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Berbers of North-Africa

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  • Berbers of North-Africa

    Berbers were the inhabitants of North-Africa before Arabs arrived. Berbers are said to speak Afro-asiatic languages...actually not clear which afro-asiatic languages are close to Berber language (Semitic?).

    Which DNA are found among the Berbers? Also, since North-Africa has been conquered by different civilizations and people, is it really possible to know who is clearly berber and who isn't?

    A colleague of mine looks to me very Spanish...maybe her family was among the Spanish Muslims that had to leave Andalousia in 1492. But she thinks all Berbers are from Europe and that their ancestors were European invaders prior to Muslim era. I thought Berber/Mazigh was more a culture than a nationality and they could have many roots.

  • #2
    Berbers & mtDNA

    My U5 mtDNA looks somewhat related to a few Berbers, as reported in a couple of papers that I saw online. But then too, so do several present-day Iberians (Spaniards & Portuguese). But my maternal ancestral line comes from the British Isles, near as I can determine.



    • #3

      Berber's Y chromosome is predominantly E3b (of the M81 subgroup, which is different from the Mediterranean and from the Somalian ones)- as so is in general North African Y. I haven't seen much about mtdna, though from what I remember, North African mtdna, whether Berber or not, has may be 25% of typical African mtdna, and the rest European/Middle Eastern (that is, H, U and the like). Among the African portion, there is some L, and then two specific groups, M1 and U6. M1 is also very common in Ethiopia. M1 and U6 are believed to represent the first mtdna arrived in N Africa around 40K years ago.

      As you say, I haven't read anything about how this relates to the Berber culture per se. Ie, these haplogroups may have been there before the Berber culture and language arrived.

      I think I read that Berber is a separate branch of the Afro Asiatic family of languages. Semitic is another branch, and Ku****ic is another. Wikipedia seems to have a nice article. Among the things, it say that a common feature of Afro Asiatic language is:
      a set of emphatic consonants, variously realized as glottalized, pharyngealized, or implosive,

      I belive you speak Somali, so I guess you can evaluate this sentence...



      • #4
        See Macaulay et al (1999) Am. J. Hum. Genet. 64 232–249 (available online at the journal website) for an mtDNA case study on the origin of the Berbers. There are Near Eastern, European and Sub-Saharan African mtDNA influences. There are also some more recent papers by Maca-Meyer et al on the U6 haplogroup which is common among the Berbers.


        • #5

          thanks for the link. I looked at the paper, it seems to be the first paper to find and define haplogroup U6. Back then, they already said about it what the recent science paper on M1-U6 said, that is, that U6 is perhaps 40-50K years old.
          I did not see a clear table with the frequencies of haplogroups (and moreover, their sample is particular, certain populations are oversampled etc.), but altogether it seeems to confirm that berber are a mixture of European and middle eastern lineages (lots of H and V), subsaharan African (L's), and their specific U6 and M1.



          • #6
            From what I have read, the vast majority of North Africans are Berbers, whether they consider themselves to be or not. The Arab invasion was mainly a cultural, religious and linguistic phenomenon rather than a genetic one. I think under those circumstances you could effectively consider them all berbers.

            It seems however that Berbers are the original inhabitants of North Africa, rather than them being originally European then migrating. The reason your colleague may look Spanish is not that the Spaniards moved to North Africa but the other way around: The Moors conquered Spain and stayed for about 8 centuries. They built Andalusia. Sicily also has some Moorish influence.

            That being said it is undeniable that North Africa has had significant European genetic influx over the centuries. It was conquered by Romans, Vandals, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottomans and finally the French.


            • #7
              From what I have read about the Berbers in encylopedias, my wife seems like a good candidate for that kind of background. Her M1 matches with concentration in southwestern Europe along with her physical appearence and temprament seem to make a Berber ancestry possible.

              Now, match her ancestry with my Thracian background and perhaps I'll start to understand what's going on with our sons and daughters...


              • #8
                Berbers of North Africa

                For some information on Berber origins, haplogroups and distributions check these links:

                Background World-wide phylogeographic distribution of human complete mitochondrial DNA sequences suggested a West Asian origin for the autochthonous North African lineage U6. We report here a more detailed analysis of this lineage, unraveling successive expansions that affected not only Africa but neighboring regions such as the Near East, the Iberian Peninsula and the Canary Islands. Results Divergence times, geographic origin and expansions of the U6 mitochondrial DNA clade, have been deduced from the analysis of 14 complete U6 sequences, and 56 different haplotypes, characterized by hypervariable segment sequences and RFLPs. Conclusions The most probable origin of the proto-U6 lineage was the Near East. Around 30,000 years ago it spread to North Africa where it represents a signature of regional continuity. Subgroup U6a reflects the first African expansion from the Maghrib returning to the east in Paleolithic times. Derivative clade U6a1 signals a posterior movement from East Africa back to the Maghrib and the Near East. This migration coincides with the probable Afroasiatic linguistic expansion. U6b and U6c clades, restricted to West Africa, had more localized expansions. U6b probably reached the Iberian Peninsula during the Capsian diffusion in North Africa. Two autochthonous derivatives of these clades (U6b1 and U6c1) indicate the arrival of North African settlers to the Canarian Archipelago in prehistoric times, most probably due to the Saharan desiccation. The absence of these Canarian lineages nowadays in Africa suggests important demographic movements in the western area of this Continent.


                • #9
                  a disconnect DNA vs culture

                  I only dabble in Anthropology now & then, but it looks like our DNA evidence reflects the deep past, i.e. Late Pleistocene, whereas the linguistics and culture I keep seeing referred to are relatively recent.

                  Since some mtDNA of Berbers is European-derived (e.g. U5), that tells me that those Pleistocene hunters brought their women with them to North Africa. Spain must have been over populated when it was used as a refugium from the worst of the Ice Age, even though there was a drop in sea level, exposing more land. One guess is that the Mediterranean Monk Seal was severely over hunted, and that a few enterprising hunters dared to strike out for the African shore to gain access to more Monk Seals. Well, it's just an idle speculation of mine.
                  Last edited by PDHOTLEN; 27 June 2007, 07:12 PM.


                  • #10
                    Thanks for your replies

                    Thanks and sorry for not replying earlier. This past week was my last week before my vacation and I had to work hard to deserve the time off.

                    PDHOTLEN, so U5 is mediterranean Mtdna then. I like your speculation about the hunters and Monk Seals

                    Cacio, thanks for reminding me that Eb3 is also found in North-Africa and that Berber languages have their own branch. Many sounds are glottalized and pharyngealized in Somali but I am not sure about the emphatic consonants. I would think most if not many vowels are glotalized too. I never studied the language written and its phonetics but I will try to analyze it more.

                    Mickm, thanks for the info. Will check it some time.

                    Nls07, thanks for your input. You're right maybe what I consider Spanish look is actually a Berber or an Arabo-Berber look and was given from those who crossed the Gibraltar Strait (btw Tarek himself who gave the name to the strait-in Arabic it means Tarek's mountain/hill-was a Berber). As for the composition of the population in the "Maghreb" region, we cannot be sure about it but Morrocco is often said to have the biggest number of Berbers and mixed Berbers. I know language and roots are not always linked...Latin America has many Black Africans and Native Indians who consider themselves Hispanic and the same is true in Arabo-Muslim countries, many Arabs are more Berber or Black Africans; they're mostly Arab by culture and language.

                    Andrew M, are both you and your wife Eb3? In that case, your children are "pur" Eb3 and I am sure Eb3 kids are fine kids. Can you tell if they inherited the warmth temperament from the ancestors who came from the Red Sea and the South Mediterranean coast (was it a Red Sea at that time?)?

                    RealDealT, thanks for the links. I will check them soon.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Arimas

                      Andrew M, are both you and your wife Eb3? In that case, your children are "pur" Eb3 and I am sure Eb3 kids are fine kids. Can you tell if they inherited the warmth temperament from the ancestors who came from the Red Sea and the South Mediterranean coast (was it a Red Sea at that time?)?

                      I haven't been able to test my wife's paternal line or the male side of her maternal line. She was adopted from the day of her birth. But I understand her male side is Italian and female side (the M*) is French.

                      Our kids remind me of Well's description in The Journey of Man of a jump in evolution. They seem to enjoy baffling their parents.