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The rich linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity of Ethiopia provides an unprecedented opportunity to understand the level to which cultural factors correlate with-and shape-genetic structure in human populations. Using primarily new genetic variation data covering 1,214 Ethiopians representing 68 different ethnic groups, together with information on individuals' birthplaces, linguistic/religious practices and 31 cultural practices, we disentangle the effects of geographic distance, elevation, and social factors on the genetic structure of Ethiopians today. We provide evidence of associations between social behaviours and genetic differences among present-day peoples. We show that genetic similarity is broadly associated with linguistic affiliation, but also identify pronounced genetic similarity among groups from disparate language classifications that may in part be attributable to recent intermixing. We also illustrate how groups reporting the same culture traits are more genetically similar on average and show evidence of recent intermixing, suggesting that shared cultural traits may promote admixture. In addition to providing insights into the genetic structure and history of Ethiopia, we identify the most important cultural and geographic predictors of genetic differentiation and provide a resource for designing sampling protocols for future genetic studies involving Ethiopians.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

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