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Human Nature: Genghis Con

Publication Date: 
February 26, 2009
Slate - Human Nature
William Saletan

Professor Henry T. "Hank" Greely is quoted in Slate Magazine commenting on whether Genghis Khan's genes are really distributed as widely as is commonly thought:

Not many guys are brave enough to take on Genghis Khan. But then, Genghis never met Hank Greely. Greely, a law professor at Stanford, does a lot of work in genetics and brain science. And he's tired of hearing the tale about Genghis single-handedly (well, "handedly" might not be the precise term) populating the Eastern world. According to the version I quoted yesterday, "8% of males throughout the former lands of the Mongol empire carry the Y chromosome of Genghis Khan."

Not so fast, says Greely:

Here are the facts, as far as we know them. One Y chromosome haplotype is widespread over areas that the Mongols ruled. Genghis ruled the Mongols and had, at least, the opportunity to father many sons, some of whom had similar opportunities. End of facts.


For a more formal version of Greely's critique, see his chapter, "Genetic Genealogy," in Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age, published last year.