Egypt, located on the isthmus of Africa, is an ideal region to study historical population dynamics due to its geographic location and documented interactions with ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Particularly, in the first millennium BCE Egypt endured foreign domination leading to growing numbers of foreigners living within its borders possibly contributing genetically to the local population. Here we mtDNA and nuclear DNA from mummified humans recovered from Middle Egypt that span around 1,300 years of ancient Egyptian history from the Third Intermediate to the Roman Period. Our analyses reveal that ancient Egyptians shared more Near Eastern ancestry than present-day Egyptians, who received additional Sub-Saharan admixture in more recent times. This analysis establishes ancient Egyptian mummies as a genetic source to study ancient human history and offers the perspective of deciphering Egypt’s past at a genome-wide level.
One of the surprising discoveries of the late 20th Century was that the really big divide in the human race is between sub-Saharan Africans and everybody else. Back in the bad old days before political correctness, anthropologist Carleton Coon believed that Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans were more closely grouped by ancestry than were Europeans and East Asians. The mountains of Central Asia, in Coon’s theory, were the real impediment to gene flow.
But that raises the question of why the Sahara was such a barrier. One reason is that camels weren’t domesticated until about 3000 years ago and probably took awhile to spread out of Arabia into Africa. So the slave trade wasn’t very feasible before camels for crossing the desert.
My vague impression is that the White Nile’s swamps in southern Sudan are extremely difficult. I can remember looking at a world train schedule handbook in 1980 and, south of Khartoum, it took forever to get up the Nile on a steamer due to aquatic vegetation.