Brit-Am Anthropology and DNA Update
30 January 2011, 25 Tevet 5771
1. Question on DNA and Possible Jewish Origins.
2. Interesting Discussion on Origin of Ashkenazi Levites.
3. Study suggests that people tend to associate and make friends with those who are genetically similar to themselves!


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1. Question on DNA and Possible Jewish Origins.

Relevance to Brit-Am:

We often get asked questions like the one below. DNA at present cannot prove Israelite origins or Tribal affiliation BUT in some (not all) cases it may be used to supplement other information.

Allan  wrote:
Re: Hebrew mtdna

Hello Yair,
I recently took a maternal dna test from I did the HVR1 and HVR2 when the results came back I had 90 Jewish matches 80 Ashkenazi, 6 Sephardic, and 4 Mizrachi. I then contacted The Jewish Agency for Aliyah, they told me they didn't accept dna as proof of Jewishness. A Jewish friend of mine told me that in Israel they are dna testing men to find the ones who are descended from the Cohanin so they will have priests when the 3rd temple is built. Do you know if this is true, and if so do you know of any agency's that will help me prove my Jewishness my haplogroup is K1a which according to Dr. Behar is Ashkenazi.
Thank you in advance for your assistance.
Sincerely Allan.

Brit-Am Reply:
No government agency is using DNA tests for Cohanim or for anything else as far as I know.
The Cohan Gene is of disputed validity. 50% or more of Cohanim have it but it is also found in many other peoples most of whom definitely are not of Israelite origin. The whole subject of DNA needs to be thoroughly re-examined.
Also research is ongoing. New finds daily appear and opinions change.
A Jew is defined as someone born to a Jewish mother or who has converted to Judaism.
DNA in itself cannot really prove Jewish descent but it can help.
Perhaps you should supplement the DNA findings with an interest in the origins of your family according to other sources?

God bless you

2. Interesting Discussion on Origin of Ashkenazi Levites.

Relevance to Brit-Am:

Discussion provides info of interest, illustrates complexity of the subject. Extract below is of interest since it shows a possible overlap of Huns, Parthians, and Khazars.

# Ashkenazi Levites are over 50% R1a1a1*, while something like 3% is more typical for any other Jewish group. ##

No neighboring source contemporary with the Khazar conversion mentions any conversion.
Ibn Hurdadbih reported in 902-3 AD that the Khazars are Jews and had been converted "recently."
Al-Masudi gives us a period: 786-809AD
Joseph puts it a little earlier  610AD.

We also get confirmation from a Georgian text which mentions Huns (Honni or Jews) who crossed over to the land of Bun-Turks. They called Ashkan, Kushan, or Honk in Armenian chronicles. These are known as Parthians in western sources. These Jews are described as warriors-cavalrymen...

Essentially we should not equate all Ashkenazi with the Khazar conversion. The bulk appear to be migrants from the south of the Caucasus and Byzantium.

3. Study suggests that people tend to associate and make friends with those who are genetically similar to themselves!

Relevance to Brit-Am:

Suggests that many friendships and associations have their source in a subconscious recognition of common ancestry.
This has been confirmed by anecdotal evidence.

It sometimes works in the opposite direction i.e. we may choose people different from ourselves.
The extract below illustrates a discussion of the issues involved.
On the whole there is a tendency for those of similar origins to converge together.

We may have more in common with friends than we think we do:
Correlated genotypes in friendship networks

Full text:

    James H. Fowlera,b,1,
    Jaime E. Settleb, and
    Nicholas A. Christakisc,

It is well known that humans tend to associate with other humans who have similar characteristics, but it is unclear whether this tendency has consequences for the distribution of genotypes in a population. ...Here, we study six available genotypes from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to test for genetic similarity between friends. Maps of the friendship networks show clustering of genotypes and, after we apply strict controls for population stratification, the results show that one genotype is positively correlated (homophily) and one genotype is negatively correlated (heterophily). ...These unique results show that homophily and heterophily obtain on a genetic (indeed, an allelic) level, which has implications for the study of population genetics and social behavior.

Humans are unusual as a species in that virtually all individuals form stable, nonreproductive unions to one or more friends. Although people apparently choose their friends freely, genes are known to play a role in the formation (1), attributes (2?4), and network structures (5) of these unions. ...

Here, we examine whether or not phenotypic similarity between individuals connected in a social network is reflected in their genotypes. Associations between the genotypes of connected individuals are known to result from genetic correlations between mates or as a result of groupings established on the basis of kinship (e.g., matrilineal tribal groupings). Indeed, kin recognition has been shown in a variety of organisms, including plants (6), ants (7), and vertebrates (8), and is important for stabilizing cooperation and promoting inclusive fitness benefits in some species (9).

In humans, one of the most replicated findings in the social sciences is that people tend to associate with other people that they resemble, a process known as 'homophily' ('birds of' a feather flock together') ...

Although it is unlikely that people would observe the actual genotypes of others around them, they could observe their phenotypes, and these may be influenced by specific genotypes. For example, a person of normal weight may choose to associate only with others of normal weight, and this would cause people lacking the risk allele of the FTO gene [which has been associated with obesity (24)] to tend to befriend others with the same genotype.
Similarly, people might choose to terminate relationships with people whose weight status differs from their own (25).
Third, people may actively choose environments they find convivial, environments where they are consequently likely to encounter people with similar phenotypes that are influenced by specific genotypes. If people tend to choose friends from within these environments (even at random), it would tend to generate correlated genotypes. For example, individuals interested in, and capable of, long-distance running may be drawn to clubs or locations where they have the opportunity to make similar friends.
Fourth, people may be chosen by others or otherwise selected into environments where they come into contact with similar people. For example, the admission process at a university or the hiring process in a workplace may select for people with specific phenotypes (e.g., cognitive skills) that are influenced by specific genotypes. Similarly, these institutions may get rid of individuals that do not exhibit certain phenotypes after they are admitted, and these phenotypes might also be influenced by genotypic variation.

In contrast to homophily, people might also exhibit 'heterophily,' that is, they might actively choose to associate with people' who are different with respect to some traits ('opposites attract').
It is noteworthy that if there is any substantial negative correlation between friends, phenotypes or genotypes, this would be unlikely to result from population stratification or from people choosing, or being drawn to, the same environment (as in the case of homophily noted above). Instead, there are two other processes that might be at work. First, people may actively choose to befriend people of a different type. The classic example of this kind of negative correlation at the genetic level occurs during mate choice; human beings have a slight preference for mates with different HLA types, a process perhaps mediated by a chemical signaling mechanism (26). Second, certain environments may require specialization. For example, some workplaces may select people with different skills to work together, and if these traits are related to genotypes, then people may tend to be frequently exposed to dissimilar people with whom they may have a higher probability of becoming friends.

There may even be genetic niches within social networks that promote or inhibit the evolution of certain kinds of social behavior. The people to whom we are connected provide important capabilities, from the ability to ward off infections, to the ability to exploit or transmit useful information, to the ability to reciprocate cooperative exchanges and thus enhance their payoffs (35). For example, some individuals might be 'immune' to whatever pathogen is spreading in a population not because of their own constitution, but rather because they have come to surround themselves with others with particular genotypes.
Personality traits associated with being a leader, based in part on certain genotypes, might best be matched with those in others associated with being a follower. Or cooperation might most easily arise and be sustained within social networks and friendship connections of a particular kind (41). Perhaps genetic properties of friendship groups might confer fitness advantages to individuals who choose them.


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