April 24, 2016

Jewish and Indian ancestry in the Bene Israel

PLoS ONE 11(3): e0152056. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152056

The Genetics of Bene Israel from India Reveals Both Substantial Jewish and Indian Ancestry
Yedael Y. Waldman , Arjun Biddanda , Natalie R. Davidson, Paul Billing-Ross, Maya Dubrovsky, Christopher L. Campbell, Carole Oddoux, Eitan Friedman, Gil Atzmon, Eran Halperin, Harry Ostrer, Alon Keinan

The Bene Israel Jewish community from West India is a unique population whose history before the 18th century remains largely unknown. Bene Israel members consider themselves as descendants of Jews, yet the identity of Jewish ancestors and their arrival time to India are unknown, with speculations on arrival time varying between the 8th century BCE and the 6th century CE. Here, we characterize the genetic history of Bene Israel by collecting and genotyping 18 Bene Israel individuals. Combining with 486 individuals from 41 other Jewish, Indian and Pakistani populations, and additional individuals from worldwide populations, we conducted comprehensive genome-wide analyses based on FST, principal component analysis, ADMIXTURE, identity-by-descent sharing, admixture linkage disequilibrium decay, haplotype sharing and allele sharing autocorrelation decay, as well as contrasted patterns between the X chromosome and the autosomes. The genetics of Bene Israel individuals resemble local Indian populations, while at the same time constituting a clearly separated and unique population in India. They are unique among Indian and Pakistani populations we analyzed in sharing considerable genetic ancestry with other Jewish populations. Putting together the results from all analyses point to Bene Israel being an admixed population with both Jewish and Indian ancestry, with the genetic contribution of each of these ancestral populations being substantial. The admixture took place in the last millennium, about 19–33 generations ago. It involved Middle-Eastern Jews and was sex-biased, with more male Jewish and local female contribution. It was followed by a population bottleneck and high endogamy, which can lead to increased prevalence of recessive diseases in this population. This study provides an example of how genetic analysis advances our knowledge of human history in cases where other disciplines lack the relevant data to do so.



Bill Lipton said...

OK ... plug a book time: "Grandpa Was A Deity: How a Tribal Assertion Created Modern Culture" [http://www.amazon.com/Grandpa-Was-Deity-Assertion-Created/dp/1462053041]

We're going back to September 14, 2011, publication -- one of the yDNA points made was that the Ashkenazi-Levites of Central Europe and the Hindu-Brahmin are the same two yDNA group classifications. Comically, while the markers match in each of the J & R groups, the proportions, ratio R:J, are inverse.
The basic traditions are the same, their calendars are mathematically related (based on the Patriarch Dates in Genesis) and the cultural mythologies math.

The Jewish and Indian ancestry discussed in the article are touched upon in the book. But they are part of a backflow, a return population which is consistent with the merchant population that existed during the era of Solomon (c900 bce)

Guy Jacks said...

"It is known"
-Game of Thrones quote from the first season.

Arnon S said...

But.... there is no eastern Middle East populations in the comparison, yet the authors claim Middle Eastern Jewish ancestry in the last millennium. How can they know this mixture didn't stem from Iran/Iraq/Turkey general populations -- but specifically claim it comes from Iranian/Iraqi/Turkish Jews -- without comparison to non-Jewish Iranians/Iraqis/Turks? It looks like confirmation bias to me.

If they can only say the origin is from Middle Eastern Jews and not the former Jewish groups, something in the genetics of Middle Eastern Jews must point to this and not Ashkenaz or Sephardi. It is amazing they didn't compare to non-Jewish populations from the same region but only the 3 HGDP sampled populations from the Levant.

On a side note, how accurate is their identical-by-descent segment test? Are we talking family tree/23andme/ancestry levels of accuracy? Very likely not.... but if it's more accurate then why aren't genealogy companies utilizing it?

Thierry said...

There is the very well-known example from the Cairo Geniza (12th century CE) of Abraham Ben Yiju, a Jew from Tunisia, settling in India for 20 years and having children with a local: http://www.amazon.com/Abraham-Yiju-India-Trader-Manufacturer/dp/9652351431

I understand there are other cases of such "India traders" in the Cairo Geniza, although Ben Yiju is the most well-known.