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Have You Taken a DNA Test to Find Your Roots/Ethnicity? -- If You Have European Ancestry, This Is Must Reading

Jean Manco's revised and updated book Ancestral Journeys is one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time.   

The author is a "building historian," but is well equipped to combine archaeology,  climate history, and DNA research.  She capably turns a complicated and potentially boring subject into a well-written narrative, even though you had better read it with easy access to Wikipedia in order to look up all the ancient place names and regions lost to us moderns and now unfamiliar to most of us.

Climate Change?

While going though her book, it immediately becomes apparent that much of where early Europeans lived and why they moved has to do with climate change.  Rising seas, long periods of rain/cold weather, and extended periods of draught caused our ancestors to migrate, at times even from one end of the European continent to the other.  The old notion that the ancestors of many modern Europeans were peoples driven West by Eurasian invaders (i.e., Huns, etc.,) does not tell the whole story and has been greatly revised in light of DNA evidence.

At one point people could walk from Denmark (Jutland) across marshland to that future island we now identify as "England."  Climate change is obviously cyclical.  In fact, all of this occurred before the possibility that our contemporaries would disrupt sea levels and population centers by raising the earth's temperature through the use of fossil fuels and unfriendly environmental practices.  Either early humans did the same damage to the environment we are doing, or else there must be some other cause for global warming--perhaps natural causes such as solar influences?

Into Africa, Not Out of Africa?

While not a Christian, virtually everything Manco states about the culture and migratory patterns of early humans is closely tied to that region we identify as Mesopotamia (the Fertile Crescent).  Manco points out along the way that many of the long-standing theories of the peopling of Europe have been recently overturned, which makes me wonder how long will it be before the evidence pushes folk to conclude that just because Louis Leakey found ancient bipedal hominids in the Olduvai Gorge, that it is just as likely that modern humans migrated into Africa, rather than out of Africa.   But then this would tend to confirm the biblical account, and we can't have that, can we?

Dating?  Too Early?

Manco addresses one of the main issues I've had with DNA test companies--the assignment of very ancient dates for human origins.  I'm not a scientist nor a statistician, but it always bugged me that archaeologists boldly inform us of "certain dating" using what they call the "evolutionary effective rate" to determine the rate of mutations of the various human haplogroups (your inherited DNA type).  But isn't a genetic mutation, by definition, a random event, and can occur repeatedly within a few generations?  Must we assume that mutations occur at a fixed rate so as to push human origins back far enough to allow for some sort of human evolutionary model?  Manco concludes that using this evolutionary effective rate "overestimates ages dramatically" (231).  I'm glad to see someone in the DNA/archaeology community admit as much.  There is nothing in any of this to prove an ancient origin (50,000 BC or often much earlier) for the human race.  Much of the dating process is nothing more than sophisticated guesswork.  Manco even implies that modern humans are much more recent in origin than previously thought.


The growing interest in DNA testing changes everything when it comes to race--or it should.  I grew up being taught in public school that there were three races (Mongoloid, Caucasoid, and Negroid), and that modern humans evolved from apes.  This theory was always taught with the accompanying and despicable chart implying that African-Americans were somehow closer to primitive human ancestors than white Europeans.  One thing the proliferation of DNA testing has done is effectively put an end to such nonsense.  We all have common ancestors, and we are all, genetically speaking, a combination of many DNA haplogroups (in terms of our autosomal DNA--which the DNA companies use to determine your "ethnicity").  There is one Adamic race, and each of us are not only divine image-bearers, but we share a common ancestry and origin--an ancestral Adam and Eve.  We also share in Adam's Fall, which is the root cause of all race division and conflict.

Interesting Stuff I Never Knew . . .

I knew that slavery was the fate of weaker humans and losers in battle from the time of the earliest human civilizations.  But Manco contends that given the overwhelming number of slaves held in Europe and Middle East by the Romans and many others before and after, virtually all white Europeans have a high mathmatical probability of genetic ancestors who were slaves.  Yes, there may be a king or noble in your line, but there is almost a certainty that there is slavery too.

DNA tests have shown that reindeer originally came from Spain before migrating to Lapland, and that one group of ancient peoples (the Saami) have been closely tied to them ever since.  DNA proves that apples came from the Lli Valley in Kazakhstan, before the tree was "domesticated."

The movement of the Celts and Goths is a very complicated affair, but can be traced by language and the DNA they left behind.  "England" derives from the designation Angle-Land.  Britain is, of course, the Roman designation.  The Slavs have a very recent origin (500 A.D.) and expanded very rapidly into places like the Balkans and Eastern Europe.  This expansion also can be traced by using DNA testing and the rise of a distinctly Slavic language.

The book is filled with fascinating information like this.

As for Me

It would figure that I am not just the typical R1B white guy.  My DNA was recently reclassified by Family Tree DNA (the best DNA testing company, IMHO, if you wish to pursue this further).  My y-DNA was originally classified as G2A, one of the first y-DNA haplogroups to enter Europe, not very common (about 5% of the male population) but widely spread, originating in Eastern Turkey and Northern Iraq (remember modern countries and "ethnic groups" did not yet exist).  There is a cluster in Switzerland.

But an additional test determined I am H2-P96--very, very rare in modern Europe (a fraction of a percent, with a cluster in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland), and now counted as among the very first peoples to enter Europe after the Ice Age (92-93).  The mainstream y-haplogroup "H" is found in large numbers in India and Pakistan.  So at some point way back when, one brother went West into Europe.  His DNA survived in a few European folk like me.  But his brothers went East and filled an entire subcontinent!  The Romani (H1), left India a thousand years ago and went West to Romania.  We know them today as "Gypsies." 

Apparently, my ancestors have been in Switzerland for a long, long time.  I've always had this weird desire to paint pictures of animals on my walls.  Now I know where that comes from.  My mtDNA (my mother's mother's mother's  . . . line) is U5B, a very common and ancient DNA, found throughout Europe, with much of it occuring before the Ice Age (50).  Many of you with European ancestry reading this probably have the same mtDNA. 

Reader Comments (2)

You got me interested! I read a sample of it, I usually read the preface first to get an idea of the author's intentions and frame of mind. She comes across with a genuine curiosity and desire with no pretense to publish something to score points.
July 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBobby
Hi Kim - Kathy B here from L, CO. Actually, 23 and Me is the best DNA program, imho -- because you can insert it into a plethora of medical apps that allow you to understand your various health issues based on SNPs. :) It has helped me regain my health by knowing which pathways are broken. You also get the historical information -- but you also get the medical information :)
July 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

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