Ashkenazi Jews are Middle Eastern & European hybrids

According to search engine traffic one of the most popular posts on this weblog has to do with the genetic background of Ashkenazi Jews. That is, those Jews whose ancestors derive from Central & Eastern Europe, and the overwhelming number of Jews in the United States. The genetic origins of this group are fraught with politics naturally. With the rise of biological science the characteristics of Jews were used as a way to differentiate them as a nation apart in more than a cultural and religious sense. After World War II other researchers attempted to show that Jews were not genetically distinct with relatively primitive blood group assays. Rather, they were the descendants of converts.

More recent genetic work has given mixed results. The reasonable inference then is that Jews themselves are a population with a complex history, and that complexity is manifest in their genetics. A new paper explores these issue in more detail, Genomic microsatellites identify shared Jewish ancestry intermediate between Middle Eastern and European populations:

Background
Genetic studies have often produced conflicting results on the question of whether distant Jewish populations in different geographic locations share greater genetic similarity to each other or instead, to nearby non-Jewish populations. We perform a genome-wide population-genetic study of Jewish populations, analyzing 678 autosomal microsatellite loci in 78 individuals from four Jewish groups together with similar data on 321 individuals from 12 non-Jewish Middle Eastern and European populations.

Results
We find that the Jewish populations show a high level of genetic similarity to each other, clustering together in several types of analysis of population structure. Further, Bayesian clustering, neighbor-joining trees, and multidimensional scaling place the Jewish populations as intermediate between the non-Jewish Middle Eastern and European populations.

Conclusion
These results support the view that the Jewish populations largely share a common Middle Eastern ancestry and that over their history they have undergone varying degrees of admixture with non-Jewish populations of European descent.

The general results of the paper are well illustrated by the figures.

The figure below shows the putative ancestry of individuals assuming a K number of ancestral populations. As you can see, the Jews within the sample are placed between Middle Eastern and European groups. At K = 5 and K = 6 the relationship between Jews and Palestinians shows up; a common ancestral population which parted aways at some point.

i-7880d817e307eaaa53a24e255c49ce3d-jewsa1.png

And here's a neighbor-joining tree. The Jewish groups in red, Europeans in blue and Middle Eastern groups in olive.

i-8745bd8ca17ce6cc74c6be27bdb56117-jewsa2.png

Now here are Jews compared to various populations. Jews are in red. I've reedited and labelled for clarity.

i-417e7d877716fbaaec7ce3c658e1bc50-jewsa3.png

From the conclusion of the paper:

A simple explanation for the clustering of the Jewish populations is that this pattern is the consequence of shared ancestry with an ancestral Middle Eastern group. Under this scenario, the intermediate placement of the Jewish populations with respect to European and Middle Eastern populations would then result from early shared ancestry of the Jewish and Middle Eastern populations, followed by subsequent admixture of the Jewish populations that took place with European groups or other groups more similar to the Europeans than to the Middle Eastern populations in the study. Although it is difficult to assess the specific nature of the admixture on the basis of our analysis, this explanation is supported by other genetic studies that find a combination of shared ancestry and admixture among Jewish populations...and by historical records of conversions to Judaism...Further sampling of matched Jewish and neighboring non-Jewish populations will be informative for investigating the evidence for this scenario.

...

In several analyses, the population in the study that is most similar to the Jewish populations is the Palestinian population. This result is reflected by the fact that for K=5, Bayesian clustering with Structure assigns the Jewish populations and the Palestinians to the same cluster...and by the relatively close placement of the Palestinians and the Jewish populations in MDS plots of individual distances...This genetic similarity, which is supported by several previous studies...is compatible with a similar Middle Eastern origin of the Jewish populations and the Palestinians. Admixture of the Palestinians with groups with European origins might have maintained or augmented this shared ancestry, especially if it was paralleled with similar admixture of these groups with Jewish populations.

...

We note that caution is warranted in interpreting some of our results. For example, in the population trees produced from three distance measures...there is disagreement on the branching order of three of the European populations closest to the Jewish populations (Adygei, Sardinian, and Tuscan). Thus, from these data, it is difficult to make strong inferences regarding the most similar European populations to Jewish groups. However, consistent with studies that have incorporated a single Jewish population in a broader European context...southern groups from Europe are placed closer to the Jewish populations than more northerly groups.

This paper clarifies and puts into sharper focus what we knew, and leaves open more details for future research.

1) Jewish populations do have a common ancestral affinity.

2) But, that affinity is complemented by admixture with the populations amongst whom the Diaspora settled.

3) There is a suggestion that in the case of Ashkenazi Jews the European contribution was more likely to be from southern, and not northern, Europe. This is somewhat surprising in light of the fact that the Ashkenazi group crystallized during the medieval period in northern Europe, amongst German and Slavic speaking peoples. These data would imply that in fact there was a relatively strong separation between these groups and the Jews, at least when it came to gene flow into the Jewish group (other data from Poland does show the effect of Jewish assimilation into the gentile majority). Therefore, the admixture may have occurred within the bounds of the former Roman Empire, during the Imperial or early post-Imperial period.

4) The close relationship of Jews to Palestinians is not surprising. Jews are reputedly a Levantine population by origin, and the historical and genetic evidence points to Arabicization in the Levant and Mesopotamia as having occurred through acculturation, and not population replacement. Many of the Palestinians are likely of original Jewish or Samaritan origin, though I would guess that they were likely at least nominally Christianized during the Byzantine persecutions of the 6th century.

5) There remain questions as to which groups the Ashkenazi Jews admixed with, and when they admixed. There should be a different pattern of genetic variance if the admixture event was early and ceased, or if it was constant and gradual gene flow. The phylogenetics implies the former, because of the lack of much allele sharing with northern Europeans specifically, amongst whom the Ashkenazi Jews were resident for the past ~1,000 years. Within the text of the paper there are also hints of possible relationships to a population of the Caucasus, opening an avenue for some validity of the Khazar hypothesis. There have been other data which also point to the Khazar hypothesis. The origins of the Jews then likely are complex.

Many of the confusions and muddled points will likely be clarified soon with more data and analysis. At Dienekes' some observed that a greater number of Mediterranean populations would have been useful. What if the Jewish admixture event tended to occur with Greeks in Alexandria and in the cities of Asia Minor? That would explain the proximity to Italians, but lack of overlap with other European groups.

Citation: BMC Genetics 2009, 10:80 doi:10.1186/1471-2156-10-80

(H/T Dienekes)

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these data don't show much slavic or germanic admixture. so if they look russian it is much more likely that they're simply half-jewish, as outmarriage rates were really high in russia during the communist period.

there are lots of russian jews here. some of them seem more jewish and some of them more russian. generally the more russian looking ones came later than the jewish looking ones, who tend to have come here earlier. my mother works at a jewish rest home and the residents kind of diss the russians for not knowing alot of the jewish customs, which were I guess discouraged under communism

wednesday I babysit and drink a little afterwards, sorry if above was a little disjointed

I have known a lot of Ashkenazi in my life, and the majority have blue or gray eyes and pale skin. That seems to suggest something other than a Middle Eastern and southern European mix. Maybe it is a founder effect.

Is there a study like this which includes Sephardics and Mizrahis? It's odd that this study included so many middle eastern and mediterrenean groups but not those. Wouldn't that be crucial to answering the original question- "Genetic studies have often produced conflicting results on the question of whether distant Jewish populations in different geographic locations share greater genetic similarity to each other or instead, to nearby non-Jewish population."

Is there a study like this which includes Sephardics and Mizrahis?

this study includes 3 sephardic (or mostly sephardic) groups. i think there might be a study with persian jews coming out soon, so that would be mizrachi i guess.

One thing that keeps striking me in a lot of these studies is how little evidence of Khazar influence. Historically, the claim that the Ashkenazic population were descended mainly from the Khazars has been associated with anti-Semitism. In that regard, there's some degree of luck that the claim isn't accurate, since if it were I suspect many Jews rather than acknowledge the fact would have simply taken a very anti-science and anti-genetics attitude. (The tendency is very strongly for ideologues to accept science only when it doesn't contradict their pre-existing views). It should be interesting to see how in the long-run people react to this data. Many Palestinians don't want to be closely related to Jews. Moreover, Jewish supporters of Israel frequently like to argue that the Palestinians are a late population that came in during the Islamic conquest. So people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be uncomfortable with these results.

Now personal speculation: If one looks at the late Second Temple period, around the birth of Jesus, it seems that the largest (or certainly one of the largest) groups of Jews were Hellenized Jews living in Palestine. It wouldn't be intrinsically surprising if they were part of the ancestral population of the modern day Palestinians. I'm not sure that your speculation about Samaritans makes sense. My impression is that they were always a small minority of the general population. There's been work on their genetics (see for example http://evolutsioon.ut.ee/publications/Shen2004.pdf ). I don't really know much about that sort of work but my impression is that the very small Samaritan population makes such work difficult.

re: khazar's, there's stuff about the adygei in there. i think it's probably not relevant, but who knows? if the palestinians have it might just be a common heritage of levantines and peoples of the caucasus. that being said, the original khazars were turkic, so that would show up pretty easily among jews.

Now personal speculation: If one looks at the late Second Temple period, around the birth of Jesus, it seems that the largest (or certainly one of the largest) groups of Jews were Hellenized Jews living in Palestine. It wouldn't be intrinsically surprising if they were part of the ancestral population of the modern day Palestinians.

yes. hellenized jews were probably a disproportionate number of the early christians. see rodney stark's work; the correlation between jewish settlements and early christian settlements is pretty strong. as i said, by the time the muslims conquered palestine it looks to have been mostly christian.

My impression is that they were always a small minority of the general population. There's been work on their genetics (see for example

way more numerous in the late antique period. analogy: zoroastrians. small population today, a lot more in the past. the samaritans were numerous enough to have rebelled during the reign of justinian the great and cause a lot of trouble. after that, not so much trouble :-)

re: sephardic jews. i should elaborate for future readers since semantic confusions tend to abound. after the expulsion of jews from spain they went everywhere. though many went to holland, or even to the ashkenazi jewish world of central europe, the largest number went to the muslim world (ok, the largest number stayed in spain and become christian). so the jews of morocco and the ottoman empire were quickly dominated by sephardic jews. some non-sephardic native jews persisted as minority traditions (romaniotes in greece), but basically the sephardic jews took everything over.

Razib,

Actually, if I'm not mistaken, in Morocco, the Sephardim formed a culturally elite minority that was numerically inferior to the pre-Sephardi Moroccan Jewry.

Actually, if I'm not mistaken, in Morocco, the Sephardim formed a culturally elite minority that was numerically inferior to the pre-Sephardi Moroccan Jewry.

sure. that's the problem with all the post-expulsion sephardic communities. but the quantities seem woolly to me.

There are more interpretations that are consistent with the historical record. I think there's an overreliance on the Levantine ancestry of these groups.

I recall reading that approx. 10% of the Roman Empire was "Judaic" -- about half of the Roman Empire were Phoenician/Semitic areas, from Spain across the Mediterranean to Lebanon. We know that these areas were also later on heavily Jewish -- and one can reasonably expect that at least proto-Judaism and allied religious traditions went along the trade routes through these regions.

So maybe these "admixtures" aren't late admixtures at all -- but reflect ancient population links on the Mediterranean coasts and islands, that became specifically "Jewish" later, as the lines between the Hellenic Christians and non-Hellenic Jews left little LEGAL space for all the other varieties of Hellenic/Semitic religious expression.

Both Jews and Christians have religious reasons to forget the complexity of pre-Talmudic/pre-Nicene religious expression. But the data here should remind us of it.

One must remember that apparently the Urheimat of Afroasiatic languages is either Ethiopia or the current Sahara desert -- that there were millenia of trans-Mediterranean trade of the culturally and linguistically related Egyptian populations -- that the Jewish populations were part of the greater Phoenician trade networks that lasted until the Carthaginian war -- that the seminal "Jewish" identity as opposed to Hellenistic is a late event, remember the Maccabean forced circumcisions -- that even within the Torah tradition, the Samaritans were a large population until the 10th century persecutions in the ME -- that Rome itself was a babble of cultures, fusing Semitic traditions with Hellenistic traditions willy nilly for close to a millenium -- that ambiguous, marginal cultural populations exist to this day, including such groups as the Mandaneans.

Those trees seem to reflect that reality -- that what we see is populations crystallized out of the Mediterranean stew; particularly note the connection between Anatolians ("Turks") and Levantine-related populations. I think we're being fooled by people's self-image.

Orcadians is an odd choice for germanics. Why not germans? There's a good chance ashkenazim are closer to southern europeans on these graphs simply because there's a cline from northern europe down the middle east, I don't think this establishes southern european blood in them at all.

Joshua, among Jews who will matter in the next generation (Orthodox Jews and the right-wing fringes of others) Khazar findings are far less emotionally repugnant than Palestinian findings. Khazars, after all, were spoken of highly by Judah HaLevi, were righteous converts (or so the right-wing masses believe) and were Jewish warriors, a thing the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are highly supportive of. Palestinians on the other hand...

Being one of those people (on the fringes of non-orthodoxy and considering Orthopraxy) I want to quickly note that in every sense that matters on the emotional front of this matter, Druze are not Palestinians. In fact, I'm hesitant to pass around this link to friends on account of the fact that no non-specialist will understand that Razib seems to have included Druze and Beduin within the bubble of "Palestinian" being as he's more concerned with geography than with the squables among various micro-peoples on some tiny patch of land.

Knowing their confusion on this score I may simply attempt a quick turnabout by pointing them towards my Lechi-fighter friend Ezra Yakhin who wrote a whole book on how the Palestinians are the literal descendants of Amalek (and why they should therefore be ritually slaughtered). Horror and laughter aside (laughter because it's the outlandish suggestion of an old guy who I saw shouted off the stage for this suggestion by Lechi colleagues of his at a program in honor of Lechi's founder, Yair Avraham Stern) this point will in fact alleviate loads of psychic discomfort by reminding post-Holocaust Jewry of the ancient Jewish approach where relativity wasn't everything and the descendants of Esau were considered to be the most despicable anti-semites in the world.

On to subjects on which I'm a moron: Razib, any chance you could explain briefly how to understand all of these pretty pictures?

Seriously, I know I can read a few wiki entries on em and I already have some small grasp of a few of them but from long experience (not least by your almost wholly accurate descriptions and explanations of matters in my own field of Jewish arcana, where your level-headedness demonstrates how easilly accessible accurate analyses is of ANY issue so long as your love of exotica is married to skepticism) I've come to trust you for accurate and pithy descriptions of things. Any chance you could give me a few sentences offering the basics on each of these different types of graphs. It would actually make quite the awesome post that you could perpetually link to when including graphic material in any analysis. I'm certainly not the only intelligent auto-didact who would be able to more greatly appreciate your pieces were he to have more than a general guess as to how to appreciate the data in your colorful graphs.

Cheers,

mnuez

Blogged on a phone

There's plenty more I'd like to talk about with regards this post such as which population of Palestinians were chosen (Hebron or Khan Yunis?) And whether the chosen population was selected for based on their hypothesized antiquity in the area (I know black-African and Egyptian "Palestinians" living in Jerusalem, were they as likely to have been picked for study as a Gallillean Palestinian with a 1200 year old family tree?) And of course many other related topicas as well but I believe that even at this juncture I can safely claim my award for longest comment left by a phone tapper.

I want to quickly note that in every sense that matters on the emotional front of this matter, Druze are not Palestinians. In fact, I'm hesitant to pass around this link to friends on account of the fact that no non-specialist will understand that Razib seems to have included Druze and Beduin within the bubble of "Palestinian"

figure D = just palestinians, so i don't know where you'd getting that i confounded the two. i specifically didn't want to talk about the druze because they're a relatively genetically isolated group like the kalash who seem to have 'drifted' into their own direction. and there's a huge difference between syrian, lebanese and israeli druze on the questions that someone like you would care about :-) (i.e., "but is it good for the jews?") anyway, i'd be willing to bet $100 dollars that modern palestinians share more distinctive alleles with jews circa hasmonean period than the ashkenazi. in other words, modest confidence, though i wouldn't be surprised if i was wrong either. perhaps the gov. of israel will fund some DNA extraction? thank god jews didn't cremate!

as for the plots, my understanding is that they're just plotting genetic distances between individuals based on the distinctive alleles shared. you could represent it 3-d too i guess. basically you have a matrix where the rows & columns are ij pairwise distances between individual i and j and you're visualizing into a particular space of independent dimensions.

p.s. by chance i saw you making fun of "fred scrooby" via a google search. pretty funny stuff. interesting how two jewish grandparents becomes 'some distant jewish ancestry.'

The results of this study are consistent with the findings in my book "The Jews of Khazaria, Second Edition" - the only comprehensive book on the Khazars that incorporates genetic data. If you were annoyed by the pseudohistorical book denying Ashkenazim have any substantial Israelite ancestry that recently got undeserved press in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, you can refer to my book instead. There is nothing offensive about the fact that Southern Europeans and Khazars (and others) have contributed to Ashkenazic ancestry as well.

Is the Jewish affinity with Adygei truly Khazarian or is it because of Armenian/Anatolian-Turk DNA the Ashkenazi and European Sephardim picked up in Asia Minor?

Bauchet in 2007 demonstrated the Ashkenazim clustered quite closely with Greeks and Armenians.

"there are germans in the HGDP sample?"

That's the problem, there aren't. I see a lot of comments here saying that this proves there is very little germanic and slavic blood in ashkenazis, but where does that come from? It's obvious with slavics, because we have russians represented. But how can it be claimed that there's little germanic blood in them?

joe, most euro variance is north-south. in the context of the questions here orcadians are probably a sufficient proxy.

That's true, but I'm still not impressed. Doesn't that cline keep going right down the edge of the Mediterranean? Shouldn't a jewish-north europe mix looks an awful lot like a jewish-south europe mix but with slightly different weights?

That's true, but I'm still not impressed. Doesn't that cline keep going right down the edge of the Mediterranean? Shouldn't a jewish-north europe mix looks an awful lot like a jewish-south europe mix but with slightly different weights?

The Khazars were not exactly an East European or a slavic group. They were a people hailing from Northern Caucasia with at least some Central Asian blood. Ashkenazis may be genetically close to Kurds, Turks and Armenians, however Chechens have also been proven to be genetically close to other Caucasian peoples including Armenians. Modern day Chechnya would have been part of Khazaria. It also would include Ingushetia, Ossetia, Dagestan, etc. Middle eastern genetic markers have been found in those groups. The Ashkenazis also have assorted Haplogroup G markers, which are found near or around the Caucasus, some originating in the Caucasus perhaps. Although, in depth studies have not been done in the caucasus region, especially in the northern cacausus. So the fates of the infamous Khazars still remain unclear.

Joshua said:
One thing that keeps striking me in a lot of these studies is how little evidence of Khazar influence. Historically, the claim that the Ashkenazic population were descended mainly from the Khazars has been associated with anti-Semitism. In that regard, there's some degree of luck that the claim isn't accurate...

But there are studies out there which detail exactly the genetic contribution of Khazars to Jews?! Check out this study by Ellen Levy Coffman, who pretty much prooves that Ashkenazi Levites are Khazars by descent:
http://www.jogg.info/11/coffman.htm

The genetic similarity of Jews to Kurds and other populations of the northern Middle East was posited, if I recall, in a Y-chromosome study by Nebel. Kurdish and Anatolian samples have not so far as I know been included in any of the more recent Jewish autosomal studies, and Armenian samples have only shown up in Bauchet's paper from 2007. So it's really not clear how close Jewish populations are to the Kurds or Anatolians at this point, and we should be wary to posit a relationship since the autosomal studies give a picture of significantly more admixture (at least among Ashkenazim) than the Y-chromosome studies.

I have nothing against the Khazars (in fact, I considered the possibility of being their descendant rather intriguing as a child until I learned of their propaganda utility to Stormfronters and Arab nationalist crazies). However, it would be nice to actually know a bit about their genetic makeup before considering any relationship between them and the Ashkenazim to be proven. At its strongest, the case is very circumstantial.

once the sample sizes get huge for all populations does the signature of rare "east asian" haplotypes in ashkenazi jews rise above that of sephard, mizrachi and other west european populations? if so, that might be a signature of turkic admixture (the khazar themselves were an admixed horde, but their origins were certainly in greater mongolia, like the avars).

The genetic similarity of Jews to Kurds and other populations of the northern Middle East was posited, if I recall, in a Y-chromosome study by Nebel. Kurdish and Anatolian samples have not so far as I know been included in any of the more recent Jewish autosomal studies, and Armenian samples have only shown up in Bauchet's paper from 2007.

The historical evidence in favor of Ashkenazi and European Sephardic DNA being mostly Anatolian and not Levantine looks quite good to me.

Historically we know Jews enjoyed a large presence in Asia Minor reaching all the way back to the 4th century B.C. and lasting to the post Western Roman Empire-Byzantine period.

Since the Jews of Asia Minor were established there for more or less 1,000 years I don't see how it is possible that the ancestors of European Jewry could have avoided picking up a considerable amount of Anatolian-Turk, Greek and Armenian DNA from:

A) Jewish men taking local Anatolian wives and

B) from Anatolian converts to Judaism when the Jews actively engaged in proselytism before Christian authorities outlawed Jewish proselystism between the 5th and 7th centuries.

There is no doubt some Levantine Arab blood left in modern European Jewry. However I would bet that the majority of their Middle Eastern DNA is Anatolian-Turk, Armenian and maybe Kurdish. Probably only a moderate to low amount of European Jewish DNA originates from the original Levantine Jews.

Even the above paper states that Turkish Jews were a bit difficult to distinguish from Ashkenazi Jews, and it is certain Turish Jews have a substantial Anatolian DNA component.

Since the Jews of Asia Minor were established there for more or less 1,000 years I don't see how it is possible that the ancestors of European Jewry could have avoided picking up a considerable amount of Anatolian-Turk, Greek and Armenian DNA from:

no turk. substitute in kurd (or as they would say, 'isaurian').

observer's comments seem plausible enough to me. but one should note that on the Y chromosomal lineages there is a clear connection to *levantine* middle easterners, not anatolians. i.e., the cohen modal haplotype is from the branch of haplogroup J common among arabs. though the kurds are collapsed into this group too, though the turks are not. see more at the citations in wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jew#Male_lineages:_Y_chromosomal_DNA

though this is consistent with the model above, as long as patrilineages are maintained, the autosome can be replaced....

The Khazar theory may seem improbable to certain political groups and ideologues, however let us not mix politics and genetics. There needs to be larger studies done in the greater Caucasus region, there is a lot of data that is missing for the area. We should compare how the Chechens, Dagestanis, Ingush and other Caucasian peoples compare to Ashkenazis first before making any rash conclusions either way.

me. but one should note that on the Y chromosomal lineages there is a clear connection to *levantine* middle easterners, not anatolians. i.e., the cohen modal haplotype is from the branch of haplogroup J common among arabs.

This is a good point.

But J2 - which is common in Ashkenazi and European Sephardi - is found most frequently in the Caucasus (for "mike" and his Khazars), the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia and gradually less as one moves Southeast from Syria and Lebanon and deeper into Arabia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_J2_(Y-DNA)

Haplogroup J2 is found mainly in the Fertile Crescent, the Caucasus,[5] Anatolia, the Balkans, Italy, the Mediterranean littoral, the Iranian plateau, and Central Asia.[1] More specifically it is found in Iraq,[20] Syria, Lebanon,[21] Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Greece, Italy and the eastern coasts of the Iberian Peninsula[22], and more frequently in Iraqis 29.7% (Sanchez et al. 2005), Lebanese 25% (Semino et al 2004), Palestinians 16.8% (Semino et al 2004) [1], Syrians 22.5% (Luis et al. 2004), Sephardic Jews 29%, Kurds 28.4%, Jordan 14.3%, Oman 15% (Di Giacomo et al. 2004) & 10% (Luis et al. 2004), UAE 10.4%, Yemen 9.7%[23], in Israel[1], in Palestine[1], and in Turkey.[4]

J2 is found at very high frequencies in the peoples of the Caucasus - among the Georgians 21%[5]-72%,[6] Azeris 24%[7]-48%,[6] Ingush 32%,[8] Chechens 26%,[8] Balkars 24%,[13] Ossetians 24%,[8] Armenians 21.3%[6]-24%,[8] and other groups.[5][8]

In Europe, the frequency of Haplogroup J2 drops dramatically as one moves northward away from the Mediterranean. In Italy, J2 is found with regional frequencies ranging between 9% and 36%.[14] In Greece, it is found with regional frequencies ranging between 11% and 46%. Frequencies are high in Turkey, approximately 24% of Turkish men are J2 according to a recent study,[4] with regional frequencies ranging between 13% and 40%.[12] Combined with J1, up to half of the Turkish population belongs to Haplogroup J.

It has been proposed that haplogroup subclade J2a-M410 was linked to populations on ancient Crete by examining the relationship between Anatolian, Cretan, and Greek populations from around early Neolithic sites[24]. Haplogroup J2b-M12 was associated with Neolithic Greece (ca. 8500 - 4300 BCE) and was reported to be found in modern Crete (3.1%) and mainland Greece (Macedonia 7.0%, Thessaly 8.8%, Argolis 1.8%) [25].

Sephardic Jews have about 29% of haplogroup J2[1] and Ashkenazi Jews have 23%[1], or 19%[26]. It was reported in an early study which tested only four STR markers [27] that a small sample of Italian Cohens belonged to Network 1.2, an early designation for the overall clade now known as J2a4, defined by the deletion at DYS413. However, a large number of all Jewish Cohens in the world belong to haplogroup J1 (see Cohen modal haplotype).

J2 subclades are also found in Iran, Central Asia, and South Asia.

Haplogroup J2 has been shown to have a more northern distribution in the Middle East, although it exists in significant amounts in the southern middle-east regions, a lesser amount of it was found when compared to its brother haplogroup, J1, which has a high frequency southerly distribution. This suggests that, if the occurrence of Haplogroup J among modern populations of Europe, Central Asia, and South Asia does reflect Neolithic demic diffusion from the Middle East, the source population is more likely to have originated from Anatolia, the Levant or northern Mesopotamia than from regions further south.

Nebbish said:
I have nothing against the Khazars (in fact, I considered the possibility of being their descendant rather intriguing as a child until I learned of their propaganda utility to Stormfronters and Arab nationalist crazies). However, it would be nice to actually know a bit about their genetic makeup before considering any relationship between them and the Ashkenazim to be proven.

So to simplify, you are in favor of any science that supports certain Jewish causes and against it if it doesn't - basically you view science as a tool of politicians - nice?!

At its strongest, the case is very circumstantial.

"There are none so blind as those who don't want to see..."

The fact that the Khazar elite converted en masse to Judaism is not in dispute, the only fact in dispute is if the rank and file Khazar converted too. Of course it would be nonsense to say that Ashkenazim are simply Khazars, they are not, but they have substantial (12%) Khazar admixture.

Additionally, I share genomes with a number of Ashkenazim, and can tell you that the a many of them have minor East Asian gene segments - usually 1-2% East Asian.

The 12 or so percent refers to Eastern European admixture. The Khazars were not Eastern Europeans. They were from the Caucasus. Caucasians have been proven to have y-chromosomal lineages similar to Middle Easterners. Ashkenazis (a caucasian people) cluster closely with Armenians in fact.

*I should have written Armenians (a Caucasian people) cluster closely with Ashkenazis in fact.

careful about the terms thrown around guys. remember that for most of history (up until the early 20th century genocide) armenians were more of an east anatolian populations than a caucasian one. as for the khazar's being caucasian, their locus of power was on the broad plains to the north, and though they were likely an admixed group by the time they began to be influenced by judaism their origins are turkic, and so ultimately in mongolia.

pconroy,
That isn't what I meant at all. The maximalist position that would support the Jewish ethno-nationalist political cause is no admixture of any kind. Not even the original Hammer paper from 2000 proposed that, although it and the other early Y-chromosome studies claimed that the situation was close to that. The autosomal studies clearly show that admixture has occurred, and I am quite comfortable with that. I am not comfortable with declaring all or even a substantial portion of the admixture to be of Khazar origin given that we know so little about the genetics of the Khazars (almost no physical remains, lack of clarity about their population genetic profile at the time of their conversion to Judaism, etc.). It seems really premature to declare the case of Ashkenazi admixture solved based on the circumstantial evidence that Ellen Levy Coffman cites. There are potential alternative explanations for small quanta of East Asian ancestry among Jews (silk road trade, a deep ancestral component within the Middle East, etc.), although the Khazars might be the answer. And there is a nontrivial chance that extensive admixture with the Khazars (whose origins lay in Mongolia, as Razib has noted) would not explain where Ashkenazi and other Jewish populations lie in relation to S. Euro populations.

As for the relationship between Turkish Jews and Ashkenazim, it doesn't necessarily say much about Jewish Anatolian admixture. The Turkish Jewish population is heavily Sephardic in ancestry due to migrations after the expulsions from Spain There may not be much continuity with the ancient Anatolian Jewish populations. Having said that, Roman-period Anatolia, Greece, and Italy rank high on my likelihood meter for sources of admixture that might differentiate modern Jews from the peoples who currently inhabit their ancient stomping grounds due to large Jewish populations in those regions from the Hellenistic period onward.

The Khazar theory may seem improbable to certain political groups and ideologues, however let us not mix politics and genetics.

It is hard for people to separate them in this context. Frankly, I find claims of legitimacy based on ancient ancestry to be very hard to see as philosophically justifiable anyways so it isn't that relevant. However, it isn't unreasonable to look at the data and wonder what political implications it has. The key there is to be careful that the genetics informs ideology or politics not the other way around.

I believe that the Khazar theory may actually have some merit. If you were to look at the Anatolian example, you would find that the majority of Anatolian "Turks" are actually Turkified Anatolians. The same could easily have happened for the Khazars. The majority of "ethnic" rather than racial Khazars could have been native Northern Caucasia, and the central asian admixture would have been at a minimum. Western Asian haplogroups are very common in the Caucasus region. Just as historically many Anatolians have considered themselves turks until population genetic studies proved otherwise. Both J1 and J2 appear in the Caucasus, as do various Haplogroup G subclades which Ashkenazi jews belong to, although this still needs more testing. The big mystery so far deals with haplogroup E1b1b1. It has not been tested thoroughly in the Caucasus, especially the Northern Caucasus. The Khazar question is still an open one.

There must be something about the Jews to be so intensely studied. I think it is not so much genetics but the fact that they have kept fairly distinct through the millenia. What other ethnic group has done so? No more Romans, we can only guess at the Hellenes of old, Etruscans gone, Phoenicians disappeared, even the Franks, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Celtiberians, Vandals..the list goes on. All gone, but the Jews are still with us. That says something about them and probably why they are so disliked by just about everyone.

I don't really accept this separation thing between Europe and the Middle East in genetics. The average European and average Middle Easterner just a cline in the West Eurasian Caucasoid form of humanity. Most Europeans derive from people with Middle Eastern origins whether it was in the Neolithic or later ages.

With SNP tests you can separate ethnic groups, Northern English from Southern English, people from Watford from people from Westminster. The answer is so what, a big deal. It depends on what choices you make, which SNPs vary more in each population. Jews would overwhelmingly cluster with standard Europeans compared with South Asians or East Asians or Africans. Jews would cluster with Italians, Greeks and other Mediterraneans compared with NW or NE Europeans. Jews will cluster with Lebanese and Syrians if they were the only ones chosen. It would be interesting to see where Greeks, Italians and other Mediterraneans cluster with when only Middle Easterners are chosen. Choice rules which cluster they fit into.

Interesting to see that the researchers have mostly Jewish names. Probably means Jews want to claim their distinctness and their origins to the Hebrews, Israelites, Judaeans and other mythic ethnic groups to stake their claim to Israel/Palestine. Lots of agendas there.

Here is Dienekes' take:

http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2009/12/jews-intermediate-between-middle.h…

Dienekes said...
The more interesting thing (to me) about recent Jewish demography is how Ashkenazi Jews (who were a very small minority of the Jewish population) grew to become a great demographic component of that population.

How did this growth occur? the AJ found new living space in Europe, where they could grow in numbers. By contrast, Jews elsewhere had already experienced their growth phase and faced decline due to conversion. Thus the AJ component of the total Jewish group increased.

Drawing a parallel, Jews in Palestine in the Hellenistic-Roman era were plentiful (locally) but they were demographically constrained by the limited available space. But, their Diaspora had much more available space to grow in. So, I would guess that the major part of extant Jews' ancestry is from Roman-era Diaspora Jews rather than Roman-era Palestine Jews.

The interesting question (to me) is how much European ancestry did the Jews receive in the Hellenistic-Roman period, and how much in the medieval-Roman one. I believe that both elements are present, but I would wager that the European element in AJs consists of a fairly uniform Italian-Balkan-Anatolian "old" stratum, and a very variable German-Slavic "new" stratum.

Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:43:00 AM

This is what can happen when geneticists have their ideologies determine where to look and what to look at specifically, while ignoring other possibilities. I like how the Khazars are referred to mainly as R-M17 by the researchers, when in the Northern Caucasus region multiple Western Asian haplogroups are clearly present. The Khazars would not have been merely Eastern Europeans. Just take a look at the Caucasian peoples now living around the area of what was Khazaria. There are striking similarities with the Ashkenazi Jewish population.

Here are my thoughts on the the origins of the Ashkenazi, in light of the genetic data presented so far.

1. The "Near eastern" populations utelized are not representative specimens. They are levant populations, which, as historical records demonstrate, received substantial European admixture over a 1300 year period (at least). They also admixed with Turkish and Armenian populations. Cluster analysis of the Levant populations demonstrates this in a number of studies. According to Cavalli-Sforza (2008), the Druze and Palestinians are around 50% European, and 30-50% Near Eastern (my estimates from the structure chart), with some admixture from Central Asian Caucasoids.

The results of genetic affinity studies using Palestinians and Druze as proxies for Near Eastern populations, are therefore different from what researchers have reported. Rather than showing how "Near Eastern" the Ashkenazi are, these studies demonstrate how European the levant populations are. Notice that in the occasional studies which do include surrounding Near Eastern populations, the Levant clusters closely with Europeans. This is exactly what we should expect from the historical record - hybridized (Europeanized) populations with a Near Eastern base.

2. The similarity of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish populations in the above study, is misleading for two reasons. (1) The Sephardic populations are European in origin, and do not represent Near Eastern Jews. (2) The Ashkenazi population is likely drawn from the same base as the Sephardic population of Spain. The implication, then, is that Sephardic and Ashkenazi populations are not totaly distinct, but instead, variants of a common population with origins in South Eastern Europe, where Jews first appeared on the continent. Actual Near Eastern Jewish populations from Iraq, Iran, and other countries, do not cluster well with Ashkenazi Jews. Had they been included, the results of the above study would likely have looked much different.

3. Ashkenazi Jews fit well with South Eastern Europeans, particularly Greeks and Italians. The reason why is obvious: according to the historical record, Greek and Roman converts to Judaism WERE the source of Jewish introduction to the continent. Furthermore, according to historical evidence, there was not, at any time, a major movement of Palestinian Jews into Europe. Now, the question is, does the genetic evidence support the historical documentation? Yes, it is almost exactly what you would expect to find. Here is why:

A. Historicaly, Ashkenazi were founded from Roman and Greek converts, so their affinity to Europeans should be closest to those populations. The genetic distance should be low. It is. In the above study, Ashkenazi only segregate from other Europeans at clusters of k=5 or more. But notice that they NEVER group well with Palestinians (only 25-30% it seems), and that this grouping dissappears altogether in the next iteration. The temporary grouping is explained by the European admixture in Palestinians. Other studies show similar structuring of Ashkenazi clustering with Greeks and Romans.

B. Ashkenazi have some influence from Kazars according to historical records, but not much. It's also likely they have some admixture from Caucaus region peoples and surrounding populations such as Turks. This explains the weak affinity to the Adgei.

C. The mysterious "third component" of the Ashkenazi is probably an artifact of several genetic factors other than admixture. Notice that the "mysterious" Jewish signature (at k=5+) isn't found in Levant populations, despite both Jewish and levant groups having substantial admixture with Europeans and partial origin in the SAME Near Easterners. The mysterious signature has been found in most other genomic studies of the Ashkenazi. Notice that the "Jewish" component is highest in the Sephardic populations. Why? Because the Jewish component is probably ancient genetic variation from South Eastern Europe that was brought by Sephardics to Spain, but substantialy lost by the Ashkenazi through (1) drift, (2) bottle necking, and (3) admixture with non-Southern Europeans. This is supported by the fact that the Southern Europeans (Italians, etc) have the highest values for the third component than all other European populations. Only the Adgei have higher a greater proportion, and they are in the caucaus. This seems odd at first. The explanation may be that the Caucaus, Northern Turkey, and Southern Europe, share a common genetic affinity which is reflected in the structure chart. This affinity may exist on a cline so that the southern-most and eastern-most portions of Europe share it more than the rest. If Jews were drawn from this region, then it would explain the observed population structures. Of course, there may be some other explanation too, this is rather speculative.

Your thoughts?

By FanofGeneX (not verified) on 11 Jan 2010 #permalink