Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

The ancient refuge of southern Arabia

It seems that southern Arabia has provided shelter to people, 20,000 years earlier, following an ice age that made much of the Earth uninhabitable, according to new evidence provided by University of Huddersfield researchers this week.

Once the Ice Age receded, the Red Sea plains of what we know now as southern Arabia in addition to the far side of the Bab el-Mandeb strait and the Horn of Africa were among glacial sanctuaries where people were able to cluster and survive.

This has been hypothesized before by scientists but never confirmed until this study.

It defies what was commonly thought of Arabia; that humans did not settle there in large numbers until the development of agriculture, roughly 10,000 years earlier.

Analyzing mitochondrial DNA for a lineage that’s common in Arabia and the horn of Africa, the researchers discovered that the lineage, named R0a, is more ancient than what was thought.

The ancient gene flow infiltrated the horn, well before the spread of agriculture into that region. It seeped into the rest of the Middle East (present day Iran, Pakistan and India) and other territories, like Europe through the movement of people and the development of trading networks.

The study mapping human dispersals, post the Ice Age, and deep ancestry was published in Scientific Reports. The DNA analyzed was extracted from living people, since to date this couldn’t be recovered from prehistoric remains. So the scientists had to rely on modern diversity to draw conclusions about the history of the DNA lineage.

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