predates the scope of the study going up to 4,000 years ago, while Armenian ethnogenesis is much older (see more: 8,000 Years of Genetic Continuity of Armenians Revealed by a New Study). Previous studies have demonstrated that the dominant Armenian markers R1b, G2, and J2 originated in and around the Armenian Highlands, which could provide clues regarding the direction of the genetic spread of Armenian population.
Interestingly, the genetic makeup of the Turkish population mainly consists of Greek, Armenian, and Iranian DNA, all of which show about 10% of contribution. In contrast, the (Asiatic) Mongolian contribution is only 3.7%. Eastern Turkey could show even more genetic affinity with Armenians, which would reaffirm the notion of Turks being acculturated Armenians discussed by various scholars.
Limitations of the study
The limitations of the study are discussed on Dienekes anthropological blog. Moreover, some of the data is inconsistent with other genetic studies. Sample sizes were rather limited as well. Nevertheless, it is quite interesting to see the genetic traces identified by the study and featured in the Genetic Atlas. Who knows, maybe future research will be able to help expand the Atlas with more data.
List of Armenian genetic signals within non-Armenian populations
As the study demonstrated, the following populations show significant affinity with the Armenian DNA:
- Lezgins (North Caucasus, Caspian Sea) 13.8%
- Georgians 12.4%
- Tuscans (Italy) 10.7%
- Turks 9.9%
- Iranians 7.5%
- Cypriots 7.3%
- Druze (Levant) 6.6%
- South Italy 6.2%
- Adygei (North Caucasus, Black Sea) 5.9%
- Syrians 4.5%
- Jordanians 4.2%
- West Sicily (Italy) 4.2%
- Saudis 4.0%
- Han, North China 3.9%
- South Sicily (Italy) 3.8%
- Hazara (Afghanistan) 3.7%
- Uzbekistan 3.4%
- Egyptians 3.4%
- Bedouins 3.2%
- Indian Jews 3.0%
- Makrani (Pakistan) 2.9%
- Tunisian 2.6%
- Palestinian 1.7%
- Myanmar 1.3%
- Pathan (North Pakistan) 1.3%
- Sindhi (Pakistan-India) 1.1%
- UAE 1.1%
- Uygur 0.9%
- Spain 0.8%
- Burusho (North Afghanistan) 0.8%
- Papa New Guinea 0.6%
- Cambodia 0.5%