Written records have detailed the varied histories of human groups over the past few thousand years. While some groups remained isolated, other groups spread far and wide across the globe. When they did, they encountered and “mixed” with other human groups – mixing both their people and their DNA. That history has left its signature in present-day DNA.
In new scientific research at the University of College London and Oxford University, DNA alone was used to create a comprehensive atlas detailing which human groups may have mixed their people and DNA over the past several thousand years – and when. Using DNA from people from almost one hundred contemporary populations across the world, the researchers identified when in history certain human groups may have mixed with others.
In some cases, the estimated dates match up remarkably well with what we know from our history textbooks. For instance, patterns of DNA in Central Eurasia support the 13th century spread of the Mongol Empire led by the infamous Genghis Khan. The researchers also find DNA evidence of European and African mixture into the Americas in the 16th century during the Colonial Era and the Spanish conquest of the Maya. In research at AncestryDNA, we’ve identified similar evidence of European admixture into Latin America.
The exciting thing about this latest study is that by using a new sophisticated method that looks at patterns in chunks of DNA in present-day human populations, DNA itself has put accurate dates on these mixing events. The method may even help to uncover events that aren’t recorded in written history. And, the researchers have created a cool interactive map to present their findings.
We’re inspired by the new scientific research coming out of the University of College London and Oxford University because it shows the incredible potential of DNA research. While history can inform our interpretations about patterns in DNA, DNA also can shed new light into history.
At AncestryDNA, we’re working hard to develop and use our own advanced methods to help you discover even more about your own history.
About Julie Granka
Julie has been a population geneticist at AncestryDNA since May 2013. Before that, Julie received her Ph.D. in Biology and M.S. in Statistics from Stanford University, where she studied genetic data from human populations and developed computational tools to answer questions about population history and evolution. She also spent time collecting and studying DNA using spit-collection tubes like the ones in an AncestryDNA kit. Julie likes to spend her non-computer time enjoying the outdoors – hiking, biking, running, swimming, camping, and picnicking. But if she’s inside, she’s baking, drawing, and painting.