The concept largely came into being in the 17th century as colonizing Europeans began to classify humans based on physical differences such as skin color, head shape, hair texture and eye color.
One of the first to publish reflections on the subject was French physician François Bernier in 1684.
Jews, for example, are identifiable through genetic analysis—as accurately as being able to tell if a person is half-Jewish or possibly even a quarter Jewish, says Neil Risch, director of the University of California, San Francisco’s Institute for Human Genetics.
The clues are not genes, but mutations that are found in higher frequency in some groups than in others.
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Ashkenazi Jews are a good example of a people with this experience: Two major genetic bottlenecks or founder effects seem to have occurred in their history, one around the year 900 CE and a second during the 14th century, both likely tied to persecution and immigration.
The conversion is documented in which tells of a dialogue between the Khazar king and a Jew asked to guide him through the basic tenets of Judaism.
When the Khazar empire collapsed, Koestler argues, the new Jews migrated west—to places like Lithuania, Ukraine, Germany and others, giving birth to Ashkenazi Jewry.
MYTH GENES CAN REVEAL RELIGION SORT OF The DNA of any two people on Earth is, on average, 99.9 percent identical, but that 0.1 percent leaves a lot of room for variation.
It’s that variation that provides clues to a person’s ancestry.