Genetic origins of the Turkish people

Genetic origins of the Turkish people

The migrations of Turkic speaking groups in Anatolia was a shift in language barrier between Altaic languages and Indo-European languages. The nature of this exchange has been subject of long debates by the scientists.

Anatolia and the medieval Turkic migration

Anatolia has been an important center of interaction, for many peoples and their cultures, throughout the known human history. This dynamic constitute a highly diverse culture and also a significant heterogeneity of peoples. The migrations of Turkic speaking groups in Anatolia is a dramatic shift in language barrier between Altaic languages and Indo-European languages. The nature of this language shift has been subject to considerable scholarly debate. Some Turkish scholars, mostly with political prejudices, claimed that this transition happened through a nearly complete replacement of the indigenous populations in Anatolian with Turkic-speaking groups. Other scholars, including Turkish, based on genetic data, claimed that the transition happened through elite dominance, a model suggesting Turkification, i.e. cultural assimilation, without significant genetic contribution. These models, however, are only tested by simplistic and general surveys of contemporary Turkish population, without historical considerations. Therefore it is difficult to understand the complex cultural and demographic dynamics of the Turkic speaking groups that have shaped the Anatolian landscape for the last millennium. [cite journal|author=Gökçümen, Ömer; Schurr, Theodore|title=Genler, Göçler ve Anadolu|journal=Atlas Magazine|year=2008|month=February|volume=179|url=|language=Turkish] The region of the Anatolia represents an extremely important area with respect to ancient population migration and expansion. During antiquity Anatolia was a cradle for a wide variety of numerous indigenous peoples as Armenians, Assyrians, Hattians, Hittites, Hellenes, Pelasgians, Phrygians, Thracians, Medes and others. Later during the late Roman Period, prior to the Mongolian invasion, the population of Anatolia had reached an estimated level of over 12 million people .cite journal
author = Russell, Josiah C.
year = 1960
month = October
journal = Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
title = Late Medieval Balkan and Asia Minor Population
volume = 3
issue = 3
pages = 265–274
url =
] cite journal
author = Kardulias, Nick P.
year = 1992
month = April
title = Estimating Population at Ancient Military Sites: the Use of Historical and Contemporary Analogy
journal = American Antiquity
volume = 57
issue = 2
pages = 276–287
doi = 10.2307/280733
] cite journal
author = Russell, Josiah C.
year = 1958
title = Late Ancient and Medieval Population
journal = Transactions of the American Philosophical Society
volume = 48
issue = 3
pages = 1–152
doi = 10.2307/1005708
] The Oghuz Turks were the main Turkic people [Encyclopædia Britannica [ Oguz] ] that moved into Anatolia. [Encyclopædia Britannica [ Seljuq] ] Many Turks began their migration after the victory of the Seljuks against the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. In the centuries after the Battle of Manzikert local populations began to assimilate to the emerging Turkish population. [Encyclopædia Britannica [ Battle of Manzikert] ] Around 1,000,000 Turkic migrants settled in Anatolia in 12th and 13th centuries. [Peter B. Golden. "An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples: Ethnogenesis and State-Formation in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East", 1992, S. 224-225]

Testing the "language replacement hypothesis"

The data on the DNA of Turkish people suggests that a human demographic expansion occurred sequentially in the Middle East, through Anatolia, and finally to the rest of Europe. The estimated time of this expansion is roughly 50,000 years ago, which corresponds to the arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe. [cite journal | last = Calafell | first = F | last2 = Underhill P | first2 = P |last3 = Tolun |first3 = A |last4 = Angelicheva|first4 = D |last5 = Kalaydjieva L.|first5 = L. | title = From Asia to Europe: mitochondrial DNA sequence variability in Bulgarians and Turks | journal = Annals of Human Genetics | volume = 60 | issue = 1 | pages = 35–49 | date = 2006-01 | doi = 10.1111/j.1469-1809.1996.tb01170.x] It is concluded that aboriginal Anatolian groups (older than 2000 BCE) may have given rise to present-day Turkish population.cite journal
author = Arnaiz-Villena, A.
year = 2001
title = HLA alleles and haplotypes in the Turkish population: relatedness to Kurds, Armenians and other Mediterraneans
journal = Tissue Antigens
volume = 57
pages = 308-317
doi = 10.1034/j.1399-0039.2001.057004308.x
] DNA results suggests the lack of strong genetic relationship between the Mongols and the Turks despite the close relationship of their languages and shared historical neighborhood.cite journal
author = MacHulla, H. K. G.
year = 2003
title = Genetic affinities among Mongol ethnic groups and their relationship to Turks
journal = Tissue Antigens
volume = 61
pages = 292-299
doi = 10.1034/j.1399-0039.2003.00043.x
] Anatolians do not significantly differ from other Mediterraneans, indicating that while the ancient Asian Turks carried out an invasion with cultural significance (language), it is not genetically detectable.cite journal
author = Arnaiz-Villena, A.
year = 2002
title = Population genetic relationships between Mediterranean populations determined by HLA allele distribution and a historic perspective
journal = Tissue Antigens
volume = 60
pages = 111-121
doi = 10.1034/j.1399-0039.2002.600201.x
] Recent genetic research has suggested the local, Anatolian origins of the Turks and that genetic flow between Turks and Asiatic peoples might have been marginal.cite journal
author = Rosser, Z. H.; Zerjal, T.; Hurles, M. E.; Adojaan, M.; Alavantic, D.; Amorim, A.; Amos, W.; Armenteros, M.; Arroyo, E.; Barbujani, G.; Others,
year = 2000
title = Y-Chromosomal Diversity in Europe is Clinal and Influenced Primarily by Geography, Rather than by Language
journal = American Journal of Human Genetics
volume = 67
issue = 6
pages = 1526–1543
doi = 10.1086/316890
url =

According to a 1998 study, the historical and cultural consequences of the Turkic invasion of Anatolia were profound, the genetic contribution of the Turkic people to the modern Turkish population seems less significant. [cite journal|last=Comas |first=David |last2=Francesc Calafell, Eva Mateu, Anna Pérez-Lezaun, Elena Bosch, Rosa Martínez-Arias, Jordi Clarimon, Fiorenzo Facchini, Giovanni Fiori, Donata Luiselli, Davide Pettener |last3=Jaume Bertranpetit |year=1998 |title=Trading Genes along the Silk Road: mtDNA Sequences and the Origin of Central Asian Populations |volume=63 |issue=6 |pages=1824–1838 |doi=10.1086/302133 |journal=American Journal of Human Genetics] Various estimates exist of the proportion of gene flow associated with the arrival of Central Asian Turkic speaking people to Anatolia. One study based on an analysis of Y-chromosomes from Turkey suggested that Central Asians have only made a 10% genetic contribution.cite paper
author = Rolf B, Röhl A, Forster P, Brinkmann B
year = 1999
contribution = On the genetic origins of the Turks: study of six Y-chromosomal short tandem repeats
title = Genomic diversity: applications in human population genetics
publisher = Kluwer Academic/Plenum
location = New York
editor = Papiha SS, Deka R, Chakraborty R
pages = 75–82
] Another study suggests roughly 30% based upon mtDNA control region sequences and one STR Y-chromosome.cite journal
author = Di Benedetto, G.; Ergueven, A.; Stenico, M.; Castrfi, L.; Bertorelle, G.; Togan, I.; Barbujani, G.
year = 2001
title = DNA diversity and population admixture in Anatolia
journal = American Journal of Physical Anthropology
volume = 115
issue = 2
pages = 144–156
doi = 10.1002/ajpa.1064
url =
] However the comprehensive high resolution single nucleotide polymorphism analysis of 513 individuals provides slight paternal gene flow (<9%) from Central Asia. The results demonstrate Anatolia’s role as a buffer between culturally and genetically distinct populations, being both an important source and recipient of gene flow.( [ the plot: ] ). According to Spencer Wells the Turkish and Azeri populations are atypical among Altaic speakers. Rather, these two Turkic-speaking groups seem to be closer to populations from the Middle East and Caucasus. This finding is consistent with a model in which the Turkic languages, originating in the Altai-Sayan region of Central Asia and northwestern Mongolia, were imposed on the Caucasian and Anatolian peoples with relatively little genetic admixture, another possible example of elite dominance-language shift.cite journal
author = Wells, R. S.; Yuldasheva, N.; Ruzibakiev, R.; Underhill, P. A.; Evseeva, I.; Blue-smith, J.; Jin, L.; Su, B.; Pitchappan, R.; Shanmugalakshmi, S.; Others,
year = 2001
title = The Eurasian Heartland: a continental perspective on Y-chromosome diversity
journal = Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
volume = 98
issue = 18
pages = 10244
doi = 10.1073/pnas.171305098
url =
] A 2007 study suggests that, genetically Anatolians are more closely related with the Balkan populations than to the Central Asian populations. Central Asian contribution to Anatolia with respect to the Balkans was quantified with an admixture analysis. Furthermore, the association between the Central Asian contribution and the language replacement episode was examined by comparative analysis of the Central Asian contribution to Anatolia, Azerbaijan (another Turkic speaking country) and their neighbors. In this study, the Central Asian contribution to Anatolia was estimated as 13%. This was the lowest value among the populations analyzed. This observation may be explained by Anatolia having the lowest migrant/resident ratio at the time of migrations.cite journal
author = Berkman, Ceren Caner; Dinc, Havva; Sekeryapan, Ceran; Togan, Inci
title = Alu insertion polymorphisms and an assessment of the genetic contribution of Central Asia to Anatolia with respect to the Balkans
year = 2007
journal = American Journal Physical Anthropology
pmid = 18161848
doi = 10.1002/ajpa.20772

The Central Asian 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 invasion 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. Recent genetics research dated 2003cite journal
author = Keyser-Tracqui, Christine; Crubézy, Eric; Ludes, Bertrand
year = 2003
month = August
title = Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA Analysis of a 2,000-Year-Old Necropolis in the Egyin Gol Valley of Mongolia
journal = American Journal of Human Genetics
volume = 73
issue = 2
pages = 247-260
doi = 10.1086/377005
pmid = 12858290
] confirms the studies [ [ The Gök Türk Empire] , All Empires.] indicating that the Turkic peoplesTouchette, Nancy. " [ Ancient DNA Tells Tales from the Grave] ", "Genome News Network.": "Skeletons from the most recent graves also contained DNA sequences similar to those in people from present-day Turkey. This supports other studies indicating that Turkic tribes originated at least in part in Mongolia at the end of the Xiongnu period."] originated from Central Asia and therefore are possibly related with Xiongnu. A majority (89%) of the Xiongnu sequences can be classified as belonging to an Asian haplogroups and nearly 11% belong to European haplogroups. This finding indicates that the contacts between European and Asian populations were anterior to the Xiongnu culture, and it confirms results reported for two samples from an early 3rd century B.C. Scytho-Siberian population.cite journal
author = Clisson, I.; Keyser, C.; Francfort, H. P.; Crubezy, E.; Samashev, Z.; Ludes, B.
year = 2002
journal = International Journal of Legal Medicine
volume = 116
issue = 5
pages = 304–308
doi = 10.1007/s00414-002-0295-x
title = Genetic analysis of human remains from a double inhumation in a frozen kurgan in Kazakhstan
pmid = 12376844
] According to the study, Turkish Anatolian tribes may have some ancestors who originated in an area north of Mongolia at the end of the Xiongnu period (3rd century BCE to the 2nd century CE), since modern Anatolian Turks appear to have some common genetic markers with the remains found at the Xiongnu period graves in Mongolia. The researchers found that interbreeding between Europeans and Asians occurred much earlier than previously thought. They also found DNA sequences similar to those in present-day Turks.cite journal
author = Henke, J.; Henke, L.; Chatthopadhyay, P.; Kayser, Manfred; Dülmer, M.; Cleef, S.; Pöche, H.; Felske-Zech, H.
title = Application of Y-chromosomal STR haplotypes to forensic genetics
year = 2001
journal = Croatian Medical Journal
volume = 42
issue = 3
pages = 292–297
url =
] Moreover, the mtDNA (female linkeage) sequence shared by four of these paternal relatives were also found in a Turkish individuals,Citation
author = Comas, M.C.; Sánchez-Gómez, M.; Cornen, G.; de Kaenel, E
year = 1996
title = Serpentinized peridotite breccia and olistostrome on basement highs of the Iberia Abyssal Plain: implications for tectonic margin evolution
booktitle = Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program
volume = 149
issn = 1096-7451
doi = 10.2973/
url =
] suggesting a possible Turkish origin of these ancient specimens. Two other individuals buried in the B sector were characterized by mtDNA sequences found in Turkish people.cite journal
author = Martin Richards, Vincent Macaulay, Eileen Hickey, Emilce Vega, Bryan Sykes, Valentina Guida, Chiara Rengo, Daniele Sellitto, Fulvio Cruciani, Toomas Kivisild, Richard Villems, Mark Thomas, Serge Rychkov, Oksana Rychkov, Yuri Rychkov, Mukaddes Gölge, Dimitar Dimitrov, Emmeline Hill11, Dan Bradley, Valentino Romano, Francesco Calì, Giuseppe Vona, Andrew Demaine, Surinder Papiha, Costas Triantaphyllidis, Gheorghe Stefanescu, Jiři Hatina, Michele Belledi, Anna Di Rienzo, Andrea Novelletto, Ariella Oppenheim, Søren Nørby, Nadia Al-Zaheri, Silvana Santachiara-Benerecetti, Rosaria Scozzari, Antonio Torroni, and Hans-Jürgen Bandelt
title = Tracing European founder lineages in the Near Eastern mtDNA pool
journal = American Journal of Human Genetics
year = 2000
month = November
volume = 67
issue = 5
pages = 1251–1276
url =
doi = 10.1016/S0002-9297(07)62954-1
] cite journal
author = Calafell, F.; Underhill, P.; Tolun, A.; Angelicheva, D.; Kalaydjieva, L.
year = 1996
title = From Asia to Europe: mitochondrial DNA sequence variability in Bulgarians and Turks
journal = Annals of Human Genetics
volume = 60
issue = 1
pages = 35–49
doi = 10.1111/j.1469-1809.1996.tb01170.x
pmid = 8835097

See also

*Genetic genealogy
*History of the Turkish people
*History of the Turkic peoples
*History of Anatolia
*Demographics of Turkey
*Turkish diaspora

References and notes

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