Moving along the Roman Peace

Rami_Malek_in_Hollywood,_CaliforniaA friend of mine introduced me to Mr. Robot a month ago. The show was difficult for me to follow, and I don’t watch much TV in the first place (“watching TV” is like making a “mix tape”; there’s not television involved anymore). But, the star, Rami Malek, had an intriguing look.

It was only later that I realized why: his face resembled the Fayum portraits. These miniatures represented people in Roman Egypt from all walks of life. They are one of the best set of representations we have of normal individuals, albeit, prosperous enough to commission these works.

Malek is from a Coptic family, so presumably genetically representative of people in Roman Egypt during that time. It stands to reason that he’d look quite like many of these ancient Romans.

italianAnyway, I happen to have some data laying around put it through PCA, Treemix and ADMIXTURE. If you click the plot to the left PC 1 shows a cline from Sardinians to Lithuanians. PC 2 is from (modern) Egyptians to Basques. The Egyptians are clearly being shifted by their Sub-Saharan African admixture, which in other analyses usually comes in at between 10% to 25% depending on the individual. The Assyrian Christian samples, and Cypriots, are much closer to the other populations on PC 2 (several of the Lebanese). Then the Sicilians, Tuscans, Bergamo Northern Italians, and Spanish (before the Basque).

Sometimes Treemix is more informative. Below is a pretty representative graph with 5 migration edges (I set Egyptians to be the root):

Screenshot 2016-10-24 22.39.38

And here’s K = 4.


These sorts of plots are a Rorschach test. But, I’m pretty sure ancient DNA will confirm that migration around the Mediterranean during the Classical Era was non-trivial, but, the minor component in the ancestry of most modern populations.

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