An international team of scientists sequenced the genome of an individual who lived in the 11th century in medieval Muslim Spain (Al Ándalus) and whose remains were found in 1999 in the town of Segobre, located about 30 kilometers north of the Spanish city. from Valencia, near the Mediterranean coast.
The skeleton, nicknamed by archaeologists ‘the giant of Segorbe’ Due to its unusual 190 centimeters in height – an enormous stature for the time – it was found in a Muslim necropolis and later identified as a descendant of North African Berbers thanks to an osteological analysis.
A genetic study then confirmed that identification and found that both direct lines of the individual – both paternal and maternal – they were indeed African. At that stage of the investigation it was possible to conclude that it was a descendant of recent immigrants who was not genetically related to the local population.
However, a more detailed analysis showed that the situation is more complex. Outside of the direct lines, the ‘giant’ had a considerable percentage of Iberian ancestry, of more than half of the total. Furthermore, stable isotope analysis showed that grew up in the area. Together, these evidences indicated that the individual came from an established community that had intermingled with the local population.
But the most surprising thing was that the individual presented a great genetic difference with the contemporary population of Valencia, whose Berber heritage is little or no. Behind this difference could be a political decision that violently changed the demographic landscape of the region in 1609.
“The decree of expulsion of the Moors of the Valencia region, that is, of Muslims who had already forcibly converted to Christianity, was followed by the resettlement of people further north, who had little North African descent, which transformed genetic variation in the region “, says one of the study authors, Gonzalo Oteo-García, quoted by a statement from the University of Huddersfield (United Kingdom) published this Thursday.
“The impact of this dramatic change on the population, the result of a brutal political decision hundreds of years ago, can finally be witnessed directly through ancient DNA, as seen here in the ancestry of the ‘Segorbe giant’ and his contemporaries” , says his colleague, Marina Silva.
The study saw light in the journal Nature Scientific Reports last Monday.