How We Solved The 1,000-Year-Old Mystery Of The Druze People’s Origin – With A Genetic Sat Nav

There are more than a million Druze worldwide, with the vast majority residing in the Middle East. shutterstoc

Danielle Andrew 16 Nov 2016, 16:24

Druze meet the Jews

Though the Druze have previously been considered to have little genetic mixing – known as a “population isolate” by some geneticists – this is actually incorrect. And in fact by exchanging their diverse Near Eastern genes with Middle Eastern populations – such as Syrians and Palestinians – the Druze people created a more mixed genome than their ancestors, or other Middle Eastern populations.

The Druze flag. Shutterstock

Genetic evidence also suggests that over the years non-Druze tribes and individuals have contributed and enriched the Druze gene pool.

Previous research has also shown that Ashkenazic Jews and Druze are genetically closer to one another than Middle Eastern populations – but until now, it was not clear why. Combined with our earlier research showing the northeastern Turkish origins of Ashkenazic Jews, we can explain that genetic similarity via the shared origin of Ashkenazic Jews and Druze. Medieval Ashkenazic Jews lived in ancient villages in northeast Turkey known as “ancient Ashkenaz” – which was close to the mountainous homeland of the Druze.

Druze women in Isfiya, one of the largest Druze villages in Israel. Shutterstock

Our findings explain a 1,000-year saga of two people living side by side in these lands. And as the Ashkenazic Jews moved northward into the Khazarian Empire, the Druze moved southwards to Palestine – only for both people to reunite hundreds of years later. And although by that time, neither one recalled their common roots, both retained the evidence in their genes.

 

Eran Elhaik, Lecturer in population, medical and evolutionary genomics, University of Sheffield

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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