Monday, December 8, 2014

Atrocities and Assimilation: Crusader DNA in the Near East

   This paper got its start back in February of this year while I was researching R1b-DF100 for my posting, The Third Brother.  Among the data, primarily Western European haplotypes, was a single Armenian record.  The R1b-L11>DF100 group that I was working with had as one of their theories that L11 was a fairly recent, 3,000 to 4,000 years, arrival from the Near East and that the Armenian record was part of that evidence.  I looked at the Armenian record, ran a phylogenetic test on it, the L11 group and some similar Near East records.  The Armenian record fell squarely within a Baltic cluster on the tree with a rough TMRCA of about 1,200 years.  This Armenian was clearly more European than Armenian, at least on the paternal line.  My comment back to the L11 group was that their Armenian was probably the descendant of a Crusader based on the timing and directionality.

   In September, I ran across Pierre Zalloua’s paper - Y-ChromosomalDiversity in Lebanon Is Structured by Recent Historical Events (2008).  He and the other authors had put together a good correlation between Crusader DNA and haplogroup R1b in Lebanon.  The paper also correlated haplogroup J and the Muslim expansion.  The paper received quite a bit of feedback about haplogroup J and little or no mention about haplogroup R1b.  Considering the extent of the Crusader’s presence in the Near East from 1096 to 1343, if they left DNA behind it would have been spread farther than Lebanon. 

   The real question is not – if they left DNA behind.  There is significant literature that details the atrocities; raping and pillaging was standard operating procedure for the Crusaders.  There are also numerous accounts of assimilation.  During the Crusader’s 247-year occupation and roughly eight generations, they married local women and raised families.  The real question is did Crusader DNA survive to modern time. 

Crusader DNA Distribution
   If Crusader DNA survived, it would be spread from Istanbul to Jerusalem and beyond.  The graphic above shows the potential for DNA distribution during the Crusader occupation (red) and the distribution over the past 918 years (gray).  My research focused on the following Near East countries - Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.

   Here is something I found bizarre.  Zalloua and team published their paper in 2008.  Every researcher looking at Near East R1b should be taking a lesson and validating that their data is not of Crusader origin.  Obviously, Crusader DNA wasn’t restricted to Lebanon.  In 2010, Balaresque, et al and again in 2011, Myres, et al, published papers using Near East R1b data (Turkish).  Forty-two percent of the Turkish R1b haplotypes from Balaresque and Myres was identical to Zalloua’s Lebanese R1b data.  This didn’t seem to raise any flags as Balaresque and Myres used the Turkish data to suggest a Near East origin and Neolithic expansion for R1b.  These folks must not talk to each other.  Two of Zalloua’s team members went on to work with Balaresque and Myres on their papers.  The first thing I would have said was – “Considering what Zalloua found, we need to validate the origins of the Turkish data further back than one or two generations”.

   When presenting an analysis it is always good to show comparison data.  I collected R1b data and haplogroup G and J data from multiple Family Tree DNA projects.   I have a higher comfort factor that G and J are associated with the Neolithic expansion, so they were used as a basis for comparison.  For each 37-marker Near East record obtained, I used the haplotype to query a larger set of related records from ySearch (I call this haplotype aggregation).  A Near East set and a Western European set of data was developed for each haplogroup.  I then compared each individual Near East haplotype against the entire Near East set and the entire Western Europe set.  You would expect that the Near East haplotypes would be more closely related to their peers in the Near East set.

   The haplogroup J data tells the best story.  The results cluster down J1-M267 and J2-M172 lines.  The neutral line (diagonal triangles) represents zero affinity towards the Near East or Western Europe.  Points falling to the right of neutral show an affinity toward the Near East and to the left of neutral, an affinity towards Western Europe.

   J1 haplotypes (diamonds), which are rare in Europe, are closely related to their peers in the Near East.  The J1 data only shows an affinity toward the Near East.  The trend line for J1 indicates a fairly stationary population pattern with no suggestion of migration to Western Europe.  A trend line that doesn’t cross the neutral represents a strong peer affinity and little or no migration between the Near East and Western Europe.  J2 data (squares) shows a tipping point at which the more distantly related records lean toward the Near East and the closely related records lean toward Western Europe.  That transition shows a TMRCA of about 3,900 ± 800 years.  The tipping point indicates a point in time where the Near East J2 haplotypes became more common in Western Europe, illustrating a migration. 

   Haplogroup G shows very similar results as J2. Haplogroups J2 and G have been associated with the Neolithic spread of agriculture from the Near East to Western Europe.  Both J2 and G present a consistent distribution from distant relationship (high variance) to closer relationship (low variance).  The trend lines for J2 and G represent migration events from the Near East to Western Europe.  The trend line for J1 represents no migration event.  These results are consistent with other published information.

   Haplogroup R1b does not exhibit either a migration or a non-migration pattern.  The haplotypes cluster in a fairly homogenous group.  There is a slight lean toward Western Europe and essentially no continuum from high variance to low variance.  The more distantly related haplotypes don’t exist in the Near East.  The Near East individuals are just as related to the Western European individuals as they are to their own peers.  The approximate TMRCA for the R1b Near East – Western European group is 1,800 ± 500 years.

   Through atrocities and assimilation, Western European DNA from Crusaders was permanently introduced into the Near East less than 1,000 years ago.  Western European and Near East R1b haplotypes are highly and recently related.  The data indicates that within the last 2,000 years there was a migration from one geography to the other.  There is no documented migration in the past 2,000 years that would account for Western European R1b populations coming from the Near East and replacing indigenous European populations.  The introduction of Western European DNA into the Near East by Crusaders accounts for the west to east genetic flow.

   The sampling practices of research studies are questionable.  The origin of participants is typically only validated for one or two previous generations.  This is equivalent to not knowing the origin for study participants.  Sampling needs to be undertaken with a genetic genealogy approach and 37 markers or greater.  The population genetics approach of less than 17 markers, poor origin validation and haplogroup generalization needs to change.

   Previous papers (Balaresque & Myres) that have used Near East R1b data as the basis of their research are suspect.  In light of the introduction of Crusader DNA into the Near East within the past 1,000 years, any theory on a Neolithic origin for haplogroup R1b will have to be re-evaluated.


Maglio, MR (2014) Y-Chromosomal Haplogroup R1b Diversity in Near East is Structured by Recent Historical Events (Link)

© Michael R. Maglio


  1. Are you aware that the R1b in Europe is predominantly L51 and that of the Near East is L51-? In other words, there is no way most of the R1b in the Near East is the product of promiscuous European Crusaders.

    1. Hi Rich,
      Are you aware that for portions of the Western European and Near East populations the opposites are true. There is evidence that some of the Near East R1b has the potential to be Crusader descendants. Its enough to skew the findings of Balaresque & Myres and throw the R1b Neolithic origin theory out the window.


  2. Mike,
    You raise very valid points and ones that cannot escape the conclusions you offer.

    The current dispersion & migration charts used by Hamer show interesting patterns for L11 (P311) from Anatolia to the Baltic. When taking into account not only the crusades but the even earlier 1070ad migration of Anglo-Saxon-Danish warriors and families fleeing the Norman 'harrying if the north' then there has to be evidence from that alone of back flow of L11to Armenia/Anatolia. Your STR mcra analysis seem to be pinpointing this.


    Doug Marker
    FtDNA DF100-CTS4528 admin.

  3. Dear Michael, I just got my results today of Y37 Markers. They indicate R-M269 or R1b1a2.
    I am 3 generation Brazilian born. My grand-grandpa was from nowadays Lebanon. He traveled to Brazil with a Ottoman passport in 1905, in other words previous to the french mandate 1920-43. Ottoman rule in Lebanon was from 1516–1917. His father and grandfather were Maronite Priests (Christians). This brings my confirmed ancestry history to around the beginning of the 19th century. Not so far but still the Ottomans were a strong force and had significant conflict with the Maronites during the rain of Bashir Shihab II (1788-1840).
    If my data may be of any use to further research I am happy to share it.
    I plan further tests soon on L51 or so. Let me know.

  4. My family is from Fakiha in Lebanon, and I have a family tree of 18 generations from father's side (made with church's registry) that brings to an ancestor named ABU MOURAD, since I was little, I have always heard the family legend saying that we were descendent of crusaders, but I always thought it was a joke. After testing my DNA recently, I found I am R1b1b2a, and I am now wondering if the family legend was not true finaly.

    1. Hi Jean-Rémi,

      Have you had your terminal SNP tested indicating which branch of R1b you are a member? If so, compare your haplotype to others in that SNP group to determine TMRCA (roughly how far back a common ancestor existed) and also look at your peers' known geographic origins.

      I'd be happy to look at your yDNA results.


  5. Hi,

    I just saw this while trying to find out why me and my family look like Swedish-Danish although we are from the middle of Anatolia (Nevsehir-Ortahisar). The whole village of my grandfather and grandmother looks like they are from northern Europe (all tall, blonde with blue eyes)..

    Is there a way I could find out more about my roots if I would do a DNA test? There is little I could find just by asking people there.


    1. Hi, an autosomal DNA test would tell you about your ethnic percentages. It will show you Scandinavian ancestry if you have it. It will not explain where the ancestry came from in your family tree.