The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) diversity of 58 individuals from Upper Egypt, more than half (34 individuals) from Gurna, whose population has an ancient cultural history, were studied by sequencing the control-region and screening diagnostic RFLP markers.

This sedentary population presented similarities to the Ethiopian population by the L1 and L2 macrohaplogroup frequency (20.6%), by the West Eurasian component (defined by haplogroups H to K and T to X) and particularly by a high frequency (17.6%) of haplogroup M1. We statistically and phylogenetically analysed and compared the Gurna population with other Egyptian, Near East and sub-Saharan Africa populations; AMOVA and Minimum Spanning Network analysis showed that the Gurna population was not isolated from neighbouring populations.

Our results suggest that the Gurna population has conserved the trace of an ancestral genetic structure from an ancestral East African population, characterized by a high M1 haplogroup frequency. The current structure of the Egyptian population may be the result of further influence of neighbouring populations on this ancestral population.