Wednesday, September 11, 2002

LexiLine Journal #25 - 2002 : DNA - The Seven Daughters of Eve - Jason and the Argonauts


I finally got around to reading The Seven Daughters of Eve (Bantam Press, Corgi Books, ISBN 0-552-14876-8) by Bryan Sykes, showing how all the peoples of Europe can be traced back by DNA genetics to seven specific and geographically identifiable ancient mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) "mothers" as it were - and also indicating that all the peoples of the world can be traced back to ca. 36 such mothers not too far back in prehistoric days.

95% of European mitochondrial DNA traces back to "the seven daughters of eve". Many departures from the norm are explainable - some are more difficult.

Sykes has several examples of mitochondrial DNA sequences which are quite unusual - pointing - in my opinion - to ancient connections of peoples by way of the sea:

1. An Edinburgh schoolteacher with clear Scottish ancestry traceable back 200 years nevertheless has Polynesian mitochondrial Sykes writes "is she perhaps the descendant of a Tahitian princess who fell in love with a handsome ship's captain...?"

2. Sykes writes: "There are many other equally mysterious journeys recorded in our DNA: the Korean sequence that turns up regularly [note that word "regularly"] in fishermen from Norway and northern Scotland; the unmistakably African DNA in a dairy farmer from Somerset...; the [mitochondrial] sequence of a book salesman from Manchester that is so unusual that his closest match is found among the native Australians of Queensland.... "

3. Sykes refers to two fishermen on a small island off the west coast of Scotland who show quite unusual mitochondrial sequences, which Sykes describes as follows: (p. 358)

"One outstanding genetic journey involves a complete circumnavigation of the world [emphasis added]. Two fishermen on a small island off the west coast of Scotland have unusual mitochondrial sequences...we [found] matches ... one in Portugal and one in Finland. These were
still unusual sequences to find in Europe, not part of the seven original
[European] clans. The Portuguese sequence matched several from South America, and the Finnish DNA was close to sequences found in Siberia, where we also found the ancestral sequence of the South Americans. So the two fishermen were indeed related - but only through a common ancestor from Siberia. One line of maternal ancestors had travelled from Siberia along the coast of the Arctic Ocean to Scandinavia, then on to the west of Scotland, perhaps aboard a Viking ship. The other had crossed into America over the Bering Straits, then down to Brazil. At some time, presumably after Brazil became a Portuguese colony, a woman carrying this piece of DNA crossed the Atlantic to Portugal, from where, somehow, it had found its way up the Atlantic coast to the west of Scotland. The two journeys had ended on the same small island after travelling in
opposite directions from the other side of the world.

As you can see, Sykes has to presume a whole series of unusual and unconvincing ancient events to explain the factual data. Of course, the Scottish sequences are much more easily explained by presuming only one event - that some of the ancient Argonauts brought some women from abroad (Siberia, Korea, South America, Polynesia) with them upon returning to their point of origin ca. 3000 BC. Note how the unusual DNA sequences concentrate on Norway and northern
Scotland particularly and seem to concentrate on fishermen, many of whom trace their ancestry back to generations of ancient seafarers.

I think as more DNA research worldwide is done, we will in fact be able to trace the ancient voyage of the Argonauts quite accurately through the traces of DNA they left behind - also in distand lands.

[Update September 15, 2006]

Kevin, a LexiLine member, wrote:

"Eve and her seven daughters is an excellent read, having visited the Islands of Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, cook Isands, New Zealand and having the pleasure of working with the Torres Islanders of the top end of Australia.

It sure makes you wonder how these people all over six foot tall of very very large stature, dark skinned are related to the DNA of people living in Taiwan and southern China.


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