The history of African gene flow into Southern Europeans, Levantines, and Jews

PLoS Genet. 2011 Apr;7(4):e1001373. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001373. Epub 2011 Apr 21.


Previous genetic studies have suggested a history of sub-Saharan African gene flow into some West Eurasian populations after the initial dispersal out of Africa that occurred at least 45,000 years ago. However, there has been no accurate characterization of the proportion of mixture, or of its date. We analyze genome-wide polymorphism data from about 40 West Eurasian groups to show that almost all Southern Europeans have inherited 1%-3% African ancestry with an average mixture date of around 55 generations ago, consistent with North African gene flow at the end of the Roman Empire and subsequent Arab migrations. Levantine groups harbor 4%-15% African ancestry with an average mixture date of about 32 generations ago, consistent with close political, economic, and cultural links with Egypt in the late middle ages. We also detect 3%-5% sub-Saharan African ancestry in all eight of the diverse Jewish populations that we analyzed. For the Jewish admixture, we obtain an average estimated date of about 72 generations. This may reflect descent of these groups from a common ancestral population that already had some African ancestry prior to the Jewish Diasporas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asian People
  • Black People / genetics*
  • Chromosomes / genetics
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Ethnicity / genetics*
  • Gene Flow*
  • Gene Pool
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Human*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Jews / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • White People