2 min readStudy Reveals Legacies Left Behind by Crusader

Results from a recent study, aimed at testing the hypothesis that migrations within historical times could have contributed to the Y-chromosomal (male) genetic diversity in modern day Lebanon, have revealed the legacies left behind by these travellers.

The findings come from the Genographic Project which seeks to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species and answer questions surrounding the genetic diversity of humanity.

The study was performed by a global team of Genographic scientists, led by Dr. Pierre Zalloua of Lebanese American University, Beirut and Dr. Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

The team made use of comparative data from Genographic public participants living in Europe. Over 8,000 people from France, Italy and the UK have now participated – anonymously – in the project, and a subset of their data was used for comparative purposes to track the expansion of these lineages during the time of the Crusades.

The analysis looked at the Y chromosomes of 926 men from the Christian, Muslim and Druze communities of Lebanon and revealed that recent historical migrations had detectable consequences.
The researchers found that Lebanese Christian men are more likely to carry genetic signatures found in Europe – and thought to have been carried there by the Crusades; Lebanese Muslim men are more likely to carry genetic signatures deriving from the Muslim expansions of the 7th and 8th centuries.

The study further revealed that Lebanese populations are very closely related, and the novel findings result from a detailed analysis of many more markers and many more people than has been attempted before. However, over the past 1400 years geographically distinct populations from Europe and the Arabian Peninsula have entered Lebanon.

A genetic signature called WES1 that is found only in European populations was found also in Lebanese Christian men. Also, Lebanese Muslim men have very high frequencies of J1, typical of the populations of the Arabian Peninsula that were involved in the Muslim expansion. The study found no impact of the Ottoman expansion from Turkey in the 16th century.

Genographic Associate Researcher Chris Tyler-Smith said: “We are fortunate that the history of Lebanon is so well documented. History gives us a perfect starting point and historians have known about these migrations for centuries. Now we geneticists can detect them as well. It shows how powerful genetics has become and is great news for future studies of places where we don’t know so much about the history.”
The findings were recently published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

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