Caucasus Ethnicity

The Dividing Line Between Europe and Asia

Discover more about your ethnicity with AncestryDNA. By comparing your genetic signature to the DNA of people from the Caucasian region, AncestryDNA can give you a clearer picture of your ethnic origins.

People in this DNA ethnicity group may identify as:
Persian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish

The story of your ethnicity lives in your DNA.

Caucasus Ethnicity

The Greater Caucasus Range, running northwest to southeast between the Black and Caspian Seas, is the traditional line of demarcation between the continents of Europe and Asia. It was here, according to Greek mythology, that Zeus bound Prometheus for giving fire to humans. Linguistically, culturally, and even ecologically diverse, the Caucasus area is home to more than 50 ethnic groups and is one of 34 "biodiversity hotspots" (areas with significant, threatened biodiversity) in the world.

Caucasus History

Our Caucasus region extends from the Anatolian Peninsula and the nation of Turkey, bordered by the Mediterranean, to the Caucasus Mountains, which form its northern boundary along Russia’s southwestern edge. There, the nations of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are nestled in the highlands between the Black and Caspian Seas. In the south, it stretches from Syria to Iran, reaching all the way to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

Its location has made the area a homeland for some of the world's most famous civilizations and empires. Cyrus the Great expanded his territories from his home in Iran to create the powerful Persian Empire, the largest in the world to that point (around 540 B.C.). Known for his religious and cultural tolerance, Cyrus freed the Jews from slavery to the Babylonians. Cyrus’s descendants Darius and Xerxes famously battled the Greeks at Thermopylae, Salamis and Marathon during the Greco-Persian Wars.

Turkey, in particular, has historically been at the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures, beginning with the Trojan War. As famously narrated by Homer in his Iliad, Mycenaean Greeks laid siege to the ancient Lydian city of Troy, which was most likely part of the ancient Hittite Empire. The Roman Empire, ruling from Constantinople, spread Christianity and Greco-Roman culture throughout Anatolia. The arrival of Turkic peoples from Central Asia brought the Turkish language and Islam. Their eventual conquests in the Byzantine Empire and its territories in the Holy Lands of the Levant were the catalysts for the first Crusades.

Much of the Caucasus region is Muslim. Shia Islam is the official state religion of Iran, while the Sunni branch is predominant in the Caucasus groups of the north, such as the Nogay (also Nogai), Adyghe and Chechens. Modern-day Turkey is a secular nation, but the vast majority of the population is Muslim, including the Kurds in the southeast. Georgia and Armenia have a long history of Christianity, being two of the earliest nations to adopt it. Along with Azerbaijan, they were part of the former Soviet Union (USSR). Since the dissolution of the USSR, continual border disputes contribute to a tense atmosphere.

Your ethnicity reveals the places where your family story began.

Migrations into this Region

About 45,000 years ago, modern humans first came to the Caucasus Mountains and surrounding region from somewhere in the Middle East. Farming spread to the Caucasus Mountains during the Neolithic period, and later, Jewish populations also moved north into the region. Additional evidence suggests that Mongols invaded the Caucasus area 800 years ago, leaving descendants such as the Nogay.

Migrations into this Region

Despite its intermediate position between Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the Caucasus region seems rarely to have been the source of migrations.

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