Haplogroup J1 is Definitely Not Semitic in Origin!

IS HAPLOGROUP J1-M267 SEMITIC? 

Haplogroup J1 is not a Semitic haplogroup in origin. It is one of the most ancient Y-DNA haplogroups. It is traced to prehistoric times, nearly 32.000 years ago, and is ancient than the origination of Semitic people. J1 seems mostly in Middle East and Caucasus, and lightly on Europe and South/Central Asia. According to several studies, J1 seems in high amounts among Arabic people in Arabian Peninsula, Levant and Mesopotamia as well. However, genetically, we can’t call this haplogroup “Semitic” because Semitic people mainly have the FGC11 lineage of this haplogroup in those areas. As Arabic society is mainly based on a unique cluster of J1 haplogroup, FGC11, it is wrong to call all people with J1 as “Semitic”. In this sense, we cannot attribute haplogroup J1 to Semitic origin.

In fact, it is apparent that there are various clusters of J1 among Caucasian, European, and South/Central Asian people. Especially, in Caucasia, J1 seems in high or medium amounts among various ethnic groups such as Kubachis, Kaitaks, Lezghins, Avars, Dargins, Circassians, Chechens, Balkars, Nogais, Kumyks and Azerbaijani Turks. All these people speak various languages which are bound up with Northeast Caucasian languages, Northwest Caucasian languages and Turkic languages. And European people having J1 also speak Indo-European languages rather than Semitic languages.

Sumerians, Sumeria, Map

Haplogroup J1 is the mostly seen haplogroup (81%) in the southern Mesopotamia, which was the homeland of ancient Sumers between 4500 and 1800 BC.

Southern Mesopotamia is also another significant location which has the second highest frequency of J1 after Northeast Caucasus. J1 haplogroup seems 81% in Marsh Arabs of Southern Mesopotamia (Al-Zahery, 2011). The research of Al-Zahery displays that J1 haplogroup is the mostly seen haplogroup in the south of Mesopotamia, which might be a clue for the main haplogroup of ancient Sumers who lived in the southern Mesopotamia between 4500-1800 BC. Towards the end of the article, we will focus on the Sumerian connection of haplogroup J1.

Another location, where haplogroup J1 is mostly seen, is the south of Arabian Peninsula. However, this is not much important because mainly the lineage of FGC11 seems among Yemenites. We can’t claim J1 originated in Yemen due to the high frequnecy of J1 because only a unique cluster, FGC11, seems among Yemenites, and the area does not have a vast variety of haplogroup J1; that is why we can’t claim the origins of J1 to that location. If haplogroup J1-M267 had orginated in that area, we would see a hundred of various lineages among Yemenites now. Also, the FGC11 lineage is 4600 years old, which means that FGC11 possibly arrived in Arabian peninsula 4600 years ago, or it originated there as a branch of Z1884. Therefore, the hypothesis that claims J1-M267 might have originated in Yemen seems to be dubious.

In Europe and Asia, there is a rich variety of J1 lineages such as Z1828, ZS241, PF7264, L817, Z640, YSC76 and PF7263:

  • Z1828 possibly originates 8000 years ago, and seems in West Asia, Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.
  • ZS241 possibly originates 5300 years ago, and seems mostly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as well as a bit in West Asia.
  • P56 (PF7264, PF7263) probably originates 14.000 years ago, and generally seems in Turks and Europeans.
  • L817 probably originates 8700 years ago, and seems mostly in Poland, Ukraine and Germany in Europe and lightly in Central Asia and West Asia.
  • Z640 probably originates 4600 years ago, and seems among Europeans and West Asians. This lineage does not seem in North Africa though it seems a little in Arabs.
  • YSC76 (ZS219 etc) originates 4900 yeats ago, and usually seems in East Europe, West/South Europe, and West Asia.
  • FGC11 originates 4600 years ago, and seems among Arabian peninsula, Levant, Mesopotamia and North Africa. It seems to be specific to Semitic people of Southwest Asians. And it can be called “Semitic subclade” as well.
J1-subclades

Blue bar means J1-FGC11, which is a unique lineage among Arabs. On the other hand, the other lineages would seem among Europeans, Caucasians and Turks rather than Arabs. This means J1 haplogroup isn’t of Semitic origin.

Afro-asiatic people or languages, map

Afroasiatic languages which also include Semitic languages such as Amharic, Arabic and Hebrew first appeared in Arabian Peninsula, Levant and Ethiopia, and later spread to North Africa via Islamic caliphate. That’s why we see J1-FGC11 heavily in Nothern Africa today. It’s the second mostly seen haplogroup after E1b in North Africa. It is also known that the mostly seen haplogroups in Afroasiatic speakers is the lineages of E1b such as V12, V32 and M81. E1b is one of the most common haplogroups in Semitic people in Levant and Mesopotamia; in the meantime, E-V12 seems to be a part of Nile basin, and Arabia, and E-M81 is related to Northwest Africa.

From all of these lineages of haplogroup J1, only FGC11 and L93 are related to Arabic people as it seems to be unique in Arabian peninsula and North Africa. And it means that most of Arabic tribes, who are of FGC11 lineage, descend from a unique male who possibly lived in Mesopotamia or Levant 4600 years ago, and moved southwards. What makes it strange is the fact that, except FGC11, all other lineages of J1 are speakers of non-Semitic languages. This might be a clue that FGC11 lineage might have adopted Arabic and Canaanite languages 4000-4600 years ago. Our hypothesis for language replacement of J1-FGC11 from Sumerian to Hebrew and Arabic, which we call Semitic languages now, is based on historical events and records as well.

ARE SUMERS RELATED TO J1 HAPLOGROUP?

The origins of J1 has become one of the most argumentative subjects so far. However, our research displays that Sumers seem to be related to J1.

First of all, the mostly seen haplogroup in southern Mesopotamia, which was the homeland of ancient Sumers back in the past, is J1-M276 with a high frequency of 81% (Al-Zahery, 2011). In fact, the high amount of J1 in southern Mesopotamia displays the footprints of Sumers in the region.

Secondly, historical records inform that Abraham, who is the prophet of Jews, Christians and Muslims, was born in the city of Ur, and later he left Sumeria, probably between 2000-2200 BC, and went to Harran and then Canaan based on Islamic and Jewish records.

Today, there are so many hypothesis for the origin of Jewish people, but it is usually accepted that Abraham’s lineage was J1-FGC11 (See the project of Quraysh & Bani-Hashem on FTDNA) by some authorities (though it’s not certain yet). Abraham had two sons called Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac stayed in Canaan (Levant) around 2000 BC. On the other hand, Islamic resources inform that Ishmael and his mother left Canaan, and encountered with the tribe of Jurhum. Ishmael learnt Arabic from the local tribe of Jurhum when he settled in Arabian Peninsula.

Today, most of the tribes such as Quraysh & Bani-Hashem in Arabic countries are related to Adnanites who descend from Ishmael. Based on Arab genealogical tradition, the Adnanites are “Arabized Arabs” (Arab-i Musta’jimah) whereas the Qahtanite tribes are thought to be (pure Arabs) the local people of Arabia. Today, in genetic projects, we see that most of people from Qahtani tribes are usually related to the lineages of E1b1 whereas Adnanites are mostly related to haplogroup J1. However, it is also possible to see J1-FGC11 among Qahtanites, who might be of Adnanite origin in fact. It is known that Adnanites spread through Arabian peninsula when they grew in number.

On the other hand, it is also thought that Isaac and his family adopted Canaanite language when Abraham settled in Canaan after a long quest of searching a location for living. It is already known and accepted by most of authorities that Abraham was originally from the city of Ur in Sumeria. So it is impossible for him to know Canaanite language when he lived in Sumeria. It is thought that Terah, the father of Abraham, left Sumeria with his sons, Abraham and Haran, possibly 2000-2200 BC during the reign of Ur III. Historically, the Third Dynasty of Ur controlled the city of Ur and the southern Mesopotamia. In this sense, it might be supposed that the native tongue of Abraham was Sumerian before they settled in Canaan. You can read some verses from the Book of Genesis about Abraham and the city of Ur below:

ב  וַיְהִי, בְּנָסְעָם מִקֶּדֶם; וַיִּמְצְאוּ בִקְעָה בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם.
…………………………………………………
כו  
וַיְחִי-תֶרַח, שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה; וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת-אַבְרָם, אֶת-נָחוֹר, וְאֶת-הָרָן.
כז
  וְאֵלֶּה, תּוֹלְדֹת תֶּרַח–תֶּרַח הוֹלִיד אֶת-אַבְרָם, אֶת-נָחוֹר וְאֶת-הָרָן; וְהָרָן, הוֹלִיד אֶת-לוֹט.
כח  וַיָּמָת הָרָן, עַל-פְּנֵי תֶּרַח אָבִיו, בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתּוֹ, בְּאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים.

כט  וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם וְנָחוֹר לָהֶם, נָשִׁים:  שֵׁם אֵשֶׁת-אַבְרָם, שָׂרָי, וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת-נָחוֹר מִלְכָּה, בַּת-הָרָן אֲבִי-מִלְכָּה וַאֲבִי יִסְכָּה.
ל  וַתְּהִי שָׂרַי, עֲקָרָה:  אֵין לָהּ, וָלָד.
לא  וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת-אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ, וְאֶת-לוֹט בֶּן-הָרָן בֶּן-בְּנוֹ, וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ, אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ; וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-חָרָן, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם.

[11:2] And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar (Sumer) and settled there.
………………………………………………………………………………
[11:26] When Terah had lived seventy years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
[11:27] Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot.
[11:28] Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans.
[11:29] Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. [11:30] Now Sarai was barren; she had no child. [11:31] Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. (Book of Genesis)

In the 11th chapter of Genesis, it is told that Abraham’s ancestors settled in Sumeria (Sinear) after the flood. And later, they built a city there, and lived in Ur. The Gilgamesh book of Sumers also tells the Great Flood, and it is also thought by some authorities that Utnapishtim recorded in Gilgamesh was Noah, who survived a local flood around Mesopotamia or in the east. According to Islamic and Jewish resources, the Great Flood occured in a specific region instead of all the world. In other words, it is thought that the Great Flood did not affect all the world. One of the earliest records about the Great Flood is also the Sumerian creation myth called the Eridu Genesis.

According to the hypothesis of Rose, an archaeologist, the Great Flood might have occured in the Gulf Oasis in 6000 BCE.

According to the hypothesis of Rose, an archaeologist, the Great Flood might have occured in the Gulf Oasis in 6000 BCE. However, there is also a possibility that the Great Flood might have occured somewhere in the east because Genesis tells that the ancestors of Abraham came from the east to a plain which is later called “Sinear” (Sumeria).

According to the hypothesis of Jeffrey I. Rose from the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham, a once fertile landmass was submerged beneath the Persian Gulf nearly 8000 years ago. It is thought that it was home to some of the earliest human populations outside Africa:

“The Gulf Oasis hypothesis predicts an abrupt spike in human settlement after 8000 BP, at which time displaced communities were forced to retreat upslope as sea levels submerged the floodplain.” (Rose, 2010)

We also suppose that the Great Flood might have occured somehwhere in the east instead of Gulf Oasis. In the Book of Genesis, it is told that the ancestors of Abraham came from the east to a plain which was later called Sumeria (Sinear). Other possibilities should be also researched by archaeologists. If this is proved by archaeological studies, then we might assume that J1 haplogroup originated somewhere around southwest of Caspian, Iran or Central Asia which was possibly submerged as a result of a local flood, and it later spread to Caucasus and Mesopotamia. There are also some linguistic studies proposing that Sumers might have come from Central Asia due to the fact that their language was agglutinative and had some grammatical features and words similar to Caucasian and Turkic languages (Dartman, 2009). However, that area might be also somewhere between Mesopotamia, Central Asia and Caucasus.

According to Hebrew texts, Abraham’s ancestors came to Sumeria from the east after the Great Flood (which is predicted to occur somewhere between 4500-6000 BCE), and it is stated that the flood was for the people of Noah, not for all the people of the world according to Islamic and Judaic references. If the ancestors of Abraham came to the land of Sumeria from the east, they can’t be of Afroasiatic origin, but Asiatic: “[11:2] And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar (Sumer) and settled there.” Sumerian tablets make us know that after the flood, three Sumerian dynasties (Kish, Uruk, Ur) reigned in the southern Mesopotamia. If the flood really occured in Mesopotamia, Gulf Oasis, or somewhere in the east, then we can assume that there is probably a Mesolitic connection between J1 people of Caucasia and Sumeria. In Iraq, we also see several minor branches of J1-Z2331 that is nearly 7900 years old (nearly 6000 BCE) and an upper cluster to J1-FGC11, which might be a clue that a few branches of Z2331 came to the southern Mesopotamia around 6000 BCE and there originated FGC11 lineage.

HOW DID THE TRIBES OF ISAAC AND ISHMAEL ADOPT DIFFERENT LANGUAGES?

The main source for Afroasiatic languages are the lineages of E1b1 such as M2 (E1b1a1), V12 (E1b1b1a1a1)/V32 (E1b1b1a1a1b), U174 (E1b1a1a1c1a1), V22 (E1b1b1a1b2) etc, which spread the Levant during the early period of Ancient Egypt, and later towards Mesopotamia in the east. On the other hand, we cannot categorize E-V13, an Afro-European lineage in Europe, under Afroasiatic group.

Abraham, the father of Ishmael and Isaac, did not know Arabic or Canaanite languages when he was born in the city of Ur in Sumeria because it is archaeologically known that Sumerian language was spoken by the local people of Ur till 1800 BCE, and even later periods. His first migration was from Ur to the country of Nimrod, where he had some troubles and left there, and migrated to Egypt. Later, he also left Egypt, and settled in a location called Canaan, where they adopted Proto-Canaanite language. However, Ishmael and his descendants who moved to Arabia adopted Arabic language from the local Jurhum tribes of Qahtani in the same age.

Semitic languages such as Hebrew, Arabic and Amharic are categorized under the Afroasiatic language family. This means that Arabic and Hebrew languages derive from the same language with Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian, Amharic and Omotic languages of Afro-Asiatic language family in North Africa. Today, we see that the most of Afroasiatic people are of E1b1b haplogroup (especially the lineages of V12, V32, M81). And we see a great variety of E1b lineages among both Semitic and Afroasiatic people whereas only FGC11 lineage of J1 is present among Afroasiatic Semitic people. And it is also impossible to see J1 haplogroup among several Afroasiatic people such as Berberis etc.  According to the theory, Afroasiatic languages spread to Asia via E1b haplogroup, not J1 haplogroup. It is historically known that a ruling elite class of Afro-Asiatic people (Akkadians, Assyrians etc) also invaded the north of Mesopotamia and brought their Afroasiatic languages to the central and northern parts of Mesopotamia during the period of Akkadians and Babylonians. Elite dominance model of E1b1 might be supposed for Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians. In this sense, it might be theorized that Sumerian was the main language of the ancient Mesopotamians before Afroasiatic E1b overwhelmed Mesopotamia (elite dominance model).

DISCUSSION: In fact, as it is stated in the Book of Genesis, Jewish (and also Adnanite Arabs of FGC11) might descend from Shem, and Shem might be also of paternal root of J1-FGC11 lineage (if that lineage is really true for the origin), and I don’t deny the origin of Shem, but I mean that the native language of Shem/Sam was possibly Sumerian as they first settled in Ur after the flood, and came from the east, but later his descendants, Terah, Haran and Abraham, who left Sumeria and moved to the Levant, possibly adopted Canaanite, and the ones (Ishmael) who moved to Arabia adopted Arabic. That’s why we call these Afroasiatic languages Semitic now. Here, there seems a language replacement because Semitic languages are of origin of Afro-Asiatic languages of North Africa, which must be related to Afroasiatic lineages of E1b1b.
Linguistically, J1-FGC11 can’t be called “Afroasiatic origin” (also the term “Semitic” if it’s used in this sense), but genetically/geneologically the lineage (FGC11) can be called “Semitic” due to its descending from Shem, son of Noah. You might add your comment below. 

REFERENCES

  1. Al-Zahery (2011), In search of the genetic footprints of Sumerians: a survey of Y-chromosome and mtDNA variation in the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, Additional file 3 – Absolute frequencies of Y-chromosome haplogroups and subhaplogroups in the 48 populations included in the PCA.
  2. Dr. Jeffrey I. Rose (2010), New Light on Human Prehistory in the Arabo-Persian Gulf Oasis, The University of Chicago Press, Article DOI: 10.1086/657397
  3. Dr. Bahattin Dartman (2009), A New Approach to the Invention of the Writing in the Context of Religion Texts And Archaeological Findings, TAED 41, 2009, 1-15.
  4. Book of Genesis, Chapter 11,
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/genesis/documents/bible_genesis_en.html#Chapter 11
  5. FTDNA, Quraysh & Bani-Hashem DNA Project, https://www.familytreedna.com/public/Qurayishj1c3d/default.aspx?section=yresults
  6. FTDNA, Arab Tribes, https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/arab-tribes/about/background
  7. FTDNA, E1b1 Project, https://www.familytreedna.com/public/E1b1arabia/
  8. Van Seters, John (1998). “The Pentateuch”. In Steven L. McKenzie, Matt Patrick Graham. The Hebrew Bible today: an introduction to critical issues. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664256524.
  9. Köroğlu, K. (2010), Eski Mezopotamya Tarihi, Başlangıcından Pers Dönemine Kadar, İstanbul.
  10. Küçükaşçı, M. S. (2003), Cahiliye’den Emevilerin Sonuna Kadar Haremeyn, İstanbul.
  11. J1 Haplogrubu Hakkında Bilgi, http://www.haplogruplar.com/j1-haplogrubu/
  12. SNPs of Haplogroup J1, http://yfull.com/tree/J1/
About James Strong

James Strong is the nickname of the author. He is a freelance researcher of genetics (Y-DNA & mtDNA haplogroups and autosomal DNA), history of genetics and linguistics.

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