Home Genetics I2a1 Phrygians, ancestors of the Kurds

Phrygians, ancestors of the Kurds

Origins of Kurds are still a mystery for most of the historians. And since Kurds are currently stuck in the middle of a very complex political situation, it is highly unlikely that any serious research will be made in the near future. Historians connect them to kingdoms of Mitanni, Kassites, and Hourites. These nations occupied the territory between the Iranian plateau and the river Euphrates. And the year 612 BC is of particular importance for Kurds. In that year, the Medes had conquered Assyria and the whole region of modern-day Iran and the central Anatolia. Some Kurds consider this as the first year of Kurdish history.

Do Kurds have European gens?

One thing that grabbed my attention, and made me research more on Kurdish origins is the fact that Kurds seem to have an extremely high percentage of haplogroup I2 (20%). This is a haplogroup characteristic for Southern Europe. Here is the data from www.eupedia.com:


This haplogroup is Mesolithic and belongs to ancient Europeans. Its current distribution looks like this:

Even though its epicenter is in the countries of ex-Yugoslavia and Sardinia, there is a certain presence of I2 haplogroup in northern parts of Turkey. However, this percentage gets “watered down” in the statistics of the whole country. Turkey in total ends up with only an insignificant 4% of I2a1.

Kurdish and Balkan Gorani

The presence of I2 in Turkey has to be a result of some ancient migration. I found a possible clue in one of the Kurdish groups called Gorani. According to Wikipedia, their name comes from the Avestan *gairi – mountain.

But there is another group of people with the same name living in Balkans. They are located within the triangle between Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. For this “Balkan” Gorani, the Wikipedia also says: “highlanders, from the Slavic *gora – hill, mountain

A strange coincidence?

The next step was to look at the Kurdish dictionaries available online. Sure enough, I was able to notice many similarities with Balkan languages. A common Indo-European origin can explain these connections to some extent, but not in all cases.

For example, the pronoun “I” is “Az” in Kurdish, and the only existing parallel survives in modern Bulgarian “Az”, and somewhat Macedonian “Jas”. Origins of this word are Thracian – and Thracians were ancient people of Balkans whose dominant haplogroup was surely I2.

However, Thracians were not exclusively I2. Scythian tribes had brought R1a and R1b haplogroups to Balkans as early as the 4th millennium BC. But as you can see in the chart above, those are also the second most dominant haplogroups of the Kurds. This means that matching with ancient Thracians of Balkans could be much higher than 20% of I2, which is already a lot!

But this is a question for serious genetic research, the one that would be able to follow all the respective mutations. I do not possess this data, so I will move to the firmer grounds of history.

Phrygian migrations

The question is, is there any historical evidence of the ancient migration of the Balkan population to this part of the world. And the answer is yes. It appears already in the 5th century BC writings of Herodotus (Hdt. 7.73). He claims that Phrygians were the neighbors of the Macedonians in the Balkans and that their name was “Briges”. They changed it to Phrygians after they migrated to Asia.

Herodotus believed that Phrygians were once neighbors of Macedonians, just like the Balkan Gorani people are today. He also states that they were called “Brigi”. This word may be related to the word “breg”, meaning hill – just another synonym for the word “gora”.

Truth be told, there are historians who support this claim of Herodotus, as well as those who oppose it. But it is interesting that the map of ancient Phrygia matches almost perfectly a current distribution of I2 in Turkey, pictured above.

And not only that, as we can see in the article on the Phrygian language, a famous Phrygian word (mentioned by Herodotus) is bekos, meaning “bread”, while in Albanian language bread is “bukë”. According to Clement of Alexandria, the Phrygian word bedu (βέδυ) meaning “water” (PIE *wed) appeared in Orphic ritual. Slavic cognate is “voda”. Another possible theonym is bago- (cf. Slavic bog, “god”). We know that Phrygians had also worshiped Sabazios, one of the main gods of Thracians.

Moreover, the name of the most famous Phrygian city, Gordion, could be related to Slavic “grad”, meaning simply “city”, as it also meant in Phrygian according to Paleolexicon:


So what else do we know about this supposed migration of Balkan Brigi to Phrygia in Turkey? This is a short extract from Wikipedia:

After the collapse of the Hittite Empire at the beginning of the twelfth century BC, the political vacuum in central-western Anatolia was filled by a wave of Indo-European migrants and “Sea Peoples”, including the Phrygians, who established their kingdom with a capital at Gordium.

According to Greek mythographers, the first Phrygian Midas had been the king of the Moschi (Mushki), also known as Bryges (Brigi) in the western part of archaic Thrace.

There are two things worth pointing out here:

1. If Phrygian migration had happened around 12th century BC with the waves of “Sea Peoples”, that also matches perfectly the high distribution of I2 in Sardinia.

2. “Mushki” literary means “men” in Balkans. This is a very suitable name for the ancient tribe of warriors. Tribes that called themselves “men”, “people” or “warriors” existed all across the ancient world, regardless of their origin. Especially if they were the raiding parties.

So if Phrygians had really migrated from Balkans to Turkey in the 12th century BC, how are they related to Kurds, and what are they doing all the way southeast?

Herodotus may give us another clue for that:

“The Armenians, who are settlers from Phrygia, were armed like the Phrygians” Hdt. 7.73.1

This is another controversial claim of Herodotus that has also divided the scientific circles. Why would Phrygians migrate again, all the way to Armenia? Well, if we look at their history, there might be a very good excuse for that. Wikipedia on Phrygians:

“The Cimmerian invasion of Anatolia from the 8th – 7th century BC was fatal to Phrygia. It culminated in the suicide of the last Phrygian king, Midas. According to Herodotus, Gordium fell in 696 BC and was sacked and burnt.”

Kurds, people from Gordium?

Well, to me this seems like a pretty good reason for migration. But can we really relate it to Kurds? Maybe we can. It is hypothesized that the word “Kurd” could originate from the Persian word “gord”, because the Arabic script lacks a symbol corresponding uniquely to g (گ). In this case, Kurds would simply be “people from Gordium”.

Moreover, some theories also relate the etymology to toponym Corduene, (also written as “Gordyene”) mentioned by Xenophon. This time Gordyene appears right on the territory of Armenia. In other words, it is matching the account of Herodotus. This is also the general area where Kurds are present today.

Map of the Armenian Empire of Tigranes

Could it be just a coincidence that Gordium fell in 696 BC, while Kurds take 612 BC as the birth of their nation? Also, Kurds relate themselves to people known as Mitanni. Midas was the name of at least three Phrygian kings, including the last one. (in Assyrian sources spelled Mita).

So there you go. Phrygian migration, as described here is in fact nothing new for historians, but I haven’t seen any similar theory relating it to Kurdish origins. It is also worth a mention that Phrygian mode in music is also known as “Kurdish” in the Arabic world. However, I am not saying that Kurds of today, after two and a half millennia, are genetically or culturally the same as Phrygians.

But maybe this is the way to trace their ancestry. It would also explain what had happened to Phrygians after the fall of their kingdom. I am also not reducing Armenian culture and history solely to Kurdish influence – it is definitely much more complicated than that.

But maybe this is the way to trace their ancestry. It would also explain what had happened to Phrygians after the fall of their kingdom. I am also not reducing Armenian culture and history solely to Kurdish influence – it is definitely much more complicated than that.


  1. Madai

    which means measure, judging, or middle land, was a descendant of Noah through Japheth. He is listed as the third son of Japheth in the Bible. He is located on the Biblical Timeline after the Great Flood.
    According to the Book of Jubilees, he married the daughter of Shem and pleaded with the three brothers of his wife to let him live in their land instead of occupying an area in Japheth’s land. They gave him a spot to dwell on with his family and it was later on named Media.
    He was associated with different nations such as the Mitanni, the Iranian Medes, the Kachin, the Kurd, and the Medes. The Mitanni and the Medes were Indo-Aryan nations. Media and Medes Media was an ancient city situated at the northwest of Iran and south of Azerbaijan.

    Medes were migrants who occupied the north of Thrace. – See more at:http://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/madai/#sthash.Ht9W4tsS.dpuf

  2. This seems completely hilereous and is far from reality. Kurdish ancestors are the Hurrians of the Mittani kingdom those capital labored in today’s west/Rojava Kurdistan.

    HURRIANS (3000-1500 BC) even called Khurrites is ancestors of the Kurds and they lived in the historical Kurdistan’s geography. They bulit even a new empire called Mitanni in the same area.

    The meaning of the word of Hurrian:

    The word is derived from: Kur and means montain. The sumerians called the people who lived in the historical Kurdistan’s highland, in Zagros mountain, for; Kur-ti, which means mountain’s people: Kur = mountain, ti = possesive and adjective building supplement. (G.C.)

  3. That actually make a lot of sense. My grandfather was always telling me that he heard from his great grand fathers that their origins came from Macedonia and they migrated sometime before Alexander came to the region. Further there are many Kurds in Ankara city which is what used to be Gordion and they dont really know how they ended up in Ankara

  4. Medes and mitanni were not Scythian . Most likely the Hittites and Mitanni mixed because of where they are located the Hittites became the neo hittites who mixed with the medes . The blonde and red hair comes from Tiras son of japheth not Scythians. Cimmerians are from Tiras. Could there have been admixture? Why not. When Scythians migrated into iran they came from the east

  5. If you count the BaLKan Y (male chromosome) DNA, that is haplogroups I & E (Thracian) in Kurds, it is 31,5%. But if we add the R1 haplogroups (Aryan, Celtic) which dissociated in the North Black Sea (present day Ukraine, the Old Russia a 1000 years ago, the Old Great BuLGaria/ BuRGaria in the 7th cent.), that is 22% more, we have 53,5% of South East European Y DNA in Kurds. It is a bit more than half European origin over the local Middle Eastern origin. For comparison, BuLGarians/ BuRGarians have ~49% of I & E + ~29% R1 = 78% South East European Y DNA. Which means BuLGarians/ BuRGarians are neaither Turkic, nor even Iranian but of theThracians, that is the First civilized people in the world. It is proven the oldest artefacts of civilization are from South East Europe.

  6. if kurds WHO never call themselves as kurd but kirmanch zaza or gorani had been White europeans it wouldnt make them more precious.As obviously seen they are dark hairy South asian looking people no matter they may have a little european DNA.The light haired and coloured eyed looking kurds are assimilated mitanni hurian biaini people from caucasia and also there should be at least very little descendants of celtic and scythian tribes WHO migrated out from eastern Anatolia thousands of years ago.There were crusades guys WHO were forced to convert to islam in the medieval period.Several hundres years old armenian and assyrian records of christian priests reports the kurdish landlords WHO invaded eastern anatolia used to force armenian assyrian keldani turkoman jewish yezidi and arabic peasants to become muslims and to speak kirmanchi kurdish.Besides zaza people are not kurdish neither the yezidis.And kirmanci speaking and gorani speaking people can not understand each other at all.So talking about a nation called kurds and trying to attach it to european origin is ridiculous and exceeedingly racist political.Just go to West Pakistan and afghanistan and hear the local people speaking languages which a modern kurdish speaking guy can rasişy understand.Kurds came from Pakistan with the expandind seljuck empire society and army and assimişated the eastern anatolion peoples by barbaric methods.A black man can speak english but it doent prove that he is a White english man.The kurds spaeak an indo-european language but thet are not relly european they are from South asia.Maybe it can be considered as a late arnenian fairy tale.

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