Afghanistan's ethnic groups share a y-chromosomal heritage structured by historical events

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Marc Haber
  • Daniel E. Platt
  • Maziar Ashrafian Bonab
  • Sonia C. Youhanna
  • David F. Soria-Hernanz
  • And 11 others
  • Begoña Martínez-Cruz
  • Bouchra Douaihy
  • Michella Ghassibe-Sabbagh
  • Hoshang Rafatpanah
  • Mohsen Ghanbari
  • John Whale
  • Oleg Balanovsky
  • R. Spencer Wells
  • David Comas
  • Chris Tyler-Smith
  • Pierre A. Zalloua

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Lebanese American University
  • Evolutionary Biology Institute
  • Pompeu Fabra University
  • IBM Research Division, T.J. Watson Research Center
  • University of Portsmouth
  • National Geographic Society
  • Mashhad University of Medical Sciences
  • Research Centre for Medical Genetics
  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus
  • Harvard School of Public Health


Afghanistan has held a strategic position throughout history. It has been inhabited since the Paleolithic and later became a crossroad for expanding civilizations and empires. Afghanistan's location, history, and diverse ethnic groups present a unique opportunity to explore how nations and ethnic groups emerged, and how major cultural evolutions and technological developments in human history have influenced modern population structures. In this study we have analyzed, for the first time, the four major ethnic groups in present-day Afghanistan: Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, and Uzbek, using 52 binary markers and 19 short tandem repeats on the non-recombinant segment of the Y-chromosome. A total of 204 Afghan samples were investigated along with more than 8,500 samples from surrounding populations important to Afghanistan's history through migrations and conquests, including Iranians, Greeks, Indians, Middle Easterners, East Europeans, and East Asians. Our results suggest that all current Afghans largely share a heritage derived from a common unstructured ancestral population that could have emerged during the Neolithic revolution and the formation of the first farming communities. Our results also indicate that inter-Afghan differentiation started during the Bronze Age, probably driven by the formation of the first civilizations in the region. Later migrations and invasions into the region have been assimilated differentially among the ethnic groups, increasing inter-population genetic differences, and giving the Afghans a unique genetic diversity in Central Asia.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere34288
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2012