The Genetics of Modern Assyrians and their Relationship to Other People of the Middle East
by Dr. Joel J. Elias - Professor (Emeritus), University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco
Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2000 11:55 am
Our primary purpose here is to define the relationships of Assyrians to their closest neighbors in the Middle East, so we will focus on seven groups that appear at the top of the "tree." Of these, Iranian and Iraqi are defined by the country of origin, after exclusion of Kurds. Jordanian, Lebanese and Turkish also mean the country of origin. Assyrians and Kurds refer to specific groups of people. All those studied were indigenous people of the area whose roots in their geographic locations go back to at least 1500 A.D. Relationship pairings are shown: Turkish and Iranian, and Assyrian and Jordanian are "loose" pairings; Druse and Lebanese form a closer pair; and Iraqi and Kurdish people form an extremely close pairing.
The closest genetic relationships of the Assyrians are with the native populations of Jordan and Iraq. In point of fact, however, all of the seven populations of interest are quite close to each other.
There are no wide separations between any of them. This despite the fact that they contain members of three major language families: Indo-European (Iranian, Kurdish), Turkic (Turkish) and Semitic (Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese - Arabic; Assyrian - Aramaic).
Finally, as seen in the figure, the two Indo-European language populations, the Iranians and the Kurds, are genetically closer to the Turks and the Semitic language group of Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Assyrian, than they are to their nearest Indo-European language speaking neighbors - Armenian, Pathan, Hazara Tajiki. In fact, the figure shows that the latter are part of a separate subcluster from the one in which the Iranians and Kurds are located.
The results of these scientific studies lead to the startling realization that Turks, Iranians, Kurds, Iraqis, Jordanians, Lebanese are more closely related genetically to Assyrians than they are to other members of their own respective language families in Asia. These seven groups (and Jews) are genetically close.
The great language, cultural and religious differences are not reflected in the most fundamental aspect of their biology - their genes, which are the most accurate indicators of their shared origins and ancestry.
If this were widely known, would the Assyrians seem so "different" to the others? Would changes in attitude begin to take place, especially among the intellectual and academic communities and the younger generations?
We stand with hope at the dawn of a new millennium. For mankind in general, the future holds exciting scientific prospects for understanding our past and present genetic nature.
The tiniest amounts of DNA recovered from people who died thousands of years ago can now be exactly reproduced billions of times, providing abundant material for analyzing the genetic nature of ancient ancestors ("genetic archeology").
The "whisperings of our ancestors" can now be heard by us with our DNA amplifiers. Molecular genetics is poised to take understanding of the human race to heights undreamed of just a few years ago. Within the year there will occur one of the most momentous events in human history - the complete definition of the entire human genetic code (genome) of about 100,000 genes ("human genome project").
We will be able to see the complete DNA blueprint for creating a human being, God's handwritten letter to us9. Future research will show how little difference there is between us in our DNA, giving us an unparalleled opportunity to understand how much of our humanity we hold in common.
(((Also standing at the dawn of the new millennium are the Assyrians - on the brink of extinction. For over 1900 years since they accepted Christianity and established the Church of the East, the Assyrians in the Middle East have survived for the most part as a religious and language minority. While this preserved their identity and kept them from disappearing, it came at a terrible price.
The history of the Assyrians reads like one long unbroken story of massacre, persecution and indescribable horror, culminating in the 20th century with genocide and diaspora, followed by even more persecution and massacre. Was it just a coincidence that the first fratricide occurred in the Middle East, when Cain murdered his brother Abel? Will we ever be free of the curse of Cain? Will the younger generations of the Middle East release their souls from the dark forces of the past?
Will the knowledge that Assyrians are their "blood relatives" begin to change the perception of Middle Eastern people about Assyrians? Will it be too late for the Assyrians?))))))))))))))
References and Footnotes
Cavalli-Sforza, L.L., Menozzi, P. and Piazza, A. The History and Geography of Human Genes. 1994. Princeton University Press. Unabridged Edition. As above, Abridged Paperback Edition. 1996. Contains the text of the Unabridged Edition, but not the hundreds of pages of genetic maps; has an index, and references to literature that were cited in the text. Only the unabridged version has the references for research articles that were used to arrive at each population group's genetic analysis, listed by name for each population; also, the tables of gene frequencies. 2a. Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. Genes, Peoples, and Languages. 2000. North Point Press (division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux), New York. The book is a summation of the author's work written for the general reader.
What is interesting the Assyrians are very close to their Muslim neighbours in Iraq,Jordan, and Lebanon, well those of Bedouin origins are more related to the Saudis and Yemenites. Also the Saudi, Yemenite, and Bedouins form their own Caucasoid minor cluster which separates them from other Middle Easterners and Europeans being an almost isolate sub-racial group.
The Bedouins like the Gypsies in Europe, differ in their genetic makeup from their host populations, and show a direct link to Arabia. Well Iraqis being the closet people to modern day Assyrians, showing that Arabization of Iraq was in fact a linguistic and cultural transition, however their was also the brief period of Persianization.
Then its followed by Jordanians and Lebanese.((( The Iraqi Kurds are very close to Assyrians in their genetic makeup, and probably have shifted into an Iranic tongue.))) Thus all groups in Iraq decent from a common ancestor with a limited gene flow from various male invaders, who intermarried with the local female population.
Jordanian, Lebanese, Turks also cluster closer to Assyrians,((( but not as strong as the Iraqi Arab or Kurds))), showing again their common genetic ancestry.
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