I have recently completed the DNA test from
DNA Ancestry and have discovered that I belong
to the Cultivators, haplogroup J, who are about
20,000 years old. My ancient ancestors most likely
lived in the southern and northern parts of the
Fertile Crescent, where you'll find present day
Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, south-eastern
Turkey and west and south-western Iran.
The Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent holds a remarkable place in human
history and the history of the earth. It is a haven for
biodiversity and the physical culmination of three rivers-the
Nile, Euphrates and the Tigris bless the region with irrigation.
As the area served as a land bridge between Africa and Eurasia,
many migrations were forced through the Fertile Crescent,
facilitating the exchange of resources, ideas and even genes.
The Fertile Crescent is a region in the Near East, incorporating
the Levant and Mesopotamia, and often somewhat incorrectly
extended to Egypt. Mesopotamia is considered the cradle
of civilization and saw the development of the earliest
human civilizations and is the birthplace of writing and
the wheel. The region of the Fertile Crescent broadly corresponds
to present-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan,
south-eastern Turkey and west and south-western Iran. The
term "Fertile Crescent" was coined by University of Chicago
archaeologist James Henry Breasted in his "Ancient Records
of Egypt", around 1900. The region was named so due to its
rich soil and crescent shape.
This region was also capable of weathering ice ages with
tenacity, preventing the patterns of extinction experienced
in other parts of the world. The Fertile Crescent's mountains,
river basins and deserts also provide an abundance of resources
and environments to humans populating the area.
Many scientists believe that the emergence of a number of
edible seed-bearing plants contributed to the remarkable
success of the Fertile Crescent - wheat, flax, chick pea
and other seeds could have served as early dietary staples.
My ancient ancestors may have also played a key role in
the domestication of animals like goats, pigs and horses.
Early agriculture in the Fertile Crescent was ripe for development,
and the Cultivators stepped up to the task. It's likely
that alongside irrigation and other agricultural techniques,
the Cultivators advanced their civilization in other areas,
such as writing and government.
My particular DNA results reveal even more. It's likely
I belong to a subgroup of the Cultivators, J2, associated
with Anatolia, the eastern portion of modern day Turkey.
One of the great crossroads of ancient civilizations
is a broad peninsula that lies between the Black and Mediterranean
seas. Called Asia Minor (Lesser Asia) by the Romans, the
land is the Asian part of modern Turkey, across Thrace.
It lies across the Aegean Sea to the east of Greece and
is usually known by its Greek name Anatolia.
The interior is a high arid plateau, about 3,000 feet (900
meters) in elevation, flanked to the north and south by
rugged mountain ranges. Within the plateau a number of ranges
enclose broad, flat valleys, where several salty lakes have
A Mediterranean-type climate of hot, dry summers and mild,
moist winters prevails in the coastal areas. The dry central
plateau has hot summers and cold winters. During all seasons
high winds are common; moist Mediterranean winds bring rain
to the coastal regions in the winter. There is little summer
In about 2000 BC Anatolia was in the hands of the Hittites,
who migrated from the area east of the Black Sea. Their
civilization rivalled that of the Egyptians and Babylonians.
In the 12th century BC their empire fell to the Assyrians.
Small seaboard states grew up, only to fall to the Greeks,
who colonized the entire coast in about the 8th century
BC. According to legend, they first laid siege to the city-state
of Troy during the Trojan War. In 560 BC Croesus mounted
the throne of Lydia in Anatolia and soon brought all the
Greek colonies under his rule. Croesus was overthrown by
Cyrus the Great of Persia. Two hundred years later Alexander
the Great again spread Greek rule over the peninsula.
After its conquest by Rome in the 2nd century BC, Anatolia
enjoyed centuries of peace. During the Middle Ages, as a
part of the Byzantine Empire, it became a centre of Christianity
and the guardian of Greek and Roman culture. One of the
chief medieval trade routes passed through the region. As
the power of the Empire declined, Arabs and Mongols invaded.
In the 15th century the Ottoman Turks conquered the peninsula
and made Istanbul (then known as Constantinople) the capital.
The Ottoman Empire lasted until 1922. The next year Asia
Minor became the larger part of the Turkish Republic under
Kemal Atatürk. He had set up a government in Ankara, which
became the new capital of Turkey.
Early records from the 24th century BC describe Anatolia
as a thriving trade capitol with sophisticated systems of
accounting, including lines of credit. While some members
of the J2 haplogroup remained in Anatolia, about 5,000 years
ago other members of the population migrated into Europe.
This migration occurred during what scientists call the
Neolithic period, a time defined by the emergence of farming
techniques, the use of pottery and the invention of metal
tools. It's possible that my ancestors were instrumental
in developing and sharing this knowledge.
The J2 haplogroup
The J2 haplogroup can be found in today's populations
with notable frequency in Italy, Iberia, Turkey, Albania,
Greece and even India, and most likely interacted with numerous
cultures, including the Greeks and Romans. Haplogroup J2
can be found in 20% of Ashkenazi Jewish populations, who
settled in the Rhineland, now Germany.
DNA Ancestry determined that it is likely I belong to J2b,
an even more specific subgroup. It is thought that J2b was
closely and specifically associated with populations living
in Greece during the Neolithic age. The two most famous
Greek Neolithic settlements, Sesklo and Dimini, were found
in Thessally, in central Greece.
Greek Neolithic settlements
Sesklo was made up of villages built into hillsides,
located near fertile valleys. The Sesklo people likely grew
wheat and barley and herded sheep and goats.
You can imagine my ancient ancestors working with stone
and mud brick to build homes and other structures in central
Greece. At the peak of its civilization, the Dimini settlement
was located about 1 kilometre from the coast. This location
allowed it to access important trade routes while keeping
it close to flatlands ideal for maintaining animals. Decorated
Dimini pottery, obsidian, stone and bone tools and jewellery
have all been found as evidence of the culture's advancement.
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