It is commonly thought that high-level mobility led to the spread of ideas and material culture in ancient rising cities leading to urbanism. However, new genetic research from the ancient world’s most important trading hub offers a different reasoning. An international team of scientists examined DNA data from 110 skeletal remains in West Asia from about 7,500 years ago; the remains were discovered from archaeological sites from Turkey, the Northern Levant and even countries on the Mediterranean coast such as Israel, Jordan and Azerbaijan. Based on the results from experiments and analysis by researchers, scientists explained two events that could have led to long-term genetic mixing and gradual population movements in West Asia- one of the events is said to be around 8,500 years ago while the other one around 4,000 years ago. The researchers concluded that rather than the period being characterized by dramatic migrations or grand conquests, a slow mixing of different populations was more likely.

By using these results and studying archaeology, the researchers concluded something that was contrary to common belief. The interconnectivity within Western Asia and migrations took place due to the exchange of ideas and material culture rather than being the other way around. Approximately 8,500 years ago populations across Anatolia and Southern Caucasus began mixing which resulted in a gradual change in genetic profile that slowly spread, over a millennium, across both the regions and even entered into what is now Northern Iraq.

However, researches found a few cases where the mixing of populations wasn’t quite as gradual. They looked at data from ancient cities that are Southern Turkey and Northern Syria today and discovered that around 4,000 years ago the Northern Levant experienced a sudden introduction of new people. The timing corresponded with a severe drought in Northern Mesopotamia which is likely considered to be the reason for the mass migration. This research is significant as it is a new way to look into our past civilizations; rather than just understanding the past through artifacts, genetics could be examined to study ancient civilizations.

References:

Filling gaps in our understanding of how cities began to rise:
https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/05/genetic-research-offers-insight-into-rise-of-first-cities

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