Project reveals Türkiye’s ancient genetic profile


The results of a Turkey-based genetics project were published in the Science Journal, one of the world’s most respected scientific journals, as three related articles on August 25-26.


For the project, Turkish anthropologist and associate professor Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg studied finds unearthed during 15 years of archaeological excavations at Ilıpınar Mound in Marmara Province of Orhangazi District in Bursa.

Alpaslan-Roodenberg, who is part of the scientific team of the David Reich laboratory of the department of genetics of Harvard and has personally carried out studies in Türkiye and in certain Balkan countries in terms of anthropology and genetics, worked as co-president of the Türkiye section of the project, in collaboration with the head of the laboratory, David Reich.

Alpaslan-Roodenberg is one of the two lead authors of the paper, published in the journal Science, along with computer engineer and geneticist Losif Lazaridis of Harvard University. Two other important authors are Professor Ron Pinhasi, Head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Vienna, and David Reich. Besides the four authors, more than 200 anthropologists, museologists and geneticists also contributed significantly to the article.

Stating that in the late 1980s, the director of the Netherlands Archaeological Institute, Jacob Roodenberg, initiated archaeological excavations in Ilıpınar, Alpaslan-Roodenberg said: “Since the cultures of the Marmara region are similar to Balkan cultures of the same period, one of Jacob Roodenberg’s goals in this project, in which the Ilıpınar mound and several Neolithic mounds in the region were excavated from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, was to whether this culture went to the Balkans and Central Europe from this region. In 2014, an eight-year search for ancient DNA was launched by Harvard’s genetics department.


Speaking about the research, Alpaslan-Roodenberg said: “The question of whether the producers of these crops, i.e. these people, migrated to Europe from this region, could only be resolved. in the mid-2010s with advances in ancient DNA research. Now, with next-generation ancient DNA sequencing methods, by analyzing very little DNA obtained from ancient human bones, we can trace the migration routes of ancient societies and gain insights into their physical appearance. , such as hair, eyes, skin color, their relationship to each other, family and kinship relationships. We can learn the answers to many questions.

“In 2015-2016, a group of scientists from Harvard Ancient DNA Laboratory detected a genetic link between people living in Orhangazi Ilıpınar, Menteşe and Barcın mounds in Marmara region and early farmers in Central Europe, and the results were published in the journal Nature.Therefore, it has been proven for the first time that not only culture but also people went to Europe from this region.In other words, if you randomly choose people from the streets in central Europe, for example in Germany, and analyze their DNA, you will see that one in five people still carry the genes of those early farmers in Anatolia,” she added.

Alpaslan-Roodenberg, who also said Jacob Roodenberg’s thesis has been proven using genetics today, said she examined and analyzed the bones of early farmers unearthed during excavations in the Marmora region.


“We have been working with Harvard and Vienna Ancient DNA Laboratories since 2008, and I have personally been part of the science team at both labs. Small bone samples taken from some excavations in all geographical regions of Turkey since 2014 were analyzed in the old DNA labs in Vienna and Harvard with the latest methods, and the results were recently published in the latest issue of the journal Science. The study was conducted with the participation of more than 200 authors, mainly anthropologists and archaeologists from Turkey and its neighboring and Balkan countries. About 35 professionals from Türkiye museums and academics also participated,” she said.

She said the ancient genetic profile of Anatolia from the Neolithic period to the Ottoman Empire was revealed in the study, and added: “The analytical results of this very important study reveal that there is had two migrations to Anatolia in the Neolithic. Moreover, this study, which also genetically investigated the roots of the Indo-European language family, gives signs that the origins of this language could lie in the steppes and the Caucasus.


“An interesting finding is that there was no steppe origin in Anatolia until the Bronze Age, which also raises the question of why Anatolia was not open to migrations from the north. Only new studies and analyzes can give a clear answer to these questions, because there were Hittites in the Bronze Age in Anatolia and these people spoke a language that entered the Indo-European language family. How did it happen? New studies will reveal that,” she said.

Alpaslan-Roodenberg said another finding is that the Urartian civilization centered on Van in eastern Anatolia originated in the Levant and Anatolia. “Analysis of the samples from the Van region proved that the Urartians originated from the earlier societies of the region and originated in the Levant, while the samples taken from the extensions of the Urartians in present-day Armenia showed that they were of local and steppe origin,” she said.

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