Ashkenazi Jews are known to have a unique genetic history that distinguishes them from non-Jews. By understanding how Ashkenazi Jews evolved over time, it may be possible to incorporate those findings into their own genetic make-up and culture as well. In this article, we will be talking about the results of a particular study that discusses the genetic history of early Ashkenazi Jews.
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The first recorded settlement of Ashkenazi Jews was identified in the Northern Central part of Europe, primarily Germany. Jews started emerging during the 6th through the 11th century, especially around the 9th century where more concrete historical data was revealed. Since then, there has been a spread towards the East and eventually, into the heartland of Europe like Poland and Ukraine, and finally into the Americas.
According to new research that has been made available through DNA studies, the model that seems most definitive confirms that most Ashkenazi Jews have DNA that comes from the Middle East in the region of Israel. Not only this, but there has been traces of Italian DNA in the mixture. This means that most Ashkenazi jews have migrated from Israel through the Italian peninsula before they made their way to the heartland of Ashkenaz in Northern Europe.
DNA Research and Historical Studies
Over the years, DNA research has elevated historical work and information. For example, the discovery of the remains of 17 jews in a well in Norwich, England has kickstarted a more advanced method of data collection. Through radiocarbon dating of the remains, it was proposed that the people were from the 12th century during the time of the great massacre of jews connected to the 3rd crusade.
Through a DNA analysis on the remains, it was positive that the victims were Ashkenazic Jews. Additionally, they were also able to reconstruct the very image and facial features of the victims. Indeed, it is fascinating to see how science and technology are able to support and back up significant events in the past as well as its historical data.
The Founder Event
In an article by S. Waldman et. al., entitled, “Genome-wide data from medieval German Jews show that the Ashkenazi founder event pre-dated the 14th century.” It discusses the discovery of potential jewish remains discovered in a cemetery just outside the city walls of Ancient Erfurt. As soon as it was suggested that these remains were jews, the studies were immediately handed over to some of the most principal authorities of jewish law. This is to certify that these remains would be treated with proper respect. As a matter of fact, the research was only conducted entirely on the teeth that were detached from the skulls of the deceased so that they could be more tolerant with the assessment of the remains.
The Genetic Bottleneck
This event happens once a population is substantially diminished over a period of time, limiting the diversity of its genetics. Dr. Henry Abramson discusses how this might have happened to the Ashkenazic Jews. Starting from the Roman-Jewish wars, particularly the Great War from 66 to 74 CE, a massive number of jews were displaced from Ancient Israel to serve as slaves in Rome.
This displacement to the Italian Peninsula has led to the natural expansion of the members of the jewish community. Some would have married Italians or some Italian citizens would have converted to Judaism. Nonetheless, a mixture of genetics and DNA emerged during this era. As time went by, small groups of Jews would have migrated further from where they were initially placed, leading to the modern Ashkenazi Jews that came to be.
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