Legendary Mongol leader Genghis Khan (1162-1227) is today famous for establishing the largest empire in history. He was a ruthless killer, but also a brilliant military innovator who practiced the “surrender or die” policy.
Genghis Khan massacred millions of Asian and Eastern European people. However, he also practiced religious and racial tolerance, and his Mongolian Empire valued the leadership of women.
Genghis Khan was born as Temüjin around 1162. A few years later, his father was killed by Tartars and Temüjin was made clan chief. But the clan refused to be led by a boy and abandoned him and his mother to live as nomads.
Temüjin married at age 16, but had many wives during his lifetime and naturally plenty of children. By 1206, Temüjin had successfully fought back and united the formerly fragmented tribes of what is now Mongolia. Temujin was the leader of a great Mongol confederation and was granted the title Genghis Khan, translated as “Oceanic Ruler” or “Universal Ruler”.
He and his sons vanquished peoples from the Adriatic to the Pacific, reaching modern Austria, Finland, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Burma, Japan and Indonesia. At their peak, the Mongols controlled between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of Africa.
A study carried out a while back found that this legendary 13th century warrior that ruled the largest contiguous empire in history might have left his mark in more ways than one thanks to his rampant ways.
According to the data, around 8% of men (around 16 million individuals) residing in the former Mongol empire carry almost identical Y-chromosomes. That 8% is 0.5 per cent of the male worldwide population, which translates to a staggering 16 million descendants alive today. Furthermore, the scientists found that the lineage originated in Mongolia around 1,000 years ago.
The originator of this lineage must have had an astonishing number of descendants. Of course, given that Genghis Khan’s body has never been recovered and thus his DNA hasn’t been sequenced, it’s impossible to definitively link this chromosomal lineage to him. However, given Khan’s notorious behavior during his reign, he does seem a likely candidate.
“We have identified a Y-chromosomal lineage with several unusual features. It was found in 16 populations throughout a large region of Asia, stretching from the Pacific to the Caspian Sea, and was present at high frequency: ∼8% of the men in this region carry it, and it thus makes up ∼0.5% of the world total.
The pattern of variation within the lineage suggested that it originated in Mongolia ∼1,000 years ago. Such a rapid spread cannot have occurred by chance; it must have been a result of selection.
The lineage is carried by likely male-line descendants of Genghis Khan, and we therefore propose that it has spread by a novel form of social selection resulting from their behavior,” researchers of the American Society of Human Genetics state.
We mustn’t forget that Genghis Khan and his sons were well-known for their brutality. The number of offspring his own sons boasted was staggering. His oldest son had 40 sons and numerous daughters. One of his grandsons had 22 legitimate sons. If we add to this, his other sons and their children, we get a good idea of how it’s really possible so many people are descendants of Genghis Khan.
Although this theory is impossible to ascertain without a sample of Khan’s own DNA and we have no access to his body, it does seem likely that these identical chromosomes are linked in some way to Genghis Khan.
On August 18, 1227, while putting down a revolt in the kingdom of Xi Xia, Genghis Khan died. On his deathbed, he ordered that Xi Xia be wiped from the face of the earth. Obedient as always, Khan’s successors leveled whole cities and towns, killing or enslaving all their inhabitants. Obeying his order to keep his death secret, Genghis’ heirs slaughtered anyone who set eyes on his funeral procession making its way back to Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol empire.
His final resting place remains unknown. There are suspicions the tomb of Genghis Khan is hidden in the Khentii Mountains. It is allegedly protected because people fear it’s cursed, but these are only rumors and solid evidence is missing.