mtDNA from the Early Bronze Age to the Roman Period Suggests a Genetic Link between the Indian Subcontinent and Mesopotamian Cradle of Civilization
Henryk W. Witas, Jacek Tomczyk, Krystyna Jędrychowska-Dańska, Gyaneshwer Chaubey, Tomasz Płoszaj
Ancient DNA methodology was applied to analyse sequences extracted from freshly unearthed remains (teeth) of 4 individuals deeply deposited in slightly alkaline soil of the Tell Ashara (ancient Terqa) and Tell Masaikh (ancient Kar-Assurnasirpal) Syrian archaeological sites, both in the middle Euphrates valley. Dated to the period between 2.5 Kyrs BC and 0.5 Kyrs AD the studied individuals carried mtDNA haplotypes corresponding to the M4b1, M49 and/or M61 haplogroups, which are believed to have arisen in the area of the Indian subcontinent during the Upper Paleolithic and are absent in people living today in Syria. However, they are present in people inhabiting today’s Tibet, Himalayas, India and Pakistan. We anticipate that the analysed remains from Mesopotamia belonged to people with genetic affinity to the Indian subcontinent since the distribution of identified ancient haplotypes indicates solid link with populations from the region of South Asia-Tibet (Trans-Himalaya). They may have been descendants of migrants from much earlier times, spreading the clades of the macrohaplogroup M throughout Eurasia and founding regional Mesopotamian groups like that of Terqa or just merchants moving along trade routes passing near or through the region. None of the successfully identified nuclear alleles turned out to be ΔF508 CFTR, LCT-13910T or Δ32 CCR5.
Figure 1. Phylogenetic position and mutation differences identified in studied specimens and retrieved in moderns.
- Four specimens unearthed at Tell Masaikh and Tell Ashara archaeological sites in the middle Euphrates valley. B. Haplotypes found in people living today in Tibet , Himalayas  and Pakistan  lacking 16311 mutation (reverse mutation) as observed in MK 11G 107. C. Haplotype profiles of scientific staff involved in collection of skeletal material, DNA isolation and its analysis. Mutation differences are shown using revised Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS) . doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073682.g001
Figure 4. Median joining network  of four individuals living in the middle Euphrates valley between 0.2 Kyrs AD and 2.5 Kyrs BC.
M–J network of three observed haplogroups (M49, M61 and M4b) shows the distribution of haplotypes among populations from different geographical regions. Circle sizes are proportional to the number of mtDNAs with that haplotype. The data has been taken from published and unpublished sources given in supplementary (Table S3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073682.g004