Category Archives: Iraq

Genetics of Marsh Arabs (Iraq)

There is a new paper on haploid human genetics focused in the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, arguably descendants of ancient Sumerians (or the southern fraction of them).
The study offers a host of data on Y-DNA and mtDNA genetics of Iraq and by extension in some cases of the whole West Asian region. 
Y-DNA (paternal lineages):
Y-DNA is 74.3% a single haplogroup: J1c3 (P58/Page8), however this is most of all J1 also in all other studied populations except the Caucasus. Overall J1 in Marsh Arabs adds up to 81.3%, the rest being E (7.7%), P (7%), J2 (3.5%), G (1.4%) and L (0.7%). 

By contrast other Iraqis show a much more diverse Y-DNA pool, with only 31.1% J1 but 24% J2, 21.3% P (of which 17.5% is R1), 13.6% E, 6.5% T (totally absent among Marsh Arabs), 1.9% G and 0.6% L.

Obviously J1 (and J1c3 within it) requires further research but I wonder if this may inform us of the Neolithic (??) scatter southwards of West Asian peoples. Not only Arabia Peninsula was probably recolonized in this period but also southern Iraq as well as far as I know, because there was a time when it was part of the sea. Then people from the North (Samarra culture) apparently colonized the region, becoming the famed Sumerians and founding the first widely acknowledged civilization ever.

Fig. 6 frequency (left) and variance (right) of J1, J1* and J1c3
The figure above offers us a glimpse of the likely origins of J1 in highland West Asia (Kurdistan, Armenia, Georgia, nearby areas of Turkey), although South Italy also displays surprisingly high diversity I must say. J1c3 may have similar origins.

Mitochondrial DNA (maternal lineages):
Table 1 goes into great detail on the lineages of Marsh Arabs and other Iraqis (control group). Notably Marsh Arabs display in comparison with other Iraqis:
  • significantly more: 
    • Within R: R*, R0a, R2, K1a8, U3, U7, J2
    • Within N(xR): N1 (N1b and N1c), W
    • Other: M2, M37e
  • significantly less: 
    • Within R: R0(xR0a), HV(xH), H, U1
    • Other: L(xM,N)
  • roughly the same:
    • Within R: U(xU1, U3, U7, K1a8), JT(xJ2)
    • Within N(xR): X2
Overall they display more of some specific R subclades (R0a, R2, K1a8, U3, U7, J2 and the intriguing R*), more N1, more W, more M2 and more M37e. 
The most important mtDNA lineages of Marsh Arabs seem to be as follow: 
  • R0 (24.1%)
    • H* (7.6%)
    • R0a (6.9%)
    • HV* (3.4%)
    • H5 (3.4%)
  • J (22.7%)
    • J1b (5.5%)
    • J2a (4.1%)
  • U (15.9%)
    • K1 (6.2%)
    • U3 (5.5%)
    • U7 (4.8%)
  • N1 (8.9%)
    • N1b1 (4.8%)
    • N1c (3.4%)
  • T (7.6%)
    • T1a (3.4%)
  • W (4.8%)

Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Iraq, mtDNA, population genetics, West Asia, Y-DNA