Genetics & the Jews (it's still complicated)

By Razib Khan | June 10, 2010 6:05 am

After the post on Jewish genetics from a few days ago I was going to do a follow up clarifying a few issues. It was a big paper and I skipped over material which I thought might have benefited from further elaboration, but would have taken up too much time. But Dienekes alerts me to another paper which just came out in Nature of interest, The genome-wide structure of the Jewish people:

Contemporary Jews comprise an aggregate of ethno-religious communities whose worldwide members identify with each other through various shared religious, historical and cultural traditions…Historical evidence suggests common origins in the Middle East, followed by migrations leading to the establishment of communities of Jews in Europe, Africa and Asia, in what is termed the Jewish Diaspora…This complex demographic history imposes special challenges in attempting to address the genetic structure of the Jewish people…Although many genetic studies have shed light on Jewish origins and on diseases prevalent among Jewish communities, including studies focusing on uniparentally and biparentally inherited markers…genome-wide patterns of variation across the vast geographic span of Jewish Diaspora communities and their respective neighbours have yet to be addressed. Here we use high-density bead arrays to genotype individuals from 14 Jewish Diaspora communities and compare these patterns of genome-wide diversity with those from 69 Old World non-Jewish populations, of which 25 have not previously been reported. These samples were carefully chosen to provide comprehensive comparisons between Jewish and non-Jewish populations in the Diaspora, as well as with non-Jewish populations from the Middle East and north Africa. Principal component and structure-like analyses identify previously unrecognized genetic substructure within the Middle East. Most Jewish samples form a remarkably tight subcluster that overlies Druze and Cypriot samples but not samples from other Levantine populations or paired Diaspora host populations. In contrast, Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) and Indian Jews (Bene Israel and Cochini) cluster with neighbouring autochthonous populations in Ethiopia and western India, respectively, despite a clear paternal link between the Bene Israel and the Levant. These results cast light on the variegated genetic architecture of the Middle East, and trace the origins of most Jewish Diaspora communities to the Levant.

I doubt it’s a coincidence that this paper came out right on the heels of the previous one; papers are presented at conferences and word gets around, and I assume that the two groups were rushing to get their work published soon enough so as not to be totally overshadowed by the first past the post. The text of both papers is also an interesting window into the role of interpretation in science, as this one seems to emphasize the common Middle Eastern ancestry of Jews (excluding outliers such as the Ethiopian Jews), while the previous one highlighted structure within the Jewish community. Despite the similarities, this second paper is worth exploring for one major reason: it includes two populations of Jews, Moroccans and Yemenis, which were not in the previous research.


The methodology of both groups was similar. Take Jewish and non-Jewish populations of interest, and sequence them with a SNP-chip, and then try and extract out some useful patterns for the purposes of analytics. Here’s an important issue I want to reemphasize: the different methods of extracting out useful patterns give somewhat different results, and these results themselves are to a great extent human constructions which map only approximately onto the shape of reality. Measures of “genetic distance” are really just useful reifications and their biological reality as the differences amongst billions of base pairs is a somewhat different thing. This is why it is difficult to be more than trivial sometimes when it comes to what the “bottom line” on these studies are; the bottom lines represent human attempts to generate intuitive categories and representations on natural processes which are in some ways deeply alien to us. So with the cautions out of the way, let’s look at what the figures in this paper might indicate to our puny human intuitions.

First, here is a slice of a PCA where various Jewish groups have been mixed with a range of populations from the HGDP data set as well as a few extra ones. Specifically, I’ve focused on panel B which expands the region of the plot which contains populations of European and West Asian origin. Additionally, I’ve added a few extra labels and expanded the legend for clarity of viewing.

jewsnat1

The second figure constrains the variation to European and West Eurasian populations for the purposes of extracting out the two largest dimensions of variation. Observe that the general configurations of the relationships remains the same (if rotated a bit), but the magnitudes are now shifted. In the first plot the unadmixed African populations were the most diverse group, while in the second the Arab groups with appreciable African ancestry such as the Bedouin are. So eigenvector 1 seems to roughly rank order West Asian groups by their African ancestry, while the second eigenvector is a rough east-west axis within the various regional groups.

jewsnat2

The PCA aligns well with the previous paper. Ashkenazi Jews are roughly between European and Middle Eastern populations, as one would expect if they were in some sense an admixture between the groups. In the first paper the “Italian” group was from northern Italy. In this paper it is from Tuscany (Tus/T respectively for figure 1 and 2). The more interesting aspect are the non-Ashkenazi groups. This paper seems to confirm the east-west division evident in the earlier paper, whereby Ashkenazi & Sephardic groups form a natural cluster, as do the Mizrahi Jews of Iraq and Iran. Additionally, the Jews of Morocco seem to fall close to the Ashkenazi-Sephardic cluster (Moroccan Jews are Sephardic, but separated out a bit for the purposes of this paper). In the HGDP sample the closest thing to a “host” population for the Moroccan Jews are the Mozabites of Algeria, who are a Saharan Berber group. Unfortunately I don’t think this is the best proxy for the Berber groups because the Mozabites have a substantial proportion of Sub-Saharan African ancestry, more than is typical from what I can gather for populations from the Maghreb. But they added in their own group of Moroccans as well, though I didn’t track down the notation in the supplementary table 1 to ascertain the provenance of this sample.

The Yemeni Jews on the other hand are easier to understand. They seem to shake out as just another Middle Eastern population. They’re a subset of the Saudis in both plots. Since they’re regionally constrained to the southwest of the Arabian peninsula this makes sense, as the Saudi sample seems more regionally diverse in its recent ancestry (the next figure makes this clear to me). So the Yemeni Jews are roughly a third major cluster of “mainline” Jewish groups. Though their history is not as antique as that of the Jews of Iraq and Iran, who presumably go back to the period of the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids (earlier in the case of the Babylonian Jewry naturally), it does pre-date Islam. Additionally the genetic data suggest that this Jewish community has been relatively endogamous since the rise of Islam, as the next plot highlights.

It uses the ADMIXTURE method, with eight ancestral populations represented by each particular color. I’ve truncated the plot to populations of interest, in particular the Middle Eastern ones.

jewadmixplotThe inference that Middle Eastern Jews have been relatively endogamous since the rise of Islam is supported by this figure, the red-brown segment is pretty close to Sub-Saharan African ancestry in an individual’s genome. The Arab and North African Muslim groups tend to have some appreciable Sub-Saharan African ancestry, but the Jewish groups do not. This is probably due to the fact that the arrival of Sub-Saharan Africans as slaves was more a feature of the Islamic era states, which had far more pervasive trade links with Africa south of the Sahara than any of the societies of antiquity. The Jews within the lands of Islam who did not convert were marginalized and did not participate fully in the commercial and cultural life of these societies. It seems plausible to assume then that there were few avenues for persons of slave ancestry and origin to enter into the Jewish community, as was common within Muslim society, where the offspring of slave women were recognized as free if the father was free. The Druze, a post-Muslim sect traditionally restricted to the mountains of Lebanon exhibit the same lack of Sub-Saharan African ancestry as Middle Eastern Jews, and this presumably is a pointer to their marginalization over the past one thousand years from the world of Arab Islam generally.

From this figure it looks as if the Moroccan Jews are fundamentally distinctive in some way from the non-Jewish population of Morocco. The green segment within the plot seems lacking in groups from the far western edge of the World Island of Africa-Eurasia. The full figure shows it is also lacking from populations on the eastern edge, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding those which have admixture. This component then point to origins within the center of the World Island, focused on the Mashriq and regions somewhat to the east. The magnitude of contribution of this segment to Moroccan Jews to me clinches the earlier observation of a close association between Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Moroccan Sephardic Jews, and a tie back to the Middle East in part for all these groups (though some of this may be of deeper origin, as the contrast between French and French Basques shows that different groups within the same nation can have different contributions, and the Moroccan non-Jewish samples may not be representative).

Finally, let’s look at the table which attempts to summarize genetic distances using allele sharing. The lower values indicate more genetic closeness.

jewsnat3

Throwing all the variation together in a grab bag doesn’t seem to really inform that much from what I can tell. Here are the authors:

Genetic relationships between our population samples were then explored with the measure of allele sharing distances (ASDs)…Table 1 provides genetic distances between each Jewish community and its corresponding host population, all Jewish communities, west Eurasian Jewish communities, their respective Jewish group inferred from the PCA, and non-Jewish Levantine populations. The Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Moroccan, Iranian, Iraqi, Azerbaijani and Uzbekistani Jewish communities have the lowest ASD values when compared with their PCA-based inferred Jewish sub-cluster…In all except the Sephardi Jewish community, this ASD difference is statistically significant … ASD values between Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Caucasus Jewish populations and their respective hosts are lower than those between each Jewish population and non-Jewish populations from the Levant. This might be the result of a bias inherent in our calculations as a result of the genetically more diverse non-Jewish populations of the Levant. The Ethiopian and Indian Jewish communities show the lowest ASD values when compared with their host population….

So what’s the bottom line here? I think the bottom line is that there isn’t a bottom line, and that we need to proceed on a case by case basis. I’ve focused on Middle Eastern Jews in this post, but let’s put the spotlight on the Indian Jews, the Bene Israel of Bombay, who were separated from the Jewish Diaspora, and the Cochin Jews, who were more well integrated (the Bene Israel did not have the Talmud, the Cochin Jews did). Both these groups resemble their Indian host populations genetically. Yet, Y chromosomal markers strongly imply that the Bene Israel are descended from male Middle Eastern Jews (many carry the Cohen Modal Haplotype). What likely occurred in India was that generations of admixture between Jews and non-Jews resulted in the elision of differences between the two groups, despite the persistence of a cultural distinction. Why the difference with other Jewish groups? I suspect that it has to do with the relative lack of a special relationship between Jews and the host culture in India as opposed to the world of Islam or Christendom. In India Jews were just another group, not subject to particular exclusion or marginalization. Non-Jews could, and did, move into the Indian Jewish community, while this was taboo in the Islamic or Christian world. A similar process seems to have occurred to the Jews of Kaifeng, who intermarried and eventually lost their identity because of their greater eventual isolation from the Jewish Diaspora in comparison to the Indian Jews, especially those of Cochin. The last generations of the Jews of Kaifeng, who likely descended from Middle Eastern traders, witnessed the sons of this community enter into the Chinese bureaucracy through cultivation of that culture’s classics, as well as the farce of Han wives of Jewish notables tending to pigs in their yards.

Citation: Behar, D., Yunusbayev, B., Metspalu, M., Metspalu, E., Rosset, S., Parik, J., Rootsi, S., Chaubey, G., Kutuev, I., Yudkovsky, G., Khusnutdinova, E., Balanovsky, O., Semino, O., Pereira, L., Comas, D., Gurwitz, D., Bonne-Tamir, B., Parfitt, T., Hammer, M., Skorecki, K., & Villems, R. (2010). The genome-wide structure of the Jewish people Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature09103

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Genetics, Genomics
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  • Danny

    The Druze, a post-Muslim sect traditionally restricted to the mountains of Lebanon exhibit the same lack of Sub-Saharan African ancestry as Middle Eastern Jews

    Are there studies that distinguish between Levantine Christians & Muslims? I would expect that the Christians would be more like the Druze, without the extra Sub-Saharan (or Arabian Peninsula) ancestry.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    “The Jews of Morocco seem to fall close to the Ashkenazi-Sephardic cluster (Moroccan Jews are Sephardic, but separated out a bit for the purposes of this paper). In the HGDP sample the closest thing to a “host” population for the Moroccan Jews are the Mozabites of Algeria, who are a Saharan Berber group.”
    Contradiction! One has to separate between the Moroccan Jews who were part of the massive deportation from Spain and the Jewish Berbers who inhabited the Maghreb since thousands of years!

  • toto

    On Graph 2, part of the Ashkenazi blob falls right were you would expect to see South Italians and Greeks, apparently confirming the previous paper with regard to Greco-Roman admixture. Or am I just falling for confirmation bias here?

    Interestingly there is a bit of yellow “Central-Asian/Turkishness” in Ashkenazi Jews in the ADMIXTURE graph. The rest of Supplementary Figure 4A indicates that yellow and orange components are indeed Central and East Asian, not Old Anatolian. Some more fodder for the Zombie Khazar Hypothesis (shudder)?

    which had far more pervasive trade links with Africa south of the Africa

    Presumably you meant Sahara (though come to think of it, “Antartic” does have some kind of Arabic ring to it…)

  • http://dienekes.blogspot.com Dienekes

    On Graph 2, part of the Ashkenazi blob falls right were you would expect to see South Italians and Greeks, apparently confirming the previous paper with regard to Greco-Roman admixture. Or am I just falling for confirmation bias here?

    Greeks are distinct from Jews

    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2009/08/refinement-of-ancestry-informative.html
    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2008/02/300k-snp-paper-on-european-genetic.html

    The problem is that you get different admixture ratios depending on which populations you take as representing the Near Eastern and European components in modern Jews.

    As I mention in my blog post, the current paper has not identified a Jewish-centered ancestry cluster, rather the existence of three disjoint clusters that may (or may not) have a kernel of common ancestry.

    Until the presence of a Jewish-centered ancestry cluster is discovered, it is not easy to determine the level of admixture that Jews had with other West Asian or European populations.

  • toto

    Mohammed: There is discussion of the Sepharades, and their surprising proximity to Ashkenazis (surprising in the context of their respective supposed history) in the supplementary materials.

    Apparently you can find it there.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Sorry, I can’t link to the other materials; but it is pretty obvious that most of the Jews who fled or were deported from Spain when Al Andalus fell are different from Jewish Berbers, we still can differentiate if only by name, but also by appearance. Andalusian Jews probably are close to Ashkenazi because Europeans of all faiths were flocking to Al Andalus (we were there for eight centuries!). Of course there were also Jewish Berbers in Iberia, but mostly Islamized Jewish Berbers! Some historians say that the two groups did not intermingle much, there or here after the Muslim defeat, and even now one can still distinguish between a “pure” Berber Jew and a “Spanish” one.

  • Daniel

    Too bad this article is only comprehensible by scientists in the field. What is this doing on the Discover website?

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Speaking of Bedouin vs Palestinians, that’s a rare case in which the relatively more African minority population is dominant over the relatively more Caucasian one. That’s not only the case in Jordan, Libya is also dominated by Bedouin and suppresses Berber/Kabyle identity.

  • benj

    Mohammed: the story of the Berber Jews is a myth. Maybe some Berbers converted to Judaism in Roman times but the idea of vast tribes converted to Judaism was invented in the 19th century. The Kahina was not Jewish.

  • Moshe Rudner

    As you’re likely aware, the various Indian Jewish communities were quite stratified until recently.

    The Bene Israel for example included both “Black” and “White” Jews (with the general assumption being that the “Black” Jews were descended from freed slaves) and the Cochini Jewish community included Black, White and Brown – and even these groups were subdivided further.

    Because the Bene Israel had themselves acknowledged admixture with the local populace followed by a recent breaking down of the barriers between their two groups (the supposedly “purely” Jewish and the admittedly mixed group), there was some question in Israel regarding their halachic status and it was decades before the matter was fully resolved in their favor (after a few weeks of protests in the capital) and even just a dozen years back a Rabbi got into trouble with the official Rabbinate for refusing to perform a wedding that involved Bene Israel without written evidence of the purity of their heritage (or proper conversion).

    Also, the Bene Israel are a “rediscovered” group that appears to have been cut off from the main body of world Jewry for at least a few hundred years. The credibility of the early reports of their Judaic practice and knowledge being somewhat unverifiable, the real news regarding them was the patrilineal connection that they appear to have with other Jews. The fact that they otherwise genetically resemble their neighbors would surprise no one who came to the subject without a predetermined agenda.

    As for the Cochinis, I would like to know precisely WHICH Cochini Jews they tested. The Cochini Jews have been connected with the main body of the Jewish people for as far back as we have records on the subject (though they weren’t always confined to Cochin) and we have some good information on the origins of some of those communities. There is, in fact, a vast literature regarding the various Cochini Jewish communities going back at least 200 years. Which Cochinis then were tested? The Paradesi? The freed slaves? The Black Jews?

    It should also be noted that a tremendous number of Jews assimilated out of the fold over the course of the past few thousand years and genetic remnants from those Jews abound everywhere, in some cases even within fairly endogamous communities. This occasionally complicates relative comparisons of Jews with their neighbors (as, for example, in parts of Spain) because the non-Jewish neighbors also have lots of Jewish ancestry. It may also prove to offer wind in the sails of those who, for religious-mystical-political reasons, would like to create as many Jews as possible in the present. This sort of activity has been going on for a while and is mostly advocated by cranks (with apologies to my recently-deceased Auschwitz-surviving cousin who was the founder of the most successful of these groups) but in the post-Holocaust Judaicaly-inclusive era there’s a potentially large base of support for such a perspective if and when genetic evidence of ancient some Jewish forebearers comes to light about some particular group that desires to “reconnect” with the Jewish people (most likely by making Aliya).

    Moshe

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    re: which cochini jews, the group looks mostly south indian. but i bet details will be in the massive supplements.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Benj, “The Invention of the Jewish People” suggests Kahina’s origins were Berber and her religion was Judaized, and gives a survey of the historiographical record discussing her.

  • benj

    Mohammed, “The Invention of the Jewish People” is not a serious book. Sand knows nothing of the subject and invented was suited him.
    And all the studies we are discussing here prove he was completely wrong.
    Regarding the Kahina, the subject has been studied and it is well established she was never Jewish and the first stories of her being such appeared in the 19th century for all kind of reasons (romantism, ideological reasons, simple confusion between the name “Kahina” and “Cohen” and so on).

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Razib Khan: “….it is difficult to be more than trivial sometimes when it comes to what the “bottom line” on these studies are…”

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    ….another of our Berber queens was Tin Hinan (5th century). She ruled over the Ahaggar starting from Tafilalt and united the Tuaregs. I wonder if there is any study on the original Tuareg religion (to make things simple scholars just say they were animistic)?

  • http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal Jason G. Goldman

    Another awesome post.

  • nebbish

    Moshe Rudner wrote: “This occasionally complicates relative comparisons of Jews with their neighbors (as, for example, in parts of Spain) because the non-Jewish neighbors also have lots of Jewish ancestry.”

    It is interesting that you bring up Spain. A paper published by Spencer Wells’ group and widely covered in the popular press last year posited significant Jewish admixture in Spain. However, if I recall correctly, their methodology ascribed most or all of haplogroup J in Spain to Jewish influence. The picture is really much muddier, and that haplogroup could have been introduced by numerous other invading or trading groups between the Neolithic period and the early medieval period. So at best, the estimate given by that paper is a very high upper bound for Jewish introgression into the Spanish population. To bring up another case, the estimates I have seen of Jewish introgression into the Polish population are also quite low (low single-digit percentage).

    What other sources do you have for significant Jewish genetic remnants in non-Jewish populations.

  • john emerson

    There is no pro

    Jewish admixture in Spain isn’t a matter of speculation. Around 1500 Jews and Muslims were given the option of converting to Christianity, leaving Spain, or being burned at the stake. After that point Spaniards were described either as “New Christians” or “Old Christians” depending on whether they were descended from converts or not.

    Of course, the amount and distribution of admixture is still and interesting topic. But no one doubts that a high proportion of Spaniards have some Jewish ancestry.

  • nebbish

    A lot of Spaniards could have some converso ancestry, but the average proportion of total ancestry per person could be very low and perhaps not enough to affect the principal component analyses and clustering analyses significantly.

  • benj

    There is no doubt a proportion of Spaniards have some Jewish ancestry. The question is to know if it is “high” or not. We don’t know exactly how much Jews were is Spain in 1492 – estimates vary a lot. We don’t know how much left, how much were killed, and how much converted. We don’t know exactly how much marranos left during the 16th and 17th centuries. So basically, we have a lot of estimates bu we have in fact no idea.
    The figure can be 2% and it can be 20% for all we know. 20%, as explained here, be the “very high upper bound”.

  • onur

    Jews and Muslims were given the option of converting to Christianity, leaving Spain, or being burned at the stake.

    But no one doubts that a high proportion of Spaniards have some Jewish ancestry.

    In the haplogroup distributions (maternal or paternal) Iberians are vastly different from Jews (Sephardic or not) and North Africans. Most Jewish groups (including Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi and Yemenite Jews) genetically seem East Mediterranean/West Asian, close to south Balkan, Italian, Anatolian, Levantine, Caucasian, Mesopotamian, Iranian and Arabian populations, varying in their affinity to these populations I mention depending on the Jewish group.

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    I was responding to “widely covered in the popular press last year posited significant Jewish admixture in Spain. ” Based on historical knowledge, significant Jewish admixture in Spain is to be expected. It’s not a discovery or shocking hypothesis. How high, how it’s distributed are, as I said, interesting questions.

    Whatever the population of Jews in 1500, after 500 years the proportion of Jews with some Jewish ancestry is going to be high unless the bar on marriages between old Christians and new Christians was very severe. A fair number of eminent Spaniards were of acknowledged New Christian descent even in the 16th century.

    To an extent this might equally be interpreted as a test of the power of genetic tools to detect Jewish descent.

  • onur

    A fair number of eminent Spaniards were of acknowledged New Christian descent even in the 16th century.

    But there were also Muslim-descended New Christians (probably much more than Jewish-descended New Christians). Muslims of Iberia were essentially descended from Muslimized and mostly also Arabized formerly Christian natives of Iberia (thus their conversion to Christianity was in a sense a back-conversion). So their Christianization didn’t alter the genetic composition of the Iberian peninsula in any significant way.

  • Dan

    Now, I remember from a genetics books, that since the Jews descended from the Middle East, would it be possible that a moderately lighted skinned West African ( between a 18-26 on the scale in the link below
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Unlabeled_Renatto_Luschan_Skin_color_map.png9 and a Jew, who is descended from genetic roots in the Middle East, produce a child that is a 27-30+ on the scale? Because among some people among the world that have mixed that fit the profile, this seems to have happen ( for example the Lemba).

  • onur

    What I meant to say in my previous post is that most probably the overwhelming majority of New Christians converted to Christianity from Islam, not Judaism. Most of the population of Muslim Iberia had gradually been Muslim and Arabic speaking, and we also know that the Muslims of Iberia were essentially descended from the formerly Christian natives of Iberia and most of them also switched to Arabic in addition to Islam (there were also significant numbers of linguistically Arabized but still Christian natives in Muslim Iberia). So their conversion to Christianity wouldn’t alter the genetic landscape of Iberia (at least in a significant way), as they were already essentially descended from native Iberian converts to Islam. Anyway, Jews were a very small minority in most of the host countries they stayed as a diaspora population, why Iberia be an exception to this rule?

    Btw, Dan, your link is broken.

  • onur

    Btw, Dan, your link is broken.

    What I meant to say here is that your link doesn’t contain a skin color map (at least not anymore).

  • Escuerd
  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    For what it’s worth, Wiki publishes an estimate that 20% of Spaniards have some Jewish ancestry. My point, though, is just that whatever the number is, it’s no big surprise to anyone. It would be surprising if the number were very low.

    Anyway, Jews were a very small minority in most of the host countries they stayed as a diaspora population, why Iberia be an exception to this rule?

    Why not? This is an empirical question, not one to decide by conjecture and comparison and averaging. Andalusian Spain was the high point of Jewish culture between the destruction of the temple and 19th century Germany, so it seems probably that the Jewish population was considerable.

  • onur

    John, whatever you say doesn’t change the fact that Iberians and Jews (even the Iberian Sephardics) are genetically very different. Genetically speaking, they seem to have had zero or almost zero admixture in their centuries long co-existence in Iberia.

    Wiki publishes an estimate that 20% of Spaniards have some Jewish ancestry.

    May I ask you the source of this estimate? Wiki publishes lots of weird and false stuff.

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    I told you the source: Wiki. That’s why I said “For what it’s worth”. But as far as Wiki goes, it’s a lot better than people claim, and in specific it’s far better than a random poster on the internet.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversos

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_christians

    This is the source of the 20% figure:
    http://www.cell.com/AJHG/abstract/S0002-9297%2808%2900592-2
    However, this 20% figure has been criticized, as Wiki points out. The genes supposedly indicating Jewish descent might have reached Spain earlier from other sources.

    I’m not sure what you think that you’re arguing against, Onur. My only point has been that “significant Jewish admixture in Spain” is exactly what is to be expected. This is not a geneticist’s discovery, this is a possible genetic confirmation of a historical truism. No educated Spaniard will be surprised by the general result, though some specific families which have felt themselves free of Jewish descent might be surprised if they are tested.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra_Decree:
    In Spain the descendants of “New Christians” descended from Muslims or Jews comprised a recognized inferior legal status. Wiki estimates that 130,000 to 800,000 Jews left Spain after 1492 and 50 to 70,000 converted. To this must be added conversions during the previous three centuries. Given seven centuries of possible intermarriage, even given the legal disabilities to New Christians after 1492, a significant Jewish admixture should be expected.

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  • onur

    Are there population figures (and reliable at that) of Iberian Jews and their conversion to Christianity (and also the figures of their expulsion and massacre) in historical sources? I can ask the same questions for Iberian Muslims, who were, as I said, essentially Islamized natives and were very very very far more in number than Iberian Jews. Such kinds of information cannot be normally found in historical sources, so we are left with genetics in these issues.

    The same genetic study you linked actually finds that the Y haplogroup compositions of native Iberians, Iberian (including Iberian exiles elsewhere in the world) Sephardic Jews and native North Africans are vastly distinct from each other:

    http://www.cell.com/AJHG/image/S0002-9297(08)00592-2?imageId=gr2&imageType=large

    The problem is in the authors’ interpretation of the above data (not the data itself, which clearly point to very significant genetic differences between the three populations).

    I suggest you to read Dienekes’ critique of the authors of that paper and the subsequent comments of Dienekes and his readers in his blog:

    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2008/12/major-study-of-iberian-y-chromosomes.html

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    Onur, first, how do you know that Iberian Muslims were “essentially” Islamicized natives? Second, how do you know that Muslims were very very very far more common than Iberian Jews? Third, when you say “Iberian” I hope you just mean “Spanish” or “Spanish + Portuguese”? — you’re not referring to the ancient Iberians I hope. Fourth, how can you be sure that we don’t know anything from historical sources? Fifth, as uncertain as genetic methods are so far, it seems quite premature to favor them over historical sources. Sixth, I was not endorsing the study. I just threw it out there. The first time I mentioned the 20% figure I said “for what it’s worth”.

    And finally, all I was ever trying to say is that if genetics shows that some considerable proportion of Spaniards have considerable Jewish ancestry, that’s not a startling discovery. It’s just additional confirmation of something that almost everyone has always assumed, though it would certainly be interesting to have a definite idea of that the proportions are.

    That’s all I ever tried to say. Do you disagree?

  • nebbish

    This AJHG study by Adams et al. (http://www.cell.com/AJHG/fulltext/S0002-9297%2808%2900592-2) is actually the one to which I was referring in my original comment. I’m afraid that I misattributed this work to the Wells group.

    This study’s very high estimates of North African and Sephardic Jewish introgression reflect an admixture analysis, the principles of which are not transparent to me. However, they also state the proportions of identical haplotypes shared between populations as follows:

    “The mean proportion of identical haplotypes shared between the Sephardic Jewish sample and the Iberian samples is 3.6%, whereas the proportion for those shared between the Moroccan sample and the Iberian samples is 2.8%.”

    So, the percentage of actual shared haplotypes is relatively low. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable about the admixture analysis that was performed in this study can weigh in and convince me, but I am currently very skeptical that their admixture estimates are anything other than very high upper bounds for Sephardic and North African introgression.

  • onur

    Onur, first, how do you know that Iberian Muslims were “essentially” Islamicized natives?

    From history and also from genetic analyses of modern Iberians. It is a known fact that the majority of the population of Muslim Iberia (Al-Andalus) was Muslim probably beginning from the 10th century (admittedly there are no population figures, but only observations of people living there in those centuries). Also we know from historical sources there were large numbers of Muladies (native converts to Islam) in Iberia (again we have no population figures from those times). When we add to these the fact that the majority of the Muslim population of Iberia converted to Christianity during the Reconquista and the following centuries (again no population figures from those times, but it should be evident from the fact that the Muslims were once the majority in most of Iberia and that few centuries following the Reconquista Christians became the majority and eventually almost the only religious group of Iberia) and the fact that Iberians are genetically vastly distinct from North Africans (whether Berber, Arab or Copt), and also from any Arab nation and any Jewish community in the world, it becomes clear that Iberian Muslims were vast majoritily (we can also say essentially) descended from native converts to Islam (Muladies). Invading original Arab and Berber Muslims were a very small but powerful minority.

    For an introduction to the issue of Muslim population of Iberia and its attaining of the numerical majority (essentially through conversions), I suggest you to read Thomas F. Glick’s chapter about ethnic relations in his book “Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages,” which is online:

    http://libro.uca.edu/ics/ics5.htm

    Second, how do you know that Muslims were very very very far more common than Iberian Jews?

    My response to your first question also answers this question of yours.

    Third, when you say “Iberian” I hope you just mean “Spanish” or “Spanish + Portuguese”? — you’re not referring to the ancient Iberians I hope.

    I use the word Iberia just as a geographic designation: Spain + Portuguese

    Fourth, how can you be sure that we don’t know anything from historical sources?

    Historical sources give no systematic population figures, but just casual observations. Only during the modern era we begin to see systematic population figures.

    Fifth, as uncertain as genetic methods are so far, it seems quite premature to favor them over historical sources.

    As I told you, historical sources give us only very rough (and mostly very limited in spatial and temporal scope) observations about population proportions for the relevant times. Genetic data are neutral and, as genes are unchangeable, definitely true. It is only in their interpretation that indefiniteness and difference of opinion exist and can exist. Unfortunately many interpretations are very problematic and without any solid foundation (like the interpretation of the authors of the study you linked above).

    And finally, all I was ever trying to say is that if genetics shows that some considerable proportion of Spaniards have considerable Jewish ancestry, that’s not a startling discovery. It’s just additional confirmation of something that almost everyone has always assumed, though it would certainly be interesting to have a definite idea of that the proportions are.

    That’s all I ever tried to say. Do you disagree?

    I definitely disagree, as I have explained all along. There is nothing in the historical sources that justifies your contention about the relatively numerousness of Jews in Iberia, at least after their expulsion out of Iberia. As Iberian Jews were much much much much much much much less in number than Iberian Muslims, they were much much much much much much much easy to be expelled out of Iberia than Iberian Muslims, who were the majority in most of Iberia until forced conversions (it was the only logical choice for the Catholic Church as you cannot expel the majority of the population in such an extensive land, so very probably only a very small minority of Iberian Muslims were expelled out of Iberia or voluntarily left Iberia) of them to Christianity. The Ottomans’ reception of very large numbers of Iberian Jews further simplified the expulsion of Jews out of Iberia.

  • onur

    Also I should add that, as in most of the Arab-ruled lands, in Iberia most of Muslim converts adopted (gradually or not) Arabic and many Arab/Moor traditions and customs, so in a few centuries they became culturally almost indistinguishable from Arabs/Moors and began to be called Arab or Moor. Btw, the word “Moor” was also being used for Arabic speaking North Africans (who were essentially descended from Berber speakers), not just Berber speaking ones.

  • onur

    There is nothing in the historical sources that justifies your contention about the relatively numerousness of Jews in Iberia, at least after their expulsion out of Iberia.

    Here, by “at least after their expulsion out of Iberia,” I mean that Jews may really have been relatively numerous in Iberia until their expulsion out of Iberia. But historical sources aren’t helpful in informing us about this matter. Genetic studies show that there is very very little Jewish origin, if any, in modern Iberians. So even if Jews were relatively numerous in Iberia before their expulsion, probably very few Jews continued to stay in Iberia according to the genetic evidence (historical sources are equally unhelpful in informing us about the number of Jews in Iberia during the post-expulsion centuries as in pre-expulsion centuries).

  • onur

    probably very few Jews continued to stay in Iberia according to the genetic evidence

    I mean after the expulsion of Jews, of course.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Your comments suggest there’s a lot we don’t know, but I don’t think all this is important, why such obsession with Jewish “origins” and not with other religions or peoples. If one accepts that Judaism is a religion and conversions back and forth were common in history, than all of this is absurd. In the Maghreb we know for sure that a good proportion of the population was Jewish before Islam arrived here (including the Jarawa, Kahina’s tribe) and that a good percentage of Spanish Jews who fled here converted to Islam (some families can still trace their origins), and this place became a melting pot of religions and races (Muslims and Jews have common saints in southern Morocco for example), so why try to undo a soup and analyze its ingredients!

  • onur

    Grammatical correction to: “they were much much much much much much much easy to be expelled out of Iberia than Iberian Muslims”

    It must have been so: “they were much much much much much much much easier to be expelled out of Iberia than Iberian Muslims”

  • onur

    In the Maghreb we know for sure that a good proportion of the population was Jewish before Islam arrived here (including the Jarawa, Kahina’s tribe) and that a good percentage of Spanish Jews who fled here converted to Islam

    How do you know these? Are there population estimates about these from those times?

  • onur

    Another grammatical mistake on my part: “I use the word Iberia just as a geographic designation: Spain + Portuguese”

    I must have written thus: “I use the word Iberia just as a geographic designation: Spain + Portugal

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    I’m going to resign. In my opinion Onur depends far too much on assertion and conjecture and has is a more attached to his conclusions here than is reasonable.. Hopefully someone better able to fact-check him than I am will come along. He hasn’t convinced me either about the reliability of genetics on this question or about the absence of historical knowledge about the Jewish population.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Onur, here we don’t go by “scientific” studies, we feel our way around, we explore our country inch by inch, we spend time in villages and towns and ask questions, we listen to elders, we take a look at books and things, we visit cemeteries and “marabouts” and inquire about the dead from the living, we check buildings or what’s left for traces of our history, we go into caves looking for signs…..all this is better than the pretentious research some undertake which can be contradicted by another pretentious research!!!

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    ….for example, if you want to know more about expelled Spanish Jews, come to Tettawen (or Tetuan in northern Morocco), and explore what was called “little Jerusalem,” a city within a city, which was built like an Andalusian town, but with a Jewish accent, not a ghetto, a neighborhood in harmony with the rest….

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    PS: Tettawen (Tetuan) was all the child of Muslims and Jews who fled from Spain following the end of Al Andalus, and the city thrived thanks to the two communities until the Zionists started their campaign to herd Jews to the “promised land”….(we were then a colony of France and Spain)

  • onur

    absence of historical knowledge about the Jewish population

    I have said nothing like that. I only said historical sources aren’t helpful when it comes to numbers (especially for minority groups like Jews). But then again, there is nothing in historical sources particularly suggesting a Jewish-rich Iberia (this is more so in post-expulsion Iberia). Some major cities may have had relatively significant numbers of Jews before the Jewish expulsion, but overall, Jews were probably a very small minority in Iberia even during the pre-expulsion centuries.

  • onur

    Tettawen (Tetuan) was all the child of Muslims and Jews who fled from Spain following the end of Al Andalus, and the city thrived thanks to the two communities

    Can you tell me about the Muslims (those that are descended from immigrants from Iberia) of Tetuan? How do they look? I heard that Iberian-originated Muslims in North Africa are more Euro-looking (blond hairs, blue eyes and that) than natives. I also saw some photos of them on the Internet and the ones I saw were really very Euro-looking.

    I also wonder their (Muslims of Tetuan, and also other Iberian-originated North African Muslims if possible) culture and traditions (for instance, are they heavy drinkers? :)).

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    LOL!

  • Katharine

    Mr. Lebbadi, obviously you don’t understand science if you dismiss it.

  • onur

    Mr. Lebbadi, obviously you don’t understand science if you dismiss it.

    It seems he not only dismisses science (like genetics) but also historical sources.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    This is for Onur, Samy (Jewish) and Piro (Muslim), both of Iberian origin, singing together an old Andalusian chant. Tettawen is my hometown, and what you said applies to all the northern area of Morocco where they settled (remember when they “spotted” Madeleine McCann in northern Morocc, it was just a rural blonde girl who looked like her!):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaSOU7gbx28&feature=related

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    ….there are isolated villages up north where practically everybody is blonde and has blue eyes, and there are towns in other regions (by the sea) whose original inhabitants were expelled Moriscos who became pirates to revenge against the Spaniards and other Christians (some 350,000 Moriscos, or Spaniards who converted to Islam, were shipped out of Spain and dumped in Morocco, all their belongings were confiscated).

  • onur

    Btw, I asked heavy drinking because there are mentions of complaints of Arab/Moor rulers about the heavy alcohol drinking habits of native Iberian-descended Muslims in historical sources from the Islamic era of Iberia. Of course, that may mainly have been the case only in the first a few generations after conversions to Islam of the native Iberians, and as generations passed the habit of heavy alcohol drinking, and even light drinking, may have mostly disappeared among the native Iberian-descended Muslims of Iberia.

  • onur

    there are isolated villages up north where practically everybody is blonde and has blue eyes

    That is in accordance with the drawings (Muslim or Christian) of Iberian Muslims from the era of Muslim Iberia, which often depicted Iberian Muslims with light hairs and/or eyes.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Onur, there were some austere dynasties in Morocco (who at times also ruled Iberia) who were against the “loose” life in Andalus and of course were critical of Andalusians in general here and there. But eventually the Andalusian way of life took roots in Morocco when everybody (Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Berbers) were all here, and we had a ball!

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    …by the way, Onur and Katharine, I respect science and history, but I hate when they are manipulated, I say “the more you know, the less you know!”

  • onur

    I respect science and history, but I hate when they are manipulated

    No one is manipulating anything. If the raw data were being modified or being deliberately interpretated in a wrong direction, you would be right, but there is no such thing in the issues we are dealing with in this thread (at least as far as I can see). It is true that there is much room for interpretation both in science and history, and that is very normal when we take into account the often deficient and/or ambiguous nature of raw data. But raw data and their interpretations are totally different things. No serious scientist or historian modifies raw data or makes deliberate mistakes in their interpretation, but occasionally (sometimes often) there may be indeliberate mistakes in their interpretation and that is very normal given the often deficient and/or ambiguous nature of raw data.

    I say “the more you know, the less you know!”

    You can think however you wish, but don’t expect me to think like you.

  • Orquidea

    There were also many Europeans that the Muslims took as slaves. These may account for the blond and blue eyed population in Arab countries.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Onur, I am talking in general, not just about Razib’s subject and the comments (although I see holes there). To give you an example of a recent experience, I thought it was about time we do a serious work on Tariq ibn Ziyad, the Muslim general who conquered Spain. There are plenty of sources, and they are all contradictory. Just about his origin each source gives a different story, every country and every tribe in our region is trying to show that he was theirs, and historical facts (like names of persons, rivers, mountains, tribes, etc.) are manipulated to prove that he was this and not that, and the manipulations are very elaborate, and perhaps in good faith!

  • onur

    Mohammed, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all historical raw data (historical sources and artifacts in this case) are correct, in fact many of them are plainly wrong. Unfortunately in history, unlike many sciences (like genetics, for instance), raw data too can often be wrong, because as human works, written or oral historical sources can contain many errors and false information. But this is not the case in genetics, as chromosomes and genes cannot be changed by human hand and never lie. Anyway, we have too much gone off the topic, so let’s end this conversation here, it was nice talking to you.

    Btw, it would be nice if modern descendants of Iberian Muslims in North Africa were genetically analyzed (you can respond to this last sentence as it is not so much off the topic).

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Orquidea, our blonde and blue eyed people in the north are not descendants of slaves, they settled there on their own or were deported there. Many still have Spanish names (Sordo, Vargas, Lucas, Mulato, Martin…..)

  • onur

    Many still have Spanish names (Sordo, Vargas, Lucas, Mulato, Martin…..)

    Are they surnames (from the times of Muslim rule in parts of Iberia or earlier times) or first names? Because if they are first names, they are very unusual for Muslims.

  • onur

    earlier times

    I mean pre-Islamic times of Iberia by that.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    They are typical family names still common in Spain, these were Moriscos (converts to Islam), some are entrenched in valleys by the sea from where they can see Spain (they used to go on raids to Spain, or attack Spanish vessels when they see one—the original “Barbary Pirates”), some live in the cities. I think I mentioned that the last wave of deportations concerned some 350,000 Moriscos, although some had reconverted to Christianity but the Church was not convinced!

  • onur

    Mohammed, you said you are from Tettawen. Are you descended from Muslim Iberian immigrants to North Africa? If so, why is your surname non-Iberian in origin? Did your family adopt the current one later? Also how is your physical appearance, Euro-looking, Berber-looking, or a mix? Did you or one of your genetic relations get made personal genetic testing?

  • benj

    “In the Maghreb we know for sure that a good proportion of the population was Jewish before Islam arrived here (including the Jarawa, Kahina’s tribe)”

    I am from the Maghreb too and I know these myths. But that’s all they are. We KNOW, by historical research, that the Kahina’s tribe was never Jewish. This story is relatively recent. It never happened. Some people converted to Judaism in the past, some Jews converted to Islam, this is all true. We don’t know the exact figures of course. But what we can say from these studies is that North African Jews are not descendant of North Africans who converted to Judaism.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Onur, you want to prolong the discussion? Lebbadi=Al Ubbadi in classical Arabic, from Ubbada or Ubeda in Spanish (in the province of Jaén in Spain’s autonomous community of Andalusia). My father did some research on the origins and concluded we were not Moriscos, and found some distant relationship with Yemen. My extended family doesn’t look European, but some Lebbadi families do look European (there are hundreds of Lebbadis!) and claim to be Moriscos. In any case, Ubbada or Ubeda is the origin and most landed in Tettawen but there are scattered Lebbadis in Algeria and other places.
    Benj, how can you be so absolute? Besides Spanish Jews who settled mostly in the cities, look European, and have Andalusian traditions, where did all the Jews living in rural areas, in the mountains, in remote villages, come from? How did they get their Berber names and how come they only spoke Berber? How come they have common traditions with their Muslim (?) neighbours? I agree nothing is sure, but nothing is unsure either!

  • onur

    My father did some research on the origins and concluded we were not Moriscos, and found some distant relationship with Yemen.

    Don’t decide so fast. As a descendant (fully?) of Muslim immigrants from Spain, it is very probable you to be genetically Iberian (at least partially). I’d suggest you to have personal genetic testing (especially autosomal testing). There are lots of genetic testing companies, and lots of different types of tests.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    Why bother? For sure we are a mixture of many groups, there was lots of mixing there and then here, so one can show anything from the testing, depending what he wants to prove. Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed into Spain with Kutama, Hawwara, Zanata, Masmuda, and Jarawa soldiers, all Berber, and it was a long time before Arabs arrived, and meanwhile these Berbers had married Spaniards and had kids and even invented a special language. Besides Arabs, people from all over the Middle East headed for Al Andalus, including Jews, so it was really a huge melting pot, and no one can say if he was pure this or pure that. Even a test on a rabbi like Maimonides could surprise, just his full name is surprising: ʼAbū ʻImrān Mūsā bin Maymūn ibn ʻAbdallāh!

  • Naughtius Maximus
  • onur

    Even a test on a rabbi like Maimonides could surprise, just his full name is surprising: ʼAbū ʻImrān Mūsā bin Maymūn ibn ʻAbdallāh!

    What is so surprising about that? Arabic names have usually been frequent among Christians and Jews living in Islamic countries. Here in Anatolia, it was very normal for Greeks, Armenians and Jews to take Muslim names (Arabic, Persian or Turkish) in Ottoman times, and still many of them have such names.

  • onur

    so one can show anything from the testing, depending what he wants to prove

    Not so fast. Iberians are genetically much closer to Turks, who live in the other extreme of the north Mediterranean Basin, than to Moroccans, who live just across the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea has been a great barrier to gene flow throughout most of human history in the Mediterranean Basin. Humans have mostly moved by land rather than by sea in their migrations.

  • onur

    even invented a special language

    Which language do you mean here by “special” and “invented”? Iberian Arabic?

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    So you think it’s not strange that Maimonides’ grandfather was named “Abdallah”? I would agree with you if it was a neutral name, and Maymun is one! I don’t know about how close Iberians and Turks are, I would guess they are far apart (I am thinking of the original Turks), but of course with Anatolians (and “Turks” in Turkey are a mixture), it’s a different story. And I haven’t seen a study comparing populations on both sides of the Straits, but apparently at some time the two sides were closer together (they were connected millions of years ago) and there were migrations (some people swim accross the Straits even now!). About the special language, it was a mixture of Tamazight (Berber) and Iberian, the soldiers didn’t speak Arabic.

  • onur

    I don’t know about how close Iberians and Turks are, I would guess they are far apart (I am thinking of the original Turks), but of course with Anatolians (and “Turks” in Turkey are a mixture), it’s a different story.

    Of course, I was referring to Turks of Turkey (who are genetically much more Anatolian + south Balkanic than anything else), not Central Asian Turkic populations.

    And I haven’t seen a study comparing populations on both sides of the Straits

    There is a genetic study specifically investigating the degree to which the Mediterranean Sea has acted as a barrier to gene flow, and it includes Spaniards, Moroccans and Turks among other Mediterranean populations:

    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/10/84

    I suggest you to especially look at the PCA plots.

    but apparently at some time the two sides were closer together (they were connected millions of years ago)

    In those times there were no humans (not even archaic humans) living in either of the two sides of the Mediterranean Sea.

    and there were migrations

    Of course, there were migrations across the Mediterranean Sea, but they only started beginning from the Neolithic times with the developments in seafaring technologies, but even since then vast majority of migrations in the Mediterranean Basin have been by land down to the and including the modern era, as evident in genetic studies and history.

    (some people swim accross the Straits even now!)

    That, of course, is not a logical way of crossing the Mediterranean Sea. :D

  • onur

    I would agree with you if it was a neutral name

    Abdallah means God’s servant in Arabic, and as Allah has been the name Christians and Jews have used for their God when speaking Arabic, Persian or Turkish, it is very normal for them to take it as a name. After all, being a servant of God is fully in accordance with Christian and Jewish theologies.

  • onur

    About the special language, it was a mixture of Tamazight (Berber) and Iberian, the soldiers didn’t speak Arabic.

    But eventually Iberian Arabic became the dominant language among Iberian Muslims, as it was the prestige language or rather a colloquial form (but nevertheless prestigious) of the real prestige language (Classical Arabic).

  • onur

    a colloquial form

    It would be better if I used “the” here instead of “a”, as I was exclusively talking about Iberia.

  • onur

    it includes Spaniards, Moroccans and Turks among other Mediterranean populations

    I think it would be more correct and unambiguous to use “besides” or “in addition to” here instead of “among”.

  • Mohammed Lebbadi

    I will conclude my thoughts and finish and let you ponder this: you suggested I test myself, and I wonder what that would show, nothing concrete in my opinion. My father as mentioned above thought we were not Moriscos and had ties to Yemen, but the original Yemeni settled in southern Spain where by then there was a big population of Ibero-Berbers and Ibero-others. Obviously there were intermarriages because the immigrants were largely males. And then here and only recently: both my grandmothers have Morisco names (“Sordo” and “Medina”) and there was a ggmother whose name says they were originally Jews from Andalus (“Benjelloun”), so the results of the testing can show anything you want! Have a good day!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    there are a lot of comments on this thread.

  • onur

    I will repeat what I’ve been saying: Despite being genetically largely Caucasoid, Moroccans have many genetic components easily distinguishable from Iberians (even just in their Caucasoid portions). Jews (no matter which Jewish group they are from) are also genetically easily distinguishable from both Moroccans and Iberians in many of their components. So don’t come to a decision so fast, and also don’t forget that genetic technologies and knowledge are accumulating very fast. If you have nothing more to say, this will be my last post to you on this thread. It was a pleasure for me to make an exchange of information and ideas with you, the son of Andalus.

  • benj

    “Benj, how can you be so absolute? Besides Spanish Jews who settled mostly in the cities, look European, and have Andalusian traditions, where did all the Jews living in rural areas, in the mountains, in remote villages, come from? How did they get their Berber names and how come they only spoke Berber? How come they have common traditions with their Muslim (?) neighbours? I agree nothing is sure, but nothing is unsure either!”

    There was a Jewish community in North Africa for 2000 or 2500 years. More Jews came from Spain later. There is no source, no documentation, no traces of any Berber tribe converting to Judaism ever. And now we have genetic studies who just show that the North African Jews are closer to Russian Jews than to Berbers and Arabs. The surprise being that Ashkenazi Jews are not more assimilated to the European environment were they used to live.
    Regarding names, well I have a 100% Jewish aunt whose name is “Christiane” – the least Jewish name possible. My grand mother had a Arabic name (Nedjma), my parents and uncles had French names, my generation was a French-Hebrew mix, my children and nefew generation is 100% Hebrew names. Jews have adopted the names and languages of the society where they live during all history. Jews had and still have Persian names (Esther and Mordekhai), Greek names, Roman names, Arabic names, French names, American names.

  • nebbish

    Benj,

    Your statement above is a bit unclear, but if you meant that Ashkenazi Jews are not genetically much assimilated to Europe at all, that is not exactly correct. The Fst data calculated in this study suggests that the genetic distance between Ashkenazim and European host populations is roughly equal to the distance between Ashkenazim and Levantines. The Atzmon paper discussed on this blog earlier actually gave an admixture estimate of 30-60%, although in his interview with Ostrer in the NYT, Nicholas Wade quotes Prof. Ostrer offering the 30% number, possibly for simplicity sake (and the quote did not specify Ashkenazim, IRC).

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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