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Egyptians and Byzantines of the Spanish southeast in the DNA of the European population

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The forgotten passage of Egyptians, Vandals, Visigoths and Byzantines through the southeast of the peninsula between the 5th and 9th centuries is the object of study in an ambitious international project funded by the European Commission and in which the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Alicante (MARQ) participates. aims to reconstruct the history of settlement in the Old Continent from DNA remains, in the image the ulna and radius of a child found in an Alicante necropolis.EFE / Morell

Alicante (Spain), Jan 18 (EFE) .- The forgotten passage of Egyptians, Vandals, Visigoths and Byzantines through the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula between the 5th and 9th centuries is the object of study in an ambitious international project funded by the European Commission that tries to reconstruct the history of the settlement in the Old Continent from DNA remains.
Along with several centers in different Spanish cities (Jaén, Mallorca and Pamplona), the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Alicante (MARQ), in the Valencian Community (east), has been chosen to participate in this research led by the powerful Max Planck Institute of History of the Human Populations of Jena (Germany), financed by Brussels with more than 10 million euros (slightly more than 12 million dollars).
MARQ archaeologist Teresa Ximénez de Embún (who has participated in the project with the director of this museum, Manuel Olcina) has told EFE that she has sent skeletal remains of 80 individuals from eight necropolises scattered throughout the province of Alicante from the period to Germany. 400-900 to contribute to the genetic study of ancient European populations, in a work that combines archeology and bioarchaeometry.
As it is where ancient DNA is best preserved over the centuries, skeletal remains of a type of bone located behind the ear, the ‘pars petrossa’, and of molar teeth found in sites such as the late Romans (s IV-V) of the Baths of the Queen of Calpe and l’Albir de l’Alfàs del Pi.
Also of the high medieval necropolises (Byzantine and Visigoth) of Polisixto de Cocentaina, Vistalegre de Aspe, Cabezo Molino de Rojales and l’Atzuvia de Xàbia, as well as the emirals of the Islamic period of Cabezo Pardo de Albatera and Tossal de Manises de Alicante.
The participation of the Alicante museum will shed light from the scientific point of view on the arrival of invaders or colonizers to the southeast of the peninsula from the end of the Roman Empire until the Islamic invasion, a period to some extent obscure due to the scarce historical documentation.
This will be possible because the analysis of the DNA of the remains will give information on the sex of the buried, their degree of kinship and on the characterization of their genetic profile, which will reveal the identification of migrant individuals or with a different ancestry.
At the sophisticated Max Planck Institute in Jena, they will compare the ‘Alicante’ genetic profiles with those from other archaeological teams from northern and central Europe, as well as from other parts of the Mediterranean.
In this way, it will be possible to know details about population movements and confirm or refute more or less widespread hypotheses about the development of civilization in this corner next to the Mare Nostrum.
For example, it will be possible to verify if the majority of the Islamic population that settled in the so-called Cora of Tudmir did not come from present-day Morocco or Algeria, as would seem more feasible, but from a military contingent originating in Egypt in the 8th century, which reached the peninsula through the Strait of Gibraltar.
“This study will break down many prejudices or clichés that existed until now, such as the overvalued importance that has often been given to the Visigoth population, and could increase the role of the Byzantines (of present-day Turkey between the 6th and 7th centuries) in this area, of which we know hardly anything and are often confused with the Visigoths “, according to Ximénez de Embún.
In Germany, the remains will be subjected to an analysis of nuclear DNA (mitochondrial DNA), which is transmitted from generation to generation through the maternal line, and the DNA of the Y chromosome (included in nuclear DNA), through the paternal line.
All this in one of the largest and most modern archaeogenetics centers in the world, in Jena, where they will receive samples from all European countries and analyze them in a 250 square meter laboratory divided into more than 20 isolated rooms to avoid cross contamination. between samples.
Antonio Martin

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