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Anatolian Genetic History Project

Curatorial Section

Physical Anthropology

Research Discipline

Biological Anthropology


2004 - 2012

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The Anatolian Genetic History Project is a detailed genetic and ethnographic study of populations living in Central Anatolia to elucidate their origins and affinities with European, Near Eastern and Central Asian groups.

Location Information

We are working in various parts of Central Anatolia in the regions surrounding Ankara, and hope to expand this work to other areas of Turkey.

Time Period Studied

We are working with contemporary populations from different parts of Turkey, but are exploring aspects of Anatolian history through DNA studies that extend beyond 15,000 years ago.

  • Theodore G. Schurr, University of Pennsylvania
  • Aysim Tug, Ankara Medical University
  • Erksin Gulec, Ankara University
  • Timur Gultekin, University of Ankara
  • Omer Gokcumen, University of Pennsylvania
  • Yesim Dogan Alakoc, Ankara Medical University
  • Penn Department of Anthropology, National Science Foundation, Ankara Medical University
Project Overview

This project is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Ankara University, and Ankara Medical University. Together, we are conducting a detailed genetic and ethnographic study of populations living in Central Anatolia to elucidate their origins and affinities with European, Near Eastern and Central Asian groups. We are also exploring the biological and cultural diversity in contemporary villages from this region.

To accomplish these goals, we are examining genetic markers that provide information about the ancestry and migration history of human groups. These markers occur in the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA and paternally inherited Y-chromosome, as well as in autosomes inherited from both parents. Because of their inheritance patterns, we can trace these markers back through maternal and paternal lines in human families from the present to the distant past with a relatively high degree of accuracy. We can also reconstruct patterns of human movement through geographic areas by tracking the spread of these lineages in different human groups.

At a broad geographic level, we are investigating the population dynamics of the past several millennia and assessing the influence of the Neolithic expansion and the Turkic invasion on the biogenetic composition of Central Anatolian groups. In addition, through studying cultural practices, oral history and genetic diversity at the local level, we may be able to elucidate connections between and within village groups that have not been observed in previous genetic studies of Turkish populations. By working at the local level, we should also be able to delineate patterns of diversity resulting from long-term inhabitation versus those arising from recent immigration into the region.

A final and long term goal of this project is to build a comparative database with which to compare evidence obtained from ancient DNA studies in the region. The data from modern populations will allow us and other researchers to assess the extent of biological and cultural continuity between ancient and modern Anatolian groups.

Overall, this project will create a deeper understanding of Central Anatolia prehistory and provide new insights into major anthropological questions concern cultural transitions, human migrations and identity formation in this region.

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