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Sam Morris: Structure and ancestry patterns of Ethiopians in genome-wide autosomal DNA

We review some of the current insights derived from the analyses of new large-scale, genome-wide autosomal variation data studies incorporating Ethiopians.

Consistent with their substantial degree of cultural and linguistic diversity, genetic diversity among Ethiopians is higher than that seen across much larger geographic regions worldwide.

This genetic variation is associated in part with ethnic identity, geography and linguistic classification. Numerous and varied admixture events have been inferred in Ethiopian groups, for example, involving sources related to present-day groups in West Eurasia and North Africa, with inferred dates spanning a few hundred to more than 4500 years ago.

These disparate inferred ancestry patterns are correlated in part with groups’ broad linguistic classifications, though with some notable exceptions. While deciphering these complex genetic signals remains challenging with available data, these studies and other projects focused on resolving competing hypotheses on the origins of specific ethnolinguistic groups demonstrate how genetic analyses can complement findings from anthropological and linguistic studies on Ethiopians.

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