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In the open thread someone asked: “Any recent stuff on the genetics of Ethiopians.” That prompted me to look around, because I’m curious too.
Ethiopia is interesting because unlike almost all other Sub-Saharan African nations it has a long written history.Culturally and linguistically it has both Sub-Saharan African, and non-Sub-Saharan African, affinities.The languages of highland Ethiopia are clearly Semitic.Those of lowland Ethiopia are Cushitic, a branch of the broader Afro-Asiatic language family concentrated around the Horn of Africa (Somali is a Cushitic language, though most Ethiopian nationals who speak a Cushitic dialect are of the Oromo group).From a human evolutionary genetic perspective, Ethiopia also has specific interest.It is likely that the main recent pulse of humans Out of Africa traversed this region.
Additionally, there is some evidence of deep time connections between the groups ancestral to Ethiopians and the Khoisan of southern Africa.It may be that Ethiopians and Khoisan are reservoirs of ancient genetic variation in Sub-Saharan Africa which as been overlain by Bantu in most other regions outside of West Africa.Finally, Ethiopians are known to have high altitude adaptations.This could be due to long term residence in the region, or, assimilation of favorable alleles from the long term residents by later populations.Fortunately we can get a sense of the genetic affinities of Ethiopians thanks to a paper published last spring, The genome-wide structure of the Jewish people.The focus was clearly on Jews, but they surveyed Amhara & Tigray (Semitic speaking highlanders), Ethiopian Jews (similar ethnically to the Amhara & Tigray, but religiously non-Christian), and Oromo.