Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

DNA research sheds light on ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews

Date:
October 8, 2013
Source:
University of Huddersfield
Summary:
Many of the maternal ancestors of modern Ashkenazi Jews were European converts, according to new research. Analysis of DNA samples has shown that on the female line, the Ashkenazim are descended not from the Near East but from southern and western Europe.

Old Jewish cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic.
Credit: © monysasi / Fotolia

Many of the maternal ancestors of modern Ashkenazi Jews were European converts, according to a research project headed by a University of Huddersfield professor.

The young science of archaeogenetics has been used to settle a long-standing controversy -- the origin of Europe's Ashkenazi Jews. Are they principally descended from forbears who migrated from Palestine in the first century AD? Or were their ancestors Europeans who converted to Judaism?

A new article in the leading journal Nature Communications claims to have settled the question. Analysis of DNA samples has shown that on the female line, the Ashkenazim are descended not from the Near East but from southern and western Europe.

Professor Martin Richards heads the Archaeogenetics Research Group based at the University of Huddersfield and he is a co-author of the new article, entitled "A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages."

In Hebrew, the word "Ashkenazi" means "Germans" and the term is used for Jews of eastern European origin who historically spoke the Yiddish or Judeo-German language. Professor Richards says that the new explanation for their origins was one of the most significant findings from a wider project in which he and his colleagues -- principally the Portuguese PhD students Marta Costa and Joana Pereira -- were analysing mitochondrial DNA samples (i.e. DNA that traces the maternal line) in order to investigate the prehistoric settlement of Europe by migrants from the Near East.

Ashkenazi Jewish lineages were among the large quantity of publicly available mitochondrial genomes of people from Europe, the Caucasus and the Middle East that entered the analysis. It was discovered that in the vast majority of cases, Ashkenazi lineages are most closely related to those of southern and western Europe and that they had been present in Europe for many thousands of years.

‌"This suggests that, even though Jewish men may indeed have migrated into Europe from Palestine around 2000 years ago, they seem to have married European women," states Professor Richards.

This seems to have happened first along the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, and later -- but probably to a lesser extent -- in western and central Europe. This suggests that, in the early years of the Diaspora, Judaism took in many converts from amongst the European population, but they were mainly recruited from amongst women. Thus, on the female line of descent, the Ashkenazim primarily trace their ancestry neither to Palestine nor to Khazaria in the North Caucasus -- as has also been suggested -- but to southern and western Europe.

"The origins of the Ashkenazim is one of the big questions that people have pursued again and again and never really come to a conclusive view," said Prof Richards, who has described the new data as "compelling."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Huddersfield. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marta D. Costa, Joana B. Pereira, Maria Pala, Verσnica Fernandes, Anna Olivieri, Alessandro Achilli, Ugo A. Perego, Sergei Rychkov, Oksana Naumova, Jiři Hatina, Scott R. Woodward, Ken Khong Eng, Vincent Macaulay, Martin Carr, Pedro Soares, Luνsa Pereira, Martin B. Richards. A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3543

Cite This Page:

University of Huddersfield. "DNA research sheds light on ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131008112539.htm>.
University of Huddersfield. (2013, October 8). DNA research sheds light on ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131008112539.htm
University of Huddersfield. "DNA research sheds light on ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131008112539.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) — Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins