Late Pleistocene North-African Genomes present deep genetic relationship with Near East and sub-Saharan Africa

by Johannes Krause

North Africa connects sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia and is tremendously important for our understanding of human settlement history. However, the genetic history of people in this region is largely unknown. Here, we present genomic data from seven 15,000-year-old Pleistocene individuals from Grotte des Pigeons, Taforalt, Morocco, attributed to the Iberomaurusian culture. We find a strong genetic affinity of these ancient individuals with early Holocene Near Easterners, best represented by Levantine Natufians, suggesting a pre-agricultural connection between Africa and the Near East. We do not find evidence for gene flow from Palaeolithic Europeans into Late Pleistocene North Africans as previously suggested based on archaeological connections. Finally, the Taforalt individuals derive one third of their ancestry from sub-Saharan Africans, best approximated by a mixture of genetic components preserved in present-day West and East Africans. Our results provide the earliest direct evidence so far for genetic interactions between people on the African and Eurasian continents.