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Origins of the Kurds




The earliest known evidence of a unified and distinct culture in the mountains that date back to the Halaf culture of 8,000-7,400 years ago. This was followed by the Hurrian period (in Mesopotamia and Zagros-Taurus mountains) which lasted from 6,300 to about 2,600 years ago. The Hurrians spoke a language which was possibly part of the Northeast Caucasian (or the proposed Alarodian) family of languages, akin to modern Chechen and Lezgian. The Hurrians spread out and eventually dominated significant territories outside their Zagros-Taurus mountainous base. However, like the Kurds, they did not expand very far from the mountains. As they settled, the Hurrians divided into a number of clans and subgroups, founding city-states, kingdoms and empires with eponymous clan names. All these tribes were part of the to as the land of the "Karda" or "Qarduchi" and the land of the "Guti" or "Gutium." These are described as being the same people only differing in tribal name. The Babylonians called these people "Gardu" and "Qarda".[citation needed] In neighbouring area of Assyria, they were "Qurti" or "Guti". When the Greeks entered the territory, they referred to these people as either "Kardukh", "Carduchi", "Gordukh", Kyrti(oi), the Romans referred to them as "Cyrti." The Armenians called the Kurds "Gortukh" or "Gortai-kh" and the Persians knew them as "Gord" or "Kord".


Genetic testing of randomly chosen Kurdish populations has begun to shed light on the disparate origins of the Kurds. The results reveal a variety of connections between the Kurds including regional variations and different links to the past when assessing paternal and maternal lineages.[1] In the overall sense, the Kurds share some genetic ties to other speakers of Iranian languages, as well as with various peoples from the Caucasus such as the Armenians, which suggests that the Kurds have ancient ethnic ties that connect them to both the early inhabitants, including the Hurrians, as well as various Aryan tribes, such as the Medes, not unlike the aforementioned Armenians themselves who are also a composite group and the Georgians, another Caucasian people which may in part link the Kurds genetically to the Hurrians.[2]


Connection with the Jewish populations

There also appear to be some links to northern Semitic peoples such as the Assyrians and possibly ancient Hebrews, but fewer links to southern Semites in the Arabian peninsula in spite of the region having been conquered very early by Muslim Arabs. The recent genetic research suggests a possible ancient bond between Jews and Kurds as well. In 2001, a team of scientists discovered that three Jewish communities of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Kurdish Jews surprisingly shared more haplotypes and chromosomes with Muslim Kurds than with either Palestinians or Bedouins.

In 2001, Nebel et al compared three Jewish and three non-Jewish groups from the Middle East: Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Kurdish Jews from Israel; Muslim Arabs from Israel and the Palestinian Authority Area; Bedouin from the Negev; and Muslim Kurds. They concluded that Sephardim and Kurdish Jews were genetically indistinguishable, but that both were slightly significantly[clarify] different from Ashkenazim (who were most closely related to the Muslim Kurds). Nebel et al had earlier (2000) found a large genetic relationship between Jews and Palestinians, but in this study found an even higher relationship of Jews with Iraqi Kurds. They conclude that the common genetic background shared by Jews and other Middle Eastern groups predates the division of Middle Easterners into different ethnic groups.

Interestingly, Nebel et al (2001) also found that the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH), considered the most definitive Jewish haplotype, was found among 10.1% of Kurdish Jews, 7.6% of Ashkenazim, 6.4% of Sephardim, 2.1% of Palestianian Arabs, and 1.1% of Muslim Kurds. The CMH and the most frequent Muslim Kurdish haplotype (MKH) were the same on five markers (out of six) and very close on the other marker. The MKH was shared by 9.5% of Muslim Kurds, 2.6% of Sephardim, 2.0% of Kurdish Jews, 1.4% of Palestinian Arabs, and 1.3% of Ashkenazim. The general conclusion is that these similarities result mostly from the sharing of ancient genetic patterns, and not from more recent admixture between the groups (p. 1099). Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman has suggested that the CMH is “likely the marker of the Jews’ and Arabs’ shared Patriarch, Abraham” (2004: 20), but much more analysis is needed on the CMH in populations throughout the world. In this study, Kurdish Jews were found to be close to Muslim Kurds, but so were Ashkenazim and Sephardim, suggesting that much if not most of the genetic similarity between Jewish and Muslim Kurds is from ancient times.[3]

Connection with other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean groups

According to a recent study, Kurds' ancestors were from an old Mediterranean substratum, i.e. Hurrian and Hittite groups. Moreover the Aryan ancestry of the Kurds is not supported by genetic analyses.[4]

Genetic distance comparisons have revealed that the Turkic and Turkmen speaking peoples in the Caspian area cluster with the Kurds, Greeks and Iranics (Ossetians). In this study, the Persian speakers are genetically remote from these populations; they are, however, close to the Parsis who migrated from Iran to India at the end of the 7th century.[5]

According to a recent genetic study based on genetic distances and haplotypes, Kurds are classified as part of the eastern Mediterranean stock, close to the Turks of Anatolia.[6]

Lastly, recent evidence also points to European genetic links as well. Overall, the Kurds are a varied population and the genetic inquiries into their background will require larger sampling before being deemed conclusive.

Muslim Kurds

The Kurds are considered an ancient autochthonous population[7] who may even be the descendants of the shepherds who first populated the highlands during the Neolithic period.[8] Although Kurdistan came under the successive dominion of various conquerors, including the Armenians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Iraqis,[9] they may be the only western Asian group that remained relatively unmixed by the influx of invaders, because of their protected and inhospitable mountainous homeland.[10] The Y chromosome variation of Muslim Kurds falls within the spectrum observed in other populations (Turks and Armenians) living in the same region. The three populations are closer to Jews and Arabs than to Europeans. This is in good agreement with data on classical markers (Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994). However, on the basis of mtDNA polymorphisms, Kurds were reported to be more closely related to Europeans than to Middle Easterners.[11]

Recent genetic tests also do not support the hypothesis of the origin of the Zazas being in northern Iran; genetically they are more similar to other Kurdish groups.[12]

Connection with European groups

In another study, Kurds showed mtDNA lineages that clearly belong to the European gene pool. On the basis of mtDNA variation, the Kurdish samples appear more closely related to Europeans than to Middle Eastern samples.[13]

Validity and reliability of such genetic studies

According to geneticists and anthropologists, genetic diversity appears to fall along a continuum, with no "clear" breaks delineating different groups. Also, gene expression can be affected significantly by environmental factors.

Such genetic analyses suffer from many drawbacks and any conclusion must be drawn cautiously. Moreover, they are very limited to a certain set of genes or a specific chromosome and do not take into account the whole genome sequence. Several scientists also believe that racial typing is subjective into where you can draw a line and say there's a major difference on one side of the line from what's on the other side.[14]

According to Dr. Craig Venter of Celera Genomics, one of the organizations involved in the sequencing, the level of genetic similarity shows that: "Race is a social concept, not a scientific one." There is only one race, Dr. Venter and other scientists at the National Institutes of Health have unanimously declared: the human race.[15]

American Anthropological Association made a statement on genetic studies of races, stating that there is greater variation within "racial" groups than between them. Such groupings may be scientifically baseless according to most American social/cultural anthropologists, though not according to most American geneticists and physical anthropologists.[16]

Some human rights activists also oppose such genetic analysis.[14]


  1. ^ Refer to: Where West Meets East: The Complex mtDNA Landscape of the Southwest and Central Asian Corridor [1].
  2. ^ Refer to: Georgian and Kurd mtDNA sequence analysis shows a lack of correlation between languages and female genetic lineages [2].
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ [5]
  6. ^ Refer to: The correlation Between Languages and Genes: The Usko-Mediterranean Peoples, Human Immunology, 62, p. 1057, 2001.
  7. ^ Kinnane 1970; Pelletiere 1984
  8. ^ Comas et al. 2000
  9. ^ Kinnane, 1970
  10. ^ Pelletiere, 1984.
  11. ^ Comas, et al. 2000 [6].
  12. ^ [7]
  13. ^ [8]
  14. ^ a b Cultural Anthropology: DNA Studies Challenge the Meaning of Race.
  15. ^ Natalie Anger. Do Races Differ? Not Really, DNA Shows.
  16. ^ American Anthropological Association Statement on "Race". (May 17, 1998)

See also

  • History of the Kurds
  • Y-Chromosome
  • Ten Lost Tribes
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Origins_of_the_Kurds". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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