Ashkenazi Ancestry

I’m looking at abstracts on Ashkenazi genetics from ASHG 2013 and SMBE 2014 – by the same group, with Shai Carmi as the lead author.  They did 128 whole genomes, 50x deep.

They concluded Ashkenazi Jews were about 50% Middle Eastern and 50% European.  In the 2013 abstract, they were pretty specific: they estimated the European ancestry fraction at 55% , plus or minus 2%. ( In our book, we had a crude estimate of about 40% European ancestry.)  They estimated the split between Europeans and Middle Easterners at about 9000 BC: which sounds about the right date for the entry of the Sardinian-like farmers.  From other data (mtDNA) , and from the fact that you see almost zero WHG or ANE in  Ashkenazi autosomal genes, one can conclude that the European admixture was mostly Italian, with some southern French.  Very little German or Slavic – by that time serious endogamy had set in..

By looking at IBD segments, they conclude that there was indeed a bottleneck in Ashkenazi ancestry, ~350 individuals, followed by a rapid expansion. IBD analysis should pin this down quite accurately. They estimate that this was about 800 years ago, but I would bet money that it was a little earlier – more like 1100 years ago. In other words, the founding bottleneck, the time when the ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews moved from Italy into the Rhineland, not a later persecution bottleneck.   I don’t think the population ever dropped that low in the persecutions.  I say this because of what the history looks like to me, and because of certain things that suggest that our models of recombination may be a bit off.  350 isn’t a terribly tight bottleneck, as long as it doesn’t last long – and it’s hard to see how any bottleneck could generate several unusually deleterious recessives that concentrate in a few metabolic paths.  Or make you smart.

Many people looking at Jewish population history have boggled at the idea of a small group expanding to a few million in a thousand years or so, and have come up with various scenarios other than  Italy ->  Rhineland -> Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth model, such as Koestler’s Khazar theory  or Wexler’s idea that the Ashkenazi Jews came from the East. Koestler and Wexler are both wrong, by the way –  the genetic evidence is quite clear.

There was never anything particularly particularly improbable about the Ashkenazi population expansion. Moderate prosperity, which the Ashkenazim had for most of their sojourn in Europe, easily allows a family to average 3 surviving kids.  Given that rate of growth, a population increases by a factor of more than one million in 35 generations. Ask the French Canadians, or the Puritans, or the Boers.

But since anyone who can’t understand this by now never will, I look forward to the first revisionist history of the Amish.  Do you really believe that ~200 Mennonites landing in Pennsylvania in the 1700s could number a quarter of a million by 2010?  Doesn’t there have to be a deeper, more subtle explanation?  Where do you think Martin Bormann ended up, huh?


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94 Responses to Ashkenazi Ancestry

  1. 350 isn’t a terribly tight bottleneck, as long as it doesn’t last long – and it’s hard to see how any bottleneck could generate several unusually deleterious recessives that concentrate in a few metabolic paths. Or make you smart.
    Could the 350 have been smart in the first place, and gone North for some smart reason?

    • sansfoy says:

      Maybe they were ambitious trading families. But they wouldn’t have to be. All it would take would be 3.2 surviving offspring for the already existing smarter families and 2.8 for their duller counterparts. Then there’s also the boiling off hypothesis, that postulates that the duller segment was more likely to melt into the surrounding Christian population.

    • Cplusk says:

      Maybe Middle Eastern ancestors of Ashkenazi had an average iq of 130 and as a result of mixing with Italians (avg iq of 100) it declined to 115.

      • gcochran9 says:

        If a 50% dilution with Italians leaves the Ashkenazim with the highest IQ of all Jewish groups, you can be pretty sure that notions about high Jewish IQ in classical times are mistaken. As well as going against every shred of evidence, but who really cares about that?

      • dave chamberlin says:

        Hello Cplusk and everyone who isn’t versed on Ashkenazi history as best explained in his book “The 10,000 Years Explosion.” Cochran has explained it so many times he is getting exasperated with people who keep stating the same fallacy that the Ashkenazi Jews originally started out with their present average IQ’s which is 115. First, read his book, but until then understand this simplistic explanation. The Ashkenazi Jews were a group of people unreplicated anywhere else in the world for two different behaviors. 1) For a very long time length, up to 1100 hundred years they didn’t interbreed with the populations they lived amongst. 2)They were forced into select professions requiring high mental aptitude meaning the dumber Jews didn’t prosper and didn’t have kids. So that is why in a nutshell why their average IQ’s is where it is, not because the original Jews were brilliant.

      • Cplusk says:

        They don’t have to be exceptional on average, if there were 1 million Jews in classical times with avg iq of 100 there would be 23.000 Jews with with IQs greater than 130. Maybe few hundred of those bright Jews (mostly male merchants) moved to Italy and
        became the Middle Eastern ancestors of modern Ashkenazi. I accept that this is unlikely but not impossible.

        • gcochran9 says:

          ETS is older than we thought.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am not a geneticist but here is some food for thought. The Semitic Jews seem to have had a trait that is uncommon to almost anywhere else in the world and that was a respect for women. It was true of cosmopolitan Rome also to a lesser extent. Almost universally, women were and are treated as second class citizens at best or cattle at worst. The relationship between men and women in the Old Testament is uniquely egalitarian by the standards of the day. The idea of circumcision is attributed to a woman and even today, Jewish men are usually considered good husbands. It is not uncommon for intelligent christian women to marry Jewish men. Could it be that smart Roman women saw the advantage of converting and marrying successful Jewish men and in doing so potentiating the smart gene? And encouraging other women of their status to do the same?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      I presume Greg was answering an essay in Tablet Magazine on theorizing about Ashkenazi history from the history of Yiddish:

      The genetics look like they support the old conventional wisdom put forward by Yiddish scholar Weinrich 45 years ago, and not the ascendant revisionism of Glasser.

  2. Jim says:

    If 1,000 people left Africa 50,000 years ago it would take an average annual rate of increase of about .0315% to get 7 billion today.

  3. Bruce says:

    Just from casual observation, it seems that blue eyes, brown hair and light skin are pretty common among the Ashkenazi. Is this a result of recent admixture with German/Polish/Russian Europeans or do these features come from their Italian ancestors?

    • gcochran9 says:

      There was little inward gene flow when they lived in Germany and Eastern Europe. Yet they seem paler than you would expect as a 50-50 mix of Italians and Middle Easterners. First thing is that the Middle East isn’t what it used to be – more South Arabian and African ancestry. Second, there may well have been significant selection for those traits, just as there seems to have been in the general European population.

    • peppermint7889 says:

      Ever wondered why Jews have White hair and eye colors, but other than that, very distinctive facial features?

      It doesn’t take much mixing for highly selected traits to enter a population.

  4. Flinders Petrie says:

    Fascinating. So it seems that only a few elite, highly intelligent families passed through the bottleneck. Like the Kalonymus family, who moved from Italy to the Rhineland in the 10th century, and who seemingly produced nothing but lawyers, Talmudic scholars, and authors of highly esoteric works like the Kabbalah.

    An equivalent might be if only a few genius-level families in England (Galton, Newton, Faraday, etc.) somehow formed an endogamous community for several hundred years.

    What was it about Medieval Rhineland that attracted particularly intelligent Jews? Could it be as simple as a new moneylending frontier?

    • gcochran9 says:

      “only a few elite, highly intelligent families”

      No. Or not much, anyhow. It’s hard to make much of a change in one generation. Which I’ve said before, although I must be crazy, expecting that to make any difference.

      More than that: it wouldn’t surprise me if, in most societies, there has been normalizing selection for IQ. If so, any subpopulation that by chance had a higher-than-average IQ and then experienced a typical environment would gradually converge to the norm.

      • Flinders Petrie says:

        Wouldn’t selection pressures after the bottleneck (i.e. occupations with high IQ demands) prevent regression toward the mean? It seems that it would take less work for evolution to keep a smart group smart than it would to force an average group to become smart.

        I agree that it is unlikely that only intelligent folks made it through the bottleneck, but maybe it nudged them in the right direction. If the Ashkenazim began with a smarter subset of Jews, less genetic tweaking would be needed to get to 1 SD above average. That seems more likely than bringing an entirely ordinary population up to this level, ceteris paribus.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Looking for a happy founder effect (as a major cause) is a snare and a delusion – rarely key. Unusual selective pressures are the key. They’ll do the job even if there is no happy founder effect. They’d do the job if the founding group had lower than average IQ.

          I’ve had idiots go on and on about how the founders of the Ashkenazi Jews were a religious elite, oozing the Talmud from every pore. But from the history we now, they look to be a mix of merchants, artisans, and POWs from Israel (the fathers) and local Italian girls, about 2000 years ago. Not scholars, not Talmudic at all – it hadn’t even been written yet. And then, a long time later, some of those Italian Jews (with maybe a few from more far-flung areas) moved up into the Rhineland, because they heard you could do well there.

          • gcochran9 says:

            That said, if one were willing to select very strongly, you could create a population with a very high IQ in one generation. Take the SMPY kids and drop them on an island. Better yet, inculcate some sort of ideology that teaches that having kids is maximally cool, instead of what they’re taught by our current society, which is that breeding is low-class.

  5. Patrick L. Boyle says:

    I’m sure you’re figuring all this out . My question is what comes of this new knowledge?

    I had a Jewish colleague over for dinner about twenty years ago. He announced over dinner that he didn’t bother with a lot of tricky moral and political questions. He just figured out – as he said – “Is it good for the Jews?” He had a reliable compass.

    When I was a teen I knew that the Jews had been persecuted but I had no clue that they were as a people genetically different. I was innocent of Sphingolipid diseases. But today because of this kind of work soon every literate person in the West will understand Jews in a new way.

    In Star Trek they come across a sleeper ship of genetically engineered supermen. This leads to ‘The Wrath of Khan’ and the latest movie. Is this how normal humans will react when the majority of the population understands that the Ashkenazi are a sort of genetic supermen? Or will Europeans and Africans say – ‘I want to get me some of that Jewish smarts’. There aren’t many Jews. Will we have a movement to preserve this unique fragment of humanity for study? Or will we exterminate them for being an offense against our tribal pride?

    I finally read Jon Entine’s book ‘Taboo’. In a little more than a decade he and others have changed the way white Americans look at black athletes. It is pretty much an open secret today that black legs run faster. What will be the result when it becomes clear to the average voter that the Ashkenazi brain thinks better?

  6. Natural History says:

    How does this interact with your hypothesis about the origins of the Ashkenazi genetic diseases in natural selection?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Not much, I think. I need to run some sims with this scenario, but even with a founding bottleneck, I can’t see how you can get strong path clustering with any mechanism other than selection.

      The recent work confirms ( again) that inward gene flow in the Middle Ages was low enough to allow local selection. Knowing Ashkenazi frequencies of alleles known to be involved in intelligence in other populations would be real useful, though, and that should come soon.

      • Natural History says:

        Shouldn’t you already be able to test that, and whether the Ashkenazi alleles are associated with increased education/IQ, using the SSGAC data? Or did they not tag those alleles?

        • gcochran9 says:

          I need an Ashkenazi sample that has those SNPS. And since there are only three validated ones, results would be interesting but not necessarily definitive. If anyone has this data, I’d love to hear it.

      • Natural History says:

        In the conference video the SSGAC people said they had replicated their findings in a sample of 34k people from 23andme. 23andme computes Ashkenazi ancestry for all its subscribers to tell customers a percentage, and Ashkenazi make up a significant chunk of the user base. So why not ask them, and 23andme?

  7. santoculto says:

    It seems very clear that Ashkenazi Jews have similarities in many different ways, with people from the Caucasus. If Ashkenazi Jews mingled with Italian post-Roman period, nowadays, by major chronological changes of Italian history, then it is possible that they have kept the old phenotype that was present in those surroundings. It is known for example that the Etruscan people appears to have originated in Anatolia in what is now Turkey and Turkey has great genetic similarities with the peoples of the Caucasus.
    However, kazhar theory is valid, starting from the idea that Jews have migrated to various regions, being a nomadic people and converting and mixing with various people, where one can notice the presence of common genes in Central Asia Ashkenazi DNA.
    Two founding events may have occurred and produced the two most important strains of Jews of today, Western European Jews and Eastern European Jews.


        • gcochran9 says:

          Because every bit of genetic evidence disagrees with what you say. Ashkenazi Jews are almost the same (genetically) all over Europe, except that Dutch Jews have mixed more. Their mtDNA is unambiguously Italian, Y -chromosomes mostly middle Eastern, which data autosomal analysis fully confirms.

          • santoculto says:

            Your term” Middle East” is too vague. I forgot that Turkey and neighborhood is not in the middle east, is the ”European” Union.

          • santoculto says:

            You will not deny that the Ashkenazim, you, have central Asian strains in their DNA.
            How did it get there?

            • gcochran9 says:

              Sure I’ll deny it.

              • santoculto says:

                So you deny what genetic studies have confirmed. Look, I’m not trying to be questioned by kazhar theory, but I believe that phenotype and genotype are intercorrelated markers, then I need to accept that Ashkenazi Jews are more similar to the Eurasian populations of the Caucasus than with the modern Italians. At least that modern Italians are not equal in physical appearance than the old Italians, at the time of the end of the Roman Empire.
                The quintessence of the Jewish phenotype is armenoid subrace and this is present, even it is your most probable location of genetic foundation, in the Caucasus region. I read something somewhere Majority of rights” and that seems to make sense, that the Jews of biblical and Babylonians times, have the same origins as modern Jews, including you. In short, they came down this the Caucasus toward Babylon and later towards Palestine and so on …

              • gcochran9 says:

                You don’t know what you’re talking about.

              • santoculto says:


                The best I could, and I’m busy at the moment.
                At the most, the most important point of my comments and that is something that you, in good conscience, can not deny, is that historically Jews have been recognized in Western societies through the stereotype that is decidedly a man of subrace armenoid, according to the old racial classification and that in fact, at least half of the Jews exhibit this phenotype. Phenotype that is extremely common in the countries of the Caucasus.

      • Ilya says:

        @Gottlieb: the only link you really need is this:

        With the exception of Behar’s data that underestimates the non-Middle Eastern component in the Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA (which Dr Cochran has discussed previously) the findings conclusively show that there is barely (if any) Khazar / Central Asian component in the Ashkenazim.

    • eurogenes says:

      Ashkenazi Jews cluster close to Sephardi and other Mediterranean Jews in basically all the relevant dimensions of genetic variation.

      There’s no indication of any links to the Caucasus. The only way this can happen is maybe if you use a small number of samples and concentrate on the first couple of dimensions, or just run a really sloppy analysis.

      Ashkenazi Levites do have paternal ancestry from some sort of Indo-Iranian group from the Near East, but that’s ancient stuff and shows up via their high frequency of R1a-Z93 (M582+), which is the result of a strong founder effect.

      • santoculto says:

        Two points before admitting that I may be wrong.

        The existence of armenoid subrace probably came in a single founder effect. Although the Jews, even as they are genetically divergent, will present recent genetic similarities with the current inhabitants of the Caucasus, they are undeniably more similar in physical appearance, as I said, the quintessence of the Jewish stereotype in the West is a armenoid man. It also has historical account of the Jewish migration before the Roman Empire. If the historical continuity of Jewish genetics in fact be the truth.

        The second point is that by maternal lineage, no consistent genetic similarity as with Jewish men. The strains of” Middle East”, may contain fragments of the Caucasus, as is expected in this region where great events and political upheavals has happened since Babylonian times.

      • eurogenes says:


        What’s with the old school typology? You’re stuck in the 1930s it seems.

      • Ethan says:

        Nothing wrong with old school typology for studying what people look like, but Ashkenazi Jews are Mediterranean and Dinaricized-Mediterranean, not Armenoid.

        It has been remarked by some anthropologists that the Jews look “Armenoid,” and that this Armenoid appearance must be due either to Hittite admixture or to a sojourn in Asia Minor before their arrival in Europe. This remark implies a misunderstanding of Jewish history as well as of the nature of the Armenoid race. Many Ashkenazic Jews, it is true, possess the combination of a brachycephalic head with a narrow face and convex nose, but there is not enough Alpine in the Jewish body to make this Dinaricization prevalent or standard. It is found among blond as well as brunet Jews, and is an individual rather than a group phenomenon.

        Individual central European Jews vary greatly in facial and cranial appearance. Among them may be picked out without trouble apparently pure Palestinian types; the convex-nosed, long-faced sub-type, which is frequently found among Sephardim, and is especially known to the world through the faces of Disraeli and Lord Reading in England, is on the whole rare among Ashkenazim; the straight-nosed, more typically Mediterranean form, such as is represented by the actors Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, is much commoner. Leon Trotsky represents a brachycephalic, Dinaricized Jewish type, and Albert Einstein is a good example of another.

      • eurogenes says:

        Saying that Ashkenazi Jews look Mediterranean and Dinaricized-Mediterranean is pointless. It adds nothing to the discussion about their origins.

      • Ethan says:

        Of course it adds to the discussion. It supports the genetic evidence for Ashkenazi Jews’ Levantine/Southern European origins and argues further against origins in the Caucasus. In other words, it helps prove your point, so it’s hardly pointless.

    • The Khazar theory was propagated by Arthur Koestler in an attempt to combat “Antisemitism” by saying that Ashkenazis were not really Semitic at all (ironically, the only people who seem to be into it these days are neo-Nazis). I’m not sure if he got it from somewhere else or if it was original. I tried reading his book on the subject and it was weird.

      I think the Khazar Empire was made up of several different ethnic groups, anyway, and they fell into the surrounding populations after its dissolution.

      • santoculto says:

        I am not advocating the theory Kazhar 100%, but I believe by some pseudo-anecdotal evidence that there exists a point of true. Not that it will explain the entire Jewish population, but it could explain part of it.

  8. naomi says:

    what’s your reasoning for thinking their bottleneck estimate is too recent? just a matter of the numbers not fitting?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Well, nothing extreme happened 800 years ago. The real persecution crunch, the worst of it, happened around 1350, associated with the Black Death. Many Jewish communities were wiped out – but even then, it doesn’t look to me that the effective population size ever dropped that low. While it is entirely plausible that the number of original colonizers of the Rhineland could be that low.

      Then again, if the main population of the Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth largely sprang from a small original settlement, maybe that would do it. Although we know that there was continuing Jewish immigration to Poland from Moravia and other areas…

      I could be wrong, but I’d bet money on the original colonization of the Rhineland being the real bottleneck.

      • djolds1 says:

        The Albigensian Crusade would fit the timeline and geography on the 800 year estimate.

      • B says:

        The Crusades happened 900 years ago, at which point the Jews of the Rhineland were massacred and despoiled:

        I suspect that many of the survivors fled to relatively wealthy and secure communities in Spain, and those who didn’t were the ones who went through the bottleneck.

        I’ve always had trouble buying the idea that there was a huge genetically driven intellectual gulf between the Ashkenazim and Sepharadim. Until the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the leading intellectuals of the Jewish world were largely Sepharadim like Maimonides, Nachmanides, Rav Yosef Karo, etc.

        Your model also seems to view Jewish communities in Ashkenaz and Sepharad/North Africa as isolated from each other genetically, but there was constant movement between them, even as late as the destruction of Spanish Jewry, where many left to the Balkans and Black Sea communities, from which it was a short trip to the Ukraine. For instance:

        • gcochran9 says:

          I said that the massacres around 1350 were far more severe, because they were. The Jewish casualties in 1096 were almost entirely in three towns – Worms, Mainz, and Cologne.

          There was some population movement between Sephardic Jews and Eastern European Jews. Not very much. The two groups are genetically distinct – for example, the Sephardic Jews don’t have the same set of genetic diseases.

      • B says:

        True, the massacres of the Crusades were localized to three towns, but I believe that was where most Ashkenazi Jews lived at the time. It was a much smaller population than in 1350.

        I know there are population-wide genetic differences between Ashkenazim and Sepharadim, but doubt that the selection pressure on the former for intelligence was much stronger than on the latter.

        • gcochran9 says:

          You believe incorrectly. Total casualties were something like three or four thousand, out of something like 20,000 total Jews in Germany and northern France. A bad thing, a tragedy, but not a genetic bottleneck.

          “The size, economic prosperity, and cultural achievement of northern European Jewish communities typically rose throughout the twelfth century, notwithstanding the pogroms.”

  9. hoola-hoop says:

    Check out dodecad K12a and Caucasus component 30+/-%
    Check out Jews with ydna G how did that get their?
    Check out some images of ancient Hittites and how similar they are to Armenians.

    • eurogenes says:

      The so called Caucasus component isn’t a real ancestral component and it’s not from the Caucasus, it just peaks there due to recent drift and actually looks like a composite of EEF and ANE.

      So any population that has high EEF and some ANE will show membership in the so called Caucasus and/or similar clusters, like the so called West Asian and Gedrosia clusters.

      • Matt says:

        This is still an interesting idea, when we talk about and look at FSTs for the Dienekes’ Project and his West Asian component though, it seems difficult.

        The reasons for this would seem to be that, net of drift :

        – West Asian has the same affinity to the Native American component as Atlantic Baltic. That would speak against it having a greater level of Ancient North Eurasian than Atlantic Baltic (as Lazaridis paper showed us, more ANE components should be closer to Native Americans in f-statistics).

        – West Asian has less affinity to the EEF like Southern component as Atlantic Baltic. That would speak against it having a greater level of EEF than Atlantic Baltic.

        – West Asian has exactly the same affinity to ENA components (East Asian, Papuan) as Atlantic Baltic. That would speak against it having a greater or lesser level of Basal Eurasian (the main determinant of ENA shift among ANE/WHG populations) as Atlantic Baltic.

        Your suggestion seems like the best I’ve heard so far about this component, it is just that the West Asian component does not seem to exhibit the affinities that would be expected for the mix you describe. Even as an artefact, it doesn’t look like an artefact that would shift a population towards the kind of affinities that a relatively high level of both ANE and EEF combined would fit.

        D and f statistics seem like they would be how to formally test this I guess. Generate “zombies” (simulated individuals) with each component, then apply the formal test with the ancient sample. Whether coverage is good enough for this to work, though…

        For all that these components shouldn’t be overinterpreted, etc.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      There were a lot of Jewish merchants trading around the Black and Caspian Seas. I think it’s the nature of mercantile groups in low-trust eras to send family members to each node on the trade network they belong to. Armenians are another example of the same thing.

  10. Michael says:

    Has the population bottleneck situation only been looked at as a general phenomena within all Ashkenazi?

    I am certainly no expert, but on 23andme I have huge identical segments to other Eastern European Jews, and our only possible relationships must go back at least 200 years, and likely further than that (definitely not 3rd cousins as it estimates). So they must be identical not by descent, but because recombination produced the same haplotype.

    My guess is that small numbers of families immigrated to each new area, and later brought in a small number of 2nd or 3rd cousins as partners. This might have been repeated a few times.

    My immigrant ancestors only chose mates from nearby towns of birth once they were in America, so maybe this is unusual.

    Are there any plans for ancient DNA studies from European Jewish cemeteries?

  11. CAM says:

    Once again, a little history would explain the entry of the folk north of the Alps:

    Hmmm, and given that key line about where folks went when they started fading:

    “As the Champagne fairs dwindled to insignificance, their place was assumed by the fairs of Bruges, to which the Genoese ships sailed, and Cologne, a Hansa town, of Frankfurt-am-Main, of Geneva and, more locally, of Lyon.”

    Cologne, which was basically restored by, oh yeah, Charlemagne. And trade did revive significantly with the empire, including all of those Italians that flocked north…and those bishops and court folk who needed new Italian goods.

    Oh yeah- this:

    “Cologne’s location on the river Rhine placed it at the intersection of the major trade routes between east and west and was the basis of Cologne’s growth. By 1300 the city population were 50,000.[8] Cologne was a member of the Hanseatic League in 1475, when Frederick III confirmed the city’s imperial immediacy.[3]

    Trade routes on the Rhein….If you wanted to trade using the River system of Europe, you have the Rhein and the Danube. When the Ottoman expanded into the Balkans and up through Hungary, the Danube faded considerably for trade with the East.

    Now, significant Jewish Settlements were in Northern Gaul:

    Troyes again. Hmmm. Funny how we are simply replicating a disputed Wikipedia discussion.

    Family based trading systems, and dynasties. Along with significant moneylending. And if a place faded, well, pack up and move. If the local regime sucks, pack up and move.

    But the history is interesting indeed- now that genetics is stripping away some of the myths.

    Science makes some interesting discoveries, ones that destroy quite a bit of “received wisdom” from old, and seem to show history is a bunch of happy and unhappy accidents, depending on your perspective.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “Family based trading systems, and dynasties.”

      I think this bit is critical. Low trust means if another node is added to an existing trade network merchant families send a younger son or cousin to act as their branch office in the new node (or arrange a marriage).

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        I assume something similar may have happened in other long-distance trade routes e.g. the Silk Road, with merchant clans existing in a long chain along the oases with a few members per oasis. If so I wonder how far back in history this process might have gone – as far as the prehistoric amber trade?

  12. Greying Wanderer says:

    May or may not be relevant to some of the points raised.

    1) Does a mercantile minority need to be an absolute level of smartness to maintain their position or only relative to the competition? If so a mercantile minority among a very dumb population be dumb compared to a mercantile minority among a smart population.

    2) Did Ashkenazi Jews adopt the northern Euro marriage model at some point and did that have any effect?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “If so a mercantile minority among a very dumb population **could** be dumb compared to a mercantile minority among a very smart population.”

  13. santoculto says:

    Please, Dinaric type derive the armenoide type. I still remember when I first saw the photograph of Georgians and Armenians. I saw many, many Golda Meir between them. I also saw red hair kinds and also a lot of curly hair. The stereotype (and we know that every stereotype has at least a grain of truth) of the European Jew in the Western world in the times of their grandparents (and mine) was a kind of” Asian exotic type”.
    I’m not suggesting that all Jews have the same recent origins, but it makes perfect sense that being a nomadic people, they have been dispersed throughout various regions including Kazhar kingdom.

    The peoples of the Caucasus, as well as any locally evolved human population, are grouped into regional clusters. However, as I said, it’s impossible to deny the physical similarities between these people and Ashkenazim Jews, but also with the Turks and the Greeks. For being historically inbred populations, it ended up producing faster genetic divergences we expect to happen in this kind of event that makes more counterproductive analysis of genetic similarities than if they were more mixed together longer, specifically with regional Christian peoples.
    The term Sephardim is very strange for me, why only the Iberian Jews are Sephardim?
    I remember reading in a autosomal analysis (I do not know how to say), where Ashkenazim were more mixed with other populations than the Sephardim. But the analysis was on the genetic geographical heritage. I think it is different from the one you are using or analyzing approach.
    Again, european and middle east. Both are very vague. Yes, it now seems clear that a European side, there is a predominance of Italians. But, and part of middle east?
    The Semitic smile, another typically Jewish stereotype, is a typical feature of armenoid type.

  14. a very knowing American says:

    A thought about bottlenecks and the genetic architecture of Ashkenazi IQ.

    Sometimes natural selection in a large population will take an allele all the way from one mutant copy to high frequency. Lactase persistence and sickle cell are examples. A guy with the lactose gene is better at digesting lactose than anyone else, period, and selection favoring this one gene can multiply it a millionfold, given enough time.

    But you wouldn’t expect natural selection for a 1-SD (approximately) increase in intelligence to work like this. There are lots of genes for intelligence, and so in a large population you’d expect shifts across the board in the frequencies of lots of genes, not just a few off-the-charts brainiac genes going from near zero to high frequency. Instead, in a population of, say, a million, you might find a rare gene giving, say, a 5 point advantage in IQ increasing tenfold, and going from a frequency of one in a hundred thousand to one in a ten thousand. There could be thousands of genes like this, but each one of them would still be so rare it wouldn’t show up except in a huge survey.

    But consider the same intensity of selection in a small population, 300 people say. (The population may be growing, but will still take a while to get big.) The total number of IQ-boosting genes is smaller, just because the population is smaller, but in this case selection might boost the frequency of one of these few IQ genes from one in 300 to one in 30 — which is getting to the point you might really notice its effects. This seems to fit the architecture of Ashkenazi intelligence, where you do find a fair number of candidate IQ boosting genes. It is consistent with the population having been fairly small during at least some of the period when intelligence was being selected for. An equal intensity of selection in a much larger population would have produced a similar increase in IQ without having such noticeable effects on any one gene.

    If this line of argument is correct, it provides further support for Ashkenazi populations having been small (but growing) for a while. It also supports Cochran and Harpending’s argument that selection took place among the Ashkenazi, not in the Ancient world. The Ashkenazi got smart, they didn’t just stay smart.

  15. Harold says:

    “Many people looking at Jewish population history have boggled at the idea of a small group expanding to a few million in a thousand years or so”

    I once read a study which found, or purported to find, that children had little ability to transfer the morals of stories onto new situations (Unfortunately I can‘t find this study now). In light of adult scholars inability to transfer their knowledge of compound interest onto population growth, this seems readily believable.

  16. Philip Neal says:

    According to Max Weinreich, History of the Yiddish Language, Yiddish was originally spoken by the Jewish communities of 9 or 10 towns in the Rhineland, and the earliest loanwords indicate a previous homeland in Latin territory (cholent ‘stew’ < calentem ‘warming’ was new to me). This would seem easily compatible with a founding population of 350. However, these people were by no means the only Jews in Northern Europe: there were plenty more in Northern France (later expelled, presumably to Germany) and furthermore a group to the east speaking a Judeo-Slavonic language called Knaani (what became of them he does not say). He also shows that the evidence of personal names suggests a continued inflow from the Mediterranean. An observer in the tenth century would have had no reason to predict that only the Rhineland Jews would have descendants north of the Pyrenees-Alps-Carpathians a thousand years later, since the bottleneck would not have appeared to be one at the time.

    Incidentally, is the Ashkenazi custom of monogamy relevant to their distinctiveness and to their large numbers as against other Jews?

  17. Gerry says:

    I notice that much of the discussion of this post moved pretty quickly from the origin of Ashkenazis to Ashkenazi intelligence, or more accurately to the supposedly superior intelligence of Ashkenazis, a claim which I have failed to find convincing evidence of, for various reasons. I have only able to cobble together snippets of information on this subject, which has become so taboo that research seems to have come to a standstill. But the evidence I gathered suggested that while US Ashkenazis have an average IQ of around 106 (103 in Israel), other “ethnic” groups such as German- and Irish-Americans averaged around 108. The misapprehension that Ashkenazis had the highest IQs derived from the assignation of Hispanics to the “white” racial category. The Hispanics, many of them newly-arrived and semi-literate, dragged this category down significantly, often scoring in the 80-90 range.

  18. artdude says:

    I’m not a geneticist but I do have a good eye, as Gestalt-closure testing confirms.

    Late Roman portrait painting utilized a technique called “encaustic” in which the pigments were mixed with wax. The wax was warmed which allowed it to be manipulated in a manner similar to oil paints. Long before I ever heard of Ashkenazi or HBD, it struck me that some of the portraits that have come down to us (encaustic is very durable) showed people with very Jewish features, or more Jewish than Italian at any rate. Bear in mind that a commissioning a portrait was an expensive proposition and likely only done by the very wealthy. Google “ancient roman portraits” and see for yourself. I’m just throwing this out there. Even if it means nothing, the fact that they painted such good likenesses is interesting at any rate.

    • Will says:

      When you google “ancient roman portraits” most of what comes up are Fayum mummy portraits, which are of Roman-era Egyptians who are thought to be a mix of Ptolemaic Greek colonists and local Egyptian women.

  19. jholloway says:

    Non-orthodox American Jews’ intermarriage rate with other groups rose to 70% in the 1970s, so, on top of the intermarriage that had already been occurring, its now a very different population genetically from the original Ashkenazi described in this study.

  20. Pingback: Eugenics, American Style | Foolish Reporter's Foolish Thoughts on the Foolish State of Things

  21. Sophisticated Gentleman says:

    The Occam’s Razor explanation for Jewish intelligence that is so obviously intuitive and reasonable that it defies reasonable counter-argument, yet must be universally scorned: Over the 2000 years since the Jewish Reformation called “Christianity,” high IQ Jews remained Jewish and low IQ Jews converted. Talmudic Judaism over the last 2000 years is just an SWPL religion that only nerds could appreciate. All the other incentives call for converting to the much less strenuous Christian faith.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Which explains why it didn’t happen in other Jewish groups. You know, some days, I have trouble remaining my mild and gentle self, and can barely refrain from taking a shillelagh to pinheads like you.

  22. If selection relaxes, won’t Ashkenazi iq revert to a lower mean?

    • M Simon says:

      Well no. Smart people like marrying smart people. Cultural studies estimate that relationships where the female is more than 20 IQ points below the male don’t do well. Women like to marry up. So smart women are going to look for smarter men.

      I’m probably going to get smacked down for this. But it will be worth it.

  23. Matthew M. Robare says:

    Well, the Radhanites seem to have disappeared in the 10th century and they were certainly active throughout Europe. It’s fun to speculate that their trading links extended to Kerala, India (Cochin Jews) and China (Kaifeng Jews) — who had different origins. I wonder if the Ashkenazim were distinguished from other groups of Jews significantly enough that there would be genetic evidence today in the Cochin and Kaifeng populations.

  24. Humble surgeon says:

    Presumably study was done on declared Ashkenazi Jews. What about the presence of the ” Jewish mtDNA ” in general population in Europe or elsewhere. One shell to have in mind that the conversion of Jews in to Christianity and Islam was much more significant then non-Jews to Judaism. One should take in the consideration that some of the ” Ashkenazim ” became “Sephardim ” et vice versa, thru history. Pears and apples. Yes, Judaism can be treated as a genetic origin, but at the same time, originally, it was a religion, a code accepted of the one ethnicity, but later on of other ethnicities ( Moabites, Edomities as the earliest ) who were accepted as equals, members of the at the same time ethnic and religious group. At the other hand those who converted into other religions have been considered as dropouts of the ethnicity as well. What about the “Marranos ” type of conversion ( not only in Spain ). Ethnicity as a basis of considering who is a Jew started to be important at the time of nationalism’s and secularization, after middle ages. Doubtfully 350. And as addition to that IQ question, there are two sides of that, one comes out of psychometric evaluations ( which is highly interpretative, inexact method ), and the other empiric impression of ” supreme intelligence ” of Jews who are prone, by there upbringing, to acquisition of knowledge, using experience, pondering, rhetoric, diligence and persistence, not all of them, but the prominent and more visible then the others. All generalizations are venomous, positive or negative.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Gene flow from Ashkenazi Jews into the general European population hasn’t been very large – because there weren’t that many Jews, because intermarriage and conversion rates were very low.

      Jewsish mtdna is originally almost entirely European, mostly Italian.

      Psychometrics is not an interpretive, inexact method.

      Upbringing schtuppbringing.

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