Explanation of the Pattern of P49a,f TaqI RFLP Y-Chromosome Variation in Egypt
Professor S. O. Y. Keita, Howard University
African Archaeological Review, Vol. 22, No. 2, June 2005
Interactions between Nubia and Egypt (and the Sahara as well) occurred in the period between 4000 and 3000 B.C. (the predynastic) Wilkinson (1999) after Hoffman (1982), and citing evidence from Needler (1984), Williams (1986), and Adams (1996). Some items of material culture were shared in the phase called Naqada I between the Nubian A-Group and upper Egypt (3900–3650 B.C.). There is good evidence for a zone of cultural overlap and therefore a basis for social interaction.
There is a caveat for lower Egypt. If neolithic/predynastic northern Egyptian populations were characterized by higher frequencies of VII and VIII (from Near Eastern sources), then immigration could have actually brought more V and XI from Saharan sources in the later northern neolithic, or even via migration from upper Egypt. However, the hypothesis that food production and the Afroasiatic language family came together from the Near East by demic diffusion—the mass movement of people versus culture-is not supported by either linguistics (as discussed) or archaeology. Wheat and barley agriculture in northern Egypt first appears as part of an indigenous foraging strategy. Therefore the appearance of these grains and ovacaprines is not associated with an abrupt change to the kind of subsistence pattern and settlement that would be signalled by the massive immigration of settler colonists from the Near East, where agriculture had been practiced for some 2000 years before it appeared in Egypt. There is another issue with regards to lower Egypt. The ancient Egyptians interpreted their unifying king, Narmer (either the last of Dynasty 0, or the first of Dynasty I), as having been upper Egyptian and moving from south to north with victorious armies (Gardiner, 1961; Hassan, 1988; Wilkinson, 1999). Southern predynastic culture, the basis of the dynastic Egypt, did move north by the end of the predynastic period (Bard, 1994), and was the foundation of dynastic culture.
Dynasty I brought the political conquest (and cultural extirpation/or absorption?) of the A-Group Nubian kingdom Ta Seti by Egyptian kings (Wilkinson, 1999). It is important to note that Ta Seti (or Ta Sti, Ta Sety) was the name of the southernmost nome (district) of upper Egypt recorded in later times (Gardiner, 1961). Egypt continued activities in Nubia in later Dynasty I (Wilkinson, 1999; Emery, 1961). Later in the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period Nubians were mercernaries in Egypt, and in some cases became bioculturally assimilated, such as at Gebelein. A different reading of the documents interpreted as indicating the defeat of Nubia by Dynasty I Egyptian kings is that these rulers were defending Nubian allies who had assisted them in consolidating Egypt from attacks by other Nubians (Trigger, 1976; see also Williams, 1986 for the hypothesis of a more direct Nubian intervention in predynastic upper Egypt). Over the dynastic period Nubians were continuously brought into Egyptian armies as mercenaries—sometimes even to fight other Nubians (Trigger, 1976). There was steady Nubian contact, especially in upper Egypt. In later times it was also kings or leaders from the south, with southern armies and sometimes Nubian mercernaries, who restored unity to Egypt; this was the case for the Dynasty XI rulers made possible the Middle Kingdom, whose pharaohs subsequently also raided Nubia as noted by Lucotte and Mercier (2003a), establishing forts there. However, Middle Kingdom forts did not hold large populations (Trigger, 1976), and therefore likely had little population impact.
The New Kingdom, which was made possible by Dynasty XVII southern upper Egyptians who expelled the Hyksos, later conquered and effectively colonized lower and upper Nubia to the fourth cataract. There was an Egyptianization of Nubian elites that later extended to the masses, and Egyptians were even settled deep in upper Nubia (central Sudan) (Trigger, 1976); some Nubians came, or were brought to upper Egypt. In contrast to this New Kingdom 500 year colonization the Nubian control of Egypt was less than 100 years, and there was no policy of settler colonization. Curiously the frequencies of V in Nubia do not exceed those of IV in Upper Egypt as might be expected given the long occupation.
Taking a long and synthetic view, one compelling scenario is as follows: Afroasiatic speaking populations, of African origin, who can be inferred to have had predominantly, but not only haplotype V (and XI), and Nilosaharan speakers (mainly haplotypes IV and XI) became established in the Sahara and Nile Valley after the post glacial maximum. Pre-neolithic migration into the Levant would have established the speakers of pre-proto-Semitic in that region. Later, mid-holocene climatic-driven migrations led to a major settlement of the valley in upper Egypt and Nubia, but less so in lower Egypt, by diverse Saharans having haplotypes IV, XI, and also V. These peoples fused with the indigenous valley peoples, as did Near Easterners with VII and VIII, but perhaps also some V in a back migration, which was likely far more important in the Islamic period. With population growth the genetic profiles would have become stabilized. Nubian and upper Egyptian proximity and on some level shared culture of whatever nature, Nubia’s later political absorption in Dynasty I, and ongoing interactions before the Middle Kingdom, provided the circumstances for ongoing social intercourse and gene flow. This would have created or reinforced a notable biological similarity that likely existed before the beginning of the predynastic between groups that were likely ethnolinguistically, and initially politically distinct. The evidence would suggest that some Nubians became Egyptians—and vice versa by biocultural assimilation. Considering all of this the later military migrations would have contributed to a basically established genetic profile, but not have been its primary cause. This argument also works for the findings of Krings et al. (1999), for maternally inherited mtDNA; the military explanation is not supported by ethnographic data indicating that either women fought or travelled with armies and made themselves available to foreign men.
In summary, late pleistocene, early and mid-holocene and Dynasty I population movements that can be related respectively to language family dispersals, droughts and Nile Valley settlement, mating patterns, social interactions other than warfare, as well as the effects of state level conflicts should be integrated into discussions of Nile Valley population history. It is hypothesized that the events of the early settling of the Nile Valley and interactions through Dynasty I, and ongoing population growth, had as much of a role in generating the Nile Valley profile for the p49a,f TaqI Y haplotypes, as did military events occurring in the Middle Kingdom and later. In this view these latter events, while contributory, were not the primary determinants of the patterns now observed.
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Map of Nubia