March 20, 2014 DNA and Armenian Origin Subject of 18th Annual Vardanants Day Lecture

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Hovann Simonian and Peter Hrechdakian, administrators of the Armenian DNA Project, will deliver the 18th Annual Vardanants Day Armenian Lecture at noon on Tuesday, April 22 in the Northeast Pavilion of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, located at 10 First Street S.E., Washington D.C. Titled “DNA and the Origin of Peoples: The Armenians,” the lecture will be delivered in English.

Simonian and Hrechdakian harnessed the power of social media to expand the nonprofit Armenian DNA Project, a Facebook group of more than 1,000 members around the world involved in researching Armenian family history through genetic testing. By reaching thousands of years into the past, the project aims to find genetic traces of both the ancient peoples whose descendants make up the current Armenian population (including Armens, Colchians, Hattians, Hittites, Urartians and Phrygians) as well as the ancient peoples who conquered or passed through the Armenian lands (such as Assyrians, Cimmerians, Parthians, Romans and Scythians). The speakers will discuss aspects of the project, as well as the preliminary conclusions they have reached about Armenian origins. They will also demonstrate the utility of genetic testing as an historical tool by applying results to the solution of a particular historical problem in Mediaeval Armenia.

Born in Beirut to Armenian parents, Simonian is an expert in Armenian history, historical geography and culture. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Southern California and another master’s degree in Central Asian Studies from the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of London. He is the co-author of “Troubled Waters: The Geopolitics of the Caspian Region” (2003) and the editor of “The Hemshin: History, Society and Identity in the Highlands of Northeast Turkey” (2007). He serves as treasurer for the Executive Council of the Society of Armenian Studies.

Hrechdakian was born in Aleppo, Syria, to parents from southeastern Turkey. He grew up in Lebanon before emigrating to the U.S. in 1975. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and philosophy from Cornell University and a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School. He is the chief executive officer of Unifert group, a privately held international fertilizer trading and distribution company.

The lecture series is presented by the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division. It is named after the Armenian holiday that commemorates the battle of Avarayr (451 A.D.), which was waged by the Armenian General Vardan Mamikonian and his compatriots against invading Persian troops, who were attempting to reimpose Zoroastrianism on the Christian state. As a religious holiday, it celebrates the Armenians' triumph over forces of assimilation.

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PR 14-051
ISSN 0731-3527