My Ancient Israelite Test Results
1 of 7 in a Series
Having launched the Beta Version of Primeval DNA Test, all of us at DNA Consultants have been fielding customers’ questions about how to read and interpret the dynamic results in their account. While we answer all these as they arise and are happy to do so, there seemed some merit in preparing a series of blog posts that would cover all of the first seven tests and act as a a sort of user guide. I will use my own results as examples.
Among the topics we cover in this series of tips on understanding your results are:
- What is the difference between percent of ancestry and percent of genetic likeness
- What is a high match, low match, medium match?
- How do I compare my match with that of other population groups?
- Where can I learn more?
- Where can I discuss my results?
- Can I compare other types of tests?
- What additional ancient DNA tests are coming?
DNA Consultants has increasingly specialized in Jewish DNA over the past 10 years. We introduced the Basic Jewish DNA Fingerprint Test just last year. So the Ancient Israelite Test is dear to our hearts. It might throw light on some important questions. What bearing would ancient DNA have on the various definitions of Jewish today? What would prove to be the genetic similarity between ancient Natufians or Judeans with contemporary Israelis? With modern-day samples of diaspora Jews like the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi? Which Jewish population today would have the strongest linkage to the ancient population of the Land of Israel?
Before opening the envelope on this one, let me explain that the results tab in a customer’s account has a standardized form customized to the individual taking the test. Each test is identified by a product icon, in this case a Biblical-looking figure next to the official name, Ancient Israelites. The photo is chosen to represent the ancient culture and capture the relevant time period. It may be of a male or female. Autosomal DNA is non-sexed linked. What sex you are does not affect results since none of the markers compared comes from a sex chromosome.
Each test also has a sub-heading describing it, in the case of Ancient Israelites, this:
Farmers, herders, merchants and other Levantine people who lived in the bounds of modern-day Israel from the end of the Stone Age down to Biblical times
The tab starts out with a full description of the population or culture. We have copied the description for Ancient Israelites below:
The Ancient Israelites data were compiled from three sites with long histories of occupation in present-day Israel. The sites expose the bedrock DNA of the Holy Land, where the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam intersect.
Motza Tachtit is a burial site discovered on the outskirts of Jerusalem, present-day Israel, in 2012. It lies 900 meters south-east of the site of Tel Motza, a Neolithic settlement with evidence of rectangular, mud-brick houses, with lime-plastered floors. Only one adult male was discovered at Motza Tachtit. He was buried with the jawbone of a fox placed intentionally under his head. The skeleton was dated to between 9,300 – 8,750 years old. Several more burials have been found at Tel Motza within the walls and under the floors of homes. Genetic analysis suggests that Neolithic farmers from the Levant (modern-day Israel, Jordan and Syria), such as the man discovered at Motza Tachtit, had DNA very similar to the Natufian hunter-gatherers of the preceding Epipaleolithic period. The man from Motza Tachtit had rare South Asian Y chromosome haplogroup H2. This haplogroup has also been found in Neolithic farmers from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and Europe, suggesting there were genetic similarities between populations in the Levant, Anatolia and Europe.
A high match to the ancient DNA from Motza Tachtit could mean a genetic link with the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the source of the earliest Israelite king, Saul, as well as the House of David.
Raqefet Cave is situated in a valley close to Mount Carmel in present-day Northern Israel, some 27 kilometers (17 miles) south of the city of Haifa. This 50-meter-long cave was first excavated in 1970, and later excavations have revealed it was primarily a cemetery, used by many generations over hundreds of years. In 2017, radiocarbon dating techniques dated the cave to between 13,000 and 14,000 years old YBP, near the start of the Natufian period.
The location was part of the territory allotted to the Tribe of Manasseh, according to the Book of Joshua.
In 2016, the DNA of five males and one female from Raqefet Cave was sequenced. They ranged in age from younger than twelve to older than thirty. Like all Natufians, the inhabitants of Raqefet derived half of their ancestry from Basal Eurasians. Three of the individuals had Y-chromosomes belonging to haplogroup E1b1, which likely originated in East Africa and is also found in early Neolithic farmers from Jordan. Natufian genomes also show similarity to modern-day populations in Saudi Arabia, as well as the Bedouin nomadic peoples of the Arabian Peninsula.
The cave site of Peqi’in is located in land traditionally occupied by the Tribe of Naphtali in Northern Israel. Twenty-two individuals were sampled from this site. They were carbon-dated to between 5,900 and 6,500 years old. Genetic analysis has shown that these individuals were most closely-related to earlier Levantine populations that have lived in the area since the Neolithic, but around 35% of their DNA also came from Chalcolithic Iranians and Anatolian farmers from the north.
The mitochondrial haplogroups of these individuals were diverse. Seventeen of the twenty-two individuals belonged to haplogroups H, J, N1, T, and K, which form the dominant haplogroups associated with the Neolithic across the Middle East and Europe, having their origins in this region dating back to the Paleolithic. One individual belonged to haplogroup R, which is a common haplogroup worldwide today outside of Africa and is of very ancient ancestry, dating back some 60,000 years. Two individuals belonged to haplogroups I and R, which haplogroups are characteristic of the Paleolithic prior to agriculture in Europe. All of the males belonged to Y chromosome haplogroup T (previously called K), a Phoenician signature.
Ancient DNA Hub Reference: Prehistoric Israel
Multicultural Story ID: 20002
Ancient genomes contributing to story: 18 (Gal, Issec, Sarah, Terah, Nahor, Debra, Abraham, Ashkenaz, Meshach, Hagar, Agam, Keturah, Bruriah, Adam, Hanoch, Eber, Haran, Ruth)
Sites: Motza Tachtit, Raqefet Cave, Peqi’in
You may be interested in the following Primeval DNA Test:
Next you see a map anchoring the sites (in Israel in the present case), and a circle with colored sections representing the individuals in the test. In this case, the 18 ancient individuals you are being compared to are:
By clicking on the hyperlinks, you open a popup window that gives you some summary information on the individual, for instance, where the name comes from, haplogroups and the like.
Each individual also has a distinctively colored “spoke” in the wheel. If you hover over the spoke, it will show the name and degree of genetic likeness, for instance: Gal 6.07. At the same time, the chart below will be filled in accordingly, as below. Clicking on the sector of the circle for Gal will keep her information visible. From it, we can see that she is 1) female, 2) 6200 years old (which translates to 4250 BCE), 3) has mitochondrial haplogroup H4 (there is no Y chromosome haplogroup, because she is female), and 4) was found at latitude 32.97N, longitude 35.33E (the location of Peqi’in Cave in Northern Israel).
Putting all this together, I can see that my strongest match in ancient Israel is to a woman referred to as Gal—as in the name of the film actress Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman. “Gal” was buried about 6000 years ago in Peqi’in Cave, a large Natufian cemetery located outside a major Druze town in Israel’s Northern District in Upper Galilee. By reading more, I learn that, traditionally, the Jewish community of Peqi’in has maintained a presence here since the Second Temple period, that in Biblical times it belonged to the tribe of Manesseh and was part of the Northern Kingdom, and that in more remote times, its original people were Levantine joined by newcomers from the East who seem to have introduced a genetic disposition for blue eye color and fair skin that decreased over the ages. All males at the site carried haplogroup T, thought by many to be the signature of the Phoenicians.
Just this rudimentary information is enough to make me want to set forth on a years-long voyage des études that will take me to the birthplace of the Phoenicians, to the far-flung lands of Central Asia where the Tribe of Manesseh was exiled and to wherever the Basal Eurasians originated. Ancient DNA is truly a game changer, a stimulant to new knowledge, a toppler of theories.
How do I compare against modern-day Jewish populations in genetic similarity? Genetic similarity is not the same as percent of ancestry. It expresses the degree to which your genome duplicates strands of DNA in the ancient sequences. Most percentages range from 2 to 12. Obviously, it does not mean that I am directly descended from the skeleton named Gal, or that I am about 6% Natufian (and 94% non-Natufian). As a rule of thumb, the older the ancient sample, the lower the percentage of similarity to a modern genome.
So how does that compare to other living Jews? If you study the comparisons below (activate by ticking the boxes next to the alphabetized world populations—a bar chart is instantly displayed), I am right in the ballpark with other Jews. Yemeni Jews appear to have the highest score for genetic similarity with ancient Israelites (6.69), Ashkenazi Jews the lowest (5.72), but all Jews are closely clustered together around the 6% mark.
Note we are comparing my highest ancient Israelite match, Gal (6.07). My average genetic similarity, taking into account all 18 individuals compared, is 4.30.
Sharing the top spot with Gal in my results are Bruriah (5.65), another woman from Peqi’in, and Adam (5.68), a male of haplogroups K (mitochondrial) and T (Y chromosomal) much older, from over 15,000 years ago.
My lowest match in the ancient Israelite test was Ashkenaz 2.94 (Raqefet Cave, 4250 BCE).
Does Gal better represent the original population of Israelites, Jews and Hebrews? Or is my Jewish ancestry perhaps more clearly linked to the “Northern Tribes”? On a genealogical basis, my ancestry is mostly Sephardic, not Ashkenazic. In the new DNA Fingerprint Plus, which has included since 2018 a matchable sample formed from 163 Israeli Jews tested in Tel Aviv, Israeli Jews was my no. 5 match. Jewish followed only Scottish, English, Welsh and Dutch.
How about your own matches?
Iran (Jew) 6.23
Iraq (Jew) 6.44
Israel (Palestinian) 6.21
Ashkenazi Jew 5.72
Turkey (Jew) 6.05
Georgia (Jew) 6.09
Yemen (Jew) 6.69