The Indigenous Origins of the Somali People: Uncovering the Genetic Evidence
The Somali people, also known as Somalis (Somali: Soomaaliyeed, Arabic: الصوماليون), are an amalgamated clans of ancient nomadic and warrior Cushitic Somali-speaking ethnolinguistic group inhabiting the Horn of Africa popularly known as Somali Peninsula. Somalis who are known for being the most homogeneous people in Africa and in the world are predominantly Sunni Muslims and they have mixed over the years with Arab settlers. They reside in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.
The Somali people are ancient and indigenous, descending from a common ancestor called Irir Samaale (Irir Samali), who migrated from the Ethiopian highlands and was likely of Cushitic Oromo ethnicity. The patriarch Samaale did not arrive in Somalia from Yemen during the 9th century and found the Somali ethnic group, as some Arab historians have claimed. Instead, Somalis are part of the African Cushitic ethnic group, and indigenous genetics make up 80% of the genes of Horn of Africans, which are found only among themselves. Recent genetic studies have shown that the Somalis are paternally related to certain Ethiopian groups, particularly Cushitic speakers. The Somali male population is a branch of the East African population, closely related to the Oromos in Ethiopia and North Kenya, and have predominant E1b1b1 cluster lineages. The Somalis are genetically distinct from other populations in Africa and are characterized by a sharp maternal influence of Caucasoid lineages in East Africa, although its contribution is higher than previously reported in mtDNA studies. According to the mtDNA study, Somali as a representative East African population seems to have experienced a detectable amount of Caucasoid maternal influence, and the proportion of Caucasoid lineages in the Somali is 46%. The Somali people, along with their fellow Ethiopian and Eritrean Northeast African populations, represent a unique and distinct biological group on the continent. The nomadic Somali people existed in Ethiopia long before the prehistoric paintings on the cave of Laas Gaal in Somalia were ever made, and it is believed that Irir Samale, a nomadic man who came from a nomadic Ethiopian tribe, migrated to Somalia. This migration of the Somali people from Ethiopia was facilitated by the repeated use of the Levantine corridor and the Horn of Africa as migratory corridors between Africa and Eurasia, which led to interbreeding between them, hence the presence of some Eurasia features among Somalis.
Here is detailed information about the study:
“The data suggest that the male Somali population is a branch of the East African population − closely related to the Oromos in Ethiopia and North Kenya −with predominant E3b1 [now “E1b1b1”] cluster lineages… and that the Somali male population has approximately 15% Y chromosomes from Eurasia and approximately 5% from sub-Saharan Besides comprising the majority of the Y DNA in Somalis, the E1b1b1a (formerly E3b1a) haplogroup also makes up a significant proportion of the paternal DNA of Ethiopians, Sudanese, Egyptians, Berbers, North African Arabs, as well as many Mediterranean and Balkan Europeans. The M78 subclade of E1b1b is found in about 77% of Somali males,which, according to Cruciani et al. (2007), may represent the traces of an ancient migration into the Horn of Africa from Egypt/Libya. After haplogroup E1b1b, the second most frequently occurring Y DNA haplogroup among Somalis is the Eurasian haplogroup T (M70),which is found in slightly more than 10% of Somali males. Haplogroup T, like haplogroup E1b1b, is also typically found among populations of Northeast Africa, North Africa, the Near East and the Mediterranean. According to mtDNA studies by Holden (2005) and Richards et al. (2006), a significant proportion of the maternal lineages of Somalis consists of the M1 haplogroup, which is common among Ethiopians and North Africans, particularly Egyptians and Algerians. M1 is believed to have originated in Asia, where its parent M clade represents the majority of mtDNA lineages (particularly in India). This haplogroup is also thought to possibly correlate with the Afro-Asiatic language family:
“We analysed mtDNA variation in ~250 persons from Libya, Somalia, and Congo/Zambia, as representatives of the three regions of interest. Our initial results indicate a sharp cline in M1 frequencies that generally does not extend into sub-Saharan Africa. While our North and especially East African samples contained frequencies of M1 over 20%, our sub-Saharan samples consisted almost entirely of the L1 or L2 haplogroups only. In addition, there existed a significant amount of homogeneity within the M1 haplogroup. This sharp cline indicates a history of little admixture between these regions. This could imply a more recent ancestry for M1 in Africa, as older lineages are more diverse and widespread by nature, and may be an indication of a back-migration into Africa from the Middle East.” Another mtDNA study indicates that:
“Somali, as a representative East African population, seem to have experienced a detectable amount of Caucasoid maternal influence… the proportion m of Caucasoid lineages in the Somali is m = 0.46 [46%]… Our results agree with the hypothesis of a maternal influence of Caucasoid lineages in East Africa, although its contribution seems to be higher than previously reported in mtDNA studies.” Overall, these genetic studies conclude that Somalis and their fellow Ethiopian and Eritrean Northeast African populations represent a unique and distinct biological group on the continent:
“The most distinct separation is between African and non-African populations. The northeastern-African — that is, the Ethiopian and Somali — populations are located centrally between sub-Saharan African and non-African populations… The fact that the Ethiopians and Somalis have a subset of the sub-Saharan African haplotype diversity — and that the non-African populations have a subset of the diversity present in Ethiopians and Somalis — makes simple-admixture models less likely; rather, these observations support the hypothesis proposed by other nuclear-genetic studies (Tishkoff et al. 1996a, 1998a, 1998b; Kidd et al. 1998) — that populations in northeastern Africa may have diverged from those in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa early in the history of modern African populations and that a subset of this northeastern-African population migrated out of Africa and populated the rest of the globe. These conclusions are supported by recent mtDNA analysis (Quintana-Murci et al. 1999).
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