Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 11 (5), e0155046
eCollection

A European Mitochondrial Haplotype Identified in Ancient Phoenician Remains From Carthage, North Africa

Affiliations

A European Mitochondrial Haplotype Identified in Ancient Phoenician Remains From Carthage, North Africa

Elizabeth A Matisoo-Smith et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

While Phoenician culture and trade networks had a significant impact on Western civilizations, we know little about the Phoenicians themselves. In 1994, a Punic burial crypt was discovered on Byrsa Hill, near the entry to the National Museum of Carthage in Tunisia. Inside this crypt were the remains of a young man along with a range of burial goods, all dating to the late 6th century BCE. Here we describe the complete mitochondrial genome recovered from the Young Man of Byrsa and identify that he carried a rare European haplogroup, likely linking his maternal ancestry to Phoenician influenced locations somewhere on the North Mediterranean coast, the islands of the Mediterranean or the Iberian Peninsula. This result not only provides the first direct ancient DNA evidence of a Phoenician individual but the earliest evidence of a European mitochondrial haplogroup, U5b2c1, in North Africa.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Fig 1
Fig 1. Final read depth and coverage for the mitochondrial genome of the ancient Phoenician from Carthage.
The red line shows the mean read-depth of 33.15x.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Base frequency 5’ and 3’ of strand breaks.
The gray brackets indicate the start and end of molecules (strand breaks). Frequencies are displayed for A, G, C, and T for the 10 bases 5’ and 3’ of the breaking site. The top panel shows that merged reads have an elevated frequency of purines (A and G) before strand breaks; this is consistent with the DNA molecules being ancient [36]. The bottom panel shows that unmerged reads have an elevated frequency of purines (A and G) before 5’ strand breaks but not 3’ strand breaks, this has occurred because mapDamage utilizes only the first read of a pair to calculate these frequencies. As the end of the first-read does not represent the end of the molecule, we would not expect to see an elevated purine frequency at the 3’ breaking site. Therefore, these results are consistent with the longer unmerged reads being ancient.
Fig 3
Fig 3. C to T nucleotide misincorporations for the first and last 25 bases of endogenous mtDNA fragments.
Red T; green C; blue A; purple G. The top panel shows that merged reads have an increased frequency of T at the 5’ end and A at the 3’ end (G to A misincorporation on the opposite strand of C to T misincorporation), a typical pattern of ancient DNA damage [35, 36]. The bottom panel shows that unmerged paired-end reads have an elevated frequency of T at the 5’ end, but in contrast with the above panel no increase in A at the 3’ end. This has occurred because mapDamage utilizes only the first read of a pair to calculate these frequencies. As the end of the first-read does not contain the sequence of the entire molecule, we would not expect to see an elevated A frequency at the end of the read. Therefore, these results are consistent with the unmerged reads originating from larger DNA fragments being ancient.
Fig 4
Fig 4. Key variable sites from rCRS found in the young man from Byrsa, with the marker path of mutations defining Haplogroup U to U5b2c1.
Note, the mutation 16192T was not present in our sample.
Fig 5
Fig 5. A maximum likelihood (ML) tree for the ancient Phoenician (KT760574) and other publicly available U5b2c sequences.
All samples other than our Phoenician and the La Braña sample are from modern populations. Each node is annotated with the GenBank accession number or sample identification (e.g. Z2478 from [33]), source or author if published, and the origin of the sample if recorded [, –42].

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 8 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles

References

    1. Aubet ME. The Phoenicians and the West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1997.
    1. Gilboa A. Sea Peoples and Phoenicians along the Southern Phoenician Coast—A Reconciliation: An Interpretation of Šikila (SKL) Material Culture. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 2005;337:47–78.
    1. McMahon G. Reflections of a Late Bronze Age Empire: The Hittites. The Biblical Archaeologist. 1989;52(2/3):62–77.
    1. Carpenter R. Phoenicians in the West. American Journal of Archaeology. 1958;62(1):35–53.
    1. Morel J-P. Les Fouilles de Byrsa (Secteur B) a Carthage. Comptes Rendus des Seances 2011;1:325–63.

Publication types

Substances

Grant support

Funding was provided by the Department of Anatomy, University of Otago. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Feedback