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Friday, May 24, 2013

Maldivian Ancestry in light of Genetics

For centuries, many Maldivians have been wondering about their origins. I have taken a one step forward to explain anyone about our ancestry. In light of modern day science of population genetics, I believe we have valid answers about the ancestry of Maldivians.
Therefore let me explain little bit of population ancestry genetics  which provides a fundamental  answer to  the origin of Maldivian people. Recently there has been a research done by Leiden University  which  was published  by American Journal of Human Genetics.
Most important two things to understand with regard to population genetics is to understand what is meant by mitochondrial and y chromosome haplo groups.

What is mitochondrial DNA haplo groups or Mt DNA haplo groups?
In human genetics, a human mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is a haplogroup defined by differences in human mitochondrial DNA. Haplogroups are used to represent the major branch points on the mitochondrial phylogenetic tree. Understanding the evolutionary path of the female lineage has helped population geneticists trace the matrilineal inheritance of modern humans back to human origins in Africa and the subsequent spread across the globe.

What is Y chromosome haplo group?
Human Y chromosomes are male-specific sex chromosomes; nearly all humans that possess a Y chromosome will be morphologically male. Although Y chromosomes are situated in the cell nucleus and paired with X chromosomes, they only recombine with the X chromosome at the ends of the Y chromosome; the remaining 95% of the Y chromosome does not recombine. Therefore the Y chromosome and any mutations that arise in it are passed on from father to son in a direct male line of descent. This means the Y chromosome and mtDNA share specific properties.
So lets look at Y-DNA Haplo groups of Maldives

Source: From support information data, Human Genetic Origin and Population structure in the Maldives, Leiden University Medical Center, Postzone S5, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.
So from where did these groups come to Maldives?
J2 From Arabia (we are 22%  Mesopotamian)
L North India or Pakistan (13% North Indians)
H  South Indian Tamil,(15% Tamils or Dravidians)
R2a South Asia ( 12% south Asians , found in equal frequencies both in south and north India)

R1a1a – We are 25% Indo Europeans. The most dominant haplo group.
Indo Aryan specific haplo group which introduced  Indo Aryan language of Dhivehi into Maldives. Now here I don’t have any question about our ancestry.

M20: 13 % of Maldivians got this Y-Chromosome haplo group and obviously from the map below shows us where could it had possibly come to Maldives.

The highest percentage of haplogroup L is found among the Kalasha people in Northern Pakistan, which is still only 23%. Next goes Pakistan and North Western India where the percentage is only about 7-10% (for some reason chechens in Northern Caucasus have about 10% of that haplogroup too). The whole area where haplogroup L is somewhat significant correlates with the extent of the Harappa Civilization (Indus Valley Civilization).

 L haplo Group Distribution Map(Source:Wikipedia)

Here is a Kalasha girl from Pakistan (Maybe L  haplo group). She looks pretty Maldivian

Kerela girl having L haplo group.

J2 haplo group (J-1729) which is 20 % of Maldivian population.
Its origin is in central Asia. It is believed that J2 came to Maldives from Arabia but J2 presents in South Asia.
Due to Islamification of Maldives in 12 th century, J2 haplo group took a firm ground among the population of Maldives. So we are part Pagans or we are part south Asians?


(H1) haplo group (M52).
This haplo group is south Indian specific haplo group which  presents in Maldives  less than 10% however in Addu it has prevalence of about 15% and in Fuvah Mulah about 12%. This haplo group implies that strong presence of Tamil and Malayalam sbustrum in the population of Maldives. M69 is also found significantly in European Roma people or gypsies. Our genetic relationship with out-casted and persecuted Roma people of Romania is evident here.
Roma people left India to escape  wars and persecution. It is believed a group of Roma people arrived  Maldives and settled in many islands of Maldives.

Source: Wikipedia

M17 Haplo group(R1a1a)
This is the haplo group supposed to have conquered the Indian subcontinent and spread the Indo European languages in South Asia.
What is our relationship with this haplo group? This haplo group is most dominant and most prevalent haplo group in the population of the Maldives. More than 25% Maldivians carry this marker of y chromosome mutation.
So where did this originate. This is a mutation originated in India 30000 years ago and people who possessed this mutation populated north India and Eastern Europe. This is the Indo Aryan haplo group and this would be the reason that the language spoken in Maldives is an Insular Indo Aryan language (South-most Indo European Language).

 M17 (R1a) distribution Map. Here we  see where some of our ancestors might have come from
Source: Wikipedia
So Who are we?
We are ethnic Maldivians with a diverse origin. So here we see who we are and there is nothing more to speculate about the  origin of Maldivian people. It is time for us to accept our diverse origin and our genetic relationship with main land South Asians. It is also noteworthy to mention that reported history of Maldives agrees with genetic diversity in the Maldives hence encyclopedia of Britannica is also very right about Maldives. Britannica states that Maldivian people are a mixed population of various ethnicities. If anyone wants to know about our origin, it would be a good idea to visit this blog as well before reading the bulk volumes of history books about the Maldivian people. I must say as long as Maldivian people are concerned, there is no Maldivian mystery anymore as because we are who we are which is embedded in our genetics.


  1. John from USA.

    Great work.

  2. this is very interesting!

  3. this is amazing...nice work. i've always wondered why Maldivians have such a high rate of thalasemia. perhaps you could shine some light on it as well?

    1. though i am not an expert, i think the main reason is the centuries old practice of getting married in the same locality so the defective genes dont spread out. there maybe other reasons as well.

  4. Such an interesting read. Out of interest where did you get all the population genetics data for Maldives. Did you carry them out yourself?

    1. this writeup is based on the information i obtained from this link here.

  5. it seems maldivians have very little or no african haplogroups. Most historians assumed that Maldivians would be having lot of gene flow from africa, but they were wrong!

  6. oh this must be the reason why Maldivian girls are sometimes very beautiful.

  7. this is very interesting article. but why you are so obsessed with being related to arabs?. regarding haplogroup J2 it is not from arabia proper, rather mesopotamean. sinhalese are not arabs yet we also have 20% of haplogroup J2. so it was already present before you guys converted to islam. if you are considerably arab definitely you should have haplogroup J1 and E also.

  8. thank you. i have also now realized J2 is not arab thing at all.

  9. J2 is NOT arab! I am thinking that it's not even semitic. The present-day ethnicities who have the strongest amounts of J2 include pre-Arabised Mesopotamians and Levantine peoples, Mediterranean/Aegean peoples, Greco-Anatolians, and/or Caucasians. This modern arabization of the Maldivians is a ruse to replace our culture with that of the arabs. Dear Maldivian muslims, you don't have to be arab to be a muslim. Arabs aren't a superior race. Jeez!

  10. Ooh! As far as I know, from time immemorial, we have seen some Malay blooded looking people especially, in Raa Atoll and Fuahmulah and Burmese looking stock in Laam Atoll. In light of those, I am a bit confused.