DNA of Ashkenazi Jews shows ancient female ancestors were converts from Europe

DNA of Ashkenazi Jews shows ancient female ancestors were converts from Europe

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While previous studies of Ashkenazi Jewish DNA showed that 50 – 80% of their male lineage originated in the Near East, a new study has shown that at least 80% of their female lineage originated in Europe.



Study co-author Martin Richards, an archaeogeneticist at the University of Huddersfield, said the findings show that a substantial proportion of Ashkenazim, who make up at least 80% of the world’s Jewish population, do not descend from endogamous Jews who left Israel around 2,000 years ago and settled in Europe.  Rather, they descend from indigenous Europeans who converted to Judaism.

Historical accounts – such as those of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus – suggest that up to 6 million Jews were living in the Roman Empire around 70 AD, but the majority were outside Israel, mainly in Italy and Southern Europe.  A minority, only around 500,000, actually lived in Judea.  The history of their subsequent northward migration into the rest of Europe is little known, but it had centred on Germany and Poland by the Middle Ages.  Today, Ashkenazi Jews are, on average, genetically as closely related to each other as fourth or fifth cousins.

Professor Richards and his team analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of more than 3,500 people, including Ashkenazi Jews, throughout the Near East, the Caucusus and Europe.  They discovered that 4 founders were responsible for 40% of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA, and they all originated in Europe.  The majority of the remaining people traced their origins to other European lineages.  Altogether, more than 80% of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA came from Europe, with only a few lineages originating in the Near East.

Professor Richards said: “The simplest explanation was that it was mainly women who converted and they married with men who’d come from the Near East.”

Source: Live Science

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