The present work provides an important view of a region of Africa that is still almost unknown: the Central Sahara. The aim of the project as a whole, was to reconstruct from the maternal side, through the genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the origins of a Pastoral nomad population in the Libyan Sahara, the Tuareg. In fact, the availability of both modern and ancient samples from the Fezzan (Libyan Sahara), collected in collaboration with the Italian Archaeological Mission in Libya directed by Prof. Savino Di Lernia, represented an important means of relating the mtDNA pool of extant Libyan Tuareg, with that of Pastoral people inhabiting the Central Sahara in prehistoric times, and with the Garamantes, the hypothetical ancestors of Libyan Tuareg. Nevertheless, molecular analysis carried out on the bones collected from the archaeological sites of the Acacus region, showed a very low state of preservation of the DNA, this probably due to the high temperatures that characterised burials over the centuries. Failure of the genetic analyses in the ancient individuals, necessarily limited the present work to the study of the extant Tuareg sample. Nevertheless, comparison with other genetic data collected so far in the modern African populations, and moreover the multidisciplinary integration with archaeological and ethnological data helped to hypothetically reconstruct the origins of Libyan Tuareg, and their relationship with the ancient human migratory dynamics that occurred in Northern Africa during the Holocene.
A total of 129 individuals from two villages in the Acacus region, in Fezzan, were genetically analysed at the mtDNA level. The results here reported clearly show the low level of genetic diversity in the Libyan Tuareg sample, that is hypothetically due to high endogamy. Furthermore, phylogenetic analyses indicate that the mtDNA genetic pool of the Libyan Tuareg is characterized by a major “West-Eurasian” component, that is shared with many Berber groups and hypothetically comes from the Iberian Peninsula, and a minor “South-Saharan” component that shows some kind of relationship with Central and Eastern African populations.