“An organised Christian presence in India dates to the arrival of East Syriac settlers and missionaries from Persia, members of what would become the Church of the East, in around the 3rd century. Saint Thomas Christians trace the further growth of their community to the arrival of Christians from the Middle East led by Knāy Thoma (anglicized as Thomas of Cana) , which is said to have occurred either in the 4th or 8th century.  The subgroup of the Saint Thomas Christians known as the Knanaya or Southists trace their lineage to Thomas of Cana, while the group known as the Northists claim descent from the early Christians evangelized by Thomas the Apostle.” – Wikipedia St Thomas Christians
The J-M241 project has four men in the otherwise mostly European L283 branch who trace descent to Syrian Christians of India, also known as St Thomas Christians. They form a cluster of men with absolute genetic distance of 8-12 at 67 markers (equivalent to FTDNA’s genetic distance of 5-8). Their common ancestor may have lived around 1000 years ago, roughly estimated on the basis of STRs.
Their closest relatives are fully formed FGC64029 descending from a man who lived around 70 AD in the Levant. One of the Syrian Christians is positive for Y146401 • BY46462 and negative for the remaining J-FGC64029 SNPs. So the common ancestor of the Syrian Christians of India and the Lebanese FGC64029 lived around 1200 BC.While FGC64029 was most likely living in the Levant around 70 AD, his next closest relatives in the project are Albanian and French (predicted) and their common ancestor lived 1200 BC. We think their L283 ancestors were living in Europe (maybe originally having come from the N Caucasus) based on ancient L283 samples in Croatia and N Caucasus and the greater diversity in Europe rather than other regions.
Since the Levant also seems like a reasonable place from which Syrian Christians may have migrated to India, the simplest explanation is that the common ancestor of J-Y146401 • BY46462 lived in the Levant in 1200 BC. Because the next distant branching point is about the same time and not found in Asia, it is likely that the migration to the Levant took place 1200 BC.
Many theories are viable given this time frame and direction, which corresponds with the Bronze Age Collapse of Mediterranean civilizations. Interestingly, one of the FGC64029 is from Fidar, Lebanon which is only three km away from Byblos, an important city that was destroyed by the Sea People in 1200 BC. Prior to its destruction, control of Byblos had passed from Hyksos to Egyptian hands.
There are many theories about who the Sea Peoples were, and an Aegean origin is one of them. So perhaps the ancestor of J-Y146401 • BY46462 came from the Aegean or elsewhere in Europe as one of the Sea Peoples which sacked Byblos.
With only one NGS sample from the Saint Thomas Christians of India it is not yet possible to accurately calculate when their most recent common ancestor lived. However, based on the STRs and the fact that they are all Syrian Christians, it looks like the migration to India may have occurred anytime between the founding of Christianity and the 11th century, when the most recent common ancestor of this exclusively Indian cluster may have lived.
Despite one of the surnames of these four living Syrian Christians of India being one which, according to oral history, represents a family of Brahmins who were converted by Saint Thomas, the true genetic origin of this man’s male lineage is certainly the Levant.
If living descendants are found somewhere along the path between the Levant and India, we may someday get a better idea of the trajectory that these men’s ancestors followed.
This finding suggests genetic continuity of Syriac Rite Christian practice in India for at least 1000 years.
This is one of the most interesting results I have yet found through genetic genealogy.
The YFull analysis has finished. The result is that the most recent common ancestor of the Syrian Christians of India Y146401* and the modern Lebanese/Syrian FGC64029 lived 900 BC. This corresponds to the beginning of the Neo-Assyrian Empire which lasted from 911 – 609 BC.
The culture and language of the ancient Assyrians persist today though most of the Assyrians have migrated to other countries due to massacres and repressive policies of the last century. Most Assyrians retain their East or West Syriac Rite of Christianity. These are the very same churches of the first Syrian Christians in India.
However, despite these circumstantial links to the Neo-Assyrian kingdom, this male lineage has not yet been found in any of the 100 or so modern Assyrians in their public FTDNA project.
Was J-Y14601 who lived 900 BC an Ancient Assyrian or Levantine?
The two lineages of Y14601 split around 900 BC to form one lineage that became Syrian Christians of India and one lineage that was definitely living in Lebanon/Syria by around 70 AD.
The big question is, where was the J-Y14601 common ancestor living around 900 BC and what ancient group would he have been associated with?
That this common ancestor was living in India in 900 BC is out of the question given the geographic distribution of related lineages.
We must take into account that J-Y14601’s closest relative J-Y14600* has so far been found only in Europe, in Albania and predicted in a man of French Quebecois descent. Their next closest relative J-Z2507 appears to have been living in the Balkans by 2400 BC, based on modern distribution that is corroborated by ancient DNA in Croatia dated to 1600 BC.
Given that the origin of Y14600 was most likely European, and within Europe, most likely Balkan, we need to look at Y14601 as a lineage that most likely migrated from the Balkans.
I think the two theories that need to be evaluated are that J-Y14601 in 900 BC was living in
- The Levant
- Core of Assyrian state (N Iraq)
The first theory requires a migration from the Balkans to the Levant between 1200 – 900 BC and a subsequent migration from the Levant to India.
The second theory requires a migration from the Balkans to Assyria (N Iraq) between 1200 – 900 BC and two subsequent migrations from N Iraq to the Levant (FGC64029) and from N Iraq to India (Y146401*).
I checked the Assyrian FTDNA project on FTDNA and found no J-L283, let alone J-Y146401.
So the Levant origin theory is simpler, requires no back-migrations, and fits archaeological evidence of Bronze Age Collapse migrations from Europe/Balkans to the Levantine coast, perhaps with people known as “Sea Peoples”.
The other major drawback of the Assyrian origin theory is that there is no J-Y146401 in living Assyrians.
If Y146401 lived in the Levant, how did one branch of his descendants get to India?
According to Chaldean rite tradition, based on the legend of Agbar and his correspondence with Christ:
“St. Thomas the Apostle, on his way to India, established Christianity in Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Persia”
I additionally read that according to Syrian Christian tradition, he is believed to have traveled by ship to Kerala and was buried atop a mountain there.
I mention this tradition not because it should be taken as fact or evidence, but because the objective circumstantial evidence seems to support the timing and direction.
Given that there are no J-Y146401 among living Assyrians or anyone else in Iraq / Persian Gulf, I think the most plausible explanation is that the Y14601* ancestor traveled by boat to Kerala, sometime after Christianity arose, possibly from the Red Sea as this is close to where these men’s ancestors were living in the Levant.
Whether their ancestor was in fact St Thomas or some man who lived at that time or later and migrated to Kerala (possibly via Mesopotamia) I think cannot be reliably known at this time.
15 thoughts on “J-L283 Syrian Christians of India descend from J-Y146401 that lived in the Levant 900 BC and likely Europe before that”
I read with much interest your article related to Syrian Christians of India as I myself am a member of this community.
Would you have any information related to J-M68? Please share if you have any info., as I cannot find many cases of this haplogroup and related info. is apparently scarce.
Kuruvilla A. Cherian PhD
Thank you, I’m glad you found the article interesting.
Our Syrian Christian from Kerala is now processing on the YFull tree.
I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about J-M68. Looking at YFull I would say Iran / Mesopotamia origin for Y33844 MRCA 4400 BC, then the M68 MRCA looks like he had already migrated to South Asia by 1200 BC. The Iraqi could be a remnant or back migration.
An interesting parallel between this and the J-M241 Syrian Christian – they are both from a MRCA who lived 1200 BC, which is the Bronze Age Collapse.
Do Knanaya community has actually Jewish ancestry? Or that’s a myth.
Other native christians are converted Brahmins or Jews.
In this one male lineage of Syrian Christians of India (at least one man is Syro-Malabar Catholic), they have no non-Christian heritage male relatives from India and their next closest male relatives are now living in Lebanon, at least some of which are Maronites.
So they certainly have a male line connection to men living in Lebanon, some of which are Christian Maronites now.
Maybe this is wrong but in a simple reading of history it appears that in Lebanon “pagans” were supposedly converted to Christianity by Peter and Paul. If we ever find any men of Jewish tradition in these lineages then we may have some circumstantial evidence pointing to an alternate theory.
My name is Thomas kurian, I am a Syrian Christian, orthodox jacobite. And my family is one of the ancient Christian families in kerala, I live in the united states and I ve had a keen interest in Tracking/Tracing the orgins of Syrian Christian of kerala…I have done a DNA test thru myheritage.com and they concluded that a small part of my DNA segments have a similarities with the Jewish people who lived in Iraq….and I remember reading a article that traces the origin of jacobite Christian as Christian families who lived in Iraq…but they all fled from their homes due to percussions against Christians. Perhaps one of their boats reached kerala..but no one knows.. My wife who belongs to the csi church also have DNA segments similar to the jews who lived in Europe..
May I know which company did your analysis …please do not approach CRI Genetics….I would say they are hopeless…they will give a data with no relation to people of kerala at all….they will fabricate a story claiming Bengali Gujarati Sri Lanka lineage….please do not approach them…….thanks
These men did Y-DNA tests at FTDNA, the results of which were evaluated by companies that didn’t know anything of their ethnic background. Y-DNA tests are the best kind of test for establishing a link to your ancient ancestry, yet it can only trace the male line (father’s father’s father’s father).
The company YFull identified a set of mutations shared by the male line ancestors of our Maronites and our Syrian Christians of India.
YFull didn’t know the religious affiliations of these men, they only published on their tree that the samples share the same male line mutations and provided an estimate for how long ago their common ancestor lived.
Since I knew both of the samples, it was my own conclusion that their more recent common ancestor was likely living around Syria. For the reasons outlined in my article.
I recommend you to do a Y-DNA test if you are also interested to learn whether your father’s father’s father’s … father was ultimately was a migrant from the Middle East vs indigenous South Asian (or something else is always possible – you never know until you test).
I recommend Alpha-Beta STR Panel at YSEQ as a good intro product to Y-DNA testing.
Here is a short video tutorial, Part 1 in my series explaining the practical benefits of Y-DNA testing.
Hey Thomas Kurien
ALDRIN KOLAKKAL here. I am a Syrian Christian, Roman Catholic…… i’ve been tracking the history of syrian malabar christians for a long time……and the genealogy test shows Aryan, Semitic, Arab, Dravidian ancestry and some parts scottish, because my mother had a british officer in her family
do you wanna connect and share info
or Aldrin Kolakkal on linkedin
Curious about is the lack of J1 Semitic samples among the Saint Thomas Christians. According to Christian texts the “Jewish” apostles traveled ancient trade routes to established Jewish communities bringing their “Good News”. Saint Thomas traveling east. J1 is not found in any large percentages beyond Semitic speaking borders. Significantly drop-off.
The Syriac Bible of Saint Thomas Christians no longer known to exist, expunged by the Portuguese colonial period along with liturgical practices when the Latin rites had been imposed. Understand some ancient Indian records record Essene presence in the Malabar Jewish communities which would predate Christianity.
I’m ALDRIN KOLAKKAL, a Syrian Christian from Kerala, Southern India………i have studied a lot of texts and researches on syro malabar christians…..and found out that most christians part of the syro malabar diocese, comprise of two groups, one are saint thomas christians(upper caste brahmins who joined christianity becoz of st thomas) and the other are syrian christians( who along with st thomas came to india and started marrying amongst the locals and held positions of power as merchants and landlords….these people were persecuted in levant and settled along the spice route and later found their way to Malabar coast india……..you can see very clear evidences of this by looking at the fact that there are many christians castes in india who are related to greeks and french……..like syrian christians who came to india are called kuriakose, the same people in greece are cyracus and those in france are syr
You have now a Syrian from Damascus under J-Y95770*.
Thanks for the update! This line’s origin in Syria / Lebanon 2000 years ago is quite certain based on so many samples tracing to there.
The interesting thing I’m hoping to learn next is whether or not additional samples support my theory that the lineage had been in the same general area since 900 BCE, because that is when the most recent common ancestor with the Syrian Christian of India (Kerala) lived.
Hey my name is Mathews, a member of Syrian Christian community in Kerala. I recently took a 23andme test and found to be j-L283. Is there any platform to compare my DNA to your database for further information?.
The cheapest way to confirm you are related to the group is a single SNP test, but it won’t indicate how closely you are related to the individual men.
single SNP test for the established Syrian Christians of India branch – https://www.yseq.net/product_info.php?products_id=108622
I recommend a WGS test as the most cost effective way to advance the research the furthest. After you do this test you can submit your male and female lines for analysis on YFull for an estimate of how closely related you are to the other man who tested, ancestral surname Alappatt born in Cochin.
The Persian Christian came from.ninaveh to kerala in AD 823 Settled in kollam under the leadership of Mar Sabor and Mar Proth ,who build thareesapalli and thareesapalli copper plates followed priesthood.Their family name is Thulassery Manappuram their current generation settled in kollam, Pathanamthitta and aleppy districts.can refer history of Thulassery Manappuram tharavad in google
Absolutely, they do have a Balkan origin. I postulate the Syrian Christian is actually the Mitanni from Turkey, which colonized the Levant and then during the uprising against Rome, the Balkan moved into Kerala via boat. And your red sea hypothesis could be accurate because the Gospel of Thomas and other banned texts that the Syrian Christians prized have their origins in Nag Hammadi.