According to a recently published genetic study, Genghis Khan, the fearsome Mongolian warrior of the 13th century, may have done more than rule the world’s largest empire; he may have also helped populate it. But do you know how many men have Genghis Khan’s DNA?
Since a 2003 study discovered evidence that Genghis Khan’s DNA is present in approximately 16 million men alive today, the Mongolian ruler’s genetic prowess has stood as an unrivaled achievement.
Genghis Khan’s Greatest Achievement
At his death, Khan’s empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea. The indiscriminate slaughter of the defeated frequently marked his military conquests. His descendants expanded the empire and maintained power in the region for hundreds of years, in civilizations where harems and concubines were the norms. And the males were incredibly prolific.
Tushi, Khan’s eldest son, is said to have had 40 sons. According to documents written during or shortly after Khan’s reign, looting, pillaging, and rape were the spoils of war for all soldiers, but Khan had first pick of the beautiful women. His grandson, Kubilai Khan, who founded China’s Yuan Dynasty, had 22 legitimate sons and was said to have added 30 virgins to his harem every year.
The historically documented events accompanying the establishment of the Mongol empire would have contributed directly to the spread of this lineage.Bruce R. Korf, Author of American Journal of Human Genetics
(Source: National Geographic)
Tracking the Descendants of Genghis Khan
The researchers examined blood samples collected over a ten-year period from more than 40 populations living in and around the former Mongol empire.
The Y-chromosome is used in population studies because it does not recombine like other parts of the genome. Each parent contributes half of a child’s DNA, which combines to form a new genetic combination when it comes to eye color, height, disease resistance, or susceptibility.
The Y-chromosome is passed down from father to son as a chunk of DNA, essentially unchanged except for random mutations.
Markers are random mutations that occur naturally and are usually harmless. Once the markers have been identified, geneticists can trace them back in time to the point where they first appeared, defining a distinct lineage of descent
In this particular case, the lineage began 1,000 years ago. The authors do not claim that the genetic mutations that define the Family tree originated with Khan, born around 1162; instead, they believe they were passed down to him by a great-great-grandfather.
Only one population outside the Mongolian empire, only in Pakistan, carried the lineage.
The Hazaras of Pakistan gave us our first clue to the connection with Genghis Khan, They have a long oral tradition that says they’re his direct descendantsBruce R. Korf, Author of American Journal of Human Genetics
Of course, a link to Genghis Khan will never be proven unless his grave is discovered and his DNA taken. Until then, geneticists will continue to look for isolated communities in the hopes of solving the puzzles of our genetic origins and relatedness. (Source: National Geographic)