Genetic studies on Turkish people
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In population genetics, research has been conducted to study the genetic origins of the modern Turkish people (not to be confused with Turkic peoples) in Turkey. These studies sought to determine whether the modern Turks have a stronger genetic affinity with the Turkic peoples of Central Asia where the Seljuk Turks began migrating to Anatolia from, following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. This migration led to the establishment of the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate in the late 11th century. Or whether modern Turkish people instead largely descended from the indigenous peoples of Anatolia who were culturally assimilated during the Seljuk and Ottoman periods.
The largest autosomal study of Turkish genetics (on 16 individuals) concluded that the Turkish population form a cluster with South European populations, and that the East Asian (presumably Central Asian) legacy to the Turkish people is estimated to be 21.7%. However, this is not an estimate of the number of migrants or migration rates, since the original donor populations are not known, and the exact kinship between current East Asians and the medieval Oghuz Turks is also uncertain. Several studies have concluded that the genetic haplogroups indigenous to Western Asia form the largest part of the gene pool of the present-day Turkish population. An admixture analysis determined that the Anatolian Turks share most of their genetic ancestry with non-Turkic populations resident in the region, and the 12th century is set as an admixture date.
Central Asian and Uralic connection
The question to what extent a gene flow from Central Asia to Anatolia has contributed to the current gene pool of the Turkish people, and what the role is in this of the 11th century settlement by Oghuz Turks, has been the subject of several studies. A factor that makes it difficult to give reliable estimates is the problem of distinguishing between the effects of different migratory episodes. Thus, although the Turks settled in Anatolia (peacefully or after war events) with cultural significance, including the introduction of the Turkish language and Islam, the genetic significance from Central Asia might have been slight according to some studies.
Some of the Turkic peoples originated from Central Asia and therefore are possibly related with Xiongnu. A majority (89%) of the Xiongnu sequences can be classified as belonging to Asian haplogroups and nearly 11% belong to European haplogroups. These findings indicate that the contacts between European and Asian populations were anterior to the Xiongnu culture, and confirm results reported for two samples from an early 3rd century B.C. Scytho-Siberian population.
According to another archeological and genetic study in 2010, the DNA found in three skeletons in 2000-year-old elite Xiongnu cemetery in Northeast Asia belonged to C3, D4 and including R1a. The evidence of paternal R1a support the Kurgan expansion hypothesis for the Indo-European expansion from the Volga steppe region. As the R1a was found in Xiongnu people and the present-day people of Central Asia Analysis of skeletal remains from sites attributed to the Xiongnu provides an identification of dolichocephalic Mongoloid, ethnically distinct from neighboring populations in present-day Mongolia.
According to a different genetic research on 75 individuals from various parts of Turkey, Mergen et al. revealed that the "genetic structure of the mtDNAs in the Turkish population bears some similarities to Turkic Central Asian populations".
Haplogroup distributions in Turkish people
This section needs to be updated.March 2018)(
Over-reliant on one, outdated source, e.g. Cinnioğlu 2004.March 2018)(
According to Cinnioğlu et al. (2004), there are many Y-DNA haplogroups present in Turkey. The majority of the haplogroups found in the people of Turkey are shared with their West Asian and Caucasian neighbours. The most commonly found haplogroup in Turkey is J2 (24%), which is widespread among the Mediterranean, Caucasian, and West Asian populations. Haplogroups that are common in Europe (R1b and I – 20%), South Asia (L, R2, H – 5.7%) and Africa (A, E3*, E3a – 1%) are also present. By contrast, Central Asian haplogroups are rarer (N and Q – 5.7%).
However, this figure may rise to 36% if K, R1a, R1b and L (which infrequently occur in Central Asia, but are notable in many other Western Turkic groups) are also included. J2 is also frequently found in Central Asia, a notable high frequency of J2 (30.4%) is observed particularly in Uzbeks.
Some of the percentages identified were:
- J2=24% - J2 (M172) Typical of North African, West Asian, Southern European, Caucasian, South Asian and Central Asian populations.
- R1b=15.9% Widespread in western Eurasia, with distinct "West Asian", "North West European" and "Balkan" lineages.
- G=10.9% – Typical of people from the Caucasus and to a lesser extent Europe, the Near East and Central Asia.
- E3b-M35=10.7% (E3b1-M78 and E3b3-M123 accounting for all E representatives in the sample, besides a single E3b2-M81 chromosome). E-M78 occurs commonly along a line from the Horn of Africa, via Egypt to the Balkans. Haplogroup E-M123 is found in both Africa and Eurasia.
- J1=9% – Typical among people from the Middle East, Caucasus (e.g. Dagestan) and North Africa; rates in Turkey range from 3% (around Konya) to 12% (in Kurds).
- R1a=6.9% – Common in Central Asian, South Asian, and Eastern European populations.
- I=5.3% – Common in the Balkans; possibly representing a back-migration to Anatolia.
- K=4.5% – Possibly untested subclades of South West Asian subclades like haplogroup L (a.k.a. K1a) or T (a.k.a. K1b) – see below for positive identifications. Or possibly members of rare haplogroups K2a1, found only in South Asia, or P1 (a.k.a. K2b2), found mostly in Central Asia. (Basal clades like K*, K2* and K2b* are now virtually restricted to Oceania and South-East Asia.)
- L=4.2% – Now typical of South Asian populations; also found at high levels in parts of Central Asia, the Middle East and the Caucasus.
- N=3.8% – Predominant among Uralic language-speaking populations and in Siberia.
- T=2.5% – Common in coastal areas from South Asia to Arabia and North East Africa.
- Q=1.9% – Common in Siberian and Native American populations.
- C=1.3% – Typical of East Asian and Central Asian populations.
- R2=0.96%  – Common in South Asian populations along with moderate frequencies among Central Asian and Caucasus populations.
Others markers than occurs in less than 1% are H, A, E3a , O , R1*.
Further research on Turkish Y-DNA groups
A recent Y-DNA study carried out by Heraclides and other scientists (2017) stated that Turks are a hybrid population comprising the Anatolian populations, Turkics and the other ethnicities from regions of the former Ottoman Empire And the presence of Eastern Eurasian Y-DNA haplogroups in Turkey ranges from 3% (Southern Anatolian Turks) to 15% (Central Anatolian Turks).
A study in Turkey by Gökçümen (2008) took into account oral histories and historical records. They went to four settlements in Central Anatolia and didn't do a random selection from a group of university students like in many other studies. Accordingly, here are the results:
1) In an Afshar village near Ankara where, according to oral tradition, the ancestors of the inhabitants came from Central Asia, the researchers found that 57% of the villagers had haplogroup L, 13% had haplogroup Q, and 3% had haplogroup N. It was considered that examples of haplogroup L (most common in South Asia) might be a result of Central Asian migration, even though the presence of haplogroup L in Central Asia itself was most likely a result of migration from South Asia. Therefore Central Asian haplogroups were potentially possessed by 73% of males in this village. Furthermore, 10% of these Afshars had haplogroups E3a and E3b, while only 13% had haplogroup J2a, the most common in Turkey.
2) The inhabitants of an older Turkish village which didn't receive much migration had about 25% of haplogroup N and 25% of J2a, with 3% of G and close to 30% of R1 variants (mostly R1b).
Whole genome sequencing
A study regarding Turkish genetics in 2014 has utilized the whole genome sequencing of Turkish individuals. Led by Can Alkan at the University of Washington in Seattle, the study has been published in the journal BMC Genomics. The authors of the study show that the genetic variation of the contemporary Turkish population clusters with South European populations, as expected, but also shows signatures of relatively recent contribution from ancestral East Asian populations. They estimate the weights for the migration events predicted to originate from the East Asian branch into current-day Turkey was at 21.7% (see Figure 2 by Alkan et al.).
"(B) A population tree based on “Treemix” analysis. The populations included are as follows: Turkey (TUR); Tuscans in Italy (TSI); Iberian populations in Spain (IBS); British from England and Scotland (GBR); Finnish from Finland (FIN); Utah residents with Northern and Western European ancestry (CEU); Han Chinese in Beijing, China (CHB); Japanese in Tokyo, Japan (JPT); Han Chinese South (CHS); Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria (YRI); Luhya in Webuye, Kenya (LWK). Populations with high degree of admixture (Native American and African American populations) were not included to simplify the analysis. The Yoruban population was used to root the tree. In total four migration events were estimated. The weights for the migration events predicted to originate from the East Asian branch into current-day Turkey was 0.217 (21.7%), from the ancestral Eurasian branch into the Turkey-Tuscan clade was 0.048, from the African branch into Iberia was 0.026, from the Japanese branch into Finland was 0.079."
|Turkic genetic impact on Asia Minor and Thrace|
In 2001, Benedetto et al. revealed that Central Asian genetic contribution to the current Anatolian mtDNA gene pool was estimated as roughly 30%, by comparing the populations of Mediterranean Europe, and Turkic-speaking people of Central Asia. In 2003, Cinnioğlu et al. made a research of Y-DNA including the samples from eight regions of Turkey, without classifying the ethnicity of the people, which indicated that high resolution SNP analysis totally provides evidence of a detectable weak signal (<9%) of gene flow from Central Asia, but this was an underestimate summarizing only haplogroups C, Q and O. It was later observed that the male contribution from Central Asia to Turkish population with reference to the Balkans was 13%, for all non-Turkic speaking populations the Central Asian contribution was higher than in Turkey. According to the study "the contributions ranging between 13%–58% must be considered with a caution because they harbor uncertainties about the state of pre-nomadic invasion and further local movements." A 2006 study concluded that the Central Asian contribution to Anatolia for Y-DNA is 13%, mtDNA 22%, alu insertion (autosomal) 15%, autosomal 22%, with respect to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uyghur, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. By that method, for Y-DNA, Alu, mtDNA except Iraq (13%) and Armenia (6%) for females, the Central Asian contribution to the hybrids (Armenia, Georgia, Northern Caucasus, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon) were similar or even higher than to those of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
In 2011 Aram Yardumian and Theodore G. Schurr published their study "Who Are the Anatolian Turks? A Reappraisal of the Anthropological Genetic Evidence." They revealed the impossibility of long-term, and continuing genetic contacts between Anatolia and Siberia, and confirmed the presence of significant mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome divergence between these regions, with minimal admixture. The research confirms also the lack of mass migration and suggested that it was irregular punctuated migration events that engendered large-scale shifts in language and culture among Anatolia's diverse autochthonous inhabitants.
A study in 2015, however, found that "Previous genetic studies have generally used Turks as representatives of ancient Anatolians. Our results show that Turks are genetically shifted towards Central Asians, a pattern consistent with a history of mixture with populations from this region"
According to a 2012 study on ethnic Turkish people, "Turkish population has a close genetic similarity to Middle Eastern and European populations and some degree of similarity to South Asian and Central Asian populations." At K = 3 level, using individuals from the Middle East (Druze and Palestinian), Europe (French, Italian, Tuscan and Sardinian) to obtain a more representative database for Central Asia (Uygur, Hazara and Kyrgyz), clustering results indicated that the contributions were 45%, 40% and 15% for the Middle Eastern, European and Central Asian populations, respectively. For K = 4 level, results for paternal ancestry were 38% European, 35% Middle Eastern, 18% South Asian and 9% Central Asian. K= 7 results of paternal ancestry were 77% European, 12% South Asian, 4% Middle Eastern, 6% Central Asian. However, Hodoglugil et al. caution that results may indicate previous population movements (e.g. migration, admixture) or genetic drift. The study indicated that the Turkish genetic structure is unique, and admixture of Turkish people reflects the population migration patterns. Among all sampled groups, the Adygei population (Circassians) from the Caucasus was closest to the Turkish samples among sampled European (French, Italian), Middle Eastern (Druze, Palestinian), and Central (Kyrgyz, Hazara, Uygur), South (Pakistani), and East Asian (Mongolian, Han) populations. A study involving mitochondrial analysis of a Byzantine-era population, whose samples were gathered from excavations in the archaeological site of Sagalassos, found that the Byzantine population of Sagalassos might have left a genetic signature in the modern Turkish populations. Modern-day samples from the nearby town of Ağlasun showed that lineages of East Eurasian descent assigned to macro-haplogroup M were found in the modern samples from Ağlasun. This haplogroup is significantly more frequent in Ağlasun (15%) than in Byzantine Sagalassos.
Genetic history and Turkish identity
With the development of genetic researches of human history during the 21st century criticism has arisen in Turkey among those researchers who traditionally are concerned with this subject such as anthropologists, archaeologists and historians. This kind of criticism is concerned with the formation of the biological construct of historical communities, which denies the 20th century scholarly discourse by transforming these entities into purely biological spheres. While the Central Asiatic origin of the Turkish people is a relatively new research topic in the history, developed in the late Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey, its clash with modern human genetics researches raises in a new light the questions: What was a "Turk(ic)" and who are the modern Turks?
- Demographics of Turkey
- History of the Turkish people
- Archaeogenetics of the Near East
- Genetic history of Europe
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