On the one hand Egypt clearly views itself as a member of the Arab world. Nasser advocated pan-Arab unity, Egypt is a prominent member of the Arab league, Arabic is the national language, etc. On the other hand, going through the Wikipedia page it doesn't seem like the ancient Egyptians were ever wiped out or exiled the way other ancient people were when conquered. And the Arab conquest did not also include an overwhelming number of settlers.

Am I correct that modern day Egyptians are primarily the genetic descendants of ancient Egyptians? Or is there some catastrophic event in Egyptian history that I am missing?

  • 3
    No catastrophic event is necessary. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus
    – Spencer
    Jun 4 '20 at 22:32
  • @Spencer Genetics doesn't work that way. Of course the people are different individuals. The question is what their genetic makeup is. We can compare the genetic makeup of modern people to see what percentage of their ancestors were from which genetic group. The genetic markers stay (unlike old wood) because they are passed down through the generations. Jun 4 '20 at 23:01
  • I'm confused by closing this as too basic. Given that the genome technology to answer this is very new, and likely quite primitive compared to even the very near future, and the current sample sizes are very small, it seems this is an open question for which the answwer might change over the next few years. Jun 5 '20 at 11:33
  • 2
    I can't support a re-open vote. There is no research in the question, and it deals with issues of race/ethnicity/culture without defining the terms rigorously. What does Nasser's viewpoint have to do with genetic continuity? Most importantly, how is the information useful? How would it help us to better understand history? At least for me, the answer is more likely to promote prejudice than to illuminate history.
    – MCW
    Jun 5 '20 at 12:06
  • 2
    Googling the question gives Ancient Egyptian mummy genomes suggest an increase of Sub-Saharan African ancestry in post-Roman periods at the top of the page, closely followed by DNA history of Egypt. If you explain why these do not answer your question, you'll have a much better chance of getting this reopened. Jun 5 '20 at 12:42

This analysis in Nature from May 2017 [#1] states:

Here we present 90 mitochondrial genomes as well as genome-wide data sets from three individuals obtained from Egyptian mummies. The samples recovered from Middle Egypt span around 1,300 years of ancient Egyptian history from the New Kingdom to the Roman Period. Our analyses reveal that ancient Egyptians shared more ancestry with Near Easterners than present-day Egyptians, who received additional sub-Saharan admixture in more recent times.

This suggests to me that there is descendancy in modern Egyptians from Ancient Egyptians, but also considerable new admixture from sub-Saharan populations. Make of that what you will.

These are small sample sizes, likely of rather primitive technology compared to what might be possible in even just a few more years, and so must be regarded as tentative conclusions, but the best possible at this time.


  1. Schuenemann, V. J. et al. Ancient Egyptian mummy genomes suggest an increase of Sub-Saharan African ancestry in post-Roman periods. Nat. Commun. 8, 15694 doi: 10.1038/ncomms15694 (2017).)

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