Genetic history of North Africa
The genetic history of North Africa has been heavily influenced by geography. The Sahara desert to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the North were important barriers to gene flow in prehistoric times. However, Northeast Africa and the Levant form a single land mass at the Suez. At the Straits of Gibraltar, North Africa and Europe are separated by only 15 km (9 mi). At periods of low sea-levels, such as during a glacial maximum, islands that are currently submerged would appear in the Mediterranean and possibly in between the Gibraltar straits.These may have encouraged humans to ""island hop"" between Africa and Europe. During wetter phases of the Sahara, some Saharan inhabitants would have expanded north into southern parts of North Africa. West Asian populations would have also been attracted to a wet Sahara. West Asian populations could also migrate into Africa via the coastal regions of the Mediterranean.As a result of these geographic influences, the genetic profile of North African populations is a complex mosaic of European, West Asian and Sub-Saharan African influences to variable degrees. Though North Africa has experienced gene-flow from the surrounding regions, it has also experienced long periods of genetic isolation in some parts, allowing a distinctive genetic markers to evolve in some Maghrebi populations, especially in some isolated Berber speaking people.Current scientific debate is concerned with determining the relative contributions of different periods of gene flow to the current gene pool of North Africans. Anatomically modern humans are known to have been present in North Africa during the Upper Paleolithic, 45,000 years ago, as attested by the Aterian culture. With no apparent continuity, 22,000 years ago, the Aterian was succeeded by the Iberomaurusian culture which shared similarities with Iberian cultures. The Iberomaurusian was succeeded by the Capsian, a pre-Neolithic culture. Around 9,000 years ago, the Sahara desert entered a wet phase, the Neolithic Subpluvial, which attracted Neolithic peoples from elsewhere in Africa and the Near East.In historic times, North Africa was occupied by various populations including, the Phoenicians (814–146 BCE), Romans (146 BCE–439 CE), Vandals and Alains (439–534 CE), and Byzantines (534–647 CE). In the 7th century, Islam was diffused in the area. Under the unifying framework of Islam, on the one hand, and the settlement of some Middle Eastern tribes together with the migration of the Moors of Andalusia into the Maghreb (after the Spanish Catholic Reconquista) on the other, a fusion took place that resulted in a new ethnocultural entity all over the Maghreb and Egypt and all contributed to the diffusion of the Arab-Islamic culture among the North African populations.