Genetic researchers believe they’ve found evidence that people from Israel, Egypt, or Syria mixed with Ethiopians 3000 years ago. The timing of this appearance of the new DNA coincides with the historical period in which the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon. According to legend, the queen returned to Ethiopia bearing Solomon’s son.
Professor Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, a researcher on the study, told BBC News: “Genetics can tell us about historical events.
“By analysing the genetics of Ethiopia and several other regions we can see that there was gene flow into Ethiopia, probably from the Levant, around 3,000 years ago, and this fits perfectly with the story of the Queen of Sheba.”
Lead researcher Luca Pagani of the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute added: “The genetic evidence is in support of the legend of the Queen of Sheba.”
More than 200 individuals from 10 Ethiopian and two neighbouring African populations were analysed in the largest genetic investigation of its kind on Ethiopian populations.
About a million genetic letters in each genome were studied. Previous Ethiopian genetic studies have focussed on smaller sections of the human genome and mitochondrial DNA, which passes along the maternal line.
Dr Sarah Tishcoff of the Department of Genetics and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, said Ethiopia would be an important region to study in the future.
Commenting on the study, she said: “Ethiopia is a very diverse region culturally and linguistically but, until now, we’ve known little about genetic diversity in the region.
“This paper sheds light on the very interesting recent and ancient population history of a region that played an important role in both recent and ancient human migration events.
“In particular, the inference of timing and location of admixture with populations from the Levant is very interesting and is a unique example of how genetic data can be integrated with historical data.”
The scientists acknowledge that there are uncertainties about dating, with a probable margin of error of a few hundred years either side of 3,000 years.
Jumping straight to the Queen of Sheba seems like an awfully large leap, but it’s an interesting story nonetheless, and the time is suggestive.