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The China Wire - Part Two

Friday, August 08, 2014

Buddhist Priests in Ancient Arizona



Monument on northeast boundary of the Ironwood National Forest in the Samaniego Hills.


By and large, the genetics literature on American Indians has been confined to small, scattered samples gleaned from modern groups. This morass of information is vast, growing, and inconclusive.

Attempting to present the "peopling of the Americas" from such a reductive approach is like playing a game of Solitaire with important cards missing.

One Brazilian geneticist completely despaired of any solution as long ago as 2002. Francisco Salzano wrote in an article titled "Molecular Variability in Amerindians:  Widespread but Uneven Information, that "the present trend of favoring essentially applied research suggests that the situation will not basically improve in the future" (Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, vol. 74, no. 2, p. 1).

It hasn't, of course. We shall not attempt here anything like a synthesis of the subject, although a later installment in this series will tackle the autosomal DNA story. Only alternative approaches such as alu insertions, human lymphocyte antigens and autosomal DNA can possibly cut the Gordian knot.

Turning from DNA to Actual History
In the meantime, let us continue the thread begun with "Did the Chinese Settle in Northwest Mexico and the American Southwest" (blog post, July 30, 2014).  In Part One, we saw that the Mexicans and Chinese retain memories of Chinese settlement in the New World if most Americans do not.

The classic historical reference is a Chinese text about the Land of Fusang, an account redacted in the 14th century describing events going back to the fifth century. It occurs in the 41st Book of Chüan (or Kuen 327) in the 230th volume of the Great Chinese Encyclopedia, a vast imperial compilation known simply as The Chinese Classics. Joseph de Guignes, a learned French Orientalist, sinologist and Turkologist, brought it to the attention of the Western world in 1761.

De Guignes identified the original narrator as Hwui Shen (or Hui Shen), a Buddhist priest from Kabul (Afghanistan, then part of India), who visited ancient Mexico with four or five other priests in 458 C.E. Hui Shen appeared before the Chinese emperor in 499 and gave an exact account of his travels, surviving in several versions (see the summary in Henriette Mertz, Pale Ink, pp. 21-22).  

De Guignes' report on the Chinese in the Americas appeared in the papers of the French Academy of Inscriptions and Royal Society of London and confounded Europe.  Savants over the next two hundred years—Julius Klaproth (1831), Dominique Alexandre Godron, Joseph Needham—confirmed Hui Shen's place in history. In 1885, Edward P. Vining published the provocatively but succinctly titled Inglorious Columbus: or, Evidence that Hwui Shen and a Party of Buddhist Priests from Afghanistan Discovered America (see extensive bibliog. in Stan Steiner, Fusang, p. 240-44).

If Buddhist priests were living in sixth century Arizona, skeptics may charge, they can't have left much proof of their existence. Their landfall in the Americas was no doubt accidental. They left no enduring mark. It's as if it never happened. In fact, it probably did not happen. Hui Shen's story is a charming fairy tale, not a historical account.

Mesoamerican Religious Practices
To the contrary, there are numerous signs of a deep and lasting Asiatic imprint in Mexico. No less an authority than Hubert Howe Bancroft devotes many pages to the bewilderingly diverse forms of religion among ancient Mexican Indians. Of those in Sonora, Sinaloa and Durango, he writes:  "They had innumerable private idols, penates of all possible and impossible figures, some being stone, shaped by nature only" (Native Races, vol. 3, Myths and Languages, San Francisco, 1882, p. 179).

 

 Lingams and cross at San Xavier.

He notes that some Western Mexican tribes worshipped a black stone like the Kaaba in Mecca, and that Quetzalcoatl and other divinities were connected with stone-worship (p. 281). One Americanist "even explains the meaning of the name Quetzalcoatl despite the usual definition as 'twin of a precious stone.'"

If all this sounds like lingam worship, perhaps it is. In our rambles through the Ironwoods National Forest we were surprised to discover an altar we dubbed Bighead in a hidden cove (see photo). When we questioned a Papago elder he recognized the place immediately and said it was one of his people's most sacred shrines. 

The closest member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, as the Papagos are now known, lives in Tucson, thirty miles away, but certain religious leaders still know this now-empty territory like the back of their hand.

We were not completely shocked after this, when we visited the Mission of San Xavier del Bac, which serves as the parish church for the Papagos living around Tucson.There we photographed a collection of Shaivistic lingams placed beneath the giant Christian cross. The heirs of the Hohokam may have adopted the creed of the Jesuits and Franciscans but apparently they cling to some of their old forms of worship.

Some Possible Echoes in Place-Names
Mertz proposes that the very word Sinaloa (in Nahuatl Zineloque) is derived from Chinelos, "foreigners." She draws attention to the Huichol Indians, who live around Colima, a possible origin point according to a consensus of archeologists for the early Hohokam. These carriers of Arizona's first advanced native culture arrived around 400 C.E. from the south with a fully formed society, featuring, among other things, distinctive pottery, copper bells, cremation practices and irrigation knowledge.

"The religious nature of the Huichol," writes Mertz, "and their attendant religious ceremonies, had strong Buddhist characteristics . . . Some Huicholes bore such striking resemblance to the Chinese that the Mexicans called them 'Chinos'" (p. 73).

Mertz speculates that certain place-names in the Sonoran Desert and West Mexico coast commemorate Asian colonies. The name of Picacho, the hat-shaped landmark that dominates the barren lands between Phoenix and Tucson, may derive from Pi-k'iu (compare Sanskrit Bhiksu "mendicant priest").

Sacaton, an important Hohokam town, seems to bear the name of the Buddha's clan—Saka or Sakya. Prince Siddhartha Shakya (5th century BCE) was the founder of Buddhism and came to be known as Gautama Buddha. Related, according to Mertz, are the names Zacatecas and Zacatlan.

Well, that is all fine and dandy, you may say, vague legends and twisted linguistic analogies. Where's the hard evidence?

An Unusual Petroglyph
Not far from Picacho Peak and Tucson are the Santa Catalina Mountains, and on the Golden Ranch north of the Catalina State Park are the San Ysidro Ruins. Here is located what we suggest is as hard a piece of evidence as you could hope to find. It is a petroglyph of the Buddha meditating in a lotus position. Unmistakable, the iconic figure appears on a rock panel over older, conventional fertility figures and hunting scenes and can be dated to about 1500 years ago (see photo).

If Buddhist priests came to the Hohokam heartland long ago, as recounted in the Chinese Classics, they were hardly idle travelers or adventurers. They were self-described missionaries with a serious purpose. They expected to find people they could communicate with and convert. That the Hohokam and their parent populations already included a sizable Asiatic element is a given.

Asian residents, not mere visitors, are frankly implied in a Chinese poem quoted by Steiner:

Where the sun rises

In the land of Fu Sang

There is my home.

Seeking fame and riches

I came to the land

Of the eternal flowers.

So the "Land of the Eternal Flowers," Fusang, is West Mexico, from Arizona, California and Sonora to Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit and Michoacán. Hwui Chen went back to the Orient, but obviously other compatriots of his stayed and called America home. 

In Nayarit, which appears to be the center of Chinese and Buddhist influence, Bancroft reports that the ancient inhabitants conceived of heaven or paradise as filled with ministering healers "with shaved heads." After death, he writes, the good Indians "went to a place . . . where they lived under the care of men with shaved heads" (p. 529). They also believed in transmigration of souls (p. 529).

Being for the most part celibate, the men with the shaved heads cannot have left progeny, so it would be fruitless to look for their legacy in the DNA record. But that is not the case for the Chinese merchant who emigrated to Fusang to seek fame and riches. Moreover, Chinese junks were capable of transporting an entire colony numbering in the thousands, including women.

Could there be an autosomal trace of gene flow from the East, if not a Y chromosome or mitochondrial trail? Our next post will examine this possibility.


Comments

Donovan commented on 22-Sep-2014 10:12 PM

The Native Americans are the Hebrew Peleg branch. They picked up religious customs while migrating to the Americas. A few of their cousins the Chinese and other various Shemitic Island people may have joined them or assisted them in their Journey to the New World.


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The China Wire - Part One

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Did the Chinese Settle in Northern Mexico and the American Southwest?

We had just finished a meal of delicious fish tacos at what was to become our favorite Mexican restaurant on the Southside of Phoenix. The cook and owner was a lady from Sinaloa. She asked what I did for a living, and when I told her DNA testing, she immediately said, "I imagine our DNA in Mexico is a combination of Spanish, Indian and Chinese, right?"

            Her frankness took me aback. I have read all that Bancroft, Menzies, Thompson, Mertz, Stewart and others have to say on the pre-Columbian Chinese presence. Our favorite source is actually a book little read today but excellent and authoritative. Fusang: The Chinese Who Built America was published in 1979 by the impeccable American historian of multiculturalism, Stan Steiner. He covers the subject very thoroughly and definitively in Book One:  The Chinese Who Discovered America, beginning with the Buddhist missions to America in 441 C.E.

            Recent contributions by Charlotte Harris Reese continuing the scholarly work of her father Hendon M. Harris, Jr., (The Asiatic Fathers of America) have literally put Chinese exploration and settlement on the map, if not in the textbooks.

            What will it take to persuade people of the fact of Chinese visits and even colonization and influence? Evidently, more than a steady stream of respected bestsellers and blockbuster exhibitions at the nation's capital.

            Yet as Steiner notes in his introduction (p. xi), "The mysteries of history are only mysterious to those who are ignorant of them."  Perhaps DNA could help dress up an old topic and make even the willfully ignorant take notice?

            Alu insertions are short stretches of DNA implicated in the study of disease. They provide useful markers for the study of inter-population affinities and historical processes.  Data on these systems are not numerous in Native Americans and related Asiatic populations. What has been published is highly specialized and not for the faint of heart.

            Haplotype studies have occasionally found Asian types in the New World, though these anomalies are usually brushed aside. That not more attention has been paid to them is surprising in the light of ancient "Amerindian" DNA. One of the oldest and perhaps most leading pieces of evidence came from a 5,000-year-old burial in China Lake, British Columbia (!). The two individuals were both mitochondrial haplogroup M, a type that is widely distributed and even dominant in parts of Asia today. But the discoverer, a genetics professor, despite the fact that he was of Asian ancestry himself, could not bring himself to regard the individuals as having Asian ancestry. He timorously concluded only that "the founding migrants of the Americas exhibited greater genetic diversity than previously recognized" (p. 642). See "Mitochondrial Haplogroup M Discovered in Prehistoric North Americans."

            M is the single most common mtDNA haplogroup in Asia, according to Kivisild et al. ("The Emerging Limbs and Twigs of the East Asian mtDNA Tree"). It peaks in Japan and Tibet, where it represents about 70% of the maternal lineages and is pervasive in India, where it has approximately 60% frequency. Among the Chinese, haplogroup M accounts for approximately 50% of all people.

            In our own studies of Sephardic haplotypes, we found a not-insignificant number of cases of O3, a pure Asian type, for instance, Burquez (Mexico) and Ronquillo (New Mexico); see chapter 3, "Sephardim in the New World," in Jews and Muslims in British Colonial America (2012). Unbroken Chinese descent from Native American males marrying Mexican women is a more natural explanation than far-wandered Chinese merchants among the Spanish settlers.  

            We look forward to investigating the female lineages among the colonial populations especially of New Mexico, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima and Michoacán. In the meantime, it occurs to us that perhaps autosomal DNA may harbor some of the answers.

            Stay tuned for our next post, which will report an investigation of three autosomal markers that could provide solid evidence for Chinese DNA buried in the genetic record of West Mexico and the American Southwest.

Photo above:  Greenstone figure of a youth holding a limp were-jaguar baby, found in the Mexican state of Veracruz in the Olmec heartland, is East Asian looking to most people. No one has doubted its authenticity. Wiki Commons.
        

            

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Native Americans Have Deep Ancestry in Europe: Yes, It's Official

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shocking, Long Overdue Revision to American Indian Genetics

By Donald N. Yates

The ecstatic waters . . .

Through their ancestral patterns dance.

—William Butler Yeats, "News for the Delphic Oracle"

We've been saying it all along but it looks as though geneticists may be forced by new findings in ancient DNA to admit that early Siberian people and present-day Native Americans both have strong roots in Europe, only secondarily in Asia. The nuclear genetic bomb was dropped by Danish geneticist Eske Willerslev at a conference on "First Americans Archeology," held October 16-19, 2013, at Santa Fe, N.M. The city that gave birth to the original atom bomb hosted a glittering roster of speakers in a venue better known for its turquoise jewelry, fry bread and avante garde art, including big draws Achilli, Adovasio, Dillehay, Gonzalez and Schurr.

The paradigm-shifting conference program will be commemorated with a book Paleoamerican Odyssey ($56) to be published by Texas A&M Press later this year.

Leaked reports in the news media focused on Willerslev's paper, "Genetics as a Means for Understanding Early Peopling of the Americas," which concerned the genetic sequencing of two ancient Siberians' bones discovered in the 1920s and now in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Analysis of a bone in one of the arms of a boy found near the village of Mal'ta close to Lake Baikal yielded the oldest complete genome of a modern human sequenced to date.

Of the 24,000 year-old skeleton that was Exhibit A, Willerslev was quoted in The Siberian Times, as saying, "His DNA shows close ties to those of today's Native Americans. Yet he apparently descended not from East Asians, but from people who had lived in Europe or western Asia." He added, "The finding suggests that about a third of the ancestry of today's Native Americans can be traced to 'western Eurasia.'"

The 4-year-old boy, who died 24,000 years ago in a homeland previously assumed to account for all the Indians who crossed a theoretical Bering land-bridge and founded the First Americans, had a male Y-chromosomal haplogroup of R1b, the most common lineage in modern Europe, and a female mitochondrial lineage of U, the dominant prototype in pre-historic Europe. As it happens, I am the same combination, R1b for male and U for female, as are innumerable others in our in-house study on Cherokee DNA, published, lo, some five years ago.

Whereas previous "peopling of the Americas" stuff has clung to and recycled haplogroup studies (sex-lines), the new shock research relies on autosomal DNA, total genomic contributions from all ancestral lines, not just male-only, not just female-only descent. The title of a blog from Eurogenes rightly emphasizes this:  "Surprising aDNA [autosomal] results from Paleolithic Siberia (including Y DNA R)."  

When we introduced the 18-Marker Ethnic Panel as an enhancement for our main autosomal product, DNA Fingerprint Plus, lo, again, these five years now and counting, we presented a map of prehistoric human migrations showing without any equivocation that "Native Americans," even as Cavalli-Sforza demonstrated two decades ago, were closer in genetic distance to Europeans than Asians. In fact, we claimed, on the basis of autosomal DNA, that having Native American I or Native American II was a result discrete and separate from East Asian, since Native Americans obtained frequencies of its occurrence as high as 80% and Asians were on the polar opposite of the scale, at the bottom for carrying it. Other methods frequently confused Native American and East Asian to the point of invalidity, particularly those products claiming to arrive at racial or ethnic percentages.

The moral is that autosomal DNA trumps Y chromosome and mitochondrial evidence, and only ancient autosomal DNA can truly explain modern DNA. Even one of the most antipathetic students of American Indian DNA, Theodore G. Schurr, seems to rethinking the rigid definitions that have built careers and won tenure for geneticists and anthropologists for decades. For the fanatics who have been toeing the party line on haplogroup Q, as set down by Schurr's company, Family Tree DNA, and its followers, we note the following statement of recantation or at least qualification, taken from the Santa Fe program:

"Tracing Human Movements across Siberia and into the Americas: New

Insights from Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Data."

In this paper, I present genetic data from native Siberian and indigenous

populations of North America that help to address questions

about the process and timing of the peopling of the Americas. These

new genetic data indicate that Eskimoan- and Athapaskan-speaking

populations are genetically distinct from one another, as well as each

to Amerindian groups, and that the formation of these circumarctic

populations was the result of two population expansions that occurred

after the initial expansion of settlement of the Americas. Our high-resolution

analysis of Y chromosome haplogroup Q has also reshaped the

organization of this lineage, making connections between New World

and Old World populations more apparent and demonstrating that

southern Altaians and Native Americans share a recent common ancestor.

The data also make clear that Y-chromosomal diversity among the

first Native Americans was greater than previously recognized. Overall,

these results greatly enhance our understanding of the peopling of

Siberia and the Americas from both mtDNA and Y-chromosome

perspectives.

"Genetic genealogy" has become a fashionable buzzword, but to my knowledge few research studies or blogs and hardly any commercial tests authentically combine the two concepts. According to genealogy, I myself am about one-quarter Choctaw-Cherokee and three-quarters European. But genetics says my mitochondrial line (U2e) is Eurasian, even though I have traced it to a Cherokee woman who married the Indian trader Enoch Jordan about 1790 in north Georgia.  Estimates from other "genetic genealogy" companies for my Native American ancestry, and I've taken them all, range from 0% (23&me) to 8% (Family Tree DNA, AncestryByDNA). 

DNA Consultants, the company I founded in 2003, does not give percentages of ancestry by policy, but half my top matches in our autosomal analysis are Native American, and North Asian/Siberian is No. 1 in my megapopulation result, followed by Central Asian and Native American (and only distantly by Northern European). On an autosomal approach, if not haplogroup basis, my genes are Native American, which is how I self-identify. If I were to be pulled over for being a brown person in the state of Arizona, where I currently reside, and Sheriff Joe ran my DNA profile numbers through the system he would find that I am 15 times more likely to be North Asian than Northern European, and twice as likely to be American Indian than East Asian, European American or Iberian American (Hispanic).

Read the whole analysis of my personal genetics, with actual reports from various companies, in the Cherokee Results pages on the DNA Consultants website. You may also find an extended study showing what autosomal DNA can do at:

Reconstructing Your Ancestry and Parentage (blog post, March 14, 2012)

If and when geneticists get serious about identifying the European sources of the American Indian gene pool, and hopefully they will round up not just one suspect (Denmark?), I would like for those who get paid and promoted to study us to please consider the following points:

—First New Cherokee Data Published in More Than Ten Years (announcement, August 1, 2012) - in-house study described numerous instances of U, findings published in Donald Yates' Old World Roots of the Cherokee.

—Stephen C. Jett, who taught geography at The Ohio State University 1963-1964 and then at the University of California, Davis, serving thrice as Geography chair and becoming emeritus in 2000, current editor of Pre-Columbiana, has frequently pointed out that just because Native American haplogroups match Siberian haplogroups doesn't mean the population of either Native America or Siberia was the same in remote history as today. He considered this a big fallacy of Big Science.

—Constantine Rafinesque, whose History of the American Indians was the first and most comprehensive treatment of the subject, believed all the early settlers of the Americas came "through the Atlantic," and only beginning about 1000 BCE did the Iztacans and Oguzians (Central Asian Turkic peoples) arrive. See our blog:  American Indian and Turkic People Share Deep Ancestry (June 6, 2012).

—Canadian environmentalist Farley Mowat, the author of thirty-seven books, has constantly challenged the conventional knowledge that Vikings were the first Europeans to reach North America. In The Farfarers he describes the Alban people of Old Europe as visitors and colonists from the time when walrus hunters discovered the sea routes to the West before the Bronze Age. America's original name of the White (or Beautiful) Land is mentioned by Rafinesque and in Hindu, Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Arabic, Algonquian Indian, Irish, Norse and Chinese accounts.  See "An Interview with Farley Mowat" on YouTube.

—Cyclone Covey of Wake Forest University, among other historians, has noted that Clovis Culture appears fully formed without any antecedents in America, with the most perfect examples of Clovis points traced in a cline of occurence in archeological sites to the Atlantic Coast.

—The earliest Americans clearly practiced the same Mother Goddess religion elaborately documented in the east Mediterranean and Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas. Their ideas of matriarchy or gylany (in Riana Eisler's coinage) did not come from Asia. See Archeologist of the Goddess (webpage) and "Syncretism, Not Animism" (PPT), a presentation given at the Sandy, Utah conference, March 29, 2011.

—When customers of DNA Consultants with various degrees of Native American admixture have their European population matches analyzed, a frequent top result is Finland or Finno-Ugric or Uralic. This "false match" could be explained by shared ancestry between the present-day Finns (where U is the modal haplogroup) and ancestors of Native Americans coming from Europe. Consider taking the EURO DNA test ($99).

—John L. Sorenson and Carl L. Johannessen in World Trade and Biological Exchanges before 1492 (2009) document several plants that originated in the Eastern Hemisphere (not Asia) and traveled early by human hand to the Americas. For instance, Cannabis sativa (marijuana) moved from Western Asia or Europe to Peru by 100 CE, and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) was brought to Mexico from across the Atlantic Ocean by 1500 BCE. Both grow in profusion in Europe and temperate parts of Central Asia. Goosefoot (an important Ohio Valley Moundbuilder staple), cotton, coconuts, bananas, turmeric and North American myrtle likely took the same route. In the opposite direction, Mexican agave spread to the Mediterranean world by 300 BCE.

Archeologists described the recent news from Santa Fe as jaw-dropping. We expect that when the definitive report on the Siberian boy's 24,000 year-old genome appears in the journal Nature, where it is at press, their hair may fall out. At any rate, the European origins of Indians is going to be a game changer not only in genetics, but anthropology, archeology, government and, perhaps most significantly, in the self-awareness of millions of Americans who count Native Americans among their ancestors.

 
























Our standard world migration map had the story right years ago.


Comments

Don Danielson commented on 30-Oct-2013 05:36 PM

I can add no data, only my applause. There are, truly, more similarities among people than differences.

James Stritzel commented on 11-Nov-2013 03:03 PM

CONGRATULATIONS!! For vindication of what you and DNA Consultants have been in the forefront of for years. Still will be fierce resistance but the light of your leadership is starting to shine and grow in the ‘Official Establishment’.

I remember and still have a book from the early 1990’s “Giving Voice to Bear” by David Rockwell. In it he wrote of the similarity of how Bear is depicted/revered/hunted around the sub-Arctic. Briefly wrote about a circumpolar subarctic culture. That has stuck with me 20+ years.

Here with Eske Willerley’s “….genetic bombshell….” is validation of what must have been pre-Columbian peopling of Americas other than the orthodox version.

Thanks so much for your dedication, determination and achievements in the DNA Field.

Jim Stritzel

Anonymous commented on 14-Nov-2013 09:18 PM

I have a lot of Siberian DNA as well as a lot of Greek and Iranian DNA, but come from Black Sea area/Georgia. But look European. MtDNA is H1b. Mom's dad's Y chromo is R1b. We were supposed to have come from the Caucasus in ancestral times. Lots of redheads in the family. Curious.

Bill Hucks commented on 20-Nov-2013 05:15 PM

This is one of many articles I've read on the Siberian boy. You mention that his Ydna is R1b, however it is not mentioned in any other articles. I'm very curious to know if R1b has indeed, been confirmed. --That was reported in the full version of the scientific paper.


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Back to Africa

Friday, September 06, 2013

Africa’s Circulatory Migration Route

By Teresa A. Panther-Yates

While it is probably true that we all came out of Africa some 200,000 years ago, some of these first ancestors of ours also returned before Europeans were Europeans. The migration path went both ways. This is a resounding discovery. Erika Chek Hayden in her recent Nature article, “African Genes Tracked Back” says this “reversal” or two-step migration meant that these ancestors reimported “…genes from the rest of the world [which] were carried back to southern Africa, long before European colonizers arrived.”

The findings come from a flurry of research made possible by better tools for surveying African genomes. They suggest that scientists previously underestimated the rich diversity of African genetics. Hayden quotes Luca Pagani, a geneticist at the Wellcome trust Saenger Institute near Cambridge, U.K who says, “Until now, we have been applying tools designed specifically for non-African people to African people.” Hayden also quotes Carina Schelbusch a geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden, as saying, “It’s a really exciting time for African genetics.”

The new research also explains a mystery. It means that some African groups previously thought to be genetically isolated actually “…carry 1-5% of non- African DNA” according to population geneticists at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., who examined the individual genetic variations of some 1,000 individuals (Hayden). This picture of admixture explains why some Africans carry non-African genes. In fact, some carry a lot of them.

For instance, the male Y-DNA haplotype R1 b1 which is the most common haplotype among Western Europeans is also found among some Africans. Miguel Gonzalez et al in his 2012 article, “The Genetic Landscape of Equatorial Guinea,” in the European Journal of Human Genetics says that the human Y- DNA chromosomes R1b1 though “very common in Europe are usually a rare occurrence in Africa,” but there have been some “…recently published studies that have reported high frequencies of this haplogroup” in parts of Africa. One wondered why until now. Hayden isn’t the first to propose the idea of an ancient journey out of Africa and then back again. There have been genetic clues before this. Gonzalez extrapolates from his R1b1 data “that this represents a ‘back-to-Africa’ migration during prehistoric times.” And Hammer et al in the article, “Out of Africa and Back In,” in the Oxford Journal of Evolution postulates that there was more than one African migration path.

Now that we have determined the migratory paths were more multifaceted than previously thought, what else can we extrapolate from this? Could people have (gasp!) also had boats and ships earlier than we allow them in our myopic hegemony of ideas? Certainly, discontinuous gene flow by sea could explain pockets of genetics that otherwise do not fit with the standard view of a welter of footsore people aimlessly trooping around the world and solely driven by survival.

Naw. We predict such an explanation will only be dismissed with ridicule. Human evolution has no motives according to the experts. It is completely random and unplanned. It obeys only the rules we make up for it.

Comments

Raymond commented on 16-Nov-2013 08:33 AM

It is interesting how much discussion occurs regarding "back migration" and a lack of discussion regarding the "Arab Slave Trade" which brough millions of Europeans to N. Africa as slaves and concubines. (Collusion?) Also, there were many Greek, Roman, Circassian, and other Mamlukes (arabic for slave) in N. Africa that contributed to the genetic make-up. Their descendants at still found in Berber tribes such as the Kabyle, Rif, etc. Some of these same groups even ruled Egypt for some time, erecting statues of themselves that are mistaken for ancient Egyptian artwork.

Most are familiar with the Zanj (African slaves) but are unfamiliar with the rest of those same documents mentioning the "European" women that were slaves in the harems. This provides a better explanation of European mtDNA in N. Africa than "back migration" from thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, we are only considering works from people during a time of immense racial predujice as valid references leading to useless debates, conjecture, and falsification of history.

DNA doesn't lie. People's rendering of history only confuses the DNA results. For example, how is it that Native American DNA is found in Africa and Europe? Could it be that Native Americans were taken as slaves to those places, or taken there centuries later in military campaigns? Are Native Americans descended from East Indians who migrated over a "land bridge" (NA's deny this) or did some East Indians intermarry with them when they were brought over as slaves in the 1600's (documented) or came with the Hessian Army (self admissions by the same in the 1800's; documented) and married into some of the tribes? DNA only proves the relation, not the "how" they are related.

Me commented on 07-Jun-2014 11:23 PM

"How is it that some Native American DNA is found in North Africa, is because we are all the same people just with different names. To support the theory that maybe our early ancestors had boats is more like common sense than something to be ridiculed. We have boats now, what will they say about us in another 200,000 years? Our early African ancestors travelled. Had boats. Some having civilizations along side Asians in the Americas called Olmec. Olmec being leading way to the Maya Aztec Zapotecs which are Native Americans or Indians or Amerindians. Being the same people or same mixture of African and Asian blood which was present in Egypt. If a white woman and black man have children in America what is it to say isn't the same as if an African or European had children in another location. It creates the same type of people.

African, Asian, and Europeans have mixed have been mixing and will continue to mix, we have all the answers to our biggest questions using common sense but because some don't want to except it we will keep doing all this research in hopes of finding another truth that settles better on our stomachs.


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Genetic Genealogy Like Astrology?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Maybe If It's First Generation Sex-Linked Testing, Not Autosomal 

Dust off the crystal ball. Scientists consider DNA ancestry services “genetic astrology,” according to a recent BBC article by Pallab Ghosh. In “Some DNA Ancestry Services Akin to ‘Genetic Astrology’,” Ghosh quotes Professor David Balding as maintaining that ‘“such histories are either so general as to be personally meaningless or they are just speculation from thin evidence.’” One article, “Don’t Believe the Guy Who Claims He’s Descended From Vikings,” quotes evolutionary geneticist Mark Thomas, as saying “these tests have so little rigor that they are better thought of as genetic astrology.”  That may be right about some tests. But the key word is “some.”

Not all DNA ancestry tests or companies are created equal.  It is as much an oversimplification to suggest they are as it would be to claim that all lab tests are the same or all pharmaceutical drugs are the same. Do you get a shot for epilepsy when you have diabetes? Hardly. There are DNA tests and there are DNA tests. Customers are generally careful to get  the right medicine from a reputable doctor. A customer needs to be just as careful choosing a DNA test and a DNA ancestry company. Not all DNA ancestry companies, even some of the larger companies, have an ISO certified lab, for instance. This not only guarantees the reliability of results, it is also the highest standard in the genomics industry. A few have this laboratory benchmark, but it is, unfortunately, not required, in direct- to-the-consumer DNA testing. Would you want to entrust your genetic identity with anything less? The buyer needs to be aware that with non-certified labs there is a stronger possibility of contamination or lost or swapped samples. I know someone who was the unknown victim of a sample swapped. He thought he was someone else for two years.

Secondly, there are a variety of tests to choose from. There are sex-linked tests (Y chromosome, X chromosome- mitochondrial) and non-sex linked tests called autosomal. The sex-linked tests are haplotype tests based on genetic markers handed down by the male (Y chromosome, received only by other males) or female (mitochondrial). The industry started out with sex-linked testing, but its limitations dictated a move increasingly to autosomal or non-sex linked testing. There are weaknesses with sex-linked tests.

The mitochondrial genome is small compared with the nuclear genome according to the article “Mitochondrial Genome Analysis with Haplotyping” which means there cannot be that much variation with mitochondrial DNA analysis. For instance, some have expressed doubts that the recently found Leicester skeleton could be Richard III because of the mitochondrial DNA analysis that was done. Live Science writer, Stephanie Pappas, quoted Maria Avila, a computational biologist at the Center for GeoGenetics at the [British] Natural History Museum as saying “people could share mitochondrial DNA even if they don’t share a family tree” (Pappas).  

How is this possible? Mitochondrial DNA is ancient DNA and mutates slowly.  In the article, “Doubts Remain that the Leicester Body is Richard III,” a Mark Thomas at University College London is quoted as saying that “people can have matching mitochondrial DNA by chance and not be related.” So, it might not be Richard III after all. Male line haplotype testing has different limitations. “The Male Y- linked tests have very rapid mutation rates and are very fragile, so you can get a lot of errors with that type of testing,” according to Dr. Donald N.Yates of DNA Consultants.

According to a recent New Scientist article by Colin Baras, “The Father of All Men Is 340,000 Years Old,” the Y chromosome seems more ancient than previously thought. If so, it is also less stable than we thought. Brian Sykes, Professor of Genetics at Oxford University and the author of The Seven Daughters of Eve, makes a strong argument that the Y chromosome is weakening and in trouble in his book, Adam’s Curse. He says it is “doomed to a slow and humiliating decline” (279) because of its instability and rapid genetic mutation and is thus headed toward extinction. Before the 1990’s paternity testing was based on Y chromosome comparisons and limited to fathers and sons. Sometimes, an uncle would be mistaken as the father. Today, it relies on autosomal DNA comparisons, can be applied to females, and is 99.99% accurate.

But then there are non-sex-linked Autosomal DNA tests which are based on a different science altogether. Anyone can take this traditional type of Autosomal DNA test because it does not rely on X or Y chromosomes (women are unable to take the Male Y- linked test and must entice a male in her line, if one is available, to take this test). This test is not testing ancient DNA but  goes back only some four or five generations, so it does not have these limitations. And it provides a complete analysis of all ancestral lines. Not just one line at a time as in haplotype testing. This is next generation ancestry DNA testing and the wave of the future. Moreover, this type of testing is more stable and has more scientific validity as it uses the same science that is used in the legal court system, by the government, and on CSI comparing loci markers to population databases. And two research teams independently reached the same groundbreaking results that the DNA mutation rate is slower than previously thought:  James X Sun et al., in the article, "A Direct Characterization of Human Mutation Based on Microsatellites," in Nature Genetics 44/10 (October 2012):1161-65, and A. Kong et al., in the article "Rate of de novoMutations and the importance of Father's Age to Disease Risk," in Nature 488 (2012):471-75. All done by the magic of math and laws of large numbers.

What does this mean concerning autosomal DNA ancestry tests? They have even more scientific validity. This second-generation type of DNA ancestry testing is based on these same genetic markers, and that is confirmation that the alleles on your DNA that are examined using a statistical basis have been relatively unchanged for the past 20,000 years. That’s about twice the length of what we call world history, hence a meaningful enough time frame for valid inferences about population patterns and ancestry of individuals. These are markers that everyone has (and why anyone can take an autosomal ancestry test).  These genetic markers change at a much slower rate than the Y chromosome which seems to be highly changeable, depending on the father’s age (Kong 201). (The Y chromosome is a marker only males have. It is used for other types of tests: male, haplotype, sex-linked DNA tests. Only males can take these tests, and it only provides information about that one male line).

Of course, anything can be over-interpreted. DNA testing is not magic. Maybe you should put that crystal ball up after all.

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DNA Frontiersman: Jim Bentley

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Behind the Numbers:  Jim Bentley


Jim Bentley, DNA Frontiersman

 

(Part Three of a Series)

We interviewed  one of Chromosomal Labs Bode Technology’s senior staff members, Director of Sales and Marketing Jim Bentley, to get his perspective on industry changes over the past thirty-five-plus years.

 

 

Jim Bentley.

 

 

When did you first get interested in DNA?

JB: I’ll have to preface my answer with a few remarks on “the early days.” When I graduated from Arizona State University in the 1970s, DNA testing as we know it, was not really a field that was in existence. There was not a lot going on. The little work I did with chromosomes was using electron microscopy. I worked in the biochemistry department, however and performed hundreds of assays using poly-acrylamide gel electrophoresis, mainly for separation of proteins. This technique, although improved and streamlined remains in use today for DNA-STR separation. The field we’re in today where we can determine a person’s profile and compare it with others for forensics  for relationships, ancestry, missing persons, adoptions and the like, that technology hadn’t been developed yet. It wasn’t quite as easy as it is today.

Tell us more about the evolution of DNA testing.

 

JB: It basically began with blood groups and types. The first paternity test was done in a court case with Charlie Chaplin in the 1940s. He was excluded as the father, but the court said he could go ahead and pay child support anyway—probably, because he could afford it. Since that time, scientists started moving past groups and types into some other techniques. Human Leukocyte Testing (HLA), DQ-Alpha, and Restriction Enzyme STR testing (RFLP) are examples of the evolution of DNA testing.

The big breakthrough came when Dr. Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicester discovered STR testing in England the late 1980s. He used STR profiling on the Colin Pitchfork case. Colin Pitchfork became the first criminal convicted on the basis of DNA evidence and as a result of a mass DNA screening operation. He was charged with raping and murdering two teenage girls. Since that time the forensic community has really refined the techniques to perform STR testing. They’ve made it simpler and more accurate. It’s really moved exponentially in the last twenty years. Today competent biologists and chemists can produce excellent results, every time.  Dr. Jeffreys has been knighted for his contributions.

So what got you involved?

JB:  I came out of college as a chemist, one interested in the medical field. I started out working in clinical chemistry and toxicology. The work we did with DNA was extremely limited and very costly. But I did stick with a career in clinical chemistry. Within four years after graduating from school I was managing a clinical laboratory in Houston, Texas called National Health Laboratories. It was a laboratory of about one hundred scientists and support staff. After mergers, acquisitions and such, that company remains as Lab Corp. (It performs more than 1 million tests on more than 370,000 specimens each day.)

What opportunities for professional growth did you have over the years?

JB: Through taking a lot of continuing education coursework, I became proficient and qualified as a general supervisor in clinical chemistry, toxicology, hematology, parasitology, microbiology, serology—everything except for tissue work like histology and cytology, which was done by certified medical experts in those specialties. My interests kept me in touch with the staff pathologists, however, as well as all the rest of the laboratory. Though my present-day field did not exist at the time I graduated, by staying current I was able to benefit from the changes and be part of an emerging valuable service provided not only to the medical community but also to the forensic one, and the general population at large.

 

What are some famous cases you’ve been involved with . . . that you can talk about?

 

JB:  Actually, that’s my problem. We’ve been involved in a number of high-profile cases, but we’re not allowed to talk about any of them. Most have been on the forensic side, serial killer trials in Arizona, also in California, some that made the news in Florida . . Texas . . .Georgia.

Were you involved in catching the Grim Sleeper?

JB:  Actually, that’s an ongoing case in Los Angeles we are familiar with, but we didn’t do the work on it, so we can talk about that one. The importance of the Grim Sleeper case has to do with familial testing and autosomal DNA. It was termed the Grim Sleeper case because there were a number of homicides that took place beginning in the mid-1980s, all with the same basic MO [modus operandi], and then the murderer went underground for fourteen years. The victims were typically prostitutes shot with a firearm. In 2010, a suspect, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 57, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder. He has not yet been convicted, nor the evidence against him tested in court.

How was DNA used to catch him?

 

JB: So here were a number of cold cases, but they were being tracked, and the law enforcement authorities in Los Angeles continued to monitor progress. The sole survivor of one of the Grim Sleeper’s attacks furnished a description of him as a black man in his 30s, along with other details. According to her story in the press, he lured her into an orange Ford Pinto, shot her in the chest with a pistol, took Polaroid’s and raped her, leaving her for dead. In 2008, the body count was thirteen, and a $500,000 reward was put out for “America’s Most Wanted.”

It became the first use in California, and one of the first three cases in the United States, of the use of familial DNA searching, that is, using the FBI’s CODIS database to match one family member’s profile with a suspect’s profile. The LA police were able to provide a close partial match to  Franklin’s crime scene profile with that of his son, whose CODIS markers were on file for a minor crime. They then set up a kind of mini-sting operation at a pizza parlor in Buena Park, where they knew the family liked to eat. Undercover detectives masqueraded as waiters and busboys. When the family left, they whisked away an unfinished pizza slice. The crust yielded DNA which police linked on a more solid basis to Lonnie Franklin. It was the first high-profile case in which a family member’s DNA had been used to catch a criminal. The ACLU and others had been critical of familial searching on grounds of privacy, and there is still a lot of debate over familiar searching because it might open up the search and include those who hadn’t committed any crime.

Did this help produce new commercial products like the “cousin finders”?

 

Only a few states are doing familial searching, and they are pretty guarded about it. It’s hard for me to make a connection. Certainly, these developments have been concentrated in the past three or four years, but the use of this technique is spreading.

Are people legitimately suspicious about DNA databases?

 

JB: Fears surface from time to time. There have been claims that keep popping up that someone’s going to take everything that’s in the database and use it to determine genetic deficiencies that could lead to medical issues down the road. Once it was speculated that if such  information was released, insurance companies would begin denying people coverage based on their profiles.

This is the mother of conspiracy theories, isn’t it?

 

JB:  It really is. For the most part—not for everyone—the vast majority of the markers we are using are in the “junk DNA” area. That is, they don’t by themselves “do” anything or give you genetic information on the face of things. There may be one or two markers that possibly could be construed as yielding some medical information—such as a trisomy at vWA or TPOX [a CODIS locus]. But by and large, you are not going to be able to do any medical diagnostics with the markers we run. Usually trisomies such as Down’s syndrome would be physically expressed and not hidden. It’s a little different with SNP panels [single nucleotide polymorphisms] such as those run by 23&me. With a high number of those, it’s entirely possible to predict medical predisposition. That’s what they base their business on.

Let’s talk some more about the CODIS database.

JB:  It’s important to realize that even law enforcement doesn’t provide much access to the CODIS [Combined DNA Identification System] databank. That’s something I have to give the FBI credit for. They have developed a system that is secure. It’s the DNA administrator at each facility who has undergone FBI training and uploads the data under very strict rules, and they are notified of any “hits” that involve them, but otherwise there is very little access, and the use of the database is very even across the country. There are not a large number of portals that can be used to access the CODIS database. There are several hundred law enforcement laboratories that are running profiles across the country, and the database is best thought about on three different levels:  LDIS, SDIS and NDIS, local, state and national versions. Between our labs in Phoenix and Virginia, we’ve tested over a million profiles for entry into CODIS. That’s about one-tenth of the entire number. I can tell you there is tight security. Hundreds of thousands of investigations have been aided by a DNA hit (we don’t like to say “match” so much, because statistically nothing is 100%) generating a lead.

How did you get bitten by the genealogy bug?

JB: I’ve always been fascinated with ancestry. I think it came about because my father took an interest in discovering our family’s roots and had to do so at the time by traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah, and poring over whatever records he could find there about our fathers, and great-grandfathers, and great-great-grandfathers, and so forth. He had tintypes of some of the relatives. We had various pieces of the puzzle. My father pretty much consolidated everything back to William Bentley, who settled in Rhode Island in the early 1700s and had come from Bedfordshire, England. He put together a book for family use. He glorified a few of them and left a few out that weren’t ready for glorification. For the sensitivity of some of the relatives, he left a few details out, but it was a pretty solid piece of work. For me, it kind of fostered this interest in ancestry and its importance. Certainly, when I started at Chromosomal Labs • Bode Technology, we started looking at the various tools that could be used. Our history, to be sure, is passed down from generation to generation. Initially, we were using mitochondrial DNA, Y-SNP’s and Y-STRs and then autosomal STRs to determine how we’re connected to general and specific individuals back to the Revolutionary War days and how you are linked with the world population, what your roots were. I have a particular Y haplogroup of G2a, which is not one of the more common ones.

Hmm . . . you and Joseph Stalin.

JB:  [Laughs]. Is that what his haplogroup was? Uh-oh! He was one of the worst. Well, I got interested in G2a and hooked up with about 50 other Bentleys and we identified our founder  patriarch haplotype. I get emails from them on a regular basis. The other thing we tried to find out was what in the world were all these G2a’s doing in England. I don’t know. But one of the things I find in the literature most often was that the Sarmatians were horsemen that gave the Romans a pretty rough time. Eventually, they were decimated. The Romans took their remaining cavalry and pressed them into service for 12 to 13 years or longer. Some were dispatched to Hadrian’s Wall. Now do I know for a hundred percent certainty that’s where I came from? No, but its fun to regard that as a hypothetical personal history.

You have a Scythian gene, don’t you?

 

JB:  Yes, I do according to the analysis DNA Consultants did for my autosomal ancestry. The work Dr. Yates has done on the rare alleles supports a lot of the stuff the family has been putting together for years and years.  I was very pleased to get my Rare Genes from History report back showing I had the Scythian gene. That seems to go along with the Sarmatian theory about the Bentleys.

How do you see the industry changing over the next few years?

 

JB:  I can speak best about changes I am seeing in the field. They’re getting closer to having rapid DNA testing on a chip. This gives flexibility to those who want to use DNA as “point of use” testing. The FBI this past year came out at the Promega conference and said that within the next two years they would like to see wide adoption of “point of use” testing. The IntegenX prototype allows you to put your swab into a cartridge, insert it into the instrument on the fly and get your STR results in a few hours. Previously, Rapid DNA testing was not only time-consuming and lab-bound but it was very expensive. It cost several hundred dollars in reagents alone. As the technology improves to allow 2 hour testing in our lab or on a chip, reagent and personnel time continue to drop,  Now, the FBI would like to see point of use testing in every booking station in the country. At the last show, I also saw an instrument from Illumina that would run Y-STRs, mtDNA and autosomal DNA profiles simultaneously on one sample. Another change that is coming is we will see an expanded profile becoming the standard, perhaps something similar to the GlobalFiler kit from Life Technologies with its 24 loci. With the new technology you can increase the speed for amplifying the specimen by five times and achieve nine times the discriminating power or resolution.

Any final remarks?

 

JB: The DNA testing field is on the threshold of even greater accolades of appreciation both from the scientific community and the public. If DNA wasn’t even in anyone’s mind twenty years ago, soon it will be part of everyone’s daily lives.

 
























Sir Alec Jeffreys, inventor of DNA fingerprinting, and Jim Bentley at forensics meeting.




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Junk DNA? We Don't Think So

Monday, January 14, 2013

We are our DNA. It was not a surprise to find that our entire DNA is Functional (“Junk DNA Isn’t Junk, and That Isn’t Really News”). The surprise is in the discovery of what we can do with what we once thought was junk. According to that recent NPR article, “It is a massive control panel that regulates the activity of our genes.” Our genes “would not work” without it. So instead of being junk- they are critical and “control how cells, organs, and other tissues behave.” But we can also now read the markers and mutations on this “panel” and discover much more information than knowing it is just working efficiently for our body. This knowledge is considered a “major medical and scientific breakthrough” (Ibid.). We just have to read it well.

But first, what is DNA exactly? John Wilwol, in his recent NPR article, “A ‘Thumb’ on the Pulse of What Makes Us Human,” quotes Sam Kean, author of the book, The Violinist’s Thumb And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, As Written by Our Genetic Code, as saying that DNA is what makes us who we are. Wilwol further quotes Kean to help us understand what DNA is and how it differentiates from genes: “ ‘While DNA is a thing- a chemical that sticks to your fingers, he writes, genes are more conceptual in nature, …“‘like a story with DNA as the language the story is written in.”

So if DNA is a language how are we able to read it? All parts of our genetic code are now readable and meaningful. Marker locations (loci) are spread across one’s entire genome, not confined to one’s male (Y chromosome) or female (mitochondrial) DNA. (This is how sex-linked, haplotype tests that follow one line at a time are analyzed). Different mutations are handed down genetically – different according to the region where one’s ancestors lived.

Because of this new ability to read markers, consumers are now able to buy Autosomal DNA tests that provide a complete analysis of where all one’s ancestors’ ethno-geographic origins – reflecting the entire spectrum of all ancestral lines. Not just one line at a time as in haplotype testing. This is next generation ancestry DNA testing and the wave of the future. Anyone can take an Autosomal DNA test because it does not rely on X or Y chromosomes (women are unable to take the Male Y- linked test and must entice a male in her line, if one is available, to take this test). The future is now in many ways.

What else can you learn from Autosomal DNA testing? Anne Tergesen, in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal,” quotes Megan Molenyak, author of, Hey America, Your Roots Are Showing, as saying that this relatively new test deciphers the amount of DNA shared between those whose common ancestors lived within the last half-dozen or so generations. Tergersen explains it like this, “Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA can connect people whose common ancestors lived recently or hundreds of years ago. But to find out how closely you are related—and to locate relatives besides those on your direct maternal or paternal lines—you will need an autosomal DNA test.” (Of course, you would both need one to compare) and “in general, the more DNA two people share, the closer their connection”.

But there are even more things on the horizon with Autosomal DNA for the future. Personalized Medicine. According to a recent Smithsonian article, “Fetal Genome Sequenced Without Help From Daddy,” “A fetus’ entire genome can now be sequenced” from the mother alone with a “99.8% accuracy.” How is that possible? It was just “last month clinicians announced that they could sequence a fetus’ entire genome by taking samples from the pregnant mother’s blood and that of the father to be” (“Fetal Genome”). Now they have a “more difficult, but more complete method [that] uses DNA from the pregnant woman and the fetus to map out every last letter of the fetal genome…with the advantage that it can pick up mutations that a fetus has but its parents do not” (Ibid.).  Rob Stein quotes Dr. Alan Guttmacher, director of the National Institute for the Child Health and Human Development in a recent NPR article, “Genome Sequencing For Babies Brings Knowledge and Conflicts,” as saying, “Instead of screening for currently something like 30 conditions, it would allow you to screen for hundreds if not thousands, [of conditions] at birth.  He goes on to say that, “One could imagine a day where knowing someone’s entire genome sequence at birth, you could really begin to think about structuring health care, their dietary choices, their exercise choices…early in life, in a way that would have an impact on truly lifelong health.” Stein says that this gene sequencing could “spot babies that are prone to conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart attacks or cancer” and that we may soon be “sequencing all babies when they’re born.”  It could be a wonderful tool. But we are not there yet.

According to Rob Stein in another recent NPR article, “Perfection is Skin Deep: Everyone has Flawed Genes,” Scientists have determined we are all more flawed than they thought. “Researchers discovered that normal, healthy people are walking around with a surprisingly large number of mutations in their genes.” Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England and his colleagues analyzed the DNA of 179 people from several countries who volunteered their genetic information to the 1,000 Genomes Project.

 

In a published paper in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers reported that though none of the people whose DNA was studied were sick, the average person has about 400 minor flaws and one or two that could contribute to disease. Tyler-Smith says, “It’s a bit surprising that people should be walking around apparently healthy yet we’re seeing known disease-causing mutations in their genomes,” he says. “But the answer was that these tended to be for mild and very often late-onset conditions. Things like heart disease, an increased risk of disease or developing cancer. On its website, the American Diabetes Association highlights the interaction of genetic and environmental factors: “You inherit a predisposition to the disease then something in your environment triggers it. Genes alone are not enough.”

 

So the problem is not so much with the analytical tool but rather the possibility of over- interpretation. Again, we just have to read it well, with the same critical eye for what is written in us as that which is written by us. And who knows what else we will soon be able to discover from reading our DNA?

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Melungeons: Seeing Red, Seeing Black

Saturday, May 26, 2012
Check Out DNA Fingerprint Plus $300 


Sorry, Jack, no cigar. Your Grandpa's Indians are not what you think. And it is not true "most free African American families that originated in colonial Virginia and Maryland descended from white servant women who had children by slaves or free Africans" (source). Negro males did not go around selectively "fathering" little man-children on "white servant women" in early America.

It is ironic that these fantasies should even emerge in the recently publicized report, "Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets a 'Whole Lot of People.'" The authors of the report, Roberta J. Estes, Jack H. Goins, Penny Ferguson and Janet Lewis Crain, have spent the better part of ten years trying to prove they and others with Melungeon ancestry are just plain folks, that is, white folks.

Maybe they are just that, though. Among the conclusions of the report are that Melungeons aren't Portuguese, aren't Native American, aren't Jewish, aren't Romani/Gypsy, aren't . . . . On and on. They just have a teeny-tiny bit of Sub-Saharan African in some lines. Not to worry, though, it is just a little soupçon of non-white. And it goes back to a few heroic "negroes" (the report's language) who left a trace their Sub-Saharan African Y chromosomes in the fathers and sons and grandpas of three Melungeon families.

From an article published, lo! way back in 2002 in the Appalachian Quarterly, now sadly defunct,

Shalom and Hey, Y'all Shalom and Hey, Y'all (243 KB)

comes the true story of these "negroes" (the report's language) fathering "multiethnic" babies on innocent white indentured servant women.

In discussing the will of Indian trader James Adair, the author of the study remarks on the fact that Adair did not apparently approve of his daughter Agnes marrying John Gibson (from the selfsame Melungeon Gibson family that is creating all the brouhaha today). (Agnes, by the way, was not an indentured servant; her father had a considerable fortune.)

           "Notice the harsh treatment Adair accords his daughter Agnes, leaving her and her husband John Gibson the nominal sum of only one shilling (if he had left her nothing, she could have protested to the probate court that he simply forgot her). John was one of the “mulatto” Gibsons of the Great Pee Dee river valley region. Gideon Gibson stands large on the pages of history for his role in the so-called Regulators Revolt. The Gideon Glass Antiques Store today pays testimony to the “richest man in South Carolina” of his time. When members of the Gibson family first moved to the state in 1731, representatives in the House of Assembly complained “several free colored men with their white wives had immigrated from Virginia.” Governor Robert Johnson summoned Gibson and his family and reported:

            I have had them before me in Council and upon Examination find that they are not Negroes nor Slaves but Free people, That the Father of them here is named Gideon Gibson and his Father was also free, I have been informed by a person who has lived in Virginia that this Gibson has lived there Several Years in good Repute and by his papers that he has produced before me that his transactions there have been very regular. That he has for several years paid Taxes for two tracts of Land and had several Negroes of his own, That he is a Carpenter by Trade and is come hither for the support of his Family [Box 2, bundle:  S.C. Minutes of House of Burgesses (1730-35), 9, Parish Transcripts, N.Y. Hist. Soc. By Jordan, White over Black, 172.]

 

"The Gibsons are discussed as Melungeons in Brent Kennedy and as true-to-form Sephardic Jews in Hirschman. Melungeon Gibsons derive their origins from the Chavis family, one of the oldest Portuguese-Jewish names in America. If they are Jewish, it is ironic—and probably funnier than any Fanny Brice skit—that historians trot them forth as shining examples of non-slave African American colonials owning land and marrying white women."

The moral of the story? Melungeons have often been hauled into court to prove they are not black. Now they are being dragged through the court of Internet opinion. The outcome is doubtful.

Now about those Indians . . . That will have to wait until another blog post.

Photo: Black Revolutionary soldier. Blackpast.org.

Article cited:  Donald N. Panther-Yates, “Shalom and Hey, Y’all:  Jewish-American Indian Chiefs in the Old South,” Appalachian Quarterly 7/2 (June 2002) 80-89.

More information about Melungeons
Toward a Genetic Profile of Melungeons in Southern Appalachia
Melungeon Studies
Melungeon Match
Melungeon DNA Fingerprint Plus
The War on Melungeons
Melungeons.com

Shalom and Hey, Y'all Shalom and Hey, Y'all (243 KB)

Brent Kennedy's book on Melungeons
Elizabeth Hirschman's book on Melungeons
Lisa Alther's new novel on Melungeons

Comments

Gale Torregrossa commented on 30-May-2012 08:01 PM

"Just not possible to to make an R1a or R1b baby out of an E-3 man and a white woman". This statement is bias, because if the daughter of the white woman marries a white man that is R1b, then her son will be the same as his father and will continue to
pass it along to his grandsons and so on. And the daughter will continue to pass along her white females mtdna to her daughters and grandaughters. I am a good example, my grandmother of the past was a white women and to this day my daughters and grand-daughters
carry European mtdna, because we are the offsprings of a white female. You do not have a lawsuit just hurt feelings and you should be ashamed at the way you describes black physical traits, because I have seen the same traits in white people and admixtures.
You are venting as a racist. . Even better take the Native American test. If you were a Native American Male you would be in Haplogroup "Q". R1b is European! Native females are haplogroups A, B, C, D or X, chill and be real!

Anonymous commented on 07-Jun-2012 02:20 PM

Seems like people of mixed Melungeon and American Indian descent have declared a war of their own . . . against Jack Goins and the authors of the study claiming Melungeons are black. http://freeamericanindiangenocidewatch.blogspot.com/2012/05/jack-goins-declares-war-on-indain.html


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Two DNA Boards to Check

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Dienekes' Anthropology Blog is the grand ole man of genetic blogs, well-praised in all quarters with archives going back to 2004. It is run by Dienekes Pontikos (blogger pseudonym), a Pontos Greek whose family is from Turkey, and who describes himself, far too modestly, as "an anthropology dilettante."

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Arcpoint Des Moines commented on 29-Mar-2012 05:20 PM

These sites are very helpful in gathering information about DNA testing, and testing related topics.


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Right Pew, Wrong Church

Sunday, January 15, 2012
Do You Have the DNA of Roman-British-Thracian Soldiers in Your Male Line?
Probably Not.

A member of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) wrote an article online five years ago. Now a substantial number of listers on the discussion board DNA-Genealogy-L believe their male lines may go back to a Balkan legionnaire in Roman Britain. This theory has been enshrined in popular belief, thanks to ISOGG members, who contribute most of the material on Y chromosome DNA to Wikipedia articles.

Read our review from an appendix on Jewish DNA hot spots in England and Wales in our book-in-progress, New Jerusalem:  The Story of Britain's Earliest Jews and Muslims.


Steven Bird in “Haplogroup E3b1a2 as a Possible Indicator of Settlement in Roman Britain by Soldiers of Balkan Origin,” is, as the title makes clear, most interested in proving a Roman Balkan origin for the haplotype he investigates, now known as Elblbla, the most common type of the haplogroup Elblb (formerly denominated E3b) in Europe. The structure and subclades of this very ancient North African Caucasian lineage have only recently been resolved and overhauled, and the ink is not yet quite dry. But the data used by Bird with the sometimes confused or outdated nomenclature of older reports can still provide valuable clues for our purposes, although one must proceed with caution in making too many differentiations in the tangled branches of the E tree. We must bear in mind that the target haplotype E1b1b1a2 (also called E-V13) represents 85% of the parent haplogroup E1b1b (also denoted as the E-M78 clade) and keep simple E before us without being distracted.

            Bird’s study appeared in one of the first publications of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy, an online journal of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), founded in 2005 by DNA project administrators of the commercial DNA testing company Family Tree DNA based in Houston, Texas, “who share the common vision of the promotion and education of genetic genealogy.” It is an ambitious work with a very small goal. It uses arguments not only from genetics and statistics but also archeology, geography, history, anthropology and linguistics, often involving such fine points as the epigraphy of a Spanish soldier’s diploma from the British Museum issued in 103 CE and the detailed movements of Thracian cohors II and VII in the Roman army. Where angels fear to thread. Bird’s theory about the origins of Elblb have been enshrined in popular belief. We do not wish to appear ungrateful but there are problems.

            Bird’s first mistake occurs in his review of the literature. He misreads Stephen Oppenheimer and represents the author of The Origins of the British as having British E “originating from the Balkan peninsula (26).” If we open Oppenheimer’s book to the page cited (207) we see a map illustrating “Near Eastern [British English for American English ‘Middle Eastern’] Neolithic male migrations via the Mediterranean of E3b [i.e. E1b1b] and J.” The vector standing for the migration of these types launches forth from the Peloponnese in Greece at the cropped lower right corner, obviously intending to suggest origins from that general direction, not “the Balkan peninsula.”  There is no mention of Balkan DNA in Oppenheimer except as part of the bigger picture. The archeological sites Bird adduces as evidence for E settlements in the Bronze Age are not necessarily associated “directly” or solely or chiefly with “proto-Thracian culture,” whatever that term may mean. Nova Zagora in Bulgaria is a Stone Age multi-site. Ezero Culture occupied most of Bulgaria and extended far north into the Danube region of Romania. Yunatsite, Dubene-Sarovka and the other “proto-Thracian culture” examples Bird mentions date to before the Thracians or even the Greeks. They cannot tell us anything about haplogroup E. If anything, all these sites vindicate Oppenheimer’s theory of the demic spread of Middle Eastern (read Anatolian) agriculture, which Bird calls “flawed fundamentally” (27). The center for the diffusion of E in the Balkans is not in Bulgaria or Thrace but northwestern Greece, Albania and Kosovo. The Balkan Peninsula does not have to be the only place from which Bird can manage to derive E and get it to Britain in time to become part of the historical record. It is also strong throughout Greece, Cyprus, the Greek parts of southern Italy, North Africa and even parts of Spain. In fact, its presence in many of those locations is acknowledged to be “due to a founder effect, i.e. the migration of a small group of settlers carrying mostly this lineage (but also a small amount of other North-East African lineages, notably E-M123 and T.” (See http://www.eupedia.com/europe/Haplogroup_E1b1b_Y-DNA.shtml.)

            Despite these failings relating to statement of thesis and validity of arguments, Bird’s work is based on useful data. Three population surveys with frequencies for E in Britain were available to him, the data sets of Capelli, Weale and Sykes. Notwithstanding the nomenclature confusion, only the Sykes data set has true shortcomings, as the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project at the time contained only forty E haplotypes, too small for a valid sample. There are problems comparing them, as Bird realizes, but trends and general conclusions are certainly possible. Before attempting to analyze the haplogroup E variation in Britain, though, we must address the matter of time depth.

            We have no quarrel with geneticists’ and genetic genealogists’ methods of gauging coalescence times. Thus, Bird reiterates that the “time to most recent common ancestor” or TMRCA of Cruciani and others led to the “important finding . . . that E-V13 [read 85% of E] and J-M12 [read J] had essentially identical population coalescence times (27).” E and J are companion types that expanded from their Middle Eastern homelands together in the same fashion and probably reinforced each other in multiple phases of gene flow. But who is to say in any specific case of a haplotype that it arrived in Britain 4,000 years ago (TMRCA) or at any subsequent time, including the time when our grandfathers lived. The TMRCA sets a haplotype’s time of origin but not its place of origin, except by inference. We hypothesize that from a host of other factors, chiefly present-day clusters, genetic distance between types and high concentration of haplotype diversity.  Using TMRCA, Bird argues that a specific form of E “could not have arrived in Britain during the Neolithic era (6.5-5.5 kya) if it had not yet expanded from the southern Balkans (27).” We prefer to believe that it came to the British Isles at several critical times, first in Neolithic times but later with the Phoenicians, Jews, Egyptians, Iberians and related peoples.    

            Bird cherry-picks the data to support his Roman Balkan or what might be called Diocletian thesis, but data are data; these are amenable not only to bearing out the general storyline we present but also to supporting, within the same historical context, the existence of certain hot spots for Jewish and Middle Eastern DNA in England and Wales.  We agree somewhat with Bird the Welsh cluster for E is “underestimated by an arbitrary division by Sykes into two geographic regions (‘Wales’ and ‘Northern England’) . . . [creating] an impression of a large number of ‘Eshu’ haplotypes located throughout Northern England, when in fact the Northern English cluster is linked to Welsh cluster geographically (29).” Only, we would see in that Northern English cluster the remains of the historical Welsh Old North (chapters 1 and 7). We would not necessarily see in the Wales-to-Nottingham cluster the fading footprints of “the Ordovices, the Deceangi, the Cornovii, the Brigantes and the Coritani tribes (30),” about whom little is known in any event, but a belt of pre-existing Mediterranean culture reinforced by Roman occupation and somewhat resistant to Anglo-Saxon and Viking intrusions. Another shrinking pocket of the old British culture is shown in the elevated frequencies for both E and J in Strathclyde and Cumbria, part of the Welsh Old North.

            Bird has an informative map of Britain illustrating E1b1b distribution according to the Kringing method (34). In this we can trace all the major pockets of Mediterranean and Jewish DNA. Leaving aside Scotland, and aside from the Midlands pocket already mentioned, our eye is drawn to North Wales (along with a clear wall of high incidence surrounding it as though beating back the forces of history on all sides), Dorset, London and East Anglia. It cannot be coincidence that these are the very regions where we have diagnosed the presence of Jews and picked up their trail through the chapters of our book.

            As a final note, a 2005 paper by Robert Tarín provides phylogenetic analyses of E1b1b haplotypes that cast serious doubt on Bird’s assertions and confirm our reading of the evidence. Tarín used 290 individual Y chromosome results to characterize “a separate cluster of mostly Iberian haplotypes which seem to represent a North African entry into Iberia distinct from the E3b [E1b1b] in Europe that may have arisen from Neolithic or other migratory events.” He wrote that “it is unknown whether this finding reflects relatively recent gene flow from the Islamic rule of Spain or an older influx possibly from the Phoenicians”—the same quandary about time frame and coalescence we see above. Utilizing the Y Chromosome Haplotype Reference Database (YHRD), Tarín found levels of the Iberian E haplotype as high as 61% in one Tunisian population (Zriba, near ancient Carthage), while Andalusian Arabs and Tunisian Berbers both showed frequencies of about 7%. We believe this Iberian haplotype is a small, but important Jewish lineage that expanded from Tunisia to the Iberian Peninsula with the Berbers who aided Arab armies in conquering Spain. Interestingly, it accompanied Spanish Jews to Mexico and other places in the diaspora following the events of 1492.  Its distribution in Britain should reveal an implantation originally under the Phoenicians reinforced by periodic migrations of North African and Spanish or French Jews throughout the medieval and early modern periods of British history.



Steven C. Bird, “Haplogroup E3b1a2 as a Possible Indicator of Settlement in Roman Britain by Soldiers of Balkan Origin,” Journal of Genetic Genealogy 3.2 (2007) 26-46.

Robert L. Tarín, “An Iberian Sub-Cluster Is Revealed in a Phylogenetic Tree Analysis of the Y-chromosome E3b [E1b1b] Haplogroup,” published online Nov. 2005 and retrieved Jan. 2012 at http://garyfelix.tripod.com/E3bsubcluster.pdf.

Map shows location of Devon, one possible hotspot for British male haplogroup E. 

Comments

Paul commented on 28-Apr-2012 08:14 PM

This is fascinating. I wonder if I can count myself among these descendents. Though Bird may have been debunked, my Mother's autosomal analyses (as well as my own) included a very prominent representation from the Balkans, especially Croatia, Bosnia and
Macedonia. Her mother was French-Canadian, and we have paper-trailed those unmistakably French surnames in Quebec back to the early 1700's. However, her father was a descendent of Henry Cook I of Devon. Iberian representation we saw in the analyses were not
unexpected given the known history of the British Isles, but the Balkan representation sure was.

Brian Colquhoun commented on 01-Mar-2013 06:20 PM

I just assumed the V13 moved from Northern Africa to the Middle East (ancient Israel included) and thence to the Balkans (including Thrace, Moesia, Macedonia)and Greece. Certainly, a Roman connection in transport to Britain seems intuitive, but as more and more data becomes available, I'm sure the story will sort itself out.


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