Ancient DNA analysis sheds light on dark event in medieval Spain


An international research team led by the Archeogenetics Research Group at the University of Huddersfield, comprising geneticists, archaeologists and archaeologists, has published the genome sequence of a unique individual from medieval Islamic Spain, al- Andalus.whose results shed light on a brutal event that took place in medieval Spain.

The individual, which was discovered in an 11th-century Islamic necropolis in the town of Segorbe, near Valencia in Spain, is known to local archaeologists as the “Giant of Segorbe” due to its unusual size.

His skeleton had suggested that he might have African ancestors. Most of Spain had been gradually conquered by the Arabs and Berbers of Northwest Africa from the 8th century onwards, creating one of the main centers of medieval European civilization.

“What was particularly striking was that he was very different from the modern people of Valencia, who bear little or no of his Berber genetic heritage,” said Professor Martin Richards, director of the Center for Evolutionary Genomics Research.

The ancient DNA analysis was performed by Dr Marina Silva and Dr Gonzalo Oteo-Garcia, who were working on the University’s Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Fellowship Program in Evolutionary Genomics.

They discovered that the “Giant” carried very specific North African genetic lines on its male and female lineages – the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA – the oldest individual known to have this particular pattern of ancestry. This suggested that his recent ancestry was indeed part of the newly Islamized Berber populations of medieval Northwest Africa.

But a more detailed examination revealed a more complex situation. Male and female lineages are only a small fraction of our overall ancestry, that of the father of our father’s father and the mother of our mother’s mother, and so on.

His genome-wide ancestry has shown that he also carries a significant amount – probably more than half – of local Spanish ancestry in his chromosomes. Additionally, stable isotope analyzes suggested he likely grew up locally, meaning the giant’s Berber ancestry was actually due to migration from an earlier generation. He therefore belonged to a sedentary community which had deeply mixed the local Spanish ancestry and North African immigrant.

What was particularly striking, Richards revealed, was that he was very different from the modern people of Valencia, who carry little or no of his Berber genetic heritage.

This can be explained by the evolution of the political situation following the Christian reconquest of Spain as Oteo-Garcia, who recently started working at the University of Parma, explained: “The decree of expulsion of Moriscos from the Valencia region, i.e. Muslims who had previously forcibly converted to Christianity, was followed by the resettlement of people from the north, who had little North African ancestry, thus transforming the variation genetics in the region.

Silva, who now works at the Francis Crick Institute in London, said: The Giant of Segorbe and his contemporaries.

– This press release was originally published on the University of Huddersfield website

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