Tuesday, January 19, 2016
A new genetic study suggests that the first migrant Jew entered the Indian subcontinent at Cochin in Kerala in the sixth century, about 1,500 years ago
India has three distinct Jewish populations namely, the Jews of Cochin, the Bene Israel of Mumbai and the Baghdadi Jews in Kolkata. Using genetic data and DNA analysis, scientists traced the ancestry of Indian Jews to the Middle East. However, in what has been called a breakthrough study, scientists have found that Indian Jews are a unique blend of South Asian and Middle Eastern genetic lineage. "The expansion of the Indian Jews from the Middle East was followed by extensive admixture and assimilation with local populations," Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj at the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad said. "The initial admixture with local Indian populations, followed by strict endogamy has made Indian Jews a unique population," explained co-researcher Dr Gyaneshwer Chaubey. The research team analyzed the DNA of Indian Jews using high-resolution genetic markers and compared them with native Indians and people from the rest of the world. Thangaraj said that Indian Jews "overwhelmingly" carry South Asian genetic lineage. "The analyses of autosomal data revealed a high level of heterogeneity among the Indian Jewish groups and their closeness with the local neighbors," he said. "However, sharing of specific maternally-inherited mtDNA and paternally inherited Y-chromosomal haplogroups between all the studied Indian Jews and lack of them among other local Indians can be seen as a remnant of a shared ancestry with the Middle Eastern populations," Thangaraj added.