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Middle East Regional DNA Project

One Family Project

The One Family One World Project is a partnership between Living DNA and Eupedia initiated in 2017. The project aims to map the regional genetic variations of the world with a great level of detail and accuracy in order to improve our understanding of both recent and ancient migrations and see how humans are all connected with one another as one big family.

Genetic variations within Middle East

Lying at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the Middle East has had a great genetic influence on three continents, but its population was also was shaped by migrations from many other regions, making it uniquely interesting from a genetic point of view.

Historical context

The Middle East was the cradle of agriculture 11,500 years ago, then the cradle of civilisations, with the first city-states and writing appearing in Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago. The Caucasus was the birthplace of bronze metallurgy, and the two great Bronze Age cultures that stemmed from it, the Maykop-Yamna and Kura-Araxes cultures, expanded far and wide and reshaped the genetic landscape of western Eurasia.

Ancient DNA studies have shown that the Near East consisted of several distinct populations in the Early Neolithic period. The Natufian-derived population of the southern Levant had affinities with the Red Sea region (Y-haplogroup E1b1b). Anatolian tribes seem to have belonged primarily to Y-haplogroup G2a, who brought agriculture to Europe. South Caucasians would have belonged to Y-haplogroups J1 and J2, later associated with the Kura-Araxes culture. Y-haplogroup T1a may have been found around Mesopotamia.

All these ancient populations eventually merged to form various ethnic groups. They were joined by a long succession of invaders, starting with the Proto-Semites who penetrated the Near East from Africa around 5,500 years ago. During the Bronze Age, the Indo-Europeans from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe and Central Asia settled in large number in Anatolia (Hittites, Lydians, Lycians), Armenia, northern Mesopotamia (Mitanni, Gutians) and Iran (Persians, Medes). During the Classical Antiquity, the Cimmerians and Scythians raided and settled in Mesopotamia, the La Tne Celts founded the Kingdom of Galatia in central Anatolia, the Greeks/Macedonians conquered most of West Asia under Alexander, and the Romans eventually took over the whole Eastern Mediterranean from the Greeks.

The Middle Ages started with the early Muslim conquests from Saudi Arabia and the establishment of the Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates across most of the Middle East (except central and western Anatolia and Mazandaran) and North Africa.

From the 10th to the 12th century, the Kurds as well as Turkic tribes from Central Asia moved in western Iran, northern Mesopotamia, the South Caucasus and Anatolia, while European crusaders established various states in the Levant. By the late 13rd century, Iran and most of the northern Middle East came under the domination of the Mongols, while central and western Anatolia came under Turkish control. The Turks would eventually take over the Byzanine Empire and replace it by the Ottoman Empire, which encompassed the greatest part of the Middle East as well as Southeast Europe and North Africa. All these invaders affected the genetic make-up of the region they conquered.

Objective & Methodology

This project aims at unravelling the regional genetic differences between the various ethnic groups found in the Middle East.

To determine the boundaries between proposed genetic regions we took into account the areas of settlements of ancient and medieval populations, and the places where the various invaders settled most heavily, as well as the location of modern ethnic groups.

We believe that the natural barriers (rivers, mountains), religious affiliations, and the perimeters of the modern dialects also influenced the way genes spread in the population over time, as people tended to marry much more frequently within the confines of their geographic, religious and linguistic boundaries. For example, the Saudi were divided in western, central and eastern dialects. The ethnic Persians were subdivided in four regional groups (North, West, Central and Khorasan). Kurds were divided along the borders of modern countries. The Lebanese and Syrians were mainly divided by religious affiliation, while Iraqi groups include both religious and ethnic considerations. The regions of Anatolia take into account as much as possible the zones of distinct ancestry identified by preliminaries studies based on Y-chromosomal DNA.

Proposed genetic regions of Middle East

Our preliminary research indicates at least 60 areas of Middle East may have distinct genetic differences.

Proposed genetic divisions of Middle East - One Family One World DNA Project

Arabian Peninsula

  • Bahraini
  • Dhofari
  • Emirati
  • Gulf Saudi
  • Hadhrami Yemeni
  • Hijazi Saudi
  • Kuwaiti
  • Najdi Saudi
  • North Yemeni
  • Omani
  • Qatari
  • South Yemeni
  • Southern Saudi Yemeni
  • Tihami Yemeni

Caucasus

  • Armenians
  • Azeri
  • Georgians

Cyprus

  • Greek Cypriots
  • Turkish Cypriots

Egypt

  • Lower Egypt
  • Middle Egypt
  • Red Sea Egyptians
  • Sinai
  • Upper Egypt
  • Western Desert

Iraq

  • Assyrians
  • Iraqi Kurds
  • Shia Iraqi
  • Sunni Iraqi
  • Turcomans
  • Yazidi

Iran

  • Ahwaz Arabs
  • Balochi
  • Central Persians
  • Gilaks
  • Hormozgan Arabs
  • Iranian Azeri
  • Iranian Kurds
  • Khorassan Kurds
  • Khorasan Persians
  • Lurs
  • North Persians
  • Qashqai
  • Tabari
  • Talysh
  • Turkmen
  • West Persians

Levant

  • Alawite Syrians
  • Aleppo Syrians
  • Christian Syrians
  • Damascus Syrians
  • Israeli
  • Jabal Druzes
  • Jordanians
  • Lebanese Christians
  • Lebanese Druzes
  • Lebanese Shia
  • Lebanese Sunni
  • Palestinians
  • Syrian Kurds

Turkey

  • Aegean Turkey
  • Balikesir
  • Central Anatolia
  • East Marmara
  • Istanbul
  • Laz
  • Mediterranean Turkey
  • Northeast Anatolia
  • Trabzon
  • Turkish Kurds
  • Turkish Thrace
  • West Anatolia
  • West Black Sea
  • Zazas

How do I qualify?

The One Family project is open to everyone worldwide and has two parts.

  • 1. To build a genetic family tree of everyone from around the world, regardless of where your family comes from.
  • 2. To build a regional genetic breakdown of ancestry within countries, similar to 'The Peopling of the British Isles project'. This part of the project is looking for people with all four grandparents born within 80km (50mi) of each other inside our project areas of interest.

If you have already tested with Living DNA, all you need to do to join the project is log into your account, click on the Research tab and choose to participate in our global ancestry research project, if you haven't already done it.

If you already tested your DNA with another company (23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, or FTDNA's Family Finder), you can join the project here for free. After submitting the form with your family information, you will receive an email to confirm the creation of your Living DNA account and will be asked to upload your genome there for free.

If you have not yet tested your DNA with one of the above companies, then you will need to order a Living DNA test to take part.

The data provided as part of the project is kept strictly private and confidential under Living DNAs ISO:27001 certification for information security. Please read Living DNA's Privacy Policy for more information.


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