Welcome to the Aramaic DNA Project
A. IntroductionA. INTRODUCTION The Aramaic DNA Project hopes to bring together all Aramaic (also known as Modern or Neo-Aramaic) speaking people and people of Aramaic-speaking heritage of the world. For 3000 years, and despite unrelenting strife of every conceivable sort, the Aramaic language has steadfastly retained a continuous presence in the region known as the Fertile Crescent.
The people who retained a form of the Aramaic language as their mother tongue offer a tremendous opportunity to catch a glimpse many centuries, and perhaps even millennia, into the past. The testing of DNA, specifically one's mtDNA and Y-DNA, is ideally suited for discovering one’s deep ancestral roots. This is because mtDNA and Y-DNA remain more or less unchanged for thousands of years. If we wish to understand the origins of the Aramaic-speaking people, it is imperative to undertake this task now. The growing diasporic aspect of many, if not all, Aramaic-speaking communities is at the root of this urgency. If this project were not undertaken, or pursued with sufficient zeal, we may forever squander our ability to peer, with least obstruction, back to the dawn of our civilization.
The Aramaic DNA Project aims to answer questions of interest to Aramaic-speakers regarding their recent and distant origins. It will also delve into the relationships between the different Aramaic-speaking groups with ancestral origins from different geographical regions including, but by no means limited to: Diyarbakir, Hakkari, Harput, Mardin, Mosul, Salamas, Seert, Urfa, Urmia, Tur Abdin, and Zakho.
The Project, in remaining true to standard scientific practices, as well as FTDNA’s terms of agreement, will remain objective and has no affiliations whatsoever. We encourage all Aramaic-speaking people and people of Aramaic-speaking heritage to join our Project regardless of self-designation including, but not limited to: Aramaeans, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syrians, Ancient Syrians, and Syriacs. People of Aramaic-speaking heritage who have lost usage of the language due to assimilation are encouraged to join. All participants will be offered the option to identify by their preferred self-designation.
The Project is open to all religious affiliations and not limited to Christian communities. We welcome, with open hearts, Aramaic-speakers among the Jewish, Samaritan, and Mandaean communities, and Aramaic-speakers from other religious affiliations. All Aramaic-speakers will be classified according to their self-designation into the appropriate haplogroup categories. We sincerely hope all Aramaic-speaking people tested at Family Tree DNA will consider participating in this very special endeavor. The administrators are more than happy to discuss any questions pertaining to the project. Please refer to our contact details above. Yours truly, Paul Givargidze, Nenos Birko, and Matthew Gross
B. ARAMAIC The Aramaic spoken today can be separated into Western and Eastern varieties. Western Aramaic is limited mostly to a few thousand speakers who inhabit three villages along the Anti-Lebanon Mountain range of Syria. Eastern Aramaic is the variety predominating in all other regions, with its highest concentration occurring in Northern Iraq, Southeastern Turkey, and Northwestern Iran.
Western Aramaic Dialects of the western branch of Aramaic are spoken in very few places today. The majority are located within relative proximity, in the mountainous region of southwestern Syria. They are the villages of: Ma’lula, Bakh’a, and Jubb ‘adin. Western Aramaic also remains alive among the ancient Samaritan community of the Levant.
Eastern Aramaic The Christian Aramaic dialects of the Eastern branch can also be separated into Eastern and Western sub-branches. Only one dialect of the Western sub-branch, Suroyo, survives. Suroyo was once the predominant dialect of the Aramaic-speaking Christian populations of the Tur Abdin region of Southeastern Turkey. Today, Suroyo speakers can be found in a handful of villages located in Northeastern Syria. Those living in the Diaspora also speak Suroyo in great numbers. The Eastern sub-branch of Eastern Christian Aramaic is the predominant dialect in both the indigenous dwellings of the Christian Aramaic-speakers –Iraq, Northwestern Iran, and Southeastern Turkey—as well as the population living in Diaspora. Within the Eastern sub-branch there are many different dialects of differing mutual intelligibility.
Included within the Eastern Aramaic branch are the dialects of thousands of Jewish Aramaic-speakers. Although many of the Jewish Aramaic speakers now live in Israel and the Diaspora, some still remain in their ancestral homes in parts of Southeastern Turkey, Northern Iraq and Western Iran. The Jewish dialects include: Lishanid Noshan, Lishana Deni, Lishan Didan, Hulaula, and Barzani Jewish Aramaic. The Mandaean dialect was once spoken by the Mandaeans of Iran and southern Iraq, and is now spoken by some of the Mandaean community living in Diaspora as well as the few remaining in their ancient ancestral homes of Iraq and Iran.
C. TESTING mtDNA testing (for women and men) examines the unique type of DNA contained in mitochondrial cells. Mitochondrial DNA is unique because it is passed down from mother to child more or less unchanged for generations. Y-DNA testing (for men only) examines the unique type of DNA contained in a man's Y-chromosome. Y-chromosome DNA is unique because it is passed down from father to son more or less unchanged for generations. Instructional video on what to do once your FTDNA kit arrives: FTDNA Instruction Video, by YT user "btlarkin."