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A New Study Demonstrates Swahili and Persians Were Pairing Up 1,000 Years Ago
While the study confirms that there was significant intermarriage between the two groups, it also found evidence that suggests the relationship was more complex than previously thought.
A new study published in the journal Nature1 last month, reveals that Swahili women in eastern Africa paired up with men from Persia, or modern-day Iran, around 1,000 years ago. The study's authors, led by Mark Horton of the University of Bristol in England, analyzed the ancient DNA of 80 people buried in six medieval and early modern towns along the Swahili coast. They found that the majority of male ancestors came from Asia, particularly Persia, while the majority of female ancestors came from Africa.
This finding suggests that there was significant intermarriage between Swahili and Persian people during this time period. The authors believe that this intermarriage may have been due to trade and cultural exchange between the two regions. The Swahili coast was a major trading hub at the time, and Persian merchants would have been frequent visitors. It is also possible that these merchants would have married local women, or that Swahili men would have married Persian women.
The authors also believe that this intermarriage may have helped to spread Islam to the Swahili coast. Islam was introduced to the region in the 8th century, and it quickly became the dominant religion. The authors believe that Persian merchants may have played a role in spreading Islam, and that they may have married local women in order to do so.
This study provides new insights into the history of the Swahili coast. It shows that the region was not isolated from the rest of the world, and that it was open to trade and cultural exchange. The study also suggests that Islam may have spread to the region through intermarriage between Swahili and Persian people.
Brielle, E.S., Fleisher, J., Wynne-Jones, S. et al. Entwined African and Asian genetic roots of medieval peoples of the Swahili coast. Nature 615, 866–873 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05754-w