Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Khazar Theory: Give it a Rest

This theory comes up quite often, as a matter of fact; it did just recently at a forum I frequent where a chap was essentially spewing the usual "Western Jews are not 'Middle Eastern'/ 'West Asian' " rhetoric and in his case; he evoked the whole frankly retarded "Theory of the Khazars".

Cyprus is often counted as part of the region as well

To get what the Khazar idea is out of the way: it's predicated on the notion that for example Ashkenazim derive a large portion of their ancestry from the region ruled over by the Khazar Empire/ Khaganate, basically claiming that they're not really native Levantines but substantially Caucasian, the Khazars themselves being a semi-nomadic Turkic speaking people who experienced a Jewish presence within their realm. One Dr. Eran Elhaik wrote a paper basically supporting this. [1]

Khazar Khaganate

He got the following reply from over 20 geneticists:

"The origin and history of the Ashkenazi Jewish population have long been of great interest, and advances in high-throughput genetic analysis have recently provided a new approach for investigating these topics. We and others have argued on the basis of genome-wide data that the Ashkenazi Jewish population derives its ancestry from a combination of sources tracing to both Europe and the Middle East. It has been claimed, however, through a reanalysis of some of our data, that a large part of the ancestry of the Ashkenazi population originates with the Khazars, a Turkic-speaking group that lived to the north of the Caucasus region ~1,000 years ago. Because the Khazar population has left no obvious modern descendants that could enable a clear test for a contribution to Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, the Khazar hypothesis has been difficult to examine using genetics. Furthermore, because only limited genetic data have been available from the Caucasus region, and because these data have been concentrated in populations that are genetically close to populations from the Middle East, the attribution of any signal of Ashkenazi-Caucasus genetic similarity to Khazar ancestry rather than shared ancestral Middle Eastern ancestry has been problematic. Here, through integration of genotypes on newly collected samples with data from several of our past studies, we have assembled the largest data set available to date for assessment of Ashkenazi Jewish genetic origins. This data set contains genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 1,774 samples from 106 Jewish and non- Jewish populations that span the possible regions of potential Ashkenazi ancestry: Europe, the Middle East, and the region historically associated with the Khazar Khaganate. The data set includes 261 samples from 15 populations from the Caucasus region and the region directly to its north, samples that have not previously been included alongside Ashkenazi Jewish samples in genomic studies. Employing a variety of standard techniques for the analysis of populationgenetic structure, we find that Ashkenazi Jews share the greatest genetic ancestry with other Jewish populations, and among non-Jewish populations, with groups from Europe and the Middle East. No particular similarity of Ashkenazi Jews with populations from the Caucasus is evident, particularly with the populations that most closely represent the Khazar region. Thus, analysis of Ashkenazi Jews together with a large sample from the region of the Khazar Khaganate corroborates the earlier results that Ashkenazi Jews derive their ancestry primarily from populations of the Middle East and Europe, that they possess considerable shared ancestry with other Jewish populations, and that there is no indication of a significant genetic contribution either from within or from north of the Caucasus region." [2]

I reckon no further delving into how fallacious the notion that Ashkenazim are basically a Caucasian population is needed but in case you need simple examples of how fallacious the notion always was-> here's an example of the fundamental pre-historic ancestral components in Caucasian, Turkish, Iranian & Levantine populations from the work of a genome blogger I often cite here (Eurogenes/ David Wesolowski):


EE = East Eurasian


 WHG = Western European Hunter-Gatherer

As you can see, Ashkenazim & Sephardim (both "The Jews of Germany" & "The Jews of Spain" as their names mean respectively) are more or less identical while clearly not fitting amongst Caucasians, Turks/ Anatolians & West Asian Iranian speakers like Kurds. Lacking the heightened Ancient North Eurasian input found in these populations that I noted a while back. Instead they fit much more decently amongst "Arab" Levantines like Syrians & the Lebanese whether Christian or Muslim.

Simply put; the Khazar theory is nonsensical. Genetically speaking, Jews like Ashkenazim and Sephardim are more or less a Mediterranean population more genetically similar on a fundamental level to populations like Sicilians, Lebanese, Tuscans, Syrians, Cypriots and so on than anything else.

Pan West Eurasia PCA (Principal Component Analysis) / Cluster

I repeat (with the backing of virtually every respectable geneticist out there familiar with West Asian and Jewish population genetics); the Khazar theory is bullshit... We live in an age where wild speculation about Human or population origins based on hearsay, myths and "cranio-metric data" is obsolete. Mostly thanks to population genetics. And the genetic data of Ashkenazi Jews for example is pretty clear; not Khazars (not even from the Caucasus).

Reference List:

2. No Evidence from Genome-wide Data of a Khazar origin for Ashkenazi Jews, Behar et al.


1. Despite their linguistic standing; Greek Cypriots are genetically a Levantine population-> more similar to the populations of the Levant than anything else as you can see from that ADMIXTURE analysis showing you the ancient ancestral components that make those populations up. Though Greeks as a Mediterranean population like them, especially one of a more easterly geographic position, are quite similar to them anyway (on a fundamental level).

2. "Early Neolithic Farmer" is essentially what you get when you remove/ account for the Western European Hunter-Gatherer (native European component) admixture in an Early European Farmer (EEF) or EEF-like component. It's what carries Basal Eurasian and seems to be the main native West Asian component; it for now peaks in Peninsula Arabians and can be found to be the dominant ancestral component across West Asia and most of the Mediterranean.

3. Cranio-metric data can have its uses and there are somewhat respectable peer-reviewed papers on the subject (I can't seem to find one right now but I'll update this post with a link when I do) but ultimately; the conclusive evidence lies in sampling a population's genome. Cranio-metric/ facial data can be quite misleading (as with the obsolete painting of the old "Caucasian Race").

No comments:

Post a Comment