The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses
The question of Jewish ancestry has been the subject of controversy for over two centuries and has yet to be resolved. The "Rhineland Hypothesis" proposes that Eastern European Jews emerged from a small group of German Jews who migrated eastward and expanded rapidly. Alternatively, the "Khazarian Hypothesis" suggests that Eastern European descended from Judean tribes who joined the Khazars, an amalgam of Turkic clans that settled the Caucasus in the early centuries CE and converted to Judaism in the 8th century. The Judaized Empire was continuously reinforced with Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman Jews until the 13th century. Following the collapse of their empire, the Judeo-Khazars fled to Eastern Europe. The rise of European Jewry is therefore explained by the contribution of the Judeo-Khazars. Thus far, however, their contribution has been estimated only empirically; the absence of genome-wide data from Caucasus populations precluded testing the Khazarian Hypothesis. Recent sequencing of modern Caucasus populations prompted us to revisit the Khazarian Hypothesis and compare it with the Rhineland Hypothesis. We applied a wide range of population genetic analyses - including principal component, biogeographical origin, admixture, identity by descent, allele sharing distance, and uniparental analyses - to compare these two hypotheses. Our findings support the Khazarian Hypothesis and portray the European Jewish genome as a mosaic of Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries, thereby consolidating previous contradictory reports of Jewish ancestry.