A new breakthrough

A new breakthrough makes it possible to examine our genetic profile for the first time in comparison to ancient skeletons: Mummies from the Upper Galilee, ancient Vikings and bones from the Ice Age, so how many are we really Israelis and which ethnic group is most genetically similar To the ancient Palestinian man

Itai Ilani

“Thus saith the Lord of the Lord unto these bones: Behold, I bring spirit in you, and you shall live”

Ezekiel 37: 5,

One can only imagine what the woman who walked among the hills of the Upper Galilee six,200 years ago looked like; How she dressed, what language she spoke, how many children she had, what foods love, and what subjects bothered her most. Most of these questions have no answers today, but what is known is that a few thousand years after her death, the remains of her skeleton were found in a burial cave in Peki’in. This week it turned out that she and I were relatives. About.

It turns out that I and the woman who lived in the Land of Israel somewhere in the Chalcolithic period share DNA at a rate of 3.84 percent – in other words, we can say with certainty that there is a genetic connection between us, even if remote and tiny. Biblical Israel, and does my DNA say I am a Jew in all my limbs?

For another thing I discovered this week is that I’m an Indian at all: a woman who died two thousand years ago, long before Columbus discovered America, and whose bones were found somewhere in the Arizona desert, sharing DNA with me at 5 percent, much more than that ancient Israeli woman, Am I even a member of the Apache tribe ?!

not exactly. It turns out that I am also 5 percent Viking (skeleton 1,065 years old), 5.5 percent Egyptian (skeleton 2,050 years), and even – hold on tight! – 5 percent of the European ice age (skeleton of 6,630 years). “In short,” says Dr. Eran Elhayek, “you are Ashkenazi.”

If you’ve read so far and you’re confused, hold on. The article before you may change everything you thought about yourself, and provide you with some fascinating news.Especially if you’re Yemenite.

The scientific breakthroughs in the study of the human genome now allow anyone on the planet to easily carry out genetic tests that will siphon off his DNA and provide him with intriguing information about his identity.Today, these popular DNA tests have been based on comparison to modern populations only. For example, a person could tell how similar his DNA is to that of Norwegian, Moroccan, or Australian today.

The problem is that “Norwegian DNA” is actually a mixture of DNA from populations that migrated to Norway from different places and at different times. In other words, the Norwegians of recent generations are not exactly Norwegians, and so are the Moroccans, the Australians and the other nations. “There is no modern population that does not move from place to place,” explains Dr. Elhayek, “There were always movements, waves of immigration, inter-tribal marriages, etc.”

But in the identity politics of the 21st century, modern DNA tests have become a hot trend: “These tests can provide the subjects with a nice answer like ‘You’re half Norwegian and half Moroccan,'” says Elhayek. “Geneticists simply ignored the fact that populations Modernity is actually a population that has become mixed up throughout history, just as historians and politicians have ignored it. They all built an imagined past image that supposedly modern peoples are descendants of ancient peoples. The problem is that this is not true. “

Ancient Gal Gadot

Reality, then, is much more complex than “You are half Norwegian and half Moroccan,” and who like Elhayek knows it. Elhayek, an Israeli geneticist who now lives in England, is a graduate of the Computer Science Unit from the age of 39, and completed two postdoctoral degrees at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in the US He is currently a professor at the University of Sheffield and is involved in research into the genetics of human beings.

Elhayek’s latest development completely breaks down the assumptions made in DNA research because it focuses on ancient populations, which were and are not. His breakthrough product is called the Primeval DNA test, or in Hebrew: an ancient DNA test.It is unique in that it is not based on modern populations, but rather on a genetic load of skeletons, remains of bodies and mummies that have been found around the world and belong to people who lived thousands of years ago.

“In recent years, there has been a revolution in research that has enabled us to extract DNA from ancient skeletons, which opens a window to the distant past,” says Elhayk, “for the first time we allow anyone to compare himself to real people who lived in different places across the globe thousands of years ago, They are genetically close to them. We produce a much more accurate genetic picture. “

The company that markets ElHayek’s DNA test is called DNA Consultants and is based in the United States, but the service it provides is also available to Israelis.In order to participate in the Primeval DNA test, an envelope was sent to my home with small cotton sticks that I rubbed against my gums for 30 seconds. I had mailed the samples to the American company (with all the scientific breakthroughs, the main problem involved sending the specimen in the mail.) Because of the strike at the Federal Post Office in the United States, the envelope was returned twice, so the process took several weeks. Who has already done DNA mapping before can save this stage and just send the result And the mapping directly to the company.) Once my shipment arrived safely in the United States, I waited a few more days for the results to be sent by e-mail link, and I admit that opening the link was accompanied by a fateful feeling – like an archaeologist who first developed an ancient tomb, .

The test developed by Elhayek allows the subjects to discover how similar their DNA is to that of seven groups of ancient populations: Israelis who lived in our area from the Stone Age to the days of the Bible, two-year-old mummies discovered in Egypt, remains of stone age skeletons found in Europe, , Native Americans from the West, skeletons from the British island, and even Europeans from the Ice Age, who died more than 30,000 years ago.

Naturally, the group that interests most Yedioth Ahronoth readers is that of the ancient Israelis. These are about 20 skeletons found in three sites in the northern part of Israel, most of them 6,200 years old and a minority of 12,000 years old. Elhayek gave these skeletons names such as “Abraham”, “Bruria” and even “Lake”, and each subject can find out how close he is genetically to each of them. I, for example, resemble Gal, which is named after the film actress Gal Gadot and is found in a cave in Peki’in. But in general, my genetic similarity to the ancient Israeli skeletons is quite low: only 2.61 percent.

The fact that I am an Ashkenazi – Slavic hair and blue eyes betray me even without genetic tests – can explain the matter. One of Elhayek’s most fascinating research findings relates to his ability to compare the genetic average of different modern populations with the older populations. In other words, Elhayek can say how much each of the different Jewish communities resembles the ancient Israelis.

Distant cousins

Alhayek found that the average DNA of Yemenite Jews was 6.9 percent for those ancient Israelis whose skeletons were located in burial caves in northern Israel, the highest among the Jewish communities in Israel, with the Iraqis ranked second (6.44 percent), Iranians in third place (6.23 percent) ), Followed by the Tunisians and the Libyans (6.17 and 6.15 percent, respectively), with the Cochin (4.7 percent), the Ashkenazim (5.72 percent) and the Moroccans (5.99 percent) And the Turks (6.05 percent).

And what about the non-Jewish citizens of the country? It turns out that the Druze, the Bedouins and the Palestinians are also similar to the ancient Israelis, more than most of the Jewish communities – though less than the Jews of Yemen and Iraq.

Another interesting detail that emerges from the study is the genetic similarities between Ashkenazim and Vikings, 11.26 percent, more than any other ethnic group. The Ashkenazim are also similar to the Indians, who are the genetic descendants of populations from northern Russia, who crossed the Bering Straits and settled in the Americas. The average Ashkenazi DNA is similar to American skeletons found in America, at 6.6 percent, but surprisingly, Iraqi Jews are also genetically similar to those Indians, and even higher at 6.79 percent.

What can one conclude from all this? As we dig deeper and deeper into numbers, we discover that we are all simply composed of a colorful mosaic of ancient populations. Over the years, DNA from here and there has rolled into us all, and the picture reflected is that of humanity itself: a collection of relatives of varying degrees, with intricate, complex and surprising blood ties.

“We have not run enough tests to answer all the questions, but the interim conclusions are that we all share ancient DNA with the same populations that exist in our database, which also mingled with each other,” says Elhayek. Ancient. “

On a philosophical level, this discovery may, perhaps, slightly lower the hatred fueling the ethnic wars around the world. In the end, it turns out, we are all cousins. “Most of our culture is based on an ethnic affiliation to a group that lived in the distant past, and usually we have a positive thought about it, and no one attributes itself to a band of bandits,” Elhayek puts it. “Once people experience the ancient DNA test, they will be able to discover how true the stories they have told themselves about themselves. Do they really belong to the same group, real or imagined, that they think they belong to? “

How similar are you to the ancient Israeli person?

Genetic similarity to ancient Israelis according to evidence, in percentages

Yemen 6.69
Iraq 6.44
Iran 6.23
Tunisia 6.17
Libya  6.15
Georgia  6.09
Turkey 6.05
Morocco 5.99
Ashkenaz 5.72
India (Cochin) 4.7

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