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How the 1,000-Year-Old Mystery of the Druze People’s Origin Was Solved

How the 1,000-Year-Old Mystery of the Druze People’s Origin Was Solved


For 1,000 years, the mysterious origin of the Druze people – who live almost exclusively in the mountains of Syria, Lebanon and Israel – has captivated linguists, historians, and sociologists. There has been much dispute over whether the Druze are of Arabian, Turkish, Caucasus or Persian origin. But thanks to our new research that mystery may now have been solved, with the use of a genetic GPS system – that works in a similar way to the sat nav in your car.

There are thought to be around 1m Druze people in the world today, whose secretive religion was developed in 986 AD as a movement within Islam. While the spiritual elements of their religion are highly guarded and known only to the elders, the known practices are made up of various religions which include Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. This variety is most likely based on historical gatherings that are typical of nomadic tribes.

The Druze are an Arabic-speaking minority who live throughout the Middle East.

The Druze are an Arabic-speaking minority who live throughout the Middle East. (Secretsun)

Previous research has always placed the origins of the Druze in the Near East region. And by zooming in on the area, our genetic GPS traced most Druze to the region that overlaps northeast Turkey, southwest Armenia and northern Iraq. This area borders the Zagros and the Ararat mountains and is the tallest region in Turkey.

This was discovered by applying our GPS tool to the genomes of over 150 Druze, along with Palestinians, Bedouins, Syrians and Lebanese to compare their ancestral origins.

Mountain Dwelling Warriors

Throughout history, the Caucasus region – which borders Europe and Asia – was subjected to political, military, religious and cultural conflict, which prompted many tribes to seek refuge in remote regions. The Druze were no different.

It is thought that the first Druze worshippers probably lived in Cairo, where Druzism was adopted by Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah who ruled in Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean – known as the Levant – between 996 and 1021. But after his sudden disappearance, his successor prosecuted the Druze ruthlessly and abolished the faith in Egypt. By that time, however, the faith had already spread outside Egypt and become accepted among several Levantine groups.

A portrait of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah

A portrait of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (Public Domain)

The Druze were first recorded by the 12th century Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela who described them as fearless, mountain-dwelling warriors who favored the Jews. And by that time, because of earlier persecutions, their faith was closed to new followers and they opposed marriage outside of the Druze faith.

The remote mountainous regions provided the Druze with protection and allowed them to maintain the close societal structure that is integral to their religious practices. Like other Caucasus populations, the Druze may even be genetically adapted to cope with the thinner mountain air allowing them to live comfortably in these remote parts.

Gold coins found at ancient port in Caesarea.

Gold coins found at ancient port in Caesarea. Credit: Carla Amit / Israel Antiquities Authority

Druze Meet the Jews

Though the Druze have previously been considered to have little genetic mixing – known as a “population isolate” by some geneticists – this is actually incorrect. And in fact, by exchanging their diverse Near Eastern genes with Middle Eastern populations – such as Syrians and Palestinians – the Druze people created a more mixed genome than their ancestors, or other Middle Eastern populations.

Genetic evidence also suggests that over the years non-Druze tribes and individuals have contributed and enriched the Druze gene pool.

Previous research has also shown that Ashkenazic Jews and Druze are genetically closer to one another than Middle Eastern populations – but until now, it was not clear why. Combined with our earlier research showing the northeastern Turkish origins of Ashkenazic Jews, we can explain that genetic similarity via the shared origin of Ashkenazic Jews and Druze. Medieval Ashkenazic Jews lived in ancient villages in northeast Turkey known as “ancient Ashkenaz” – which was close to the mountainous homeland of the Druze.

Druze woman wearing a tantour during the 1870s

Druze woman wearing a tantour during the 1870s (Public Domain)

Our findings explain a 1,000-year saga of two people living side by side in these lands. And as the Ashkenazic Jews moved northward into the Khazarian Empire, the Druze moved southwards to Palestine – only for both people to reunite hundreds of years later. And although by that time, neither one recalled their common roots, both retained the evidence in their genes.

Top image: Peasant Druses. Photo Source: Public Domain

This article, originally titled ‘How we solved the 1,000-year-old mystery of the Druze people’s origin – with a genetic sat nav by Eran Elhaik was published on The Conversation and has been republished under a Creative Commons license



Of many people that lived in "Palestine", Jews were also guests. The clan of Abraham originating from
Ur in Mesopotamia were welcomed to stay with their malnutritioned herd. Their gratitude to their hosts was formulated into their basic doctrine that they were "God's people of choise" and that the land of their hosts belonged to them-the guests! Regardless of the initial inhabitants of these lands, settlers from Crete, Achaia and Cyprus were the well established rulers. The Khazars were people of mixed Central Asian origin that adopted the Jewish religion by choise. Their partly mongolic roots have given to many right wing extremists the erroneous argument that all Jews have such roots-they do not! Hebrew people were guest city dwellers to the ancient Greeks already in classic antiquity ( Evreos in Greek comes from Gefyreos-the "Bridge Crosser" ) clearly indicating people crossing over from the island scattered sea eastwards. Dionyssus' theater at the foott of Acropolis still has the marble seat of honor-first row-for their religious leader. While all inhabitants of coastal Syria ( there was no "Palestine" then were free to practice their own religion, by the time of Alexander the Great and afterwards most all of them worshiped Greek, Egyptian and Anatolian deities communicating with each other in Greek but not the Jews there. Eventually they revolted in a macabre way when later were forced to abandon their distinct worldview and way of life and thus ended up being expelled to the four corners of the Roman empire (also Hellenized by then). The rest of the Syrians will eventually become Christians albeit mostly of heretic and not Orthodox "main stream" versions and having close contact with Arabs they
could communicate in both Greek and Arabic. When the Muslim Arabs brake their isolation and by war conquer Syria from the Eastern Roman Empire ,those double language speakers will become the precious translators for every Kaliph from Damascus to Bagdad and Kairo so that the then illiterate and uncivilized arab muslim worriors could learn about the priceless Hellenic Knowledge. Afterwards many local Syrians convert to Islam and many muslim arabs settle there. Many Jews had already returned but the ratio was clear: Muslims first (arabs and non arabs ),Christians second, Jews third. "Palestine" is indeed a rather modern word for part of the area as well as "Lebanon" reflecting colonial interests of the Turks, the English , the French, etc. Finally, before and after World War II a planned and concerted effort redirects and settles selected Jews from Europe to Palestine thus establishing the modern state of Israel that continues old Abrahamic policy : the land is ours given to us by God and whoever disagrees better get out! History has a tragic way of repeating itself and by closing I could only repeat the old advice : "Sword you used, sword will be used against you"! Nevertheless, your article about the Druze people does offer new and intriguing data about their origins and travels.The Syrian coast and its adjacent lands do witness a continuous movement of human settlers as eventually it became the largest olive and olive oil producer in the eastern Mediterranean-a precious commodity used as lamp oil , in order to make medicines and as food for Kings , Emperors and their Courts of the times...Druze people originating from mountainous areas chose again to settle up on the mountains-there is always a very basic ethnological divider-sea people and not.


Shabda's picture

Absolutely true.

Palestine and Palestinians are known since ancient history. The Ashkenazi people who were brought to Palestine by the British army during their occupation of Palestine are not related to Palestine and are not the descendants of Moses or Abraham. The origins of Ashkenazi people are the Khazarian Empire. (See the book of Arthur Koestler “The Thirteenth Tribe”). Israel is the biggest hoax in history.

As too often here your prejudice, ignorance & nonsense override the value of article. Why would there be any testing of "Palestinians" there is no ethnic nor nationality as such. That could never have any relevance. (other than the usual antisemitism) Those are Arabs imported into Israel by Turks & Brits as servants & peasant farm workers. Babble about them, then state the Druze DNA is closest to Ashkenazim. Notice you did not mention that the Druze claim descent from Jethro, thus Kenites in Bible.

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