Iberia: your genes are riding up on one side

I’ve been sitting on this paper for a while, hoping I could get some geneticist to collaborate on the write-up, because while I recognise enough of the words in genetics at least not to fall off when the argument goes round corners, I certainly can’t evaluate whether it’s soundly based or not. Simon Ford back at Clare in Cambridge gave it a once-over and thought it basically sane, though—and my thanks to him—and the point has come to write about it. Please bear in mind that I am not an expert in this stuff and would welcome any corrections or different perspectives, and read on. The work in question is a paper with twenty different authors that appeared in the American Journal of Human Genetics for 2008 entitled “The Genetic Legacy of Religious Diversity and Intolerance: Paternal Lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula”.1 What it does is to take samples of the DNA of 1140 people from all over modern Spain and Portugal and compare them to similar datasets from Morocco and Tunisia plus an independently-derived average one for Sephardic Jews. The point of all this is the historical context that the Iberian Peninsula has, for a lot of its history, had a considerable Jewish population (`Sephardic’ actually comes from the Hebrew for Spain, ‘Sefarad’) and, of course, between about 710 and 1610, a fairly significant Muslim one that was ruling most of the area for most of that time. And, despite the fairly pompous title, what this paper does is compare what they consider to be the known history of the peninsula with the current genetic traces of population admixture.2

Haplogroup Distributions in Iberian, North African, and Sephardic Jewish Populations

"Haplogroup Distributions in Iberian, North African, and Sephardic Jewish Populations." "Sectors in pie charts are colored according to haplogroup in the schematic tree to the right, and sector areas are proportional to haplogroup frequency."

And these are, in a sense, the results. You have to realise, before you start to read this thing, that we are in a game not of certainties or clear causation here but rather of statistically significant correlation. So, you will notice that the three African samples (which they got from elsewhere3) are dominated by haplogroup E3b2 (and I’m not even going to try and explain what a haplogroup is; I would just have to copy it from a better explanation like this one anyway) but the Iberian ones are dominated instead by various branches of R1. This doesn’t stop each of those groups having some trace of the other one’s dominant element, because these things occur throughout most of humanity by now, and the question is not usually down to a single genetic signature like the ‘Cohen gene’ but to a pattern being convincingly like another pattern. If you compare it to the Sephardic Jewish signature at top right (again, from elsewhere, on this occasion a separate survey by two of the authors whose data is only given as supplemental information online4) you’ll see that there the significant marker seems to be the balance of groups G, J2 and all other J groups, which is a bit harder to spot. So, rather than just try and spot colour matches it seems worthwhile to say what the paper’s authors think they’ve found, given that they have crunched this data in a number of other ways that don’t make such colourful images, and then remark on that. Their conclusions were, roughly:

  1. Obviously, the Gibraltar Straits do mark a genuine divide in the make-up of the populations, which is not to say that there’s no common blood (ultimately, after all, we’re all cousins) but that there is a statistically significant (and fairly obvious) difference.
  2. The Basque country and Gascony have a strong showing from haplogroups that barely show up elsewhere (R1b3f, otherwise only strongly represented in Catalonia and the Balearics, weirdly; R1b3d; and in the Basque Country proper, R1b3b, which actually doesn’t show up anywhere else on the plot except for a sliver in North-West Castile, although I wonder if the big sample size there might not be something to do with that) and are also statistically quite different because of that.
  3. In the peninsula overall, admixture from an African-type parental population appears to be 10·6%, but this varies widely; there is none in the Basque zones, but 21·6% in Castile, i. e. twice as much as elsewhere.
  4. Admixture from a Jewish-type population is rather higher, 19·8% overall, but again with variation: none at all in Minorca, but 36·3% in Southern Portugal.
  5. The diversity of haplogroups within the dominant one from Africa is lower in the Iberian Peninsula than in Africa, suggesting that only a subset of the African population as it now is is represented in the peninsula’s genes.
  6. Contrariwise, the diversity of the Jewish sample in the Iberian population is higher, suggesting a longer-term admixture (though see below).
  7. The African sample is represented, not as one might expect most strongly in the south around Granada and least strongly in the north, but rather in the west, especially Castile and Galicia, that is the furthest parts north of the west, as well as also in Minorca which is less surprising maybe.5

Some of this makes perfectly good sense with what we know of the demographic history of this area, although it does persistently have to be borne in mind that we are talking about a history covering all of the last, say, three thousand years, piled up and indistinguishable. There is some possibility of distinguishing chronology with such evidence: as the authors say, the low diversity of the African sample in the Iberian peninsula compared to the Jewish or African-local ones suggests that it arrived more recently than the others because it has presumably had less time to spread and average out. But this is not ‘proving’ the Muslim conquest from genetics or anything; it is noticing a particular phenomenon that the conquest we already knew about provides an obvious explanation for. Likewise, the strong Jewish signal in South Portugal is odd until you consider that Portugal, unlike Castile or Aragon-Catalonia, didn’t expel its Jews and therefore picked up quite a lot of exile population from the reconquered areas of those two kingdoms, i. e. the south, in the fifteenth century, who have presumably left some trace in the genepool since then. On the other hand, the western-side bias of the African signal is very strange. It is certainly true that Muslim settlement, for most historians at least, is unlikely to have been substantial outside of Córdoba’s immediate zone of control, and we can do quite a lot about suggesting from place-names which groups wound up where.6 That would explain the low signal in Catalonia, but it patently conflicts with the high signal in Galicia. The authors suggest that this is down to the forced relocation of the morisco populations to the north and west after the war of 1567-71,7 and so indeed it may be—we have to watch that we don’t immediately conclude “OMG settlement in 711!” from this data given that it also includes all movements since—but if so it seems very strange to me that the areas where we know Muslims were for longest show less of a trace, and that suggests that the incomers were distinctive and also didn’t mix very much, whereas the moriscos blended into the wider population much more.

Horseshoe arches in the Leonese church of Santiago de Peñalba

Horseshoe arches in the Leonese church of Santiago de Peñalba, another kind of evidence for cultural admixture, more or less contraindicated by the genetic evidence

There are also three problems with their conceptual framework that I see which I think need discussion. The first, they have anticipated and headed off, although they don’t phrase it quite as I would, which is that if this Jewish signal prototype they have is already based on Jews from only this area then inevitably, you’d think, it is going to be much more admixed with Iberian material than a sample of a population outside Spain. In other words, there is a risk here of concluding, “Iberian Jews… are quite Iberian“, what is somewhat less exciting than the assertion “Iberian populations surprisingly Jewish”, which is more like what the paper actually says. The authors were not worried about this, as far as I can tell, but were concerned that the self-identification of the Jewish population that was used to obtain the sample on which they relied, i. e. the DNA of people who think they’re Jewish by descent, might well be less exclusively Jewish than those people thought. The counter that they have to this also works for my worry, however, it being that there are within that Jewish sample, as well as quite a lot of haplotypes shared with Iberian populations, three or four that are not but do match strongly with the Middle East. So, as long as they aren’t Greek or Phœnician (the long time-frame again), which seems unlikely given that they are as strongly visible in the West as the East, that does show some genuine Semitic ancestry to the sample group.

Iberian, North African, and Sephardic Jewish Admixture Proportions among Iberian Peninsula Samples

"Mean North African, Sephardic Jewish, and Iberian admixture proportions among Iberian samples, based on the mY estimator and on Moroccan, Sephardic Jewish, and Basque parental populations, are represented on a map as shaded bars on bar charts. Error bars indicate standard deviations, and three-letter codes indicate populations, as given in Figure 1."

That takes us straight to the second problem, though, which is one of missing populations. I am broadly happy that most of the Muslim army of 711 and subsequent settlement was probably composed of Berbers and other Africans (even if allegedly some of them might have been Vandals by descent…), I think this is one of the things that Guichard’s work makes acceptable, but nonetheless they weren’t all Berbers, there was an actually-Arabic presence in the officer corps, because we know some of them by name, and of course there was also a massive civil war in 741 kicked off, as the chronicles of the time (at least, compared to the chronology of the genetic evidence) see it, by a fresh wave of settlement direct from Syria.8 So it seems to me that when we see a Middle Eastern genetic sample, it doesn’t have to be Jewish, and that ideally there would be some way to check this sample for what might be a tiny tiny Arabic representation, but might not (and it would be really nice to know which and where).

The bronze inscription of Botorrita, in eastern Ibero-Celtic characters

The bronze inscription of Botorrita, in eastern Ibero-Celtic characters

Then there is another missing population, which is the actual Iberians. Quite early on the authors decide that the best comparator for the African and Jewish samples is the Basque one, as it shows no or little mixture with those groups, so everything else in the peninsula is then thought of as being more or less of a mixture between the three `parental’ samples. Well, OK, but whenever the Basques arrived in Spain, other groups followed, most obviously the Celtic groups we now call Iberians, and also maybe some Visigoths, you know, though we don’t seem to credit that those were numerically significant any more.9 I don’t think it diminishes the significance of the African and Jewish samples being different in the ways that they are too much, but I think that a better conceptual model might have been instead to take a total average of the peninsula and emphasise differences from it globally, rather than thinking in terms of `amibasqueornot’. Or, again, perhaps it would just be nice to have had some potential Celtic (or even Gothic) comparators factored in too so that we might get some sense of where those groups might have been best preserved, if they are at all. The paper’s only 11 pages long, after all, though I realise that I may just have idly asked for about three or four more years’ computing and sampling.

Interior of Santa María la Blanca, Toledo, previously a synagogue built in Almohad style

Interior of Santa María la Blanca, Toledo, previously a synagogue built in Almohad (i. e. a Berber Muslim) style. From Wikimedia Commons

So, in short, this stuff is really interesting but it’s very difficult to distill it down to historical events without essentially using what we already know to explain this new data. I get a certain kick out of knowing that some of the more traditional Reconquista-minded scholars would have been horrified to think that heroic Castile was actually more African and more Jewish than other areas of the peninsula but, if that’s down to post-reconquest resettlement by the kings, that becomes less of a delicious irony and more likely to be a reflection of the fact that populations who feel their identity may be dissipating are more likely to stress it aggressively. I think that these samples could actually be interrogated to tell us more about the settlement period by, for example, adding Arabic and Celtic comparators (if the latter can really be assembled, given how vague a group `Celtic’ populations are when considered historically10). At the moment, though, the main early medieval takeaway from this, which is what I at least am really interested in, is that it looks to be demonstrable that the African settler groups who (probably) arrived with and after the Muslim conquest really didn’t mix very much with the local populations. That’s not nothing, but I would still like to know if we might some day be able to guess at how much of the settling population they were from this kind of data, and thus guess also at the change in the élite too.


1. Susan M. Adams, Elena Bosch, Patricia L. Balaresque, Stéphane J. Ballereau, Andrew C. Lee, Eduardo Arroyo, Ana M. López-Parra, Mercedes Aler, Marina S. Gisbert Grifo, Maria Brion, Angel Carracedo, João Lavinha, Begoña Martínez-Jarreta, Lluis Quintana-Murci, Antònia Picornell, Misericordia Ramon, Karl Skorecki, Doron M. Behar, Francesc Calafell and Mark A. Jobling, “The Genetic Legacy of Religious Diversity and Intolerance: Paternal Lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula” in The American Journal of Human Genetics Vol. 83 (Bethesda 2008), pp. 725-736, DOI 10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.11.007 (open access). Twenty authors seems like enough, really, although I can’t help feeling that they could also have credited the historian they consulted with (see below) and, after all, this is very far from the most extreme case of multiple authorship I can think of.

2. For the known history, they appealed to Dolors Bramon (ibid. p. 734, Acknowledgements), who is the current expert on what is to be learnt about Christian Iberian history from Islamic sources; her little anthology, De Quan Erem o No Musulmans: Textos del 713 al 1010. Continuació de l’Obra de J. M. Millàs i Vallicrosa (Vic 2000), is a frequent source of great help to me. So that was an unusually good choice, really, but apparently not a research contribution. Hmph.

3. Adams et al., “Genetic Legacy”, p. 727, citing E. Bosch, F. Calafell, D. Comas, P. J. Oefner, P. A. Underhill and J. Bertranpetit, “High-resolution analysis of human Y-chromosome variation shows a sharp discontinuity and limited gene flow between Northwestern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula” in American Journal of Human Genetics Vol. 68 (Bethesda 2001), pp. 1019–1029, and B. Arredi, E. S. Poloni, S. Paracchini, T. Zerjal, D. M. Fathallah, M. Makrelouf, V. L. Pascali, A. Novelletto and C. Tyler-Smith, “A predominantly neolithic origin for Y-chromosomal DNA variation in North Africa”, ibid. Vol. 75 (2004), pp. 338–345.

4. Adams et al., “Genetic Legacy”, p. 727 and describing work by Doron M. Behar and Karl Skorecki; the data is tabulated in the online version of the paper as “Haplogroups and Y-STR Haplotypes of Iberian Peninsula and Sephardic Jewish Samples” here (PDF).

5. Here as elsewhere, the sample from Asturias is just too small to allow significant conclusions, which may be just as well considering how much that one would expect is missing from it. This gives me pause, again, about drawing conclusions too far from the other areas with proportionally lower representation in the samples, including not least Minorca of course.

6. For the somewhat localised nature of the Andalusi state, I am used to citing Eduardo Manzano Moreno, La frontera de al-Andalus en la época de los Omeyas, Bibliotheca de Historia 9 (Madrid 1991), though I had the great pleasure of meeting the author this week and he tells me that he would now revise most of it! Extremely frustrating, as I have come to see it as canonical, which may be exactly why he would like to change it. Anyway. For place-names and settlement, the work of resort is by Pierre Guichard, either in French as Structures sociales « orientales » et « occidentales » dans l’Espagne musulmane (Paris 1977) or trans. into Castilian & rev. as Al-Andalus. Estructura antropológica de una sociedad islámica en Occidente (Granada 1998), though Dr Manzano tells me this too must be considered obsolete now. I don’t know if I’d agree there (or, it turns out, with quite a lot else Dr Manzano would argue, which was fun; more on this in due course). Compare Jessica A. Coope, “Marriage, Kinship, and Islamic Law in Al-Andalus: Reflections on Pierre Guichard’s Al-Ándalus” in al-Masaq Vol. 20 (London 2008), pp. 161-177, which is interesting because it disagrees with Guichard in exactly the opposite direction to Dr Manzano. For an English introduction to these issues, albeit a controversial one, see Roger Collins, The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710-797, History of Spain 4 (Oxford 1989). Collins caught it from the critics here because he effectively refuses to use Arabic historical writing, reckoning it all far too late and legendary to be anything other than misleading. There is also, of course, the fact that he doesn’t read Arabic, and this makes him an easy critical target because of course how can he know what he’s missing? but if you compare the exactly contemporary and much more traditional ‘Abdul Wahid Dhanun Taha, The Muslim Conquest and Settlement of North Africa and Spain (London 1989), I would say that it is fairly clear that Collins had a point. The fact that we can get three books like Collins, Taha and Guichard all purportedly telling the same story and disagreeing so incredibly (to say nothing of Manzano’s Frontera) is a measure of how charged these debates are. Without that charge, after all, how could we ever have had the now-legendary Ignacio Olagué, Les Arabes n’ont jamais envahi l’Espagne (Paris 1960, 2nd edn. 1973), to which cf. Pierre Guichard, “Les Arabes ont bien envahi l’Espagne : les structures sociales de l’Espagne musulmane” in Annales : Économies, sociétés, civilisations Vol. 29 (Paris 1974), pp. 1483-1513. I may have become sidetracked here.

7. Adams et al., “Genetic Legacy”, pp. 732-733.

8. Testified to even in the Christian Chronicle of 754, also known as The Mozarabic Chronicle though `Mozarab’ is one of those words that means too many things and should be retired, as translated in Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain, Translated Texts for Historians 9 (Liverpool 1990, 2nd edn. 1999), pp. 111-160 with commentary pp. 25-42, cc. 82-86 in which the chronicler helpfully tells us that he wrote a whole book about this already so won’t repeat himself here. Do we have the book? No, we do not. Ah well. Nonetheless, it is this proximity to events that caused Collins to favour Christian sources over the Arabic ones. On the difficulties with the term `Mozarab’, see Richard Hitchcoock, Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain: identities and influences (Aldershot 2008), passim but esp. pp ix-xx.

9. Roger Collins, Visigothic Spain 409-711, History of Spain 3 (Oxford 2004), pp. 25-26.

10. On which you can see the brief and bracing statements of Guy Halsall, who risks Godwin’s Law at an early stage of a book by comparing Celticism to Germanism in his Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568, Cambridge Medieval Textbooks (Cambridge 2007), pp. 24-25.

70 responses to “Iberia: your genes are riding up on one side

  1. Uh-oh. I’ve just read two good articles (IMO) related to this; “Vascones and Visigoths: Creation and Transformation of Identity in Northern Spain in Late Antiquity,” by Scott de Brestian and “Text, Artifact and Genome: The Disputed Nature of the Anglo-Saxon Migration into Britain”, by Michael E. Jones. Both are in Mathisen and Schanzer, eds., Romans, Barbarians, and the Transformation of the Roman World. Surrey, UK: Ashgate (2011). de Brestian discusses some aspects of ethnogenesis related to the Basques and Jones really gets into methodological issues with working backward from DNA samples and genetic patterning of modern populations as opposed to archaeologically recovered DNA. No way I can get to those today but maybe I can put something up next weekend, I’ll add a comment here if I do.

    • Aha, both very interesting-looking references, and when we have the volume in libraries here I will be sending students at the latter. I must have a look at the former myself and should probably target the volume at Leeds. Thankyou!

  2. I know you said you weren’t going to discuss what a haplotype was, but to add to your ‘worries’, I’d just like to point out that the authors were only using Y chromosome haplotypes, which means they are only sampling half of the population, and their data are *by definition* incapable to telling you if the distribution of ancetors in females over the intervening centuries is similar… And it is by no means certain that this is the case (see for example, “Identification of population substructure among Jews using STR markers and dependence on reference populations included”, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20546593 @ p.2 / 15). But you’re right about another 4 years of computing, etc…

    • That much, I had gathered (mtDNA and so on, yes?), but yes, I could have added it into the post without costing more than a line or two, fair point. It is indeed another worry, although again if there were a significant difference there between African and Jewish signals that might say something important about the type of entry into the genepool performed by the two groups. I mean, if the signal for the African types only really showed up in y-chromosomal DNA then it would look much more like a military settlement rather than a migration. Still undatable of course!

      • Well, quite! Which is why it’s a shame they didn’t include the mitochondrial… or at least perform a follow up study of same (I couldn’t find any evidence of this on PubMed).

        • There’s various mtDNA work on other samples done by various members of the team lurking in footnotes, but not done from this data as far as I can see. I think what we’re getting at is that we have numerous extra ideas for the team’s follow-up work :-)

  3. Two comments:

    1) The title: to equate ‘Iberia’ with the geographic peninsula it’s a misleading roman concept (s.II-III bc). In origin (s.VI bc) Iberia was the greek term for the people/culture moreless from Rhone to past Ebro, followed periegetically by the turdetanians, (hercules colums section), and the celtic atlantic shore on the ocean.
    2) The contents: mixing genetics and culture (ie: ‘jewish’) is … well … weird.

    • Last first, Jewishness is at least biologically defined and they’re not interested in the culture in this study. I have littered the post with buildings mainly to indicate that biology is not the whole story, but I think they’re safe enough with their categories.

      As for the former, well, yes, but Spain, which I took out at the last minute, would be worse. I was at a conference on Friday, sat next to a Catalan, where someone described a phenomenon affecting `Spain’ being instanced at Lisbon, which has of course never been part of an entity called Spain/España/Espanya. So what would you rather? `Iberian peninsula’ is the most accurate workaround but would have been very clumsy in this title.

      • I am sorry, but I don’t get-it. Acording to the abstract, has involved the long-term residence of two very different populations with distinct geographical origins and their own particular cultural and religious characteristics—North African Muslims and Sephardic Jews.

        So they think that sephardic jews came from out of the iberian peninsula!?
        Or that africans only came since VIII ac century!?

        ‘Jews’ are documented since pre-cristian times, ‘Africans’, since Argantonio’s time. Weird.

        • Sephardic Jews are by definition Iberian ones, aren’t they? So, yes, that’s where the sample comes from but the assumption is that at some point this gene source immigrated. Then, the difference in the way that that sample has spread and diversified and the African one, as they define that, hasn’t, indicate some difference of chronology between the two arrivals. As I say, this is not really proving the history with genetics; it is showing things in the genetics that we can explain using known history. But it also shows some things that are harder to explain thus, and that’s why I find it interesting.

        • Joan – the full article has considerable discussion of the definition of the Sephardic comparator population: they were men who declared at least 2 previous generations of Sephardic male ancestors who were living in regions of Europe that received immigrants from the Penninsula after the expulsion of the Jews, and did not have significant recorded Jewish populations prior to that (which might have provided a confounding genetic signal). There are obviously difficulties when combining ‘biological’ and ‘cultural’ definitions, but they’ve done a reasonable job at 1) recognising the problem, 2) trying to ‘control’ for it, and 3) reporting their approach openly. The 3-generation definition has been validated in other genetic studies as a pretty adequate (i.e. statistically satisfactory) measure.

          As for dates – the nature of haplotype work is a little bit like codicology – by deducing which ‘errors’ were introduced into the ‘text’ earlier than others it is argued that certain ‘versions’ of the text appeared earlier than others. So ‘errors’ that are in *every* copy, probably came from a common original, while those that only appear in a few copies, were probably introduced by later ‘scribes’. This is why they’ve included recent genetic data taken from – for example – North African groups: because by comparison they ought to be able to say whether the signals considered ‘African Muslim’ in their Iberian sample are likely to come from recent or more ancient migrants… but having said that, the temporal resolution is still not terribly precise.

  4. Da-yum, as we say here. On the LSAT, this test I am trying to study for, they would take this study and ask questions about the implicit logic or gaps in reasoning in the conclusions it draws, or doesn’t, or appears to draw. I am glad they won’t have this to work with because there are too many x-variables, I would never be able to figure it out.

  5. …and that Leonese church is brilliant, and I have not been to it.

    This isn’t in your field but here’s a new and from what I can gather, great and ground breaking book on ‘hybrid’ cultural production: http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P01392 … the obliquely related point being that he starts by pointing out that mestizo culture (in colonial Alto Perú) was not made by mestizos (general implication, cryptically stated: one is not what one is).

    • Ooh, I’m interested in cultural hybridity, that’s why I like the frontiers, and I know also an anthropologist who will be interested. But one is never wholly what one is, surely: one’s identity is always partly provided by others. It’s part of growing up/social conditioning.

      If one is a building, of course, then one’s identity is wholly constructed, although by both designers and users. (Why do you and I keep anthropomorphising buildings in conversation?) And no, I haven’t been to Peñalba either. If I get into that part of Spain ever I have to start with Oviedo, but León and its environs are close behind on the list. And the mad churches on the Duero that face off against Muslm refuge fortresses! So many churches, so little time…

    • The horseshoe arch predates the muslims…. All the visigothic churchs have those archs.

      • Certainly not all the Visigothic churches! But dating a Visigothic church is not easy, as I understand it; very few have datable artefacts, even fewer scientific dating and most are designated as Visigothic for stylistic reasons, not palæochristian and not Romanesque. That is, the architectural category as used extends to long after the Muslim invasion as well as long before. That, at least, is how I understand it; do you know of something I should read to be better educated on the subject?

  6. highlyeccentric

    Ooooh. *peers* I don’t think I understand more than half of that, but oooh, shiny!

  7. Another Damned Medievalist

    A couple of other things come to mind: first, um … Rome? How do they figure in the pre-Visigothic and pre-Vandal populations? After all, it’s not as though Iberia went from something Celt-ish to OMGgoodthingtheVisigothscameandleftnotrace! (sorry for any weird formatting – iPad is showing me how useless it is – stupid POS)

    But yeah — so what exactly is an Iberian when it’s in the genes?

    Second thing: how the hell can you examine a population for Jewishness with any accuracy if you are partially relying on self-reporting (and by the way, did they look at the populations from Istanbul, because that ought to offer good comparisons?) and not look at maternal DNA? Because, well, …

    Just curious.

    • Gawd, how did I forget the Romans? I probably have to edit that in with suitable claims of idiocy. I’ve no idea how one would pull together an Iberian `signal’, however, because presumably it would be a subset of Celt and I’m not sure that really existed, as genetics rather than as culture group.

      As for the Jewish section, though, because this seems to be what everyone is confused by and no-one wants to go and read themselves, here is what they say:

      Comparative data for Sephardic Jewish populations were extracted from a large collection of Y haplotypes assembled by D.M.B. and K.S. The term “Sephardic Jews” is used here in its narrow sense, referring to Jewish men deriving from originally Ladino-speaking communities that emanated directly from the Iberian Exile. Included males noted in their informed consents that they, their fathers, and their paternal grandfathers are Sephardic Jews from the specified community. A sample of 174 males was compiled (Table S1 ), made up of self-defined Sephardic Jewish males either from the Iberian Peninsula itself or from countries that received major migrations of Sephardic Jews after the expulsion of 1492–1496, as follows: Belmonte, Portugal (16); Bulgaria (49); Djerba (13); Greece (2); Spain (3); Turkey (91). Countries that received exiles from the Iberian Peninsula but that themselves had substantial preexisting Jewish communities (Italy and the North African countries) were not included. Haplogroups were equivalent to those typed in the Iberian Peninsula samples, except that sublineages of hgR1b3 were not defined. In haplogroup comparisons, therefore, all of these sublineages were combined into hgR1b3 (also known as R-M269) itself. Data on eight Y-STRs were available, allowing comparison with Iberian and North African data.

      It is important to consider factors that might act to elevate the apparent proportions of Sephardic Jewish ancestry that we estimate, because these values are surprisingly high. Choice of parental populations in admixture analysis can have a major effect on the outcome, and among the parental populations in our analysis, the Sephardic Jewish population has a different status compared to the two others: whereas Basque and Moroccan samples are drawn from sizeable populations that have maintained their existence in situ, with a probable low level of admixture with the other parentals, the Sephardic Jewish sample is taken from a comparatively small group of self-defined individuals whose ancestors have lived in various parts of the Iberian Peninsula and were themselves probably subject to some degree of admixture with Iberians. This potential past admixture would have the effect of increasing the perceived level of Sephardic Jewish ancestry compared to the actual proportion. The presence of the typically western European lineage hgR1b3 at a frequency of 11% in the Sephardic Jewish sample might be a signal of such introgression. To examine this, we constructed a network of hgR1b3 Y-STR haplotypes in Iberian, Sephardic Jewish, and Moroccan samples (Figure 6). Twelve of the 20 Sephardic Jewish R1b3 haplotypes are shared with Iberian examples, suggesting that they will indeed affect the admixture proportions. However, eight of the 20 are unique, and five of these are peripheral in the network. They will have little impact on the admixture proportions, and they probably reflect R1b3 chromosomes of Middle Eastern origin. It therefore seems that, overall, the ancestry proportions are likely to be only slightly affected by Iberian admixture into the Sephardic Jewish sample.

      Now, I don’t know if that answers your questions, but that and the references linked off it are what I have to go on. At least, as I say, they have tried to check the self-reporting bias. My problem with their check is that I’m not sure it excludes any other Semitic Middle Eastern origins, but they have at least checked.

      As for the lack of mtDNA evidence, well, yes, that is a problem but also a different study. I agree that it needs to be done to complement this but I don’t think its absence messes with these results, just makes them harder to interpret. Perhaps I’m missing something?

      • Well, hmmm. What I had in mind was that there might be a significant number of people who do not self-identify as Sephardic Jews because their (fore)fathers married out or (more likely) converted. It seems to me that there might be some weird overlaps between those people and, as you point out, other people of Semitic Middle Eastern origins. And even those would seem to me to be rather fraught. I mean certainly, there is a fair amount of endogamy in the one group. But at what point do we mark that? Do we take the DNA of people known to be Jewish at the time of Christ and assume endogamy from there? Or do we mark it at the time of entrance to Iberia (and when was that, anyway?)…?

        • Well, this is none of it historic DNA (which is an issue in itself, but which would make it a very different and much smaller study). So the point of Jewishness for sample purposes has to be the present day. As you say, there are problems on both sides with that: the one that they identified with people self-reporting who are not strongly Jewish by biological descent, and the one you’ve just identified with the opposite, people who are so descended failing to self-identify. But it seems to me that both of those factors should tend to bring the Jewish and non-Jewish signatures closer to each other by reason of overlap, and so the fact that they are, nonetheless, clearly distinct, is significant. The mileage they then make out of the similarities that do exist may be problematic as a result, of course, but since most of that mileage is based on variation rather than a steady uniform presence, again… it must mean something!

  8. I would just like to say – and fairly strongly – that comparing celticism to germanism doesn’t bring me within waving distance of Godwin’s law. That is ill-informed and not a little cheap.

    • Sorry, Guy, no offence meant; I was thinking in the spirit of this XKCD cartoon if anything, I suppose, not looking for a political point. Possibly where I’m ill-informed is in thinking of Godwin’s Law as funny; the link I put under the phrase in that footnote does, I would have to admit, suggest that Godwin’s actual purpose was a bit more serious.

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  10. That’s absolutely riveting stuff. Let’s hope they do dig further into the ‘amibasqueornot’ Iberian/Basque debate; I’m slavering for the update!

  11. ¡Jewish in Asturias! sorprendente. Sabemos por las crónicas altomedievales de la presencia de esclavos musulmanes capturados -la mayor parte hispanos convertidos al islam y algún beréber- y puestos al servicio de los monasterios y de la alta nobleza. Durante mucho tiempo no se les permitió mezclarse con el resto de la población a pesar de ser ya cristianos hasta que ya en la baja Edad Media la barrera racial se fue diluyendo.
    En cambio no hay prácticamente presencia judia salvo una pequeñísima comunidad en Oviedo y creo que también en Cangas del Narcea.
    Aunque la muestra no es muy representativa por el número de personas utilizadas habria que tener también en cuenta que en la actualidad Asturias es una región con un porcentaje de población de otros orígenes enorme por la industrialización del siglo XIX vinculada a las minas de carbón y la siderurgia y acentuada en el siglo XX por la creación franquista de grandes conglomerados industriales INI.
    En ese sentido hoy en dia una parte importante de población asturiana desciende de leoneses,gallegos, extremeños y portugueses por este orden.
    Esta gran emigración curiosamente se produjo cuando muchos asturianos por motivos políticos durante el franquismo y por la gran tradición de emigración de gallegos y asturianos aún seguían marchándose a América (Cuba, Argentina,Méjico) y a Europa (Bélgica y Suiza). Dicho esto quiero aclarar que no tengo ninguna hostilidad ni hacia los judios ni hacia los norteafricanos que son parte importante de la historia de España y en el primer caso de toda Europa.

    • Creo que usted ha identificado los dos problemas de la conclusión de que los datos parece indicar aquí, Neville. En primer lugar, la muestra asturiana es muy pequeña, demasiada pequeña para decidir si es o no significativa. En segundo lugar, existe el problema que utilizamos las poblaciones modernas, con todos sus cambios desde la época altomedieval. Hay un proyecto británico llamado Blood of the Vikings, que tuvo problemas similares en regionas que habían sido fuertemente industrializadas. Que superado el problema para tomar de muestras solamente de personas que llevaban los apellidos que se han documentado en los registros fiscales de la zona del siglo XVI, y así se produce un resulto mucho más clara. No sé, sin embargo, si talos registros existen en Asturias, y, por supuesto, esto sólo se puede hacer con el ADN de los hombres.

  12. Lamentablemente durante la revolución obrera de 1934 http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revoluci%C3%B3n_de_1934#La_Revoluci.C3.B3n_de_Asturias las iglesias de la región fueron quemadas en gran parte perdiendose información muy valiosa relativa a los nacimientos aunque los apellidos asturianos son claramente reconocibles salvo los terminados en ez (Suárez, Álvarez, Menéndez) y la mayor parte están consignados en los registros de hidalguía ya que hasta el siglo XVIII casi toda la población de Asturias, Cantabria y otras zonas del norte era considerada hidalga o de “sangre limpia”. Es conocida ya desde hace mucho tiempo la característica braquicefalia de Asturias, Cantabria y Lugo frente al resto de la Península dolico-mesocéfala pero hay muchas teorías respecto al porqué de esta singularidad. Se ha estudiado el tema de los llamados “Vaqueiros de Alzada” un grupo “maldito” dentro de la población de Asturias pero parece que obedece mas a una cuestión socieconómica que de orígenes (pastores estacionales frente a campesinos). Creo que el estudio mas serio que se ha hecho es en la vecina región de Cantabria de orígenes étnicos muy similares a los asturianos aqui te dejo el enlace que está en inglés

    Click to access Ann-Hum-Genet.pdf

    • Que es un documento muy interesante, Neville; gracias por el enlace. Se podría hablar a varios debates, no sólo éste sobre la presencia africana en ADN ibérico, sino también el viejo argumento de Barbero y Vigil sobre la continuidad extremadamente larga de las poblaciones norteños. Voy a tener que hacer un post de su propio en su debido momento. Gracias otra vez!

      (For those reading only in English, Neville’s second link goes to another paper (in English) in Annals of Human Genetics that analyses a quite localised population from Cantabria, which is right between that low-sample Asturian area in the Adams et al. paper above and the Basque one, and finds several odd things that are going, as with this paper’s findings, to take some explanation. I’ll have to do a separate post about this one!)

  13. Well, I don’t see why the Balearics could not very well have had some ancient population closely related to the population in the Basque country, etc. …. Nor why such traces of such a population — perhaps once upon a time or two more widespread in the region — might not show up more prominently in such a literally insular environment.

    • Well, yeah, that one sub-haplotype is kind of striped across from the Basque country through to the Balearics, and Catalonia still has a lot of Basque place-names in its northern reaches, so I don’t think there’s anything too surprising about that; what might be more surprising is the strong showing of R1b3f in Catalonia, which is basically the main road for any migration in either direction!

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  16. Medieval Rosa

    I just want to add that samples from colonial cities are entirely missing and that would add the group of converts who left.

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  19. jose pedro

    the supposed abundant Jewish genetic component in Spain (haplogroup J2) is actually not Jewish but Phoenician. The Phoenicians began to visit the Spanish coast around 800 BC, but in the year 500 BC a “catastrophe” occurred in Phenicia: Tire was surrounded and attacked by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops, which caused a massive flight of the Phoenicians towards the Mediterranean. western, arriving in great numbers to the coasts of Spain (it seems that the ancient Phoenicians and the ancient Jews had extremely similar genetics) Archeology shows relatively abundant Phoenician remains in Spain but no Jews prior to year 0. At the same time the Basques genetically They seem to be the same people as the “Iberians” (the indigenous people of the eastern half of the Iberian Peninsula) as you can see in this article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5544771/ . The passage of Berbers or North Africans (who did not speak Arabic but the Tamazight language) must have been very scarce since there is no toponym in Spain derived from Tamazight words, nor do Spanish languages, such as Spanish, have any Tamazight words. The conquering Muslims of Spain were basically Syrians from Damascus, also with haplogroup J2

    • My understanding of several of these issues is different from yours. As I understand it, the current archaeologists’ view of the ‘Iberians’ is that this was a culture shift among the indigenous population driven by contact with the Greeks on the eastern Iberian seaboard; I don’t think we currently believe in an ‘Iberian people’ in any biological sense. I also don’t think there are “relatively abundant Phoenician remains” (though I’m happy to see evidence otherwise), but there are to the contrary a great deal of Berber-influenced place-names; they were the substantial base of the work of Pierre Guichard back in the 1970s. So while I will look at the paper to which you link, I think they may be working on a somewhat outdated basis of understanding of the historical context. It will be interesting to consider what their data may actually mean.

  20. jose pedro

    some corrections on these supposed genetic data: the “country” that in these genetic studies is called NW Castile (Castilla NW), in reality does not exist, possibly those who did the study thought that since the people in that area spoke Castilian they would be Castilian, in reality this false NW Castile is the ancient “kingdom of Leon and Asturias”, in which historically and even in part nowadays they do not speak Castilian but a little known language called “Astur-leones”. Genetically the people of kingdom Leon-Asturis has very little resemblance to the authentic Castile, they were countries that even had wars between them. The authentic Castile is what on that map appears as NE Castile. Genetically the ancient kingdoms of Leon and of Castile are remarkably different (possibly because the ancient Romans brought North African troops E3b2-M81 to what is now the “ancient kingdom of Leon-Asturias” , called Asturica by Romans, in the wars against Cantabros and Astures, also in the old kingdom of Leon-Asturias the Visigoths settled en masse ( first in south area of kingdom of Leon , a place named “Campos Goticos” followed by displacements of visigoths to the northern mountains after the victory of the Muslims and originating the medieval Christian kingdom of Asturias), with Slavic type haplogroup: R1a). The Muslim invasion of Spain was led by Syrians, Palestinians and Jordanians and some Omanies, all with haplogroups J1 and J2, similar haplogroups to those of the Jews and Phoenicians (the Phoenicians had an important presence in the southeastern area of Spain and southern Portugal due to the large copper and silver mines that existed in that area, ancient Tartessos, perhaps ancient Atlantis). Syrians recruited a small auxiliary troop of about 5000 North Africans or Berbers (of Tamazight language, of which there has been no remainder in toponymy of Spain or in Spanish languages) but in 740 the Berbers rose up against the Syrians, and after some battles, most of Berbers were exterminated by the Syrians and those who survived fled to Africa ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_Revolt )

    • Well, you can see yourself from the study that the genetic data are not as you say they are. Do you know of genetic data from older samples? Even if things were as you say, shared genes is as often a cause of war between kingdoms as a prevention of it! Your understanding of the demography of the Muslim settlement is also at substantial variance with not just the current understanding of the balance of the population but with the medieval Arabic one as well, and I guess is based on the work of someone who doesn’t understand how clientage generates family names in Arabic cultures. So, thankyou for telling me how wrong I am but I am not yet convinced that it is I who is wrong here. If you are interested in references more substantial than Wikipedia, however, I can happily provide them.

  21. A common mistake among researchers of the genetic evolution of Spain and Portugal is to think that before the year 711 (the official date on which the Muslim invasion of Spain begins) there had been no population movement between the countries of North Africa (the Maghreb) and the European countries that form the northern shore of the Mediterranean (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, etc)
    But the reality is that for at least 800 years BEFORE the year 711 there had already been a relatively significant population movement between the north shore and the south shore of the Mediterranean, (then North Africa was more rainy and large crops were produced there) as evidenced by the huge number of Roman ruins in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
    The main reason for this is that around 150 BC, after the Third Punic War, the entire Maghreb became part of the Roman Empire, to which it belonged for about 800 years (already in the form of the Roman Empire for about 600 years, and as Byzantine empire for about two more centuries) with the consequent population movement in both directions between the southern half of Europe and the Maghreb and vice versa, to which must be added the movement in both directions between the Near East, southern Europe and the Maghreb. In particular Morocco was conquered the year 709 by a Muslim army basically made up of Syrians but also some Jordanians and Yemenis, after defeating an army of Byzantines and Berbers and then the same Muslim army from the Middle East, basically of Syrians, although some auxiliary troops are taken in the Maghreb, in 711, the conquest of Spain and France begins (it seems that with the intention of conquering Rome)
    The consequence is that in all southern European countries the North African haplogroup E3b is relatively abundant and the Middle East haplogroups J ( J1 and J2) (not only in Spain !!) as can be seen in this map (in dark green the haplogroups J and in salmon color North African haplogroups E3b) : https://i.imgur.com/GLL0M9y.png ( map of Eupedia)

    • A very fair point, thankyou. And of course the DNA sample also includes all migration prior to and subsequent to that as well, so all that can really be considered evidential are the biggest ‘waves’ of difference.

    • The precence of J1&J2 haplogroups in most mediterranean european countries, particularly spain and portugal, can be misleading: to suppose it is basically coming from syrians or phenicians, without real sound proof is to negate the historical fact that the jewish diaspora ocurred, and spread throughout the roman empire, since centuries before the advent of Jesus Christ. Not only once, but rather constantly. The book of Facts of the Apostles give clear indication that jews had spread and were present in many cities of the empire, and had important influence; with the apostle Paul, himself a jew of the diaspora born in tarsus, aimed also to visit the jews in iberia (whether he made the trip or not is unknown). Jerusalem’s fall in year 71 AD culminated with many jews deported and sent as slaves to rome, and othet parts. Obviously, one has to suppose that many jews married with local non jews, and some loosing both identity, religion and even forgot where did their ancestors came from. History does not tell all the details, unfortunately, giving the opportunity to poeple to speculate. Hopefully, studies on ancient DNA:(2000 years ago ) will shed more light on this subject.

  22. I’m sorry to deny it, but in Spain there is not a single place-name made with words from the Berber language (or Tamazigh), as amazing as that may seem (there are many place names made of Arabic words but, I repeat, not a single one made with words from the Berber language , (unlike in the Canary Islands that are full of place-names made with words from the Berber language) In the main Spanish language (the Spanish or Castilian) also there is not a single word derived from the Berber language, neither in any of the other languages ​​that are speak in Spain. There is also not a single old sign or placard on old buildings or symilar that has words from the Berber language.
    This may modify “Spanish history” in the sense that there was no a “North African invasion of Spain” but rather a “Syrian invasion of Morocco that ended in 709 and then, in 711, the Syrians ( not the Moors but the Syrians! ) began the conquest of Spain (and France)”.
    It is known that the Syrian invaders (from the Damascus area) plus some Jordanians and Arabs from Yemen, hired some Berbers, not many, about 5.000, as auxiliary forces (Morocco was finally conquered by the Syrian from Byzantines and Berbers in 709!) but in Spain, towards the year 740, the Berbers rose up against the Syrians, This rebellion of the Berbers against the Syrians (in which the Berbers abandoned their garrisons in the “Douro or Duero Valley” and went against the Syrians who had settled in Andalusia) was employed by the Christian king Alfonso I (a Visigoth who had fled to the northern mountains) to force the Christians of the Douro Valley to move to the northern mountains of Asturias, with which the Christian kingdom of Asturias gained strength against the Muslims and at the same time the Douro valley was depopulated
    The Berbers were defeated by the Syrians and exterminated, except for those who managed to flee to North Africa, where they maintained the rebellion against the Syrians during many years, You can consult the rebellion of the Berbers of the year 740 here, (al-Andalus = Spain) => https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_Revolt

    • About the Berber language, I don’t know, but I do know the work of the sadly late Pierre Guichard (and specifically his Al-Andalus: Estructura antropológica de une Sociedad islámica en Occidente, Archivum 53 (Barcelona 1976)) which records a great many place-names based on the nams of Berber tribes and groupings. From this he was able to demonstrate quite a wide pattern of Berber settlement in the Peninsula. I would suggest that the explanation for the phenomenon you note is that many Berbers, as erstwhile subjects of the Roman then Byzantine Empire, probably spoke good enough Latin to manage in Iberia and, of course, as Muslim converts will have quickly acquired Arabic, Berber would never therefore have been a useful language in the new territories. As for the Alfonsine depopulation, the current consensus of historians also stands against that having happened; rather, it is thought to be a fiction of the ninth-century chronicles intended to justify Alfonso III’s attempts to claim power in those areas. Here you might want to read Julio Escalona and Iñaki Martín Viso, “The Life and Death of an Historiographical Folly: The Early Medieval Depopulation and Repopulation of the Duero Basin”, in Beyond the Reconquista: New Directions in the History of Medieval Iberia (711-1085): In Honour of Simon Barton, ed. by Simon Barton† & Robert Portass, The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World 76 (Leiden 2020), pp. 21–51, which is the latest summary of the death of the debate, but there are many others. Historians have not been idle since the days of Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz! And we are hopefully a more expert source of interpretation than ‘the encyclopedia anyone can edit’.

  23. The historians who try to demonstrate Berber presence in the Iberian peninsula are based not on the existence of “toponym” or “place-names” made with Berber words such as “mountain”= “adrar” , “river” =”asif”, “town” = “adwar”, but on the fact as that there is “a town” that has a name “a bit similar ” of another town of Algeria, or a “river” with a name a bit similar to that of a Berber tribe (but not words of the Berber language with a meaning as “adrar”, “asif” or “adwar”). They are clearly “manipulations to force to do believe that there are place names derived from the Berber language”
    It is very remarkable that in the Castilian or Spanish language there is not a single word derived from the Berber or Tamazight language (when the logical thing is that there were thousands of words of origin of the Berber language). Possibly there was an initial error among the “Christians” or “ancient Spaniards” who erroneously called “Moors” to the Muslims (although initially they gave to the Muslim invaders the correct name: Chaldeans), similar to what happened in the Philippine islands in which the Spanish conquerors called “Moors” to the local Muslims of those islands
    Regarding depopulation of Douro Valley, according to my data, it did occur and it was “radical”: I am from a province of the Douro Valley called Palencia, and perhaps that is why I know the history better, and it was totally depopulated during the reign of Alfonso I and “the rebellion of the Berbers”: In this province a good number of Visigoths had settled, so their South part was called “Gothic fields”. (today that same region is called Land of Fields), which after the order of Alfonso I to move to the northern mountains, they did that, helping the province of Palencia to remain depopulated. The city that gives its name to that province , Palencia, (in which there is a beautiful Gothic cathedral that has a Visigothic church inside) was repopulated at the time of King Sancho III of Pamplona ( year 1000) , who was hunting in what was left of old Palentia (some uninhabited ruins) and he found a (visigothic) church chasing a wild boar, on which he ordered a Romanesque church to be built.
    According to the chronicles, the province of Palencia was totally depopulated until in the year 824 , in which the first colonized town was one located in the extreme north called Brañosera . When this first town in the province of Palencia was repopulated, the Count in charge of its repopulations made an official document, a “Carta puebla”, a matter that is discussed in an article on wikipedia (in Spanish) that is interesting to read to know the early days of the repopulation of the Douro Valley => https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carta_Puebla_de_Bra%C3%B1osera
    It must be taken into account that there has been an important manipulation of history seeking to present Spain as an “exotic” entity of Europe, for example pretending that only Spain was populated of people from North Africa forgetting the population movement that occurred in Roman – Byzantine times and others historic data, or confusing genetics of the Phoenicians and Syrians (both with haplogroup J and arrived in significant numbers in Spain), with genetics of Jews (also with haplogroup J)

  24. I appreciate that the local perspective must help imagine how this could have happened. But the Asturian chronicles are the only source there is for this depopulation, and I have read them too, as have the people I cite above (who are also more local than me). So I do not think you do know the history ‘better’; on this issue, there are only a few sentences to know, and we both do. More importantly, the archaeology does not agree with those sentences, and more and more of it does not agree with each decade and as more scientific dating is applied to the materials. Here you could read José Avelino Gutiérrez González, ‘Arqueología tardoantigua en Asturias: Una perspectiva de la organización territorial y del poder en los orígenes del reino de Asturias’ in J. Ruíz de la Peña Solar (ed.), En los orígenes del reino de Asturias: Causas políticas y militares (Oviedo 2010), pp. 1–33, online here; José Avelino Gutiérrez González, ‘Pobliamento de los siglos VII-VIII y conquista musulmana del antiguo Conventus Asturum’ in Xavier Ballestín and Ernesto Pastor (eds), Lo que vino de oriente: horizontes, praxis y dimensión material de los sistemas de dominacion fiscal en Al-Andalus (ss. VII-IX) (Oxford 2013), pp. 102–121; or Julio Escalona, ‘Towards an Archaeology of State Formation in North-Western Iberia’ in Juan Antonio Quirós Castillo (ed.), Social Inequality in Early Medieval Europe: Local Societies and Beyond, Haut Moyen Âge 39 (Turnhout 2020), pp. 33–54. On the wider question of depopulation, people who also know the history well and whom you could read are:
    José María Mínguez Fernández, ‘La despoblación del Duero: un tema a debate’ in Acta historica et archaeologica mediaevalia Vol. 22 (Barcelona 2001), pp. 67–80, online here, or more recently Gonzalo J. Escudero Manzano, ‘La “despoblación” y “repoblación” del Valle del Duero: la problemática de las fuentes y el debate historiográfico’ in Estudios medievales hispánicos Vol. 5 (Madrid 2016), pp. 151–172, online here. I do not understand why you think that Wikipedia is a reliable source compared to people like these who have actually done the research and are experts on the theme. Perhaps it is simply that Wikipedia agrees with you (and the scholarship of the 1960s) and the experts do not?

  25. In relation to the desertification of the Douro Valley that occurred around the year 740, the data available is that in that year there was a “rebellion” of the Berbers placed in garrisons in the Douro Valley against the Syrians, who wrere in Andalusia, the Berbers left the Douro Valley and headed towards Andalusia to attack the Syrians, but were defeated by Syrians and largely exterminated and the survivors fled to Morocco where they kept up the rebellion against the Syrians for many years (Morocco never returned to be conquered by the Syrians). I have read some of the Spanish historians you mention and, to my amazement, I realize that they are unaware that there was a rebellion of the Berbers against the Syrians in 740.
    In favor of the fact that there were no Muslims in the Douro Valley in 939 is the “Battle of Simancas”: In the year 939 there are no Muslims in the Douro Valley who oppose the Christians, so Caliph of Cordoba Abderraman III (Abd al-Rahmán ibn Muhámmad) ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Simancas more details in the Spanish version. ) decides to exterminate the Christians who occupy the Northwest of Iberia and organizes a great military expedition against them. The Christian kings of Leon and Navarra plus the count of Castile form an army and go out to meet the troops of Abderraman III, the battle takes place next to the current town of Simancas, next the Douro (which has a castle in which there is a magnificent archive of documents ancient times), it is a battle that lasts about 4 days, the Muslims are defeated and flee. , and from then there are no more Muslims entering the Duero Valley.
    About Berber Revolt of Douro Valley :
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_Revolt
    Revolt in al-Andalus …”..The coup installing Abd al-Malik ibn Qatan al-Fihri as ruler in al-Andalus in early 741 had been a failsafe device. But once the news of the disaster at Bagdoura spread, a general Berber uprising in al-Andalus could no longer be prevented. In October 741, Berber garrisons north of the Douro River mutinied. They discarded their Arab commanders and took to the field, abandoning their garrison posts to assemble their own Berber rebel army around the center and march against the Andalusian Arabs in the south. Although their leaders’ names have escaped us, the Andalusian Berber rebel army was organized into three columns – one to take Toledo (the main garrison city of the Central March), another to aim for Córdoba (the Umayyad capital), and the third to take Algeciras, where the rebels hoped to seize the Andalusian fleet to ferry additional Berber troops from North Africa. With the frontier garrisons in the northwest suddenly evacuated, the Christian king Alfonso I of Asturias could hardly believe his luck, and set about dispatching Asturian troops to seize the empty forts. With remarkable swiftness and ease the northwest was captured, and the banks of the upper Ebro were raided by Alfonso and permanently lost to al-Andalus. The Asturians devastated several towns and villages on the banks of the Douro River, and carried off local populations from the towns and villages in the Galician-Leonese lowlands back to the mountains, creating an empty buffer zone in the Douro River valley (the Desert of the Duero) between the Asturias in the north and al-Andalus in the south. This newly emptied frontier would remain in place for the next few centuries. It is alleged that pastoral Berber mountaineers remained behind in the highlands around Astorga and León. These trapped Berber communities were called “Maragatos” by the local Christian Leonese (etymology uncertain, possibly from mauri capti, “captive Moors”). Although eventually converted to Christianity, the Maragatos retained their distinctive dress, customs and lifestyle of Berber origin down to the early modern era.

    • We will never agree on this as long as you quote Wikipedia at me to try and refute more recent and expert work by historians. The fact that the second Wikipedia article you quote there still refers to the depopulation by Alfonso I does not prove that that depopulation is accepted in scholarship—it proves that the Wikipedians responsible were not aware of the scholarship. Where the first quote is concerned, however, I do not think that we disagree: by the time of Simancas, Asturias had made great gains under, especially, Alfonso III (which was indeed why the chroniclers of his reign needed to try to establish a precedent for Asturian rule in those areas). As long as we accept ‘Muslim’ here as a political allegiance, rather than a religious belief (for which there is little evidence in any direction), then that there were no ‘Muslims’ in that area by then seems reasonable. Indeed, Arabic sources of the time report on a number of partly-Arabized Christian populations in those zones and such persons are also very evident at charters from the newly-estabished court in León. I don’t think that was because of the Berber revolt of two centuries before, however, I think it was because of the late 9th-century and early 10th-century Asturian conquests, and I’m not sure that those meant the expulsion of any populations, rather than the imposition of dues and allegiance upon that population which remained there.

  26. A method used to analyze the presence of North African-Berber-genetic in the Spanish population, consisting of making comparisons of DNA chain similarity, in my opinion is erroneous since it starts from assumptions that are false 1) There were never North Africans in Europe before the conquest of Spain by the Muslims in 711 2) there was never a passage from Europeans to North Africa until very recent times: the conquest of Algeria and Morocco by France, From which they deduce that the similarities between the chains of DNA of the Magrebies and of the Spaniards are due to the fact that they come from ancient North Africans who settled in Spain during the Middle Ages.
    But it happens that this is erroneous and even childish: On the one hand, both North Africa and Spain received a remarkable genetic contribution from the Phoenicians (especially on the coasts and what looks like a Berber, Arab or Jewish DNA chain is actually a Phoenician chain).
    But above all because throughout 800 years of belonging to the Roman-Byzantine Empire of the Maghreb there was a “massive” passage of Europeans of southern Europe (Italians, Greeks, etc.) from the Roman Empire to the Maghreb, as evidenced by the abundant ruins Romans existing in the Maghreb, and vice versa: passage of Berbers from the North African Roman Empire to the European Roman Empire, and also people of “Arab” genetics who exit from the Middle East and arrived in the European part of the Roman Empire
    That is why the best method to detect population movements is not to “compare DNA chains” but to analyze Y- haplogroups, A very expert organization in the matter of haplogroups is “Eupedia”, and these are two maps of haplogroups in Europe and North Africa designed by Eupedia. In the first one, I recommend clicking to enlarge and read in the upper part what he says about the haplogroups of Europe: ( salmon: E3B berber, Dark green : J1 and J2 : semitic https://i.imgur.com/GLL0M9y.png http://thedockyards.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Genetic-Map-of-Europe.png

    • I am much less qualified to comment on genetics than on historiography, and obviously the haplogroup sample of modern Europe is what it is and is not disputable. I agree with you completely that it is a problem for all such migration arguments that we see a totality of movements and transfers, meaning that to isolate any one period or movement (be it medieval or ancient) is a dangerous deduction. However, I also see problems in the idea that certain haplogroups represent certain categories of ancestry. Berber, for example, is not a genetic category; it is a geographical/linguistic one. Semitic, likewise, is a word used for peoples from the geographical area where Semitic languages are commonest. Although we here attach them to haplogroups, this is to use the genetics to validate categories of analysis that were created in the 18th or 19th century as ethnological categories that have been conflated with ideas of ‘race’ ever since, but which are not themselves biological. The haplogroups exist; but it is only us who call them ‘Berber’, ‘Jewish’, ‘Semitic’, and so on, and we have no other way of showing the existence of those groups scientifically. They are long-standing social constructs of general, but often harmful, applicability.

  27. In Spain a place or region or ancient kingdom called “NW Castile (NWC) does not exist nor has it ever existed, the place with this name in that map is the “Kingdon of Leon” , which in the Middle Ages had kings and a language different from those of Castile (they spoke the “Asturleones language”, closer to the vulgar Latin than the Castilian language) (the author of the map demonstrates a profound ignorance of Spain: it is as if on Great Britain map the area of ​​Cornwall appeared as SouthWest Scotland ) . The correct medieval Castile is what appears on the map as “NE Castile”.
    A recent genetic research done in Spain seems to show that “Basques” and “Iberians” were the same people or extremely close, based on haplogroup R1b-df27 and other haplogroups related to this haplogroup as can be seen on this map : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5544771/figure/Fig2/ (another curious fact is that Iberia is a name very similar to ” Iber Herria” ( some words that in the Basque language mean “the country of the river valley” because “iber” (=ibar) => valley of a river or land near a river” and “herria” is “the country” )
    There is a curious relatively recent work that seems to indicate that the source of the North African genetics of Iberia is… Portugal. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-08272-w
    Did the Berbers, faced with the conflicts with Syrians and other Arabs and later with the Christians, move en masse to Portugal and from there spread their the areas of Spain close to Portugal? There was a migration from North Africa to the Portugal area in ancient times, before the conquest by the Romans. The Portuguese were very fond of having slaves. Did they massively capture Berber slaves on the Atlantic coast of the Sahara? It is noteworthy that in Spain there are no toponyms made with words from the language of the North Africans, or Berbers, or the Tamazight language, and that neither in the Spanish-Castilian language nor in any other are there words from the North African or Berber language (which instead it at present is speaked massively in the north of Morocco, a region called the “Rif”)

  28. Maxei DeVraie

    Interesting critizism. First off, I agree that the simple size is too small and may lead to bias in the results. Also, the reference samples from outside spain was not made by the authors, and a bias could have been introduced ( like recruiting cousins and relatives; that is a serious bias). However, newer publications tend to agree with the results: one, the “surprisingly low” north african inheritance in modern spaniards clearly says there was limited breeding between muslims and christians; historical records are limited, and they do not necessarily tell the pure truth, so we are limited in knowledge about the real facts of life in times of the spanish Califate and the Reconquista. More information is needed. In reference to the jewish inheritance (J1,J2), the idea that it might be of syrian or lebanese, not jewish, can’t hold water. There is evidence that jews inhabited the iberian roman provinces before Jesus Christ era, and the genetic evidence (high variations in happlogroups) supports a longuer time of colonization or origin. Authors may or may not be happy to find they are not descendants from muslims, but rather, having jewish ancestry proves that God Almighty does not lie: he promised to Abraham, “thy descendance will be like the sand of the sea, like the stars in the sky. You yourself may have at least one jew down in your genealigical tree, but time has blurred the evidence, yet at least something is there in your DNA.

    • I would have no objection to that, though they might be disappointed in their descendant! Thankyou for the thoughtful critique.

      • Maxei DeVraie

        Jonathan, I noticed you have blocked or deleted my post in which i speak about the jewish diaspora happening in times before Jesus Christ, and also after. Is it because you are atheist that negates the historical facts told in the book The Facts of The Apostles, where there is clear proof that the jews had dispersed widely across the roman empire?, thus providing evidence that at least part, if not the majority of present day J1andJ2 haplogroups in european mediterranean countries, is of jewish origin, not syrian or phenician, like many others have speculated (possibly having issues with the jews) and tend to favor that, while ignoring the Holy Scriptures? I thought you were looking for evidence, if not genetic, at least historic, to explain the presence of J1 & J2 in spain. You have it. My maternal grandfather was J2, from Spain, and when looking for other Y dna matches today, they are just amazingly so, so few, yet all of them show up in eastern europe, and have in common hebraic names. That is my complain. If you decide to ignore this post again, well, one cannot block the sun with a finger.

  29. There is no historical data of a massive arrival of Jews to Iberia during the Roman period, but the truth is that when the Muslim invasion of Spain took place, the “Jewish” population in Spain was remarkably abundant and was also in conflict with the Visogoths, so it is believed that they supported the Muslim invasion although there is no certain data to confirm it, so it is very possible that the Jews arrived in Iberia in significant numbers before the year O of our era, perhaps on board Phoenician ships that came to Tartessos or area south west of Iberia to trade with the “miners” who obtained copper and silver in the mines of southeastern Spain, the current province of Huelva, deposits of copper and silver that seem to have been enormous in the Phoenician era, small mountains formed by silver and copper minerals, which perhaps gave rise to the myth of Atlantis (Atlantis would be the same city as Tartessos (Tarshish?), and both (actually the same) would have abruptly disappeared around the year 600 BC due to a great tidal wave… originating in the island of La Palma? There is a hypothesis that around 500 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre, there was a massive flight of Phoenicians to Iberia and North Africa. Did Jews also flee to Iberia along with Phoenicians, in the same ships? In a Discovery documentary about Atlantis, they found on the southwest coast of Spain, province of Huelva, an enormous number of Phoenician ship anchors (in reality they are not anchors but a thick stone perforated to pass a rope through it)

  30. According to a genetic study carried out in Spain analyzing the presence of the “Berber” haplogroup E3b2 https://els-jbs-prod-cdn.jbs.elsevierhealth.com/cms/attachment/a8778372-27b7-4acf-bc44-ea55525fdaa8/gr1.jpg
    it follows that something “strange” occurred in each ancient medieval “kingdom” of Iberia in relation to the presence of Berbers:
    according to this statistic, the proportion of the haplogroup E3b2 (=E-m81 or Berber halogroup) in what they call Northwest Castile, which is actually the old Kingdom of Leon (which was never called Northwest Castile…I don’t know where the authors get such a name “Northwest Castile” for the old Kingdom of Leon) is remarkably abundant, about 10% of males have it) It is also strange that in Galicia the E3b2 is also very abundant: 9% despite not having been occupied by Muslims or very briefly… perhaps it passed from Portugal ?
    On the other hand, in the Kingdom of Castile, their presence is notably lower : Was there less tolerance for the Moors in Kingdom of Castile? Or a previous depopulation followed by repopulation exclusively by Christians from the northern Meseta and Basques? : in the so-called “Castilla la Vieja” (North meseta) the percentage of E3b2 is 3% and in the so-called Castilla la Nueva (South meseta which appears as Castilla La Mancha) it is even lower: 2% of the men have it.

  31. Jose Pedro

    “… horrified to think that heroic Castile was actually
    more African and more Jewish than other areas of the peninsula…“
    In the genetic analyzes of the current Spanish population there is a significant risk of manipulation for political purposes, due to the important independence movement that currently exists in Catalonia and the fact that most of these studies are carried out by researchers subsidized by the “University ( nationalist) Catalan Pompeu Fabra” of Barcelona.
    This manipulation for political purposes can lead to altering the really true and scientific data.
    In relation to the initial sentence, “… horrified to think that heroic Castile was actually more African and more Jewish than other areas of the peninsula…“ the reality is that the “African” component of both Castiles [ Castile NE or “old Castile” and “Castilla la Nueva-Mancha” or “New Castile”, the Castile NW does not exist, it is the ancient kingdom of Leon, with a history, language, etc. very different from that of the two Castiles] is “very low” or at least “low”: according to this recent and extensive Y-haplogroups statistic: https://els-jbs-prod-cdn.jbs.elsevierhealth.com/cms/attachment/a8778372-27b7-4acf-bc44-ea55525fdaa8/gr1.jpg of
    this recent study: https://www.cell.com/ajhg/fulltext/S0002-9297(08)00592-2#%20 The characteristic Berber or North African Y-haplogroup E3b2 only 3% of men from “Castile NE = Old Castile” have it , and only 2% of the men from “Castilla la Nueva = New Castile” have it, something that cannot be considered “ abundant”.
    The issue of Jewish genetics is more complex. What genetic characteristics do Jews have?
    The curious thing is that in the original Castile (provinces Burgos and Palencia) there were never Muslim kingdoms or “taifas” nor stable occupation of those provinces by Muslims, and as a curious fact, there is not a single olive tree in these two provinces, some trees that last a thousand years or more and that the “Moors” planted abundantly, perhaps to compensate for not consuming pork fat : The Muslims could carry out raids for a few days in these provinces but they quickly left for Cordoba and other areas of the southern Spain, and there are absolutely no buildings or ruins of buildings of Arab architecture in the this “authentic” Castile. While in the “Ebro valley” (kingdoms of Aragon and Catalonia) there were several Muslim kingdoms or “taifas” each lasting about 400 years: in the old Kingdom of Aragon: the province of Huesca was a Muslim kingdom for about 400 years in which the spoken language was Arabic, the province of Zaragoza was also a Muslim kingdom about 400 years in which Arabic was also spoken, most of Catalonia was two Muslim kingdoms or “taifas” for about 400 years: the “taifa” of Lerida or Lleida and the “taifa” of Tortosa (= Tarragona) in which the Arabic was also spoken. It is practically impossible that throughout 400 years of being a Muslim kingdom there has not been diffusion of Berber or North African genetics in those provinces
    Even in the Basque area in 2002 a huge Muslim cemetery or “maqbara” was found in the “Plaza del Castillo” of Pamplona, from which it can be deduced that Pamplona was a little Muslim kingdom for about 150 years.
    [When Castile is mentioned as “very active” in the Reconquest, it must be taken into account that at that time two Basque provinces, Vizcaya-Biscay and Alava, were considered part of the kingdom of Castile, and whose aristocrats and warriors participated en masse in all the battles against the “ Moors” forming part of the “Castilian Christian army”, and who also contributed massively to that army weapons and armor produced in large iron mines and a large number of “iron factories” that existed then in what now it is Vizcaya-Biscay while the Muslims practically went to battle without any type of armor which is probably what caused their defeats)

    • Señor Pedro, you are repeating yourself; please see my above comment. I don’t know why you keep coming back to this post to say the same things again. The study you quote is the one which I wrote this post about, eleven years ago, and so not ‘recent’ in any significant way, and you have made the point about ‘NW Castile’ three times now. In fact, however, nothing that you place in quotes is actually in the article. You are misrepresenting the study. I may delete any further comments where you do this.
      You also seem to be selective in how you follow this study. You are quite right about the low presence of E3b2 in the historic Castile, and your reasoning makes sense. But you are willing to dismiss the findings of the same study about the Catalan-speaking areas. Why accept some data and not others? Surely our task is to explain the data, not to select from them according to what we already think. As I said when I first wrote this post, the peculiar thing about this study is that it shows a sharp East-West difference where we would expect a North-South one. This suggests that it cannot be showing us settlement patterns of the Muslim period, but something either older or newer. Our task is surely to decide what that was and whether it affects our view of the Middle Ages, not to dispute only those data we do not like.
      Lastly, two minor points. The Muslim burials in Pamplona—in what appears to have been a very small burial ground where nine people were buried, with rites from different religions, over at least 150 years, and surely therefore not in any continuous way—certainly do show a Muslim population in the city, although perhaps a very small and short-lived one. (For details see: Faro Carballa, José Antonio, María García-Barbarena Unzu & Mercedes Unzu Urmeneta, “Pamplona y el Islam: Nuevos testimonios arqueológicos”, Trabajos de arqueología Navarra Vol. 20 (Pamplona 2007), pp. 229–284, online here.) The Arabic sources such as, especially, al-‘Udri, clearly show Pamplona as being under pact to the Emirate, however, a relationship partly managed by the Bānu Qāsī, whose marriages to the Pamplona rulers gave them this ability. So this was something we already knew. There is an excellent conference paper about this, Juan José Larrea and Jesús Lorenzo, “Barbarians of Dâr Al-Islâm: The Upper March of al-Andalus and the Pyrenees in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries” in Guido Vannini and Michele Nucciotti (edd.), La Transgiordania nei secoli XII-XIII e le ‘frontiere’ del Mediterraneo medievale. Trans-Jordan in the 12th and 13th Centuries and the ‘Frontiers’ of the Medieval Mediterranean, British Archaeological Reports (International Series) 2386 (Oxford 2012), pp. 277–288, online here, which may interest you.
      Secondly, the idea that the ‘Moors’ fought without armour is an old one and has been refuted: see Ross Brann, “The Moors?’”, Medieval Encounters Vol. 15 (Leiden 2009), pp. 307–318, DOI: 10.1163/157006709X458864.
      As a historian I am interested in what happened, whatever it was. It seems that there are some things that you, however, do not wish to have happened. I cannot help you with that.

  32. Jose Pedro

    In this article : https://web.ua.es/es/actualidad-universitaria/2016/marzo16/7-13/el-estudio-de-la-maqbara-de-pamplona-reescribe-la-historia-de-la-conquista-musulmana-de-la-peninsula-iberica.html and in several others it is possible to read that the skeletons found in the maqbara of Pamplona are more than 150, This article says “…in the Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona, an extensive Muslim necropolis (maqbara, means cemetery in Arabic) was excavated with 172 tombs without overlapping…” I recommend searching the internet for data on “maqbara Pamplona”, there are relatively abundant articles. The skeletons actually found, lying on facing Mecca, are more than 150. Even (amazing) the current local government ordered the maqbara to be razed with bulldozers… and prohibited further excavations in that area (didn’t like the finding?)
    The distribution of the different genetic groups in Spain is still enigmatic since the data is being manipulated by the independentist political groups that control the different Spanish regions. I believe that genetic studies should be carried out, but with many more samples, since it is an interesting topic.
    In my opinion, the “kingdom” of Pamplona (Navarre)” was transformed from about the year 714 until about the year 870 into a Muslim kingdom in which it was forbidden to raise and eat pigs, drink wine and cider, it was forbidden to “worship Christian saints “, despite the fact that for the population they made “miracles” such as “miraculous cures”, and other paranormal events such as stopping storms, stopping hailstorms, making it rain, etc. While in the “kingdom next door” (kingdom of Asturias) it was still possible to raise pigs and eat them, drink wine and cider, continue asking saints for miracles, etc. The result was that the western half of the kingdom of Pamplona (Vizcaya and Alava) preferred to join the Christian kingdom of Asturias and separate from the Muslim kingdom from Pamplona

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