Washington, March 31 : A new study has found genetic traces of both the arrival of the Crusades and of the expansion of Islam in Lebanon.
According to a report in National Geographic News, Pierre Zalloua, an associate professor at the Lebanese American University, carried out the study, along with his colleagues.
Zalloua and his colleagues at the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project were conducting a broader survey of Middle Eastern populations when they stumbled upon their finding.
Researchers in the current study focused on the paternally provided Y chromosome, as it is thought to provide more detailed information.
The distribution of genetic markers at first appeared virtually indistinguishable across the Christian, Druze, and Muslim populations of Lebanon. But a closer look at the Y-chromosomes of 926 Lebanese men sampled in the study revealed something intriguing.
"We noticed some interesting lineages in the dataset. Among Lebanese Christians, in particular, we found higher frequency of a genetic marker-R1b-that we see typically see only in Western Europe," said Spencer Wells, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.
The study matched the western European Y-chromosome lineage against thousands of people in France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
According to Wells, the lineage was seen enriched to a higher frequency only in the Christian populations in Lebanon and was not seen in the Muslim population.
"It certainly doesn't undermine the similarities among the various Lebanese communities, but it does agree with oral tradition-that some Lebanese Christians are descendents of Crusaders-and points to a genetic connection to the Crusaders," he said.
The researchers noticed a similar pattern when they looked at Y-chromosome lineages in the Muslim population.
"We found that a lineage that is very common in the Arabian Peninsula-Hg J*-is found in slightly higher frequencies preferentially in the Muslim population," said Wells.
Wells said that even though the genetic matches are found only in about 2 percent of the population, they provide a detectable impact of two historical migrations into Lebanon.
According to Wells, "Now what historical events would have brought a substantial number-2 percent-of Y chromosomes in the Christian population in from Western Europe? The most likely answer is the Crusades."
The Genographic researchers said that their discoveries suggest, in particular, that Crusaders from the 11th to 13th centuries A.D. introduced their lineages into the Lebanese population.
"Lebanon has always had a rich history of receiving different cultures," said Zalloua.
"This study tells us that some of them did not just conquer and leave behind castles. They left a subtle genetic connection as well," he added.