Jewish Moms

For some time, we have known that many Jewish populations  had mostly-Near Eastern  paternal ancestry (looking at y-chromosomes) and mostly-local maternal ancestry  looking at mtDNA). Autosomal admixture studies generally agree. This is easiest to see when the host population is fairly distant from Europe or the Near East, and thus has significantly different mtDNA types: it’s obvious in the case of Indian Jews.  Roughly speaking,  Jewish men settled distant lands, as traders or sometimes refugees and POWs.  They married local girls, and later, mostly with the advent of Rabbinical Judaism, rules emerged that forbade further intermarriage – and  presto, Roberta’s your aunt.

It’s a bit more difficult when comparing Europe and the Near East, since there has been a lot of population movement between those regions, most of it from the Near East into Europe in the form of the first farmers.  So even though the mixed origin of Jewish populations (Near Eastern men and local women) was clear in a number of cases, it wasn’t so clear in the most important case, the Ashkenazi Jews, who make up most of the world’s Jews and and account for almost all Jewish intellectual accomplishment.

But even when the same mtDNA haplotypes are found in both Europe and the Near East, the sub-haplotypes are different – the fine details clarify the story.

Back in 2006, Doron Behar and company looked at Ashkenazi mtDNA.  Four mtDNA lineages accounted for almost half:  K1a1b1a, K1a9, K2a2a, and N1b.  About 20% of Ashkenazi Jews have K1a1b1a mtDNA.  Behar concluded that all of these lineages originated in the Near East.  This was plausible for N1b (about 9% of Ashkenazi mtDNA), which is common in the Near East and rare in Europe (although it was common back in the LBK culture).  He couldn’t find any closely related versions of the K1a9 and K2a2a lineages outside of the Ashkenazim – and went on to say that they probably originated in the Near East, based on nothing. He also concluded that K1a1b1a was probably Near Eastern, since the only close non-Jewish versions were found in Portugal, Italy, France,  Morocco, and Tunisia: a conclusion which flew in the face of what evidence he had.  It is if one knew that all the languages closely related to Russian (Polish, Ukrainian, Serbian, etc) were found in Eastern Europe, and then concluded that the Russian language must therefore have originated in South Africa.

In other words, Doron Behar is a liar.  I was going to include something about the probable origins of Ashkenazi mtDNA (mostly Italian) and Behar’s follies in the book. I wrote it up (in a little essay titled “Special K”), but space prohibited, and anyhow liars are boring.

A new paper by Maria Costa et al (with Martin Richards as senior author) settles the issue.  We have a lot more data now – more people, and more detail.  Turns out that all of those major Ashkenazi mtDNA lineages originated  in Western Europe – even N1b, fairly rare in Europe.  The majority of the less common Ashkenazi mtDNA  lineages also originated in Europe – probably mostly in Italy. Altogether, > 80% of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry is European – mostly Italian, but a bit from France and Germany as well.

You may have heard of Arthur Koestler’s Khazar hypothesis – the notion that Europeans Jews are largely descended from Khazar converts. It’s not true – these results show that it is impossible. Charles Murray suggested that selection leading to higher intelligence in Jews occurred a long time ago, as far back as  the Babylonian Captivity.  That’s not true either. It never made any sense, because there’s not a scintilla of evidence that Jews in Classical times were smarter than the average bear – but  the Ashkenazim being half Italian crushed it yet again. If ancestral Jews had the genetic IQ magic, the Ashkenazim should be watered-down, closer to the European norm: but they’re not.

Lots of European admixture does not contradict our model of the evolution of superior Ashkenazi intelligence, because we think that the relevant selection occurred well after that admixture, during a period in which inward gene flow among the Ashkenazim was very low – as evidence by the fact that this study found plenty of Italian mtDNA, but little from Eastern Europe.

As Michael Balter cheerfully points out in Science, this result may be a bit troublesome to those that believe that Jewish identity descends through the female line.  In that case, most Ashkenazi Jews – aren’t.

I haven’t heard anyone else mention this, but logically, someone who is Ashkenazi could now decide that he and his cousins are really the true heirs of the Roman Empire, rather than a member of the Chosen People.  I’m sure that wouldn’t cause any trouble.

Doe this mean that the Palestinians have a better genealogical claim to the land of Israel than the Ashkenazi Jews? Maybe – but over the years, they’ve mixed too. They have a lot of South Arabian and African ancestry that wasn’t there 2000 years ago. That’s true of much of the Middle East – but that’s another post…  I’m sure that modern DNA technology will answer this question anytime anyone cares to look, and obviously everyone will accept the verdict of Science, whatever it may be.

Anyhow, if Italy really is the Ashkenazi urheimat, that’s not so bad.  I’d trade the Judean Hills for Tuscany in a New York minute. And even if trading homelands would require some toe-to-toe combat with the Italians – how hard would that be, really?

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123 Responses to Jewish Moms

  1. Patrick Boyle says:

    Before I had ever read anything by you I had my own Jewish IQ hypothesis. I had read Vegetius and Josephus. I knew that ancient Jews were not remarkable intellectually. I hypothesized that it was a bottleneck in the fourteenth century in Western Europe. It seemed to me that one of the tiny surviving Jewish enclaves just happened to get a favorable mutation that stuck. The fourteenth century was hard on everyone in the West but particularly Jews. I was finally and firmly convinced that I was wrong when I read Lynn’s recent book on Ashkenazi accomplishments. I can’t check now because I gave the book to a Jewish friend but as I remember there was some pretty clear evidence as to Ashkenazi exceptionalism around the twelfth century

    There is about a millennium in which it seems clear that the Jews changed. It would be nice to narrow it down as much as possible. Alas we usually call this period the Dark Ages.

  2. Donald says:

    The case of Jewish matrilineal law is interesting. Despite the stated Jewish rule of matrilineal descent, the primary authorities within the Jewish tradition, the Cohanim priesthood, are by Y-chromosome analysis and by Jewish law, patrilineal. And in general, ethnicity tends to correlate more strongly with the Y-chromosome (patriline).

    The word “patriarch” in the Jewish tradition is especially used to refer to the pre-diaspora male authority within that tradition. Even today there are matrilineal cultures in Africa where the male sons of the matriline exercise the authority of life or death over their female relatives. All that needs to happen in such a culture to maintain the patrilines is for the sons of the matriline to, as patriarchs, favor suitors from within the tribe for their own sisters.

    The relationship between matrilineage, patrilineage, matriarchy and patriarchy may change when different tribes begin encountering each other. In order to remain stable, some tribes may need to become more explicitly patriarchal, patrilineal, and homozygous in their matings. While in order to maximize advantageous gene flow, other tribes may seek to break down tribal barriers by exploiting female predispositions toward mating with immigrating males, thereby allowing genetic dominance to express in the heterozygous pair bonding that results. In animal husbandry, such females that propagate other germlines are called “multipliers”.

    The function of Jewish matrilineal law may be to collect the most competitive external patrilines for ideological domestication while loosing internal patrilines for external genetic dominance.

  3. Handle says:

    Well written Dr. Cochran. Is there any evidence of the IQ bottleneck originating at the time of the Black Death?

    • gcochran9 says:

      If Jewish IQ increased, it was due to natural selection, not a bottleneck. .

    • tommy says:

      I’ve thought it suspicious that the Ashkenazim seem to be both characterized by disproportionately high verbal IQ scores and a long history as wheelers, dealers, middle men and Talmudic scholars and debaters; in other words, a culture where verbal aptitude might have been associated with survival, resistance to assimilation, and fertility. Exactly what happened and when it happened isn’t clear, but it suggests long-term selection rather than some kind of extreme bottleneck to my mind.

      • Handle says:

        Thanks for this. I suppose I still wonder why such selection pressures didn’t work with equal effect on the broader, non-Jewish European population.

        The answer would seem to be a kind of inadvertent eugenic effect of distinct-from-European Ashkenazi cultural norms and practices.

        In the alternative, if a coherent minority can find a few niches in the broader economy, that niche lifestyle combined with culture could also have the effect of increasing intelligence through fecundity over time, in a way that wouldn’t apply to individuals performing the other major production activities in the economy.

        Within the same ethnic group, one might expect the development of an intelligent caste which gradually pulls away from the norm. Maybe like Mandarins and Brahmins?

        • gcochran9 says:

          Generally caste didn’t happen in Europe: the only endogamous castes are imported. I would say that the difference boils down to generic Europeans being overwhelmingly farmers, while the Ashkenazi Jews overwhelmingly had white-collar jobs.

  4. a very knowing American says:

    Descended from shiksas? My dear, I trust that it is not true; but if it is, let us pray that it may not become widely known.

  5. georgesdelatour says:

    I was just reading the Wikipedia entry on the Radhanites.

    It says they were active from around 500 to 1000 AD.

    “The activities of the Radhanites are documented by Abu’l Qasim Ubaid’Allah ibn Khordadbeh, the Director of Posts and Police (spymaster and postman) for the province of Jibal under the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu’tamid (ruled 869–885), when he wrote Kitab al-Masalik wal-Mamalik (Book of Roads and Kingdoms), probably around 870. Ibn Khordadbeh described the Radhanites as sophisticated and multilingual. He outlined four main trade routes utilized by the Radhanites in their journeys; all four began in the Rhône Valley in southern France and terminated on the east coast of China.”

    Khordadbeh says a typical Radhanite trader speaks Arabic, Persian, Latin, French, Spanish and Slavonic languages. Does this suggest they were already pretty smart people, by the standards of typical local European populations in, say, the English Heptarchy?

    • Difference Maker says:

      Well, Latin, French, and Spanish were a lot closer to each other back then. And as Indo European languages, even Persian and Slavonic. Arabic is related to and shares similarities with Hebrew

      Though of course, how would Khordadbeh even know – these were merchants and therefore salesmen

      I have a certain facility with languages so the feat might seem more reasonable to me. I suspect darkly that that I must therefore have far flung mercantile ancestry – though preacher is likely and, no doubt, pirate

    • tommy says:

      “Does this suggest they were already pretty smart people, by the standards of typical local European populations in, say, the English Heptarchy?”

      Not necessarily, and besides, the Radhanites were Sephardim.

  6. Ilya says:

    @gcochran: I remember reading the paper “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era” (which can be found at a couple of years ago. There, among other things, I found this:

    “Four founder mitochondrial haplogroups of Middle Eastern origins comprise approximately 40% of the Ashkenazi Jewish genetic pool, whereas the remainder is comprised of other haplogroups, many of European origin and supporting the degree of admixture observed in the current study”

    This, as it turns out, referenced the aforementioned Behar et al paper.

    So, I already knew that Middle Eastern component in Ashkenazim is passed mostly through men. However, I didn’t suspect how much less of it comes via the female line — i.e. twice less, according to the new paper you cited.

    I have this pet theory: the rabbis decided to pass Jewishness via mother because, culturally, that would’ve required the Jewish males who wanted to stay within faith (or, otherwise, perish as a *Jew*/”boil off,” as per one of the comments) to have only 2 options:
    A) Marry a Jewish woman
    B) Get a suitable gentile woman and convert her into Judaism

    Since going via route B was a lengthy process that required filtering by rabbis as well as complete indoctrination, this was one of the reasons of high cohesiveness of the Ashkenazim that allowed them to survive as a people (as well as being able to evolve to occupy the specialized societal niches, as per your book).

    • gcochran9 says:

      Even less from the Middle East than you think: only about 8% of Ashkenazi mtDNA lineages clearly originate in the Middle East, according to this new study. I suppose I should have told more people about the ‘major flaws’, shall we say, in that Behar paper, but it didn’t seem worth the trouble.

      • Ilya says:


        So, OK then: likely, only 8% Middle Eastern via maternal line and, if one is to believe the paper I referenced above, about 50% via the Y chromosome is Middle Eastern. This makes Middle Eastern component of about 25%-30% in total, in the Ashkenazim.

        I understand if you want to stay away from political arguments, especially when they veer away from US-centric interests, but this still seems to me to be a sufficient claim to ethnic descent from Judean people. From what I understand, many of today’s Jews have as much right to claim Israel as their birthright as many Americans of European descent have to claim regarding the US being their motherland. Especially, ones who are only second or third generation.

        More importantly though, given how much “love” Jews can get elsewhere, especially, in Slavic countries, it seems reasonable for them to have a homeland. There’s plenty of land in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon to still have Palestine (and we all know how much Arabs like each other).

        If not, then… In the same vein, maybe the more Mexicans in your state, New Mexico, the merrier? After all, they’re more Native American than you are.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        “I understand if you want to stay away from political arguments, especially when they veer away from US-centric interests.”

        It is safe to conclude you are new to reading Cochran’s thoughts. Pretty much the exact opposite is true.

      • Ilya says:

        @dave chamberlin: OK, I understand that Dr. Cochran is a published author of more than just physics and biology/genetics.

        I’m interested in his position on Israel and US-Israeli relationship. I’ve looked up that he vehemently disagrees with Iraq war #2, but I’m curious about the rest of his views.

    • tommy says:

      “Since going via route B was a lengthy process that required filtering by rabbis as well as complete indoctrination, this was one of the reasons of high cohesiveness of the Ashkenazim that allowed them to survive as a people (as well as being able to evolve to occupy the specialized societal niches, as per your book).”

      Maybe, but keep in mind that the route to conversion wasn’t always as arduous as it is nowadays and what was official doctrine at any time wasn’t necessarily what was really practiced by the Jewish community at large in every circumstance. Also, during the time of Roman-Jewish intermingling, it isn’t clear to me that rabbinical rules were as firmly established in the Jewish community as they later became. I get the sense that the homogeneity of so much medieval Jewish custom didn’t exist even in the late Roman era.

      One alternative hypothesis for matrilineal descent I’ve heard kicked about is that it had something to due with inheritance laws during the Roman era. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the details. Maybe someone more familiar with the topic might know about this hypothesis.

      • gcochran9 says:

        I think that gene flow from Italians into the Jewish community happened in pre-rabbinical times. Guys showed up, merchants or POWs, and they had to marry local girls, since there were very few Jewish girls around in Rome.

        Before about 200 AD, Jewish identity was patrilineal – still the case for Karaites. I doubt if courtship and marriage were all that complicated back in the days of admixture.

      • Ilya says:

        @tommy and @gcochran: Thanks for correcting.
        I’m backing away from my hypothesis. I still think it could be a lucky coincidence if it’s true, but, even if so, the conversion into Judaism became a thorough and significant affair only *after* rabbinical authority had already been firmly established.

        Per Wikipedia:
        “…the Tannaim may have been influenced by Roman law, which dictated that when a parent could not contract a legal marriage, offspring would follow the mother.”

        I suppose, then, the strength of diaspora’s cohesion, its resistance to attempts of assimilation, come from the very fact that the original members that formed the Judean diaspora were the most convinced Jewish fundamentalists (almost by definition, as most of them were POWs)?

  7. Richard Sharpe says:

    OT, but Ants, Cheating and genes …

  8. jamesd127 says:

    Regardless of actual biological ancestry, Talmudic Jews subscribe to a religion of exile, alienating them from wherever they actually happen to live, making them outsiders, hostile to, and subversive of, the host society.

    In a feudal society, hard to hire an estate manager, because there is no distant impartial enforcer of property law. In a feudal society, law enforcement depends on honor, family connections, and a terrible swift sword. Your estate manager may wind up effectively owning your estate.

    Solution: Hire a smart outsider, someone who relies on the sword of the real estate owner for backup when his authority is challenged, someone forbidden to wield a sword.

    Pretty soon you wind up with a semi hereditary caste of smart, disarmed, unpopular, estate managers, servants of the nobility, masters of the subjects of the nobility, hated by their inferiors, despised by their masters. (The estate is safer from usurpation that way) Those of the caste not quite smart enough to do estate management get dumped into the peasantry, where they cease to be members of the caste.

    In other words, Jews as we know them today.

    Hence the modern role of Jews as major, but highly dispensable, parts of the ruling elite. When all goes well, the Jews find themselves comfortably almost (but not quite) members of the ruling elite. When there is trouble, when the ruling elite screws up, the Jews can be conveniently sacrificed to the wrath of the masses.

    • tommy says:

      “Those of the caste not quite smart enough to do estate management get dumped into the peasantry, where they cease to be members of the caste.”

      But when and how might that have happened? What evidence exists that Jews were ever dumped into the peasantry, let alone routinely dumped into that caste. Feudal society isn’t exactly a meritocracy and I don’t get the sense that even becoming a lowly peasant is an easy or straightforward process for an outsider in such a rigid world, let alone the inevitable outcome of not being successful. Differential fertility within the Jewish community itself might be a more plausible explanation.

      • gcochran9 says:

        You’re making too much sense. Get a checkup.

        There is not really any evidence about Jews being dumped into the peasantry in medieval Europe. It could have happened, but it was harder than people think, due to various barriers.

        There is plenty of evidence that low-income Jews had lower fertility. There was a system of community welfare, and the guys running the show often forbade marriage and childbearing among the poor.

        That said, we should be able to determine the extent of Jewish gene flow into surrounding communities. That wouldn’t by itself tell you if that gene flow was due to rich, middle-class, or poor defectors.

  9. Dave Pinsen says:

    “Doe this mean that the Palestinians have a better genealogical claim to the land of Israel than the Ashkenazi Jews? Maybe – but over the years, they’ve mixed too.”

    Not just mixed, but moved, no? Judging from 19th Century census data and photos, what is now Israel appears to have been pretty sparsely populated back then. What percentage of today’s Palestinians have ancestors who lived there before the fall of the Ottoman Empire / rise of the British Mandate? And do any Palestinians consider themselves heirs to ancient Hebrews? I thought they considered themselves descendants of the Philistines.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Probably most of them. According to Wiki, anyhow: they suggest that the population of Israel west of the Jordan, in 1890, was about half a million, ~80% Moslem, ~10% Christian, about 8% Jewish (who were recent arrivals, mostly).
      There are a lot of Y-chromosome haplotypes that are shared between Ashkenazi Jews and Palestinians: someone would have to have been pretty clever to arrange this if the Palestinains aren’t mostly descended from the Jews of Classical times.

      If what people think matters, rather than the facts, anyone could claim Israel as their ancient homeland, even Martians. And of course they can.

      • Dave Pinsen says:

        “There are a lot of Y-chromosome haplotypes that are shared between Ashkenazi Jews and Palestinians: someone would have to have been pretty clever to arrange this if the Palestinains aren’t mostly descended from the Jews of Classical times.”

        Could it be that Jews and Palestinians have common ancestors that predate Judaism?

        • gcochran9 says:

          Looks as if there is fairly recent common ancestry, but of course there is earlier common ancestry too: there always is. In the near future, as people routinely do full sequencing, I expect to see a definitive analysis of Ashkenazi Y-chromosomes.

      • Jake says:

        “~80% Moslem, ~10% Jewish, about 8% Jewish”

        Is the second figure supposed to be 10% Christian?

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  11. The Phoenicians, the closest related people with the jews in antiquity were quite smart, had reputation for being great merchants, seafarers, makers of luxury goods and even children sacrifice.

    The Christian Lebanese (closest descendants of the Phoenicians) are somewhat like jews, in Brazil they extremely successful in politics and business, ever heard of Carlos Ghosn CEO of both Renault and Nissan?

    Sephardi jews are also quite successful in Brazil, the Safra Family are the weathiest bankers in the world and there is also a TV channel owned by a sephardi jew from the prestigious Abravanel Family.

    The Radhanites show that jews Merchant nature runs deep in their blood, interestingly that the Radhanite period overlaps with Khazarian period.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The Jews of Classical times were not great merchants or prominent financiers. Full stop.

      • I disagree, Josephus and Philo were both from wealthy families, the Herodians were able to keep a dynasty in Palestine even after the Greek Royal families in Syria and Egypt had been vanquished by the by the Romans.

        Also Tacitus:

        ‘Whatever their origin, these rites are sanctioned by their antiquity. Their other customs are perverted and abominable, and owe their prevalence to their depravity. All the most worthless rascals, renouncing their national cults, started showering them with offerings and tribute. This is one cause of Jewish prosperity. Another is that they are obstinately loyal to each other and always ready to show compassion, whereas they feel nothing but hatred and enmity for the rest of mankind…”

  12. j3morecharacters says:

    We always knew that Jews were descended from four mothers: Sarah (wife of Abraham), Rebecca (wife of Isaac), Rachel and Leah (wives of Jacob). May be add that they were Tuscan or French blonde sex bombs?

    • gcochran9 says:

      There are a good deal more than four Ashkenazi mtDNA lineages, but there are four large ones.

      If they were Italian bombshells, you can’t blame those guys.

  13. Gioiello Tognoni says:

    For having said (and demonstrated) this I had been banned from Rootsweb (2007), DNAForums (2008), AJL asked my banishment from 23andMe, banned and after admitted again from Worldfamilies and anthrogenica etc.
    But my discourse about the mt was due not only to the fact that I am K1a1b1e (ancestor of the British K1a1b1e/477C) and didn’t believe that K1a1b1a was Jewish and not Italian in its origin, but was only a support theory for my theory of the Italian Refugium above all of Y R. I don’t agree that Jewish Y comes from Middle East: I think having demonstrated that Jewish R1b1, R-M269, R-L23/L584+ and even many hg. J are of Italian origin.
    Not only probably Mr Behar is a lier, but he had all the support of the FTDNA, also for its clones for his reassessment of the mt…
    About this I have written thousands of letters.

    Gioiello Tognoni (Gioiello/Maliclavelli/Claire/Rathna etc.)

  14. Peter the Shark says:

    As an American of Italian descent, I find these results completely unsurprising. Ashkenazi Jews and Italians (especially Northern italians) have always gotten along fairly well – even in the US. Any comedian in the 1950s knew that you could swap “Italian” for “Jewish” when making jokes about mothers, and the joke would be the same. It is probably no accident that Jews in Italy were always the most assimiliated of any Jewish population. If Italy was smart they would welcome any Ashkenazi who wants to come home, maybe a patriotic Jewish population could put a stop to the Romanians, Libyans and Albanians.

    • Gioiello Tognoni says:

      Probably you are right, but, as my case demonstrates, are Jews who don’t accept to be in part (in great part) of Italian descent. They do the test for demonstrating that they descend from Abraham, and, as Abraham had a particular link with God, they think to have the same.
      They accepted me if I liked to be a Jew, not if I said that they were Italians. Also this is a particular example of racism.
      About the other peoples, I’d say that we should have a wider and opener point of view. Probably Rumanians haven’t a huge presence of Italian Y and mt, but their language is for the 90% of Latin origin, and also Albanian has a huge presence of Latin words, not recognizable if not linguists (who would recognize in the Albanian “mbret” the Latin “imperatore(m)”?).
      But first of all we should fight to let Italians understand that they are Italians, from the Alps to Sicily. In these years I have fought every day against Italians (or above all Italians-something else) who preferred to be Arabs, Phoenicians and everything else better than Italians. And don’t forget that there are many people who have interest to feed this, from the richest man of the world who pays for demonstrating that in Sicily or Sardinia they are Phoenicians, to the same Jews who didn’t like their “Roman” component, to the same Celts who have many to regret to Romans, forgetting that Italics and Celts were the same people at their origin. Then Sicilian-American Lo Piccolo, who liked to be a Middle Easterners, resulted from 23andmE pretty 100% Italian like me, who 23andMe considers the Italian par excellence, being a Tuscan from at least some millennia. But also this is an artifice: Italians have many different inputs from prehistory and it is wrong to consider an Italian who by chance is close to me.
      I said in my letters that our victory is that at least 700,000,000 of people speak a Latin language, that also if Italians were split for many centuries and didn’t participate like the Atlantic countries to the conquest of the world, at least 100,000,000 of people out of Italy have an Italian descent. There we are. But these people have also many other inputs and speak another language, but they carry with them something of their origin.
      I haven’t fought wars, but my theory of the Italian Refugium, if will be demonstrated and accepted, the theory that R1b1* and subclades came from Italy and the great part of Western Europeans come from our country, will be a great victory. And not only hg. R: Italy has a very ancient presence of hgs. G, J, I etc. and even E.

      • brut_n_honey says:

        Giogiello, my dad’s ancestry is Abruzzese/Gran Sasso paternal, and Calabrese/uphill from Crotone maternal. G2a like Otzi the Iceman…5000 years of following the goats in the high mountains, and X2 Palestinian and Druze. Obviously some Greek is likely but because these are women folk I would have to imagine this is the drift of Roman refugees after the city was overrun, unless the Goths 500 AD brought their women along. I don’t think so, but T’alarico suggests some Gothic descent. So Italian, so very Italian.

  15. Bert Derpski says:

    So following the conventional wisdom of explaining the white admixture into hispanic and african american populations, we’ll just go ahead and ascribe this data to rape right?

    No? Is there a special rule or something that I’m not aware of?

  16. Philip Neal says:

    What is the earliest known statement, from a non-Jewish source, that Jews were (or were commonly thought to be) notably intelligent? I have read more mediaeval (pre-1400) literature than many people and I have never come across such a statement.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I haven’t seen anything before 1400 either.

    • Michael D. Abramoff says:

      Is the obtuseness of our generous host on this issue deliberate or not? A quick Google search finds several examples of such high intelligence, the most compelling for an English readership being that of Aaron of Lincoln (1125-1186), at his life the richest man of England, possibly even richer than King Henry II. There are several references in the History of the Exchequer of the kings, by Madox, a non-Jewish source if there ever was one:

      To me, the invention of monotheism by the Jews remains paramount, alluded to by Paracelsus and others. The Romans were smarter engineers true, but their pantheon was a mess.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Like I said, there is no evidence for unusual Jewish intelligence in early medieval times. Or earlier. By your logic, Crassus must have been a genius. Doesn’t work that way.

        The Romans were decent engineers, willing to learn from others, but profoundly uncreative. Altogether the Classical world didn’t invent much.

    • Michael D Abramoff says:

      We need to decide whether your statement of Jews not being unusually intelligent before 1400 is even falsifiable. There was obviously no Lynn then doing IQ tests on various populations.

      One proxy for IQ is wealth, so I gave an example (with source from 1207) of a Jew, Aaron of Lincoln, being considered the richest man in England. There were 2000 Jews in England then, on a total population of ~2million, so Aaron came from a group that encompassed 0.1% of the total population.
      If wealth is not a good proxy maybe verbal fluency and literacy are. Gilbert Crispin was the Abbot of Westminster in London, and around 1096 had a number of disputations on Judaism and Christianity with a Jewish businessman from England. He wrote them down in a letter to (Saint) Anselm, see
      Crispin was a highly literate prelate of the church, before Middle-English even existed, when literacy was below 5%. Given that Jews could not hold office in England, that businessman can only have been an average Jew but is clearly highly literate. I propose that Jews on average at that time were as literate as the top 10% of the non-Jewish population.

      If this not acceptable, for example if you argue that the English population at that time was not very smart, propose a way to falsify your statement.

      • gcochran9 says:

        The simplest way of telling if one population is smarter than average, pre-IQ tests, is simply noticing people’s impressions. If you dealt with people from a given group, you’d know if they were exceptionally clever or unclever – unless, of course, you attended the Ivy League. There was always a popular stereotype – a reasonably accurate one, if you allow for a tendency to diss enemies. You could also look for prominent outliers – a surprising number of individuals from a given group that made some unarguable advance in human knowledge or understanding. In Classical times, the Greeks – particularly the Ionian Greeks – gave everybody this impression – in everyday experience, and certainly in terms of production of outstanding intellects. Everybody thought so. Nobody said this about the Persians – and nobody said it about the Hebrews. They never said it about themselves.

        Wealth is moderately correlated with intelligence, and I think that it was the key mechanism in selection for of higher-than-average Ashkenazi intelligence. But being wealthy is not at all the same as being Archimedes. Wealth is only moderately correlated with brains: Archimedes was the pure essence of it. Who was the Jewish Archimedes-or Eratosthenes – or Euclid , back in Classical times? Nobody. For that matter, inventions require some real brains, although key inventors are not as well recorded as prominent mathematicians. What real technical innovations came out of Israel in Classical times? As far as we know, nothing much.

        The great majority of people can learn to read, so literacy, in itself, is not a strong indicator of high intelligence. Most kids with Down’s syndrome can learn to read. Literacy mostly depends on whether you’re taught – on whether your culture pushes literacy, can afford it, etc. Rabbinical Judaism insisted that Jews be able to read – which was different from most other cultures of the time, but was not something that by itself showed that that they were any smarter than average. It may well have acted as a cultural preadaptation to some urban occupations that played a part in later selection for intelligence.

        The Jews of England (in those days, Norman England) were moneylenders – all of them. It was their niche. Catholics – everyone else – were forbidden to charge interest. The fact that someone who may have been the richest man in England was Jewish is equivalent to saying that the richest man in England happened to be a banker. it is not as if he got that job by a meritocratic process open to everyone in England.

      • Michael D Abramoff says:

        These are good points. Good that you confirm that we have moved from determining whether Jews were “unusually intelligent before 1400”, in comparison to the people around them to presumably, to “intelligent” in comparison to the smartest people in any era. Also, that we are not looking at “free-floating intelligence”, as I assumed, but instead at practical intelligence as measured by inventions by obviously very smart people like Archimedes, Eratosthenes etc. I agree that classical era Jews were not good technical inventors at all, compared to the Greeks.

        The problem with third-party impressions that you like as a proxy is that as we like to say it, ‘Jews are loved by God but hated by everyone else’. The Athenians were admired by some and hated by others. The Jews were sequentially hated by *everyone* and there is not a country where they lived that they have not been expelled from or exterminated in (in Europe at least). It is hard to see as unbiased “impressions” from authors who are convinced that Jews are worse than the devil.

        How about an objective measure of scientific impact and productivity that university promotions committees are using today, namely the h-index
        The Torah (Old Testament), written by Jews, surely has the highest h-index of any thing written since the invention of writing. Based on h-index, surely Jews from the classical era were highly intelligent.

      • K says:

        But how did the ionian greeks become that smart, to stand out so much from their neighbors? Can we pinpoint it to some historic, prehistoric process?

        • gcochran9 says:

          I’ve had famous people ask me that question. I think it probably is explained by things that happened back in the Greek Dark Ages – after the fall of the Mycenaean and most other Bronze Age civilizations.

          Which means that it’s too hard for me. But how might we make progress? Well, if we knew a lot more about how various alleles influence intelligence, and had enough ancient Ionian DNA samples spread out over several centuries, maybe we could get somewhere.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    The issue is not Jewish intelligence, but Christian failure to develop intelligence among their aristocratic classes.

    As has been mentioned, intelligent Christians became monks, priests and nuns (epic evolutionary failures) or fought and died as aristocratic warriors. Think of the rabbinical dynasties (families of Marx and Freud). Intelligence had selection specifically through scholarship over centuries.

    Intelligent hot head Christians got rich, bought armor, and they died or lost everything. Bear in mind that in any war you’ve got a 50% of being on the losing side. This means that a wealthy aristocrat with impeccable breading for 500 years ended up on the wrong side of the War of the Roses and lost everything. His counterpart, a wealthy dynastic Jew, had 12 children. Christian dynastic lines had a low chance of getting anywhere and surviving perpetual squabbles, revolts and wars. There’s a joke in the Tudors that staying out of politics is a good way to stay alive. Know any Plantagenet’s? Not quite like the Rothschilds.

    England has been prosperous for over a thousand years from a per capita GDP standpoint. France was even better for much of that time. It is shocking that higher levels of intelligence did not develop. The answer lies in the lack of intellectual dynasties that maintained wealth and prestige for an extended period (500+ years).

    • gcochran9 says:

      if for some reason the medieval European aristocracy had decided, as a group, to breed for brains, at least they would have known how to do it. Which is more than you can say.

      • Philip Odess says:

        why the snark? That was a plausible and reasonable comment.

        • gcochran9 says:

          It was uninformed. You can’t possibly breed for anything in a group unless it’s highly endogamous – very low gene flow from the general population. Which anyone breeding Destriers or warhounds or Guernsey cows knew in AD 900, and which less than 1% of Harvard graduates know today.

          Was the European aristocracy a highly endogamous group – enough to make this possible? No.

      • Anonymous says:

        It was uninformed. You can’t possibly breed for anything in a group unless it’s highly endogamous – very low gene flow from the general population. Which anyone

        Upper gentry couldn’t even marry outside of upper gentry. It was a taboo. Read Jane Eyre. It was no coincidence that the Industrial revolution occurred around the corner from the heartland of the English mercantile dynasties (like the Rochesters). I know someone who was disowned because he broke up an 800 year old dynasty of pristine breeding. Two generations later the offspring is “epic fail.” 800 years of MP’s, intellectuals, artists and writers… dozens of knighted leaders, and industrialists.. all pissed away for a pair of nice legs.

        Americans despise this kind of class talk, but every civilization practiced these class barriers to some degree and denying it is foolish when the evidence is overwhelming. It is inherently offensive to low-bred Americans to view themselves in this manner, but this is a bitter pill. Freud and his cousin founded modern psychology. Like Marx, rabbinical dynasties were likely significant in making this eminence. Darwin and Galton founded modern stats & bio. Steve Jobs was the descendant of a Syrian mercantile dynasty. Bill Gates’ dad founded planned parenthood.

        Steve Jobs is of particular interest. Dumping a product of exceptional breeding in working class family? You get all the talent without the aristocratic arrogance and entitlement.

        I am just restating Galton’s eminence theory. It could be Larmarkian? Who knows the mechanism, but there is no denying this. It appears that the French Revolution and the Civil War obliterated aristocratic classes and those regions never recovered. The Old South is of particular interest given the large numbers of displaced well-bred Cavaliers (gallant George Washington and many of the Virginia founders had excellent lineages). George Will asked wistfully about how so many geniuses existed within the Virginian founders (but there’s an obvious answer).

        Roman cities were managed by elite local dynasties. That’s how they ran the distant empire. They talked of ancient dynasties like the Brutii, etc. But this is all silly, right? How they maintained the must successful political order in human history? Nothing to see.. move along.

        Virtually every aristocratic class in human history obsessed over bloodlines, but your view is that they were all wrong? My theory has explained most of the significant intellectuals of the 20th/19th/18th century. Do you, per chance, have an alternative explanation for the above?

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Marriage is not coterminous with breeding.

    • Philip Neal says:

      It is often said that clerical celibacy removed intelligence from the gene pool, but by no means all celibates were priests. There is a category, now rare but once more numerous, called lay brothers (also lay sisters) who lacked the education for the priesthood and took vows but did not proceed to ordination. Things may have evened out.

      • aryandawn says:

        Early Christianity/Catholicism had a dysgenic effect on Europeans. Jews have a natural priestly class (Kohen, Levites) even if they’re a lead by teachers (Rabbis).


    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “The issue is not Jewish intelligence, but Christian failure to develop intelligence among their aristocratic classes.”

      Evolutionary niche.

      Success as an aristocrat required a mixture of brains and brawn. Bankers/traders only needed the brains. One consequence (i think) is populations actively selected for brains over a long time ought to have more genetic physical ailments.

    • dearieme says:

      “Know any Plantagenet’s?” My wife has met one. She has never met a Rothschild.

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  20. neilfutureboy says:

    Maybe the Jews of Israel could swop homes with the Moslems of Bosnia – not quite Tuscany but only a couple of hundred miles away at the same latitude so it could probably be turned into the equivalent.

    Only problem being that the “Bosniacs” almost certainly aren’t Turks, despite bith sides insisting they are, but a slavic heresy called Bogomils who accepted Mohammed must be a prophet too when the Turkish army came to town.

  21. Greying Wanderer says:

    I’d have thought an endogamous caste having a monopoly on banking (and by extension a big advantage in trade) from c. 300 AD to c. 1300 AD would do the trick nicely. It would be a version of the “Farewell to Alms” effect with closed competition meaning Jews weren’t competing with Europeans but competing with themselves *within* a closed caste such that the most successful within that niche had the most kids and the least successful the least.

    Seems to me that over a long enough time period that niche would pretty much guarantee high verbal and math ability.

    If you take that as the basis and then add on top whatever effect the time in eastern europe had and then on top of that any effect from the move back west i think you’ll have a reasonably accurate picture.

  22. Greying Wanderer says:

    “I disagree, Josephus and Philo were both from wealthy families”

    How many surviving writers from any place and time period weren’t upper middle class or above?

  23. How indicative are contemporary haplotype percentages (of mtDNA and (non-pseudoautosomal) y-chromosome) for the actual ancestry of the ashkenazim? Not taking into account additional data from autosomal DNA, there’s bound to be some drift due to “lucky fathers/mothers” (especially because jews were splitted into small sub-groups etc.). Haplotypes from son-less fathers and daughter-less mothers get lost along the way. Maybe some middle-eastern mtDNA haplotypes ended up in un-lucky daughter-less mothers.

  24. Izzy says:

    Another (admittedly anecdotal) process of natural selection for higher IQ is this…

    The best and brightest of Europe, between 700 and 1700, were often encouraged to join the priesthood. For the most part, this meant they had fewer children.
    For Jews, the best and brightest were often encouraged to marry well and have Rabbinic positions. For the most part, this meant they had more children.

    Natural selection would, in general, force the non-Jewish population to have lower IQs, and the Jewish population to have higher IQs.

    • gcochran9 says:

      You know, every time I hear this argument, my hope for the future of humanity shrinks. The point is not why Europeans are so dumb – because they’re not. They score well above the world average of 90, and they invented 90% of modern technical civilization. They invented science, for God’s sake. The question is why Ashkenazi Jews are unusually smart – smarter (on average) than everyone else, not just smarter than Europeans. Step back a little, look at the bigger picture. if clerical celibacy is the problem, why didn’t modernity flower in Eastern Europe (Orthodox, not Catholic) rather than Western? Moslems don’t have priestly celibacy – why haven’t they done anything significant in hundreds of years?

      • Shawn says:

        Admittedly I am not an expert but it seems to me that Izzy has a point. Those differences he described must have had some effect, but as to how much, I cannot say. Western Europeans did suffer some IQ regression from what he described & they could have done even greater things without those priesthood rules in effect which affected reproduction…

    • Jack says:

      If anyone can recommend further reading that the smart European Christians became celibate priests in large numbers, I’d like to read it. I am skeptical.

      In a religion where the high ranking are allowed to take a fertile young wife, it would make sense (i.e. smart rabbis), but I’m not seeing where smart men would choose to enter priesthood and forego sex. Unless the argument is that they were FORCED to enter priesthood, I think a Christian European with above average intelligence and decent chance to land himself a nice wife gave a nice “thanks but no thanks” to those encouraging him to be a priest.

      It strikes me as rational to assume that the priesthood was for those of average intelligence, otherwise unspectacular, who wished to avoid lots of manual labor and give themselves a stable life and respected status in the process.

      • Matt says:

        Holy orders could have been above average. Holy orders weren’t a sponge eating up everyone above average.

        Men and women of the cloth not reproducing could just result in a larger niche for the kids of intelligent men and women who are not. And larger family size for them.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        And for most of the Middle Ages, the priestly vocation required being unmarried but celibacy was overachieving. Many priests had concubines.

    • ghazi-less says:

      This is similar to the argument of Lee Kuan Yew, the PM of Singapore: the Chinese elevated their most intelligent into polygynous Mandarins; the Europeans elevated their most intelligent into celibate clergy. Laura Betzig, the anthropologist, has done a lot of work on extramarital activity by the European elite, and I think the conclusion one might draw from her work is that the priesthood was, in practice, not that celibate. I happen to know that priests in Guatemala, during the colonial era, were notorious for siring children with their servants.

      • gcochran9 says:

        I am shocked that Lee Kuan Yew didn’t do a more careful quantitative analysis. He must be the only, at most one of the very few, politicians in the world who could shock me.

        The problem is that the number of people who passed the imperial examinations and then acquired lucrative jobs was small, a tiny fraction of the population. Something like 1 in 10,000 men – so the selective effect is small, even with some polygamy.

  25. neilfutureboy says:

    We get faster evolution in small populations of animals.

    If the era of Jewish males breeding with Italian women involved very small numbers we could expect that bottleneck to be when the IQ change happened. It should be possible, by identifying the number of genes from that time to estimate how small that bottleneck was, in the same way the volcanic near extermination of cavemen was.

  26. Ricky John says:

    Scientific support for the Khazarian Hypothesis:

  27. Greying Wanderer says:

    “it didn’t happen until hundreds of years later.”

    Sure but how long before it happened (noticably) would it need to have started?

    (I don’t know – just assuming it was quite a while.)

  28. RS says:

    > Given that Jews could not hold office in England, that businessman can only have been an average Jew but is clearly highly literate.

    This is palaver. You have no significant indication that he was an average Jew.

  29. RS says:

    > The simplest way of telling if one population is smarter than average, pre-IQ tests, is simply noticing people’s impressions. If you dealt with people from a given group, you’d know if they were exceptionally clever or unclever – unless, of course, you attended the Ivy League. There was always a popular stereotype – a reasonably accurate one, if you allow for a tendency to diss enemies.

    The dissing enemies thing is a sticking point here. As Abramoff noted, Roman Hebrews, like today’s Ashkenazim, appear to have been somewhat whiny, selfish, and unlikeable among other traits — even compared to other human beings. The difference vs Europids might only be 0.25 sigma or something, but it may still make a difference.

    The Hebrews wrote the most glorious (extant) literature ever to exist, by a country mile (KJV Canticles, Job, and Ecclesiastes). It’s not even close. If you don’t want my opinion, take Nietzsche’s and Goethe’s. When an (incidentally Arab) friend suggested this magnificence was mostly introduced by the KJV English rendering, I examined a literal translation and while it was no KJV, and could well have been KJV-influenced, it did not seem to support my friend’s view at all. Also, while he did not read Hebrew, Nietzsche’s (Modern) English was weak and I greatly doubt he read the KJV or could really appreciate anything lin late-Middle English ; Goethe I don’t think read Hebrew or English but I don’t know. The Luther bible, which I assume includes the OT, is considered very classic but I do not think it has the same esteem as KJV.

    Also as per Abramoff the Hebrews created memes and modes which pretty much determined the fate of West Eurasia, probably acting in synergy with their literary powers. I realize the non-Ashkenazi Jews are not superintelligent, but their powers may have declined over time — not a lot of hot science coming out of Ionia right now either. I’m not saying I completely reject the Cochran hypothesis, far from it, but I have qualms about considering the Hebrews some ‘normal’ people.

    I haven’t seen Cochran talk a lot about art. He could spend 74% of his waking hours blaring classical music for all I know, but I’m guessing not, and this biases him against due consideration of art. Obviously it is a lot less /g/-loaded than technical achievements, yet it has something to do with /g/ and intelligence. For anyone who wants to see what I mean, KJV Canticles is about five pages long. Besides, if you have any appreciation for art, you’re an idiot if you don’t read it sometime before you croak. In fact, keep on reading it every few months as high and receptive moods come to you….. I’d say it peaks on the fifth or sixth reading.

  30. RS says:

    > They invented science, for God’s sake.

    Well, they could have invented 5.72% more of it. What they did doesn’t show that clerical celibacy had no impact. It’s not a stupid idea per se.

    In fact, there could be a number of different interesting effects. However, I’m not sure the number and trait-distinctness of actually-practicing celibates have been strong enough to have made a real difference.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      Speculation on the trait-distinctness of actually-practicing celibates: could celibacy in practice limit the propagation of congenital traits for fervor and fanaticism to within manageable limits?

      • Anonymous says:

        Italian Jews aren’t simply Sephardic Jews. Many may come from very ancient times, even from Roman times. It seems that Jews from Rome are similar to the most popular population of that city, but Italian Jews, even though they won less Nobel in percentage than the Ashkenazi ones, have had people of great value. Not only Nobel prizes like Rita Levi Montalcini o Segre etc., but people like Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, Benvenuto Terracini, many Pontecorvo and people emerged in any field. Also the great linguist Emile Benveniste took an Italian surname and I spoke about of the mitochondrion K1a2 (I think having demonstrated of Italian origin) of a woman of that family. Probably they are largely of Italian origin for the Y and the mt, like the Ashkenazim, who are so smart just for having mingled at a level that no other community knew, if from 25,000 became 10,000,000 in a few centuries.

  31. reiner Tor says:

    I somewhere read regarding the Sephardim that they were an elite group in medieval Spain (Al-Andalus), where the Muslim minority depended on support from the Jews (and some co-opted Christians), and where the Jews mostly were… (drumroll) financiers, tax farmers, etc. Now this role of the Jews (not as government ministers but as financiers and tax farmers) continued well into the Reconquista period, when they were resented so much by the Christian majority (familiar with the Ashkenazim), that periodic pogroms took place against them. In the 14th century there were forced mass conversions. From what I read it seems that it was mostly the Sephardim elite who converted, and not the Jewish masses, but frequent complaints were made against the converts (New Christians or Marranos – the latter term meaning pigs), who continued to engage in usury, tax farming, etc., and who also entered the ecclesiastic hierarchy and soon reached high church and court positions. This lead to the Spanish concept of limpieza de sangre (purity of blood), which meant that even a small amount of Jewish blood made one suspect.

    When Jews were forced out of Spain, it was the non-converts who had to leave, which – if indeed it was true that it was mostly the Jewish elite who converted. This means that the people we now know as “Sephardim” should be less distinguished than the original Sephardi group. Also, after leaving Spain they continued for some time in a prominent role in the Ottoman Empire, although it’s possible that selection pressures changed or that they were less successful in the Ottoman Empire, where ethnically conscious minority enclaves were the rule and not an exception.

    I also read about Jews in France that in the 18th century the philosophes like Voltaire often held negative attitudes towards the Ashkenazim (who were mostly concentrated in Alsace), but sometimes they distinguished the Sephardim, who were considered to be the more cultured ones, conversant in subjects like theology, philosophy, and the arts.

    It’s also interesting to note that the most important medieval Jewish philosopher, Maimonides was also Sephardi. I wouldn’t discount medieval Sephardi intellectual abilities vis-à-vis the Ashkenazim.

    My proposal is that it’s not totally impossible that Jews in general (not just the Ashkenazim) and possibly even the ancient Hebrews were somewhat smarter than the average European, but:

    – evolution is and has never been a one-way street, so the Sephardim might have regressed

    – more likely, Jews probably did evolve just as much as Europeans since the High Middle Ages, so probably what counted as smart in the Middle Ages counts as average nowadays. In other words, Sephardim might have had the same (or even less) intelligence they have now, but whereas in the Middle Ages that was smarter than your average European, these days it barely reaches the European average, or not even that.

    • ghazi-less says:

      There were some extraordinary unconverted Sephardim. Baruch Spinoza, often considered the father of the Enlightenment, and David Ricardo, the originator of economics as a system of deductive logic, both had roots in the Sephardic community of the Netherlands. And the prestige of the Sephardim was also great in the Ottoman Empire–to the extent that most Mizrahim adopted Sephardic religious practices.

  32. neilfutureboy says:

    Regarding the timescale needed for such evolution I would like to bring up the Parsees of India who occupy a very similar IQ position to Europe’s Jews and are also a largely urban group. They came into being as exiles from the Arab conquest of Persia so that is roughly 1,300 years, a somewhat shorter timescale than for the Jews. I am also inclining towards the Jews of Islamic Spain being the first noticeably high IQ community.

    Testing hypotheses derived from Jews against Parsees (or vice versa) might be useful. I assume, since they are not common in Europe/America much less genetic research on them will have been done.

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  34. Anonymous says:

    What is the iq of sephardic jews in italy? They lived under christian rule like the Ashkenazim and they have unpropotional many nobel prize winners.

    • Anonymous says:

      Italian Jews aren’t simply Sephardic Jews. Many may come from very ancient times, even from Roman times. It seems that Jews from Rome are similar to the most popular population of that city, but Italian Jews, even though they won less Nobel in percentage than the Ashkenazi ones, have had people of great value. Not only Nobel prizes like Rita Levi Montalcini o Segre etc., but people like Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, Benvenuto Terracini, many Pontecorvo and people emerged in any field. Also the great linguist Emile Benveniste took an Italian surname and I spoke about of the mitochondrion K1a2 (I think having demonstrated of Italian origin) of a woman of that family. Probably they are largely of Italian origin for the Y and the mt, like the Ashkenazim, who are so smart just for having mingled at a level that no other community knew, if from 25,000 became 10,000,000 in a few centuries.

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  36. Anonymous says:

    Italian Jews aren’t simply Sephardic Jews. Many may come from very ancient times, even from Roman times. It seems that Jews from Rome are similar to the most popular population of that city, but Italian Jews, even though they won less Nobel in percentage than the Ashkenazi ones, have had people of great value. Not only Nobel prizes like Rita Levi Montalcini o Segre etc., but people like Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, Benvenuto Terracini, many Pontecorvo and people emerged in any field. Also the great linguist Emile Benveniste took an Italian surname and I spoke about of the mitochondrion K1a2 (I think having demonstrated of Italian origin) of a woman of that family. Probably they are largely of Italian origin for the Y and the mt, like the Ashkenazim, who are so smart just for having mingled at a level that no other community knew, if from 25,000 became 10,000,000 in a few centuries.

  37. Anonymous says:

    There are two powerful selection forces Jews had access to for hundreds or thousands of years. One is known from their writings, and the other is fairly strongly implied by the same writings, and the reality of the fact Jews were a small minority that looked the same or similar to the majority.

    The first mechanism is marrying scholars to the children of commercially successful families. The more implicit mechanism is that if you look the same as the host population, then it becomes feasible to encourage low intellect members of the group to marry out, and the smarter to marry in. There wouldn’t have to be a large statistical difference between the frequencies of smart Jews marrying in, and the less smart, for a large effect to be build up over time.

    If there are 10 of you and the bottom two on talent agree not to have kids (which is effectively what happened when someone married out) land the top two have twic many kids instead, that’s a powerful apparent eugenic effect. But of course in biological reality, the Jews aren’t getting smarter, it’s just that the stupid ones aren’t being included in the survey anymore, and don’t know they are jewish.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I doubt if either pattern ever occurred to any significant extent.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Rabbis were among the wealthiest members of a community in any event, so no need to marry the daughter of the richest merchant. They often engaged in commerce (although the community often tried to restrict this), actually often they were the wealthiest merchants, just see the Landau family. I just opened a book I read recently on the topic (Gershon David Hundert: The Jews in a Polish Private Town. The case of Opatów in the Eighteenth Century. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.), on page 95: “During the second half of the seventeenth century, the kahal had demanded that the rabbi not engage in commerce, and moneylending was permitted only at a fixed rate of interest. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, these restrictions had clearly been dropped (…). The writ of appointment in 1777 specifically permitted the new rabbi to engage in commerce, wholesale and retail, «as he may wish.»” On page 118 he starts a description of the influential Landau family, which was a noted family of influential rabbis, but many family members were simply merchants or “involved in the trade in luxury fabrics” etc. (Apparently rabbis still engage in commerce in the present age.) I think it is beyond reasonable doubt that wealthy merchants and rabbis intermarried, moreover, that they were often one and the same person. Becoming a famous rabbi was a road to wealth and commerce.

      • Ilya says:

        @reiner Tor: I’m not disagreeing with you, but do you have some numbers/more examples to illustrate it with? It seems to me, being a rabbi was not unlike being a mathematician/scientist in the last centuries: you have independent wealth/support from somewhere else, but it’s not like you really leverage your occupation to your advantage to significant degree.
        My paternal grandfather was born into a family of Jewish members of the The First Guild of Merchants, from Moscow and Minsk. (Though he was unlucky to grow up during the Revolution.)
        I haven’t heard of any rabbis in that branch, but maybe that’s just atypical(?).

  38. reiner Tor says:

    @Ilya: I will try to find some more examples, I’m sure I read about things like that elsewhere. What is definitely true is that unlike with Catholic priests, rabbis were not in principle prohibited from engaging in commerce. They also had higher incomes for relatively little work (not that Catholic priests or Protestant pastors had to work that much), so they surely had both capital (and security to fall back to in case of the business turned sour) and time at their hand to engage in such activities. They also had a number of contacts (contacts to other rabbis in far away towns, as well as contacts to all the prestigious and rich merchants, goldsmiths etc. in their own town) for it as well.

    But I will try to do some more research on the issue.

  39. Nick says:

    It may be late to comment on this, but I remember reading a paper perhaps in 2006 that argued that Jews were in medieval Europe forced into professions of banking, etc. as they were prohibited to Christians by the Church because of what Jesus said about money-lenders. Because Jews were also prohibited from many normal professions, and forced into intellectually rigorous ones, intelligence was heavily selected for, and voila.

    Does this framework have any factual evidence supporting it?

  40. Fiorangela says:

    I’m Italian, live in USA, very badly educated but probably have a very high IQ. I suppose I could follow the DNA arguments if I spent a year or so learning the vocabulary, biology, etc. That is, I likely have the capacity but not the early education at intellectual pursuits.
    Poor education marked my parents’ generation & their parents as well. That was in addition to food stress — that’s why so many Italians migrated to USA — they did not have enough to eat on their hillside village farms in North Central Italy. The interrelationship between education/intelligence & priesthood/nunnery is not trivial: priesthood/convent may have been the only access to education to a less-than-wealthy Italian.

    By the 14th century, Germanic influences in northern Italy would have been thoroughly incorporated into the culture: present-day scholarship rejects Gibbons’ notion of the “fall” of Rome and traces, rather, a transition, with “barbarian” invaders from across the Rhine bringing to the Roman empire their skills and cultural traits and mingling with extant Roman (and Etruscan) cultures and institutions. The barbarian invaders largely adopted Christianity — the carrier of Roman empire culture.

    Just at this doleful moment in history “German” is nearly synonymous with evil. But the archeology that was not destroyed by carpetbombing carried out by the “civilized” demonstrates that German culture was highly refined and skilled from 7000 years ago.

    Thus, it may be that the Italian source for Ashkenazi Jewish high intelligence is German.

  41. Fiorangela says:

    Thanks gcochran9.
    Where do northern Europeans rank relative to Ashkenazi Jews? Do ANE and WHG correlate with high intelligence? Is the data able to trace the impact of large numbers of deaths in wars in past century? Where do Russians rank, and what is the interrelationship between Ashkenazi high intelligence and Russian-Jewish intelligence?

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  43. j says:

    Sir, I’m looking for the source of the widespread idea that Ashkenazim have low spacial skills, that is, the ability to rotate two and three dimensional objects in the mind. I’m an engineer working on 3-D Autocad and I see my collegues manipulating complex 3-D piping designs with ease. In protein folding computer programs – used to develope new pharm molecules, – Israel apparently is quite ahead of the pack. May be this spacial skills deficit is another myth?

    (For me, spacial skills are adequate if I can pour the soup in my mouth and not in my eye. Already Joe E. Brown observed that nobody is perfect.)

  44. Anonymous says:

    There are over five generations of Ashkenazim in my family, most came from Belorussia. We never believed in Moses or Jesus. It is insulting for pseudo scientists to call us anything but pure Ashkenazim. None of us were or are Jews.

  45. J2 says:

    You wrote this paper of Ashkenazi intelligence. Do you konw if there is any GWAS study of IQ genes in Ashkenazi Jews, that is, the type of Piffer, whatever one may think of these studies, in any case nothing points out to recessive advantage as your paper argues.

  46. Pingback: jews, genes, and diseases – DSTSquad

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