Sunday, 16 October 2016

Do Genghis Khan and Westerners have a common ancestor?

A women’s gold ring from the 12th or 13th century, discovered in Tavan Tolgoi in eastern Mongolia. (provided by Chung-Ang University professor Lee Kwang-ho)

Newly published research indicates that Genghis Khan‘s family may not be Mongoloid, as is generally believed, but Caucasoid

Based on a DNA analysis of bones that likely belonged to the Mongolian royal family, South Korean researchers have concluded that Genghis Khan and Westerners might share a common ancestor.
“After analyzing the DNA from five bodies discovered in Mongolia in 2004, we concluded that they were members of Genghis Khan’s imperial family from the Mongolian era in the 12th and 13th centuries. We also concluded that these individuals’ patrilineal origins could be the same as the ancestors of Westerners,” said Lee Kwang-ho, the leader of the research team, on Oct. 10. Lee is a professor in the departments of life science and science of cultural heritage at Chung-Ang University.
The Korean researchers prepared the paper in collaboration with a team led by Dashtseveg Tumen, a professor of anthropology at the National University of Mongolia. The paper was published in the Sep. 14 issue of “Plos One,” an open access journal.
The bodies (three male, two female) were unearthed in 2004 in Tavan Tolgoi in eastern Mongolia, which is 650 km from Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar. One of the female bodies was nicknamed the “Mongol queen” because the shape of the tomb, its layout and the burial goods found there suggested that she might have been part of the imperial family. After analyzing the bodies using the carbon dating method, the researchers found that they very likely belonged to the family of Genghis Khan (that is, the imperial family) around the time that he was alive.
An analysis of mitochondrial DNA also showed that the three males and one of the females had the same genotype, indicating they had the same matrilineal origins. This suggests that they may have been four siblings or a mother and three sons. The bodies’ mitochondrial genotype was the haplogroup D4 (showing that they had the same maternal lineage), which is typically observed in Northeast Asian populations today.
A Y-SNP (single-nucleotide polymorphism on the Y chromosome) analysis of the three males found that they all had the Y-haplogroup R1b-M343, which has the broadest distribution in the UK and other parts of Europe.
“This shows that the patrilineal origins of Genghis Khan’s family may not be Mongoloid, as is generally believed, but Caucasoid,” Lee said. In other words, this genotype analysis raises the possibility that Genghis Khan’s paternal ancestors were the same as Westerners’.
The genotype that was detected in an STR (short tandem repeat on the Y-chromosome) analysis of the three males is the same as that found in Russian Kalmyks, Han Chinese, Uzbeks and Tajiks today. These regions were ruled by Genghis Khan, his sons and his grandsons.
By Lee Keun-young, senior staff writer 
Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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