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the crusading legacy and Y-DNA in Lebanon

A new genetic study (Pierre A. Zalloua et al., “Y-Chromosomal Diversity in Lebanon Is Structured by Recent Historical Events,” American Journal of Human Genetics [2008] 01.020) shows a small proportion of WES1, a Western-European haplotype within the R1b haplogroup of DNA signatures of the Y-chromosome, present among the modern Christian population of Lebanon. The study, by members of “The Genographic Project,” suggests that this genetic legacy (which is inherited in the agnate line, from father to son) is likely to have been introduced by Western Europeans during the Crusades. The actual sample with this attribute appears to be small (5 individuals out of nearly 1000 Lebanese studied) but the statistical arguments for its importance may be sound. This attribute is not found in any other sample studied by the same consortium, east of Hungary.

If the authors’ theory of its historical introduction into Lebanon is correct, it casts an interesting sidelight on the Nachleben of crusading. What was the likely cultural path for the bearers of this genetic legacy, before and after 1291? Were they unacknowledged bastards of the Franks, living among a local Christian population under Frankish rule, whose descendants were fortuitously undisturbed during the long centuries of Mamluk and Ottoman rule? Or were they Latin-Christian Franks who never left after 1291, perhaps adopting a new sect and living a quiet life in the countryside—gone native? More likely the former.

[Thanks to Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.]

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