Referring to this article Surprise: Ashkenazi Jews Are Genetically European.

But a new study suggests that at least their (Ashkenazi Jews) maternal lineage may derive largely from Europe.

Though the finding may seem intuitive, it contradicts the notion that European Jews mostly descend from people who left Israel and the Middle East around 2,000 years ago

However another part of the article seems to contradict itself:

Past research found that 50 percent to 80 percent of DNA from the Ashkenazi Y chromosome, which is used to trace the male lineage, originated in the Near East, Richards said.

My question: So which is which? Is it true that Ashkenazi Jews are actually more European than Semitic genetically? Any other studies that backup or refute this claim?

Note: Just in case if you are not clear here, semitic here means "people whose ancestors are Middle East people, specifically, whose ancestors were displaced around the globe some 2000 years ago after Israel as a country was conquered by Babylonians"

  • Where you've asked about "Semitic" did you mean Sephardic?
    – Jamiec
    Sep 16, 2015 at 8:20
  • @Jamiec, no, of course not. I mean "people who descend from Jews who left Israel & Middle East some 2000 years ago"
    – Graviton
    Sep 16, 2015 at 8:35
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    Ok, just checking - sometimes people barely understand the differences (including me - and I'm a member of one of those clubs! ;)
    – Jamiec
    Sep 16, 2015 at 8:59
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    NB the article's claim is not about DNA generally, but about mitochondrial DNA specifically. Indeed, the article explicitly states that the Y-chromosome evidence goes in the other direction.
    – 410 gone
    Sep 16, 2015 at 10:02
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    @Graviton your claim is "is it true that Ashkenazi Jews are actually more European than Semitic genetically". Whereas the article's claim is that the mitochondrial DNA of Ashkenazi Jews is 80% European, and that 50-80% of the Y-chromosome originated in the Near East.
    – 410 gone
    Sep 16, 2015 at 13:42

2 Answers 2


Per Shai Carmi et.al. in 2014, "Ashkenazi Jews have an even admixture of European and Middle Eastern origins."

Modelling of ancient histories for AJ and European populations using their joint allele frequency spectrum determines AJ to be an even admixture of European and likely Middle Eastern origins. We date the split between the two ancestral populations to ≈12–25 Kyr, suggesting a predominantly Near Eastern source for the repopulation of Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum.


Male / Female Line Genetic Split is not Uncommon

In his 2018 book Harvard geneticist David Reich discusses this kind of evidence at length.

There are parts of the genome that are passed down in the male line, and parts of the genome that are passed down in the female line, and parts that are passed down in both parental lines.

When populations mix, sometimes the mixing is gendered. Dr. Reich uses the examples of the descendants of the Yamnaya in India, and African Americans in the US.

In both cases, current populations are mixtures of two populations; Yamnaya steppe herders and indigenous farmers in India, and Western Africans and European descendant Americans in the US.

In both cases, the current population shows a mixing pattern consistent with males from the high status group mating with females from the low status group, which is consistent with historical examples like Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

Thus, a Y chromosome (male line) lineage mainly from the Near East and a mitochondrial DNA (maternal line) lineage mainly from Europe could be completely consistent with a roughly even mixing of Europeans and Near Easterners.

A bias like this could enter the population in many ways, and indeed could have entered into this population in more than one way at different times. One of the recurring themes of Dr. Reich's work is that migration and mixture are common, and that linking the genetic evidence with other historical work can provide a deeper understanding of both.

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    Besides differences in status, the difference in male and female lineage is easily explained if the Jews who migrated from the Near East to Europe during the 1st millenium were mostly males. Those males would then marry local females, leading to the mixed descent of Ashkenazi Jews. This is corroborated by the language they speak, Yiddish, which is a Germanic language and uses German-like vocabular for everyday life but Semitic-like words for religious or prestigious function. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish
    – Evargalo
    Apr 10 at 12:34
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    @Evargalo - there are a number of possible ways for mixing to be gendered - and given the likely history I'll edit that statement a little. But the important part is that the evidence is consistent - having different ancestries on the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA is a known behavior and doesn't imply any issue with OP's original study.
    – codeMonkey
    Apr 16 at 18:16

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