Levantine DNA in Ethiopia May Support Biblical Story

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.

Medieval Monks and Recusants to be Reburied in England

Five monks , two men, and two women will be reburied two decades after they were discovered, and then forgotten, by archaeologists excavating  Eynsham Abbey, Oxfordshire. The four laypeople had been buried secretly, possibly because they were Catholic recusants and unwilling to to be buried according to protestant rites.

Nine bodies left languishing in a storeroom for decades will finally be laid to rest tomorrow.

Some of the skeletons, uncovered at Eynsham Abbey in an archaeological dig, have waited more than 400 years for a proper burial.

They were discovered in the late 1980s and early 1990s and kept in a storeroom at the Oxfordshire Museum’s Resource Centre in Standlake.

That was until their existence was discovered by a local priest, who decided to bring them back and return them to their rightful home.

Father Martin Flatman, of St Peter’s Church, in Abbey Street, Eynsham, said: “When I found out these bodies were still in a storeroom I felt very strongly that they should be reverently buried.

“I am particularly delighted that the three who were buried secretly will get a funeral.”

The bodies are of five medieval monks and a family of two males and two females, believed to have been Catholics, dating to the post-Reformation period.

It is believed they were buried in secret as they refused to give up their Catholic faith and receive a Protestant funeral.

They were discovered during a three-year archaeological dig which started on the site in 1989.

Eynsham Abbey was one of the last abbeys to be founded by the Saxon king Aethelred and was occupied for hundreds of years.

The buildings disappeared after the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in the 16th century.