Where did modern Jews and Indians come from?
What happened to the ancient Babylonians? Where are they now? And that thirteenth "tribe of Israel"?
Here come related question:
What is the actual genetic ancestry of most Western Jews -- what region precisely did their European ancestors come from.
And the same for India: this increasingly advanced nation of more than a billion people, many of them of unusual intelligence and beauty, not to mention arcane beliefs. Their origins?
Of course, even with the most modern of DNA techniques, there are conflicting interpretations and results. And as always, controversy. But some of the hints are fascinating.
In the case of India are claims that Sanskrit-writing rulers of Babylon were the forefathers of Hindus in northern India.
This migration may have occurred around 1700 B.C. and might explain some of the exotic qualities of Indians as well as the religions there that are steeped in Babylonian-style paganism.
India had commerce with Babylon from 700 to 300 B.C.
That has been documented this through ancient Indian coinage.
Many peoples went back and forth between India and the Middle East throughout antiquity (bringing also Indian culture to places like Egypt). Are many Indians thus Babylonian?
After Babel, and the arrival of Sumerians, Babylonians and other Mesopotamians no doubt migrated to various parts of Asia and Europe. As in all things genealogical, there are few clear lines and plenty of admixture. But the culture of India has certainly maintained a Babylonian ring to it (as well as from its own ancient but relatively advanced Indus Valley civilization). In his book, Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India, Paul William Roberts states that "recent research and scholarship make it increasingly possible to believe that the Vedic era was the lost civilization whose legacy the Egyptians and the Indians inherited. There must have been one. There are too many similarities between hieroglyphic texts and Vedic [Indian] ones, these in turn echoed in somewhat diluted form and a confused fashion by the authors of Babylonian texts and the Old Testament."
As for modern-day Jews, the evidence is potentially even more amazing, perhaps shocking.
One famous Jewish writer Arthur Koestler penned a controversial book in 1976 that set forth the theory that most Jewish people who migrated to places like Western Europe and the United States (known as Ashkenazi Jews) were not descended from the historical Israelites of antiquity but from Khazars -- in effect, Russians and Hungarians -- who converted to the Jewish faith during the Middle Ages and migrated westward after collapse of their empire.
Although there is no doubt that genes from ancient Israel as well as Greece and Rome are to be found in modern Ashkenazi Jews (who comprise ninety percent of the world's Jewish populace), a researcher at John Hopkins University, Dr. Eran Israeli-Elhaik, concluded after extensively analyzing DNA that "overall, the similarity between European Jews and Caucasus populations underscores the genetic continuity that exists among Eurasian Jewish and non-Jewish Caucasus populations." The findings, he and co-authors said, "support a large-scale conversion scenario that influences the majority of the population."
(Khazars came from a region near the Caspian and Black seas -- modern-day Russia, northern Turkey, and Georgia -- and are believed to have converted to Judaism in the eighth century so as not to fall under the control of Christian Rome to the west and a great, rising Islamic caliphate to the immediate south. They were adept at commerce, controlling trade between the East and West. Potentially, it solves a mystery: how an estimated fifty thousand Jews in Eastern Europe during the 1400s turned into a massive presence -- estimated at eight million Jews in the same region -- by the beginning of the 1900s.)
This is volatile stuff; if true it means that most modern Jews are not technically "Semitic." Koestler (again, a Hungarian Jew), hoped this fact might one day halt persecution of modern Jews by anti-Semites (since in his belief modern Jews are not Semitic).
The genetic Jews -- the Semites -- would in this theory be the darker-skinned ones seen in Israel, barely distinguishable from Palestinians.
But it could also be cause for persecution, leading to intensified calls for Jews to leave Israel, since most who migrated there from Europe and the U.S. do not have an actual genetic link to the region's ancestry.