Genetic studies on Jewish DNA is not 6,000 years old but has origin links to about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago?
To me, looking at the archeology and genetics it seems the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews where a branch of peoples from turkey dating to around 4,000 years ago somewhere near lake van just under MT Ararat originally and before that to about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago in Europe as nomadic peoples there is no clear Hebrews/Israelites/Jews linage past that I know of. So, it appears after traveling to the land of Canaan and given about 800 years later by the purposed time of the Exodus narrative from Egypt to the land of Canaan (which was also then seemingly under the control of Egypt) 3,200 years ago they were connected to Canaanites with a history linking them to the Kurds in the north more than any other peoples in the area but by this time they had become so rooted in Canaan they seemed as just simpler Canaanites who seemed to stay congregated to the northern parts of Israel and seemed to hold themselves or where seen as different. Certainly, from house structures to pottery the less opulent less gaudy and did not eat pork but they did seemingly interbreed with Canaanites and basically became Canaanites took their god names and language before their Babylonian exile where they added to what then became the new official language of Hebrews/Israelites/Jews.
By Josie Glausiusz
Jews and all other humans are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic make-up, and there is no gene known to exist in Jews that does not exist in other population groups. Jewish communities around the world do share certain genetic traits with each other–some of which they also share with surrounding populations. These similarities have enabled scientists to trace the origins of Jewish communities around the world. Analysis of mutations that arose in specific communities – Ashkenazi, Sephardi and others – have aided our understanding of our ancestors’ journeys, not to mention hereditary diseases. Here are 12 facts about Jewish genetics:
- Two clusters: Jewish communities across the globe share a common “genetic thread”, according to a 2010 study led by geneticist Harry Ostrer of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Genetic analysis of seven Jewish groups (Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Italian, Turkish, Greek and Ashkenazi) identified two distinct clusters that split about 2,500 years ago: European/Syrian Jews and Middle Eastern Iraqi and Iranian Jews.
- Know thy neighbor: Ostrer’s team also found strong genetic ties between each of the two groups and their non-Jewish neighbors: The closest genetic relatives of the Middle Eastern group are Druze, Bedouin and Palestinians, and for European Jews, it is Italians.
- European ties: Two years later, the same team extended their study to include North African Jews. Their 2012 paper described two discrete genetic clusters: Djerban, Libyan, and Tunisian Jews, who are closely related to one another; and Algerian and Moroccan Jews, with distinct European ties—most likely stemming from the migration of tens of thousands of Sephardi Jews to the Mahgreb (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) following their expulsion from Spain in 1492.
- Ethiopian Jews form their own distinct genetic cluster, most probably arising from Jewish founders who converted the local population.
- Mother Europe? Curiously, a 2013 study of the maternal origins of Ashkenazi Jews suggests that their ancestors were prehistoric European women from the Northern Mediterranean—and not the Middle East or the Caucasus, as other research has posited. The study analyzed mitochondrial DNA (loops of genetic material passed down from mother to child in tiny organelles carried by their eggs). Led by Martin B. Richards of the University of Leeds in the UK, the research suggests that 40 percent of the variation in Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA can be traced to prehistoric Europe, indicating that the maternal ancestors of most modern Ashkenazi Jews converted to Judaism some 2,000 years ago.
- Crusades and Black Death: The presence of distinct genetic mutations among different groups of Jews can also be traced to the history of our wanderings. Among Ashkenazim, it’s thought that rare mutations for certain genetic disorders may have arisen among a small founder population of Jews who migrated eastwards from Germany, France and England in the Middle Ages, following slaughter and expulsion that began with the Crusades in 1096. Together with the Black Death in 1347-8, this led to a severe reduction in these communities, from about 100,000 individuals in the 11th century to an estimated 10,000-20,000 Eastern European Jews in 1500. Because these communities tended to marry among themselves, any mutations that may have arisen at random would have increased in prevalence among their numerous descendants.
- Carrying mutations: Most mutations for “Jewish” genetic diseases are recessive, meaning that a child must inherit the mutation from both parents in order to show symptoms of the disease. Harboring one copy of the mutation means that the individual is a carrier of the disease. According to the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium, it is estimated that nearly one in two Ashkenazi Jews in the United States—the descendants of European Jews—is a carrier of at least one of 38 genetic diseases, including Tay-Sachs Disease, Gaucher Disease, and Bloom Syndrome. A separate panel of 16 genetic disorders, including Familial Mediterranean Fever and the blood disorder alpha-thalassemia, are found among Jews of Sephardi/Mizrahi origin.
- Tay-Sachs, a memory? The JGDC recommends that all Jewish and Interfaith couples be screened for Jewish genetic diseases before conceiving a child. In Israel, a “national carrier screening program” was established in 2002. Under the program, genetic screening for Tay-Sachs is offered free of charge to Jews of Ashkenazi and North African descent, while free thalassemia carrier screening is offered to Druze and Arab populations and Jews originating in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and in the Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union. Thanks to prenatal diagnosis—and anonymous premarital testing among the Ultra-Orthodox communities—Tay-Sachs disease has virtually disappeared in Israel, while the prevalence of thalassemia has dropped dramatically.
- The bottleneck: The extreme population shrinkage of Ashkenazi Jews in the Middle Ages, followed by dramatic expansion, created what is known as a “bottleneck effect.” Mutations that arose and spread among the resultant Ashkenazi population are thought to include genes that predispose to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
- Cancer genes: Jews of Ashkenazi descent also have a higher prevalence of mutations that increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women (which does not mean breast cancer is a “Jewish disease”). These genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, also increase a man’s risk of developing breast cancer and prostate cancer. Because of a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling—which determined that naturally-occurring human genes cannot be patented—the $4000 price tag for testing for these two genes has dropped by about 75%.. The development may lead to greater availability of testing for carriers of these genes.
- Priestly genes? About 50 percent of all Cohanim (the Jewish priestly class) harbor a distinct element on their Y-chromosome called the Cohen Modal Haplotype or CMH. Because this sex chromosome is passed down unchanged from father to son, geneticists have used this element to trace the patrilineal priestly dynasty to a common ancestral chromosome found 2,100–3,250 years ago, before the destruction of the First Temple. But it is not exclusive to Jews, either: CMH is also found among Bedouins, Yemenites, and Jordanians, lending support to “a Near Eastern origin of this lineage,” according to a 2009 report.
- Salut! Some 20 percent of Jews carry a gene that protects against alcoholism, with the variant more common in Sephardim than in Ashkenazim. Notwithstanding our predilection for cheese-eating on Shavuot, we are also more prone to lactose intolerance: three-quarters of all Jews cannot digest this milk sugar, as compared to 90 percent of Asian-Americans. Ashkenazi Jews are also two-to-four times more likely to develop Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory disorder of the digestive tract. And despite the persistent rumors, “there is currently no scientific evidence that Jewish achievement or intelligence has a genetic basis,” as geneticist Neil Risch of the University of California, San Francisco told Moment Magazine in 2012. 1
For populations of the Jewish diaspora, the genetic composition of Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jewish populations show a significant amounts of shared Middle Eastern ancestry. According to Behar and colleagues (2010), this is “consistent with the historical formulation theories the Jewish people as descending from ancient Hebrew and Israelites of the Levant” and “the dispersion of the people of ancient Israel throughout the Old World“ Jews living in the North African, Italian, and Iberian regions show variable frequencies of admixture with the historical non-Jewish host population along the maternal lines. In the case of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews (in particular Moroccan Jews), who are closely related, the source of non-Jewish admixture is mainly southern European. Behar and colleagues have remarked on an especially close relationship between Ashkenazi Jews and modern Italians, particularly Tuscans. A study conducted in 2013 found no evidence of a Khazar origin for Ashkenazi Jews and suggested that “Ashkenazi Jews share the greatest genetic ancestry with other Jewish populations, and among non-Jewish populations, with groups from Europe and the Middle East. Concerning North African Jews, autosomal genetic analysis in 2012 revealed that North African Jews are genetically close to European Jews. This finding “shows that North African Jews date to biblical-era Israel, and are not largely the descendants of natives who converted to Judaism,” In most Jewish populations, these male line ancestors appear to have been mainly Middle Eastern. For example, Ashkenazi Jews share more common paternal lineages with other Jewish and Middle Eastern groups than with non-Jewish populations in areas where Jews lived in Eastern Europe, Germany, and the French Rhine Valley. This is consistent with Jewish traditions in placing most Jewish paternal origins in the region of the Middle East. A study conducted in 2013 found no evidence of a Khazar origin for Ashkenazi Jews and suggested that “Ashkenazi Jews share the greatest genetic ancestry with other Jewish populations, and among non-Jewish populations, with groups from Europe and the Middle East. No particular similarity of Ashkenazi Jews with populations from the Caucasus is evident, particularly with the populations that most closely represent the Khazar region. In this view, analysis of Ashkenazi Jews together with a large sample from the region of the Khazar Khaganate would corroborate earlier results that Ashkenazi Jews derive their ancestry primarily from populations of the Middle East and Europe, that they possess considerable shared ancestry with other Jewish populations, and that there is no indication of a significant genetic contribution either from within or from north of the Caucasus region.” In 2016, together with R. Das, P. Wexler and M. Pirooznia, Elhaik advanced the view that the first Ashkenazi populations to speak the Yiddish language came from areas near four villages in Eastern Turkey along the Silk Road whose names derived from the word “Ashkenaz”, arguing that Iranian, Greek, Turkish, and Slav populations converted on that travel route before moving to Khazaria, where a small-scale conversion took place. In a study of Israeli and Palestinian Muslim Arabs, more than 70% of the Jewish men and 82% of the Arab men whose DNA was studied, had inherited their Y chromosomes from the same paternal ancestors, who lived in the region within the last few thousand years. “Our recent study of high-resolution microsatellite haplotypes demonstrated that a substantial portion of Y chromosomes of Jews (70%) and of Palestinian Muslim Arabs (82%) belonged to the same chromosome pool.” In relation to the region of the Fertile Crescent, the same study noted; “In comparison with data available from other relevant populations in the region, Jews were found to be much more closely related to groups in the north of the Fertile Crescent (Kurds, Turks, and Armenians) than to their Arab neighbors.” Approximately 35% to 43% of Jewish men are in the paternal line known as haplogroup J[Note 1] and its sub-haplogroups. This Haplogroup is particularly present in the Middle East, Southern Europe, and Northern Africa. Fifteen to 30% are in haplogroup E1b1b[Note 2], (or E-M35) and its sub-haplogroups. Among Ashkenazi Jews, Jews of Netherlands seem to have a particular haplogroups distribution since nearly one quarter of them have the Haplogroup R1b1 (R-P25), in particular sub-haplogroup R1b1b2 (R-M269), which is characteristic of Western European populations. Ashkenazi men show low Y-DNA diversity within each major haplogroup, meaning that compared to the size of the modern population, it seems there were once a relatively small number of men having children. This possibly results from a series of founder events and high rates of endogamy within Europe. Despite Ashkenazi Jews representing a recently founded population in Europe, founding effects suggest that they probably derived from a large and diverse ancestral source population in the Middle East, who may have been larger than the source population from which the indigenous Europeans derived. The traditional diaspora language of Ashkenazi Jews is Yiddish (a Germanic languag which incorporates several dialects), with Hebrew used only as a sacred language until relatively recently. The genocidal impact of the Holocaust (the mass murder of approximately six million Jews during World War II) devastated the Ashkenazim and their culture, affecting almost every Jewish family. It is estimated that in the 11th century Ashkenazi Jews composed only three percent of the world’s total Jewish population, while at their peak in 1931 they accounted for 92 percent of the world’s Jews. Immediately prior to the Holocaust, the number of Jews in the world stood at approximately 16.7 million. Statistical figures vary for the contemporary demography of Ashkenazi Jews, ranging from 10 million to 11.2 million. Sergio DellaPergola in a rough calculation of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, implies that Ashkenazi Jews make up less than 74% of Jews worldwide. Other estimates place Ashkenazi Jews as making up about 75% of Jews worldwide. Male lineages: Y-chromosomal DNA, studies revealed that Ashkenazi Jews originate from an ancient (4,000 – 2700 years ago) population of the Middle East who had spread to Europe. Ashkenazic Jews display the homogeneity of a genetic bottleneck, meaning they descend from a larger population whose numbers were greatly reduced but recovered through a few founding individuals. Although the Jewish people, in general, were present across a wide geographical area as described, genetic research done by Gil Atzmon of the Longevity Genes Project at Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggests “that Ashkenazim branched off from other Jews around the time of the destruction of the reported First Temple, 2,500 years ago … flourished during the Roman Empire but then went through a ‘severe bottleneck’ as they dispersed, reducing a population of several million to just 400 families who left Northern Italy around the year 1000 for Central and eventually Eastern Europe.” A study of haplotypes of the Y-chromosome, published in 2000, addressed the paternal origins of Ashkenazi Jews. Hammer et al. found that the Y-chromosome of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews contained mutations that are also common among other Middle Eastern peoples, but uncommon in the autochthonous European population. This suggested that the male ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews could be traced mostly to the Middle East. The proportion of male genetic admixture in Ashkenazi Jews amounts to less than 0.5% per generation over an estimated 80 generations, with “relatively minor contribution of European Y chromosomes to the Ashkenazim,” and a total admixture estimate “very similar to Motulsky’s average estimate of 12.5%.” This supported the finding that “Diaspora Jews from Europe, Northwest Africa, and the Near East resemble each other more closely than they resemble their non-Jewish neighbors.” A 2001 study by Nebel et al. showed that both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish populations share the same overall paternal Near Eastern ancestries. In comparison with data available from other relevant populations in the region, Jews were found to be more closely related to groups in the north of the Fertile Crescent. The authors also report on Eu 19 (R1a) chromosomes, which are very frequent in Central and Eastern Europeans (54%–60%) at elevated frequency (12.7%) in Ashkenazi Jews. They hypothesized that the differences among Ashkenazim Jews could reflect low-level gene flow from surrounding European populations or genetic drift during isolation. A later 2005 study by Nebel et al., found a similar level of 11.5% of male Ashkenazim belonging to R1a1a (M17+), the dominant Y-chromosome haplogroup in Central and Eastern Europeans. Haplogroup R1a (Ancestor Haplogroup R1) originated ca. 22,000 to 25,000 years ago, its subclade M417 (R1a1a1) diversified ca. 5,800 years ago. R1a1a diversified within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region. The place of origin of these subclades plays a role in the debate about the origins of Indo-Europeans. The split of R1a (M420) is computed to ca. 22,000 or 25,000 years ago, which is the time of the last glacial maximum. A large, 2014 study by Peter A. Underhill et al., using 16,244 individuals from over 126 populations from across Eurasia, concluded that there was compelling evidence that “the initial episodes of haplogroup R1a diversification likely occurred in the vicinity of present-day Iran.” Even though R1a occurs as the most frequent Y-chromosome haplogroup among populations speaking a wide variety of languages such as Slavic, Indo-Iranian, Dravidian, Turkic and Finno-Ugric, the question of the origins of R1a1a is relevant to the ongoing debate concerning the urheimat of the Proto-Indo-European people, and may also be relevant to the origins of the Indus Valley Civilisation. R1a shows a strong correlation with Indo-European languages of Southern and Western Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, being most prevalent in Eastern Europe, West Asia, South Asia and Central Asia. Kivisild et al. (2003) have proposed either south or west Asia,[note 2] while Mirabal et al. (2009) see support for both south and central Asia. Other studies suggest Ukrainian, Central Asian and West Asian origins for R1a1a. Ornella Semino et al. (2000) proposed Ukrainian origins, and a postglacial spread of the R1a1 gene during the Late Glacial Maximum, subsequently magnified by the expansion of the Kurgan culture into Europe and eastward. Spencer Wells proposes central Asian origins, suggesting that the distribution and age of R1a1 points to an ancient migration corresponding to the spread by the Kurgan people in their expansion from the Eurasian steppe. According to Pamjav et al. (2012), R1a1a diversified in the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region: Inner and Central Asia is an overlap zone for the R1a1-Z280 and R1a1-Z93 lineages [which] implies that an early differentiation zone of R1a1-M198 conceivably occurred somewhere within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region as they lie between South Asia and Central- and Eastern Europe.” Three genetic studies in 2015 haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (R1a is also common in South Asia) would have expanded from the Russian steppes, along with the Indo European languages; they also detected an autosomal component present in modern Europeans which was not present in Neolithic Europeans, which would have been introduced with paternal lineages R1b and R1a, as well as Indo European Languages. David Anthony considers the Yamna culture to be the Indo-European Urheimat. According to Haak et al. (2015), a massive migration from the Yamna culture northwards took place ca. 4,500 years ago, accounting for 75% of the genetic ancestry of the Corded Ware culture, noting that R1a and R1b may have “spread into Europe from the East after 5,000 years ago”. Yet, all their seven Yamna samples belonged to the R1b-M269 subclade, but no R1a1a has been found in their Yamna samples. This raises the question where the R1a1a in the Corded Ware culture came from, if it was not from the Yamna culture. R1a may have migrated from the Anatolian-Iranian area via Central Asia to Eastern Europe, in concreto the Comb Ware culture (6,200 – 4,000 years ago), which was partly absorbed by the Corded Ware culture. R1a1 has been found in samples from the Narva culture, which was part of the Comb Ware culture. Horvath rejects this possible migration route, given the dominance of haplogroup N1c in the Comb Ware culture, and that the Corded ware autosomal DNA is derived from the Yamna culture, and not from the Comb Ware culture. In contrast, Semenov and Bulat do argue for such an origin of R1a1a in the Corded ware culture, noting that several publications point to the presence of R1a1 in the Comb Ware culture. Horvath proposes a migration of R1a from the Anatolian-Iranian area to the Pontic steppe via the Balkan. Horvath notes that Haak et al. (2015) found that part of the Yamna ancestry derived from the Middle East, and that neolithic techniques probably arrived at the Yamna culture from the Balkans. Horvath further notes that in the area of the Rossen culture (6,600–6,300 years ago), which was situated on Germany and predates the Corded Ware culture, an old subclade of R1a, namely L664, can still be found. From these facts Horvath speculates that R1a arrived in the Balkans via Anatolia, and from there spread first north-west to the Rossen culture, and then east from the Cucuteni culture to the Yamna and Afanasevo cultures, despite the absence of R1a from intermediate cultures between the Near East, Anatolia and the Balkans. Mt-DNA “Maternal line” of Ashkenazi Jews In 2004, Behar el al found that approximately 32% of Ashkenazi Jews belong to the mitochondrial Haplogroup K, which points to a genetic bottleneck having taken place some 100 generations prior. Haplogroup K itself is thought to have originated in Western Asia some 12,000 years ago. A 2006 study by Behar et al., Based on high-resolution analysis of Haplogroup K (mtDNA) (with Possible time of origin 26,700 ± 4,300 years ago), suggested that about 40% of the current Ashkenazi population is descended matrilineally from just four women, or “founder lineages”, likely of mixed European and Middle Eastern origin. They concluded that these founder lineages may have originated in the Middle East in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, and later underwent expansion in Europe. Haplogroup K is believed to have originated in the mid-Upper Paleolithic, between about 30,000 and 22,000 years ago. It is the most common subclade of haplogroup U8b. with an estimated age of c. 12,000 years ago. Approximately 32% of people with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry are in haplogroup K. This high percentage points to a genetic bottleneck occurring some 100 generations ago. Ashkenazi mtDNA K clusters into three subclades seldom found in non-Jews: K1a1b1a, K1a9, and K2a2a. Thus it is possible to detect three individual female ancestors, who were thought to be from a Hebrew/Levantine mtDNA pool, whose descendants lived in Europe. Recent studies suggest these clades originate from Western Europe. Haplogroup K has been found in the remains of three individuals from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B site of Tell Ramad, Syria, dating from c. 6000 BC. The clade was also discovered in skeletons of early farmers in Central Europe dated to around 7,500-7,300 years ago, at percentages that were nearly double the percentage present in modern Europe. Some techniques of farming, together with associated plant and animal breeds, spread into Europe from the Near East. The evidence from ancient DNA suggests that the Neolithic culture spread by human migration. A woman buried some time between 4,650 and 4,450 years ago in a presumed Amorite tomb at Terqa (Tell Ashara), Middle Euphrates Valley, Syria carried Haplogroup K. A lock of hair kept at a reliquary at Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte Baume basilica, France, which local tradition holds belonged to the biblical figure Marie-Madeleine, was also assigned to haplogroup K. Ancient DNA sequencing of a capillary bulb bore the K1a1b1a subclade, indicating that she was likely of Pharisian maternal origin. Haplogroup K1 has likewise been observed among specimens at the mainland cemetery in Kulubnarti, Sudan, which date from the Early Christian period (AD 550-800). In 2016, researchers extracted the DNA from the tibia of two individuals separately dated to 7288-6771 BCE and 7605-7529 BCE buried in Theopetra cave, Greece, the oldest known human-made structure, and both individuals were found to belong to mtDNA Haplogroup K1c. Haplogroup K has also been observed among ancient Egyptian mummies excavated at the Abusir el-Meleq archaeological site in Middle Egypt, which date from the Pre-Ptolemaic/late New Kingdom and Roman periods. Fossils excavated at the Late Neolithic site of Kelif el Boroud in Morocco, which have been dated to around 5,000 years ago, have likewise been observed to carry the K1 subclade. Moreover, a maternal line “sister” was found among the Jews of Portugal, North Africa, France, and Italy. They wrote: Both the extent and location of the maternal ancestral deme from which the Ashkenazi Jewry arose remain obscure. Here, using complete sequences of the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), we show that close to one-half of Ashkenazi Jews, estimated at 8,000,000 people, can be traced back to only four women carrying distinct mtDNAs that are virtually absent in other populations, with the important exception of low frequencies among non-Ashkenazi Jews. We conclude that four founding mtDNAs, likely of Near Eastern ancestry, underwent major expansion(s) in Europe within the past millennium… A 2007 study by J. Feder et al. confirmed the hypothesis of the founding of non-European origin among the maternal lines. Their study did not address the geographical origin of Ashkenazim and therefore does not explicitly confirm the origin “Levantine” of these founders. This study revealed a significant divergence in total haplogroup distribution between the Ashkenazi Jewish populations and their European host populations, namely Russians, Poles and Germans. They concluded that, regarding mtDNAs, the differences between Jews and non-Jews are far larger than those observed among the Jewish communities. The study also found that “the differences between the Jewish communities can be overlooked when non-Jews are included in the comparisons.” It supported previous interpretations that, in the direct maternal line, there was “little or no gene flow from the local non-Jewish communities in Poland and Russia to the Jewish communities in these countries.” Considering Ashkenazi Jews, Atzmon (citing Behar above) states that beyond four founder mitochondrial haplogroups of possible Middle Eastern origins which comprise approximately 40% of Ashkenazi Jewish mtDNA, the remainder of the mtDNA falls into other haplogroups, many of European origin. He noted that beyond Ashkenazi Jews, “Evidence for founder females of Middle Eastern origin has been observed in other Jewish populations based on non-overlapping mitochondrial haplotypes with coalescence times >2000 years”. A 2013 study at the University of Huddersfield, led by Professor Martin B. Richards, concluded that 65%-81% of Ashkenazi Mt-DNA is European in origin, including all four founding mothers, and that most of the remaining lineages are also European. The results were published in Nature Communications in October 2013. The team analyzed about 2,500 complete and 28,000 partial Mt-DNA genomes of mostly non-Jews, and 836 partial Mt-DNA genomes of Ashkenazi Jews. The study claims that only 8% of Ashkenazi Mt-DNA could be identified as Middle Eastern in origin, with the origin of the rest being unclear. They wrote: If we allow for the possibility that K1a9 and N1b2 might have a Near Eastern source, then we can estimate the overall fraction of European maternal ancestry at ~65%. Given the strength of the case for even these founders having a European source, however, our best estimate is to assign ~81% of Ashkenazi lineages to a European source, ~8% to the Near East and ~1% further to the east in Asia, with ~10% remaining ambiguous… Thus at least two-thirds and most likely more than four-fifths of Ashkenazi maternal lineages have a European ancestry. Regarding the origin of Ashkenazi admixture, the analyses suggest that “the first major wave of assimilation probably took place in Mediterranean Europe, most likely in Southern Europe, with substantial further assimilation of minor founders in west/central Europe.” According to Richards, who acknowledged past research showing that Ashkenazi Jews’ paternal origins are largely from the Middle East, the most likely explanation is that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Middle Eastern men who moved to Europe, and married local women who they converted to Judaism. The authors found “less evidence for assimilation in Eastern Europe, and almost none for a source in the North Caucasus/Chuvashia, as would be predicted by the Khazar hypothesis.” The study was criticized by geneticist Doron Behar, who stated that while the Mt-DNA of Ashkenazi Jews is of mixed Middle Eastern and European origins, the deepest maternal roots of Ashkenazi Jews are not European. Harry Ostrer said Richards’ study seemed reasonable, and corresponded to the known facts of Jewish history. Karl Skorecki of the Rambam Health Care Campus stated that there were serious flaws of phylogenetic analysis. Both Behar and Skorecki claim that the Mt-DNA used in the study did not represent the full spectrum of mitochondrial diversity. Eran Elhaik, a geneticist at the University of Sheffield, argues that the evidence ruled out a Near Eastern origin for many Ashkenazi mitochondrial lineages but he challenged the conclusion that a Khazarian contribution is absent. David B. Goldstein, the Duke University geneticist who first found similarities between the founding mothers of Ashkenazi Jewry and European populations, said that, although Richards’ analysis was well-done and ‘could be right,’ the estimate that 80% of Ashkenazi Jewish Mt-DNA is European was not statistically justified given the random rise and fall of mitochondrial DNA lineages. Geneticist Antonio Torroni of the University of Pavia found the conclusions very convincing, adding that recent studies of cell nucleus DNA also show “a very close similarity between Ashkenazi Jews and Italians”. In addition, this data was consistent with historians who have suggested that “many women converted to Judaism across Mediterranean Europe during the so-called Hellenistic period between about 2,300 and 2,030 years ago” Diaspora communities were established in Rome and in Southern Europe centuries before the fall of the Second Temple in 70 CE (1,947 years ago. A 2014 study by Fernandez et al. found that Ashkenazi Jews display a frequency of haplogroup K which suggests ancient Middle Eastern origins, stating that this observation clearly contradicts the results of the study led by Richards which suggested a predominantly European origin for the Ashkenazi community’s maternal line. However, the authors also state that definitively answering the question of whether this group was of Jewish origin rather than the result of a Neolithic migration to Europe would require the genotyping of the complete mtDNA in ancient Near Eastern populations. On the study by Richards: According to that work the majority of the Ashkenazi mtDNA lineages can be assigned to three major founders within haplogroup K (31% of their total lineages): K1a1b1a, K1a9 and K2a2. The absence of characteristic mutations within the control region in the PPNB K-haplotypes allow discarding them as members of either sub-clades K1a1b1a or K2a2, both representing a 79% of total Ashkenazi K lineages. However, without a high-resolution typing of the mtDNA coding region it cannot be excluded that the PPNB K lineages belong to the third sub-cluster K1a9 (20% of Askhenazi K lineages). Moreover, in the light of the evidence presented here of a loss of lineages in the Near East since Neolithic times, the absence of Ashkenazi mtDNA founder clades in the Near East should not be taken as a definitive argument for its absence in the past. The genotyping of the complete mtDNA in ancient Near Eastern populations would be required to fully answer this question and it will undoubtedly add resolution to the patterns detected in modern populations in this and other studies. A 2013 study at the University of Huddersfield, led by Professor Martin B. Richards, concluded that 65%-81% of Ashkenazi Mt-DNA is European in origin, including all four founding mothers, and that most of the remaining lineages are also European. The results were published in Nature Communications in October 2013. The team analyzed about 2,500 complete and 28,000 partial Mt-DNA genomes of mostly non-Jews, and 836 partial Mt-DNA genomes of Ashkenazi Jews. The study claims that only 8% of Ashkenazi Mt-DNA could be identified as Middle Eastern in origin, with the origin of the rest being unclear. The Mountain Jews showed a striking maternal founding event, with 58.6% of their total mtDNA genetic variation tracing back to one woman from the Levant. Mountain Jews or Caucasus Jews also known as Juhuro, Juvuro, Juhuri, Juwuri, Juhurim, Kavkazi Jews or Gorsky Jews (Azerbaijani: Dağ Yəhudiləri, Hebrew: יהודי קווקז Yehudey Kavkaz or יהודי ההרים Yehudey he-Harim, Russian: Горские евреи, translit. Gorskie Yevrey) are Jews of the eastern and northern Caucasus, mainly Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. They are the descendants of Persian Jews from Iran. The Mountain Jews community became established in Ancient Persia, from the 5th century AD onwards; their language, called Judeo-Tat, is an ancient Southwest Iranian language which integrates many elements of Ancient Hebrew. It is believed that they had reached Persia from Ancient Israel as early as the 8th century BCE. They continued to migrate east, settling in mountainous areas of the Caucasus. The Mountain Jews survived numerous historical vicissitudes by settling in extremely remote and mountainous areas. An autosomal DNA study carried out in 2010 by Atzmon et al. examined the origin of Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish, Greek, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi Jewish communities. The study compared these Jewish groups with 1043 unrelated individuals from 52 worldwide populations. To further examine the relationship between Jewish communities and European populations, 2407 European subjects were assigned and divided into 10 groups based on geographic region of their origin. This study confirmed previous findings of shared Middle Eastern origin of the above Jewish groups and found that “the genetic connections between the Jewish populations became evident from the frequent IBD across these Jewish groups (63% of all shared segments). Jewish populations shared more and longer segments with one another than with non-Jewish populations, highlighting the commonality of Jewish origin. In 2011, Moorjani et al. detected 3%–5% sub-Saharan African ancestry in all eight of the diverse Jewish populations (Ashkenazi Jews, Syrian Jews, Iranian Jews, Iraqi Jews, Greek Jews, Turkish Jews, Italian Jews) that they analyzed. The timing of this African admixture among all Jewish populations was identical The exact date was not determined, but it was estimated to have taken place between 1,600–3,400 years ago. Although African admixture was determined among South Europeans and Near Eastern population too, this admixture was found to be younger compared to the Jewish populations. This findings the authors explained as evidence regarding common origin of these 8 main Jewish groups. “It is intriguing that the Mizrahi Irani and Iraqi Jews—who are thought to descend at least in part from Jews who were exiled to Babylon about 2,600 years ago share the signal of African admixture. A parsimonious explanation for these observations is that they reflect a history in which many of the Jewish groups descend from a common ancestral population which was itself admixed with Africans, prior to the beginning of the Jewish diaspora that occurred in 8th to 6th century BC” the authors concludes. Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews were found to have diverged from each other approximately 2,500 years in the past, approximately the time of the Babylonian exile. The studies also reconfirmed the results of previous studies which found that North African Jews were more closely related to each other and to European and Middle Eastern Jews than to their non-Jewish host populations. The Moroccan/Algerian, Djerban/Tunisian and Libyan subgroups of North African Jewry were found to demonstrate varying levels of Middle Eastern (40-42%), European (37-39%) and North African ancestry (20-21%), with Moroccan and Algerian Jews tending to be genetically closer to Europeans than Djerban Jews. The study found that Yemenite, Ethiopian, and Georgian Jews formed their own distinctive, genetically linked clusters. In particular, Yemenite Jews, who had been previously been believed to have lived in isolation, were found to have genetic connections to their host population, suggesting some conversion of local Arabs to Judaism had taken place. The also study found that Syrian Jews share more genetic commonality with Ashkenazi Jews than with other Middle Eastern Jewish populations. Many genetic studies have demonstrated that most of the various Jewish ethnic divisions and Druze, Palestinians, Bedouin, Lebanese and other Levantines cluster near one another genetically. Many studies have found that Jews and Palestinians are closer to each other than the Palestinians or European Jews are to non-Jewish Europeans or Africans. They also found substantial genetic overlap between Israeli and Palestinian Arabs and Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. A small but statistically significant difference was found in the Y-chromosomal haplogroup distributions of Sephardic Jews and Palestinians, but no significant differences were found between Ashkenazi Jews and Palestinians nor between the two Jewish communities, However, a highly distinct cluster was found in Palestinian haplotypes. 32% of the 143 Arab Y-chromosomes studied belonged to this “I&P Arab clade”, which contained only one non-Arab chromosome, that of a Sephardic Jew. This could possibly be attributed to the geographical isolation of the Jews or to the immigration of Arab tribes in the first millennium. The Druze people, a “genetic sanctuary” for the diversity of the Near East in antiquity, have been found in genetic studies to be the closest to Jews of the populations in the Levant. Lebanese also cluster closely with Jewish ethnic groups, closer than Syrians and Palestinians, according to a 2010 study by Behar et al. The single archeogenetic study of the southern Levant (Salamon et al., 2010) explored mtDNA haplogroups of Chalcolithic period from a cave in the Judean Desert. The prevailing mtDNA haplogroups were those in U3a, H and H6 haplogroup. “U3 is quite frequent in contemporary mtDNA from Near Eastern and Levantine samples suggesting some temporal continuity in mtDNA haplogroups from as far back as the Chalcolithic Era (circa 6,500-6,000 years ago). In addition, the authors found that the U3a and H6 haplotypes from the ancient DNA samples were present in a broad range of contemporary Jewish populations”. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
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