Reconstructing Druze population history

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Abstract

The Druze are an aggregate of communities in the Levant and Near East living almost exclusively in the mountains of Syria, Lebanon and Israel whose ∼1000 year old religion formally opposes mixed marriages and conversions. Despite increasing interest in genetics of the population structure of the Druze, their population history remains unknown. We investigated the genetic relationships between Israeli Druze and both modern and ancient populations. We evaluated our findings in light of three hypotheses purporting to explain Druze history that posit Arabian, Persian or mixed Near Eastern-Levantine roots. The biogeographical analysis localised proto-Druze to the mountainous regions of southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq and southeast Syria and their descendants clustered along a trajectory between these two regions. The mixed Near Eastern-Middle Eastern localisation of the Druze, shown using both modern and ancient DNA data, is distinct from that of neighbouring Syrians, Palestinians and most of the Lebanese, who exhibit a high affinity to the Levant. Druze biogeographic affinity, migration patterns, time of emergence and genetic similarity to Near Eastern populations are highly suggestive of Armenian-Turkish ancestries for the proto-Druze.

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Marshall, S., Das, R., Pirooznia, M., & Elhaik, E. (2016). Reconstructing Druze population history. Scientific Reports, 6. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep35837

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