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review of scientific and news articles on dna testing and popular genetics

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.


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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Where Do I Come From: Shawn

Monday, July 22, 2013

Where Do I Come from:  Shawn

Real People's DNA Stories

Ethnicity Beyond European Migration

By Shawn

My journey into DNA testing began with my desire to expand on my known heritage, while clarifying debated Jewish ancestry.  What I have found in return is that my ancestral paper trail only uncovers a small portion of the blood that runs through my veins.  My DNA Consultants results, for the most part were quite surprising.  My European matches were fairly consistent with my country origins on paper and surrounding areas.  The major surprise, however, was that my number one European match was Romani/Gypsy and my number 10 match was Czech Republic.... 

Things became much more interesting with my World Population Matches.  My scores (in order) were Romani/Gypsy, Middle Eastern, African, Iberian, Central European, African-American, Jewish, Mediterranean European, European American and Eastern European.  I also came up with Native American admixture to top it off.  These results are causing me to believe that there may be a line or more of family lineages that I have yet to tap into. 

Looking back on things now, I have received comments from others concerning my phenotype such as "I'm not sure what you are,” "You don't look Irish" and "You must have some Black ancestry."  Some have even just assumed I was Hispanic or Caucasian.  Interestingly enough, almost all acknowledge that they see my Italian/Spanish phenotype, while a few also see slight Native American.   

While my results provided insight into how diverse my blood really is, they also put an end to an age-old family debate as to our Jewish ethnicity.  One of my relatives from a few generations past would passionately defend her position that our family line was indeed Jewish, while another family member would vigorously put forth his position that we were not Jewish.  He would try to prove our non-Jewishness any time he could.  I also had another family member along that same family line say that he almost did not get hired for a job because the hirer thought he was Jewish.  I always believed these accounts, especially since as young as I can remember I have found this side of my family (Italian and German) to phenotypically look Italian and/or Jewish.  

So where does all this leave me now?  My results show my blood is much more than simply Italian, French, Irish and German.  They confirm family testimony of Spanish/Portuguese/Iberian and Jewish ancestry.  Perhaps more interestingly, my results leave me re-assessing my ethnicity or multi-ethnic heritage, end years of family verbal passages or debates and leave me with intriguing new ancestries that are waiting to be discovered. 


Maria OConnor commented on 23-Jul-2013 12:42 AM

Shawn: Countries frontiers are artificial. For example, there are people of celtic heritage in northern Spain, northern Portugal, all over Ireland, all over England, all over Scotland, all over Wales, Southern Germany, northern France, Northern Italy, etc. All of them, even considering the come from different places have the same celtic DNA. So, if you have an ancestor from Spain or Portugal, could be of celtic origen, or mediterranean origen.
If a person has jewish sefardi dna, it could be originated from Southern Spain, Southern Portugal, North Africa, Middle East, etc.
Also, in South America there are great numbers of people of European ancestry, including non hispanic non portugue ancestry, like Irish, German, Italians, etc.
Is quite complicated, due to ancient and new migrations.

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Where Do I Come From: Monica Sanowar

Friday, July 12, 2013

Where Do I Come From

Real People's DNA Stories

A Red-Hot Tale from the Nation's Capital

By Monica R. Sanowar


I took my first test with Family Tree in 2006. This test showed my mtDNA as L3e2b2 and it went like this:

52% West African

39% European


0% Native American

I could not believe the East Asian part, and I shrugged it off and thought—that has to be Native American.

So, fast forward—I took another test with Ancestry.com. This was autosomal and showed:

48% - West African

44% - European


How can you be UNKNOWN?

Neither of these tests really breaks down what country your people may have originated from. So then I tried 23&me, their autosomal offering.

49% - West African

48.3% European - Central - Northern - Non-specific

and the leftovers were .7 EAST ASIAN & NATIVE (although the NA box did not turn red)


I knew from family history that NA was on both sides of my fence. I also was aware that I had four of the traits Melungeon people have. I have the ridge in the back of my head that you can lay your finger in; I have ridges on the teeth and I can make the clicking sound on the shovel teeth; I have the Asian eyefold, and the very high arches. Can't get my foot inside of a boot and if I do, I can't get it off.  I was amazed that I got my results in less than two weeks!

Finally, I tried DNA Consultants. Its test was the very first that didn't show "UNKNOWN" or non-specific. Everything was accounted for, although I did find a few shocks. No one told me about Sephardic Jews or the Portuguese. At last, a test verified my Native roots with valid matches to tribes or nations and confirmed Native American autosomal markers—from both parents, as I had been told.

I got into Native culture back in 1983 when I started to go to powwows. I finally felt at home. I enjoyed seeing people that looked like me, mixed. My great-great-great grandmother was listed on the FREE NEGRO LIST where it asked How Freed? And it was written BORN FREE. Then came a description— a light-skinned black, with long straight black hair and a small scar on her hand. Below is a picture of her daughter, Alethea Preston Pinn. Alethea's father was a white man named Allen Preston. Alethea had seven children with James E. Colvin, who was white, and all

of their children were put on Walter Plecker's list of "mongrels" not allowed to vote or go to school. That was 1943. Not that long ago.

So, I got a second cousin to take the test with 23&me who comes directly from

Sarah Pinn (the alleged light-skinned black woman). My cousin's haplogroup came in A2N - Native American.

I know that some things may show and some not, but DNA Consultants' test knocked the EAST ASIAN right off the page. I've learned a lot of different things with DNA testing, but DNA Consultants' is the best one I have seen and is well worth the money. 

I love it when these geneticists and genealogists out there decide what you do or do not have in your family tree, especially the Indian part of the tree.  As if this just could not have happened . . . .  I am proud of all of it.  I can just about hang up a flag from everywhere.   

I can't praise the DNA Fingerprint Plus enough and wish I'd known about it years ago. I really appreciate all of the knowledge and insight Dr. Yates has about genealogy and history that I was totally unaware of. I actually spoke to him on the phone at length and he truly made my day. I highly recommend DNA Consultants' service to people who are looking for the truth about their genealogy.

And speaking of spicy mixtures, check out my hot sauces at Sun Pony. They've got secret, all-natural ingredients just like the family!

Alethea Preston Pinn, my great-great-grandmother on my paternal side.

My mother, Mary Wood.

My great-aunt Lenora Wood.


Elizabeth Colvin, a granddaughter of Alethea Preston Pinn. "Contrary to the belief and convictions of many people, long hair really does exist in my family," says Monica Sanowar. "It isn't a made-up fantasy and this was long before hairweaves.  My cousin's hair was down to her calves." 

Guest blog author Monica Sanowar is the founder of Sun Pony Distributors Inc., makers of a line of all-natural, wholesome condiments and energy supplements found in stores up and down the East Coast. Her first hot sauce was Yellow Thunder and her Native name is Sundancer. SunPony's D.C. Redbone Hot Sauce is the official hot sauce of the Anacostia Indians, D.C.'s little known indigenous people, who were first recorded by Capt. John Smith in 1608.  Sanowar lives in Washington, D.C., not far from the Anacostia's village site, now a national historical landmark. Watch grassdancer Rusty Gillette in a video about D.C. Redbone. 

Phyllis Starnes commented on 12-Jul-2013 04:42 PM

Monica Sanowar,

I had the pleasure of analyzing your personal DNA profile and preparing your report.

I am pleased that our detailed report validated your known ancestry.

Thank you for sharing your experience with DNA Consultants.

Phyllis Starnes
Assistant Investigator
DNA Consultants

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Elizabeth Hirschman, Modern Pioneer

Friday, December 07, 2012
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Behind the Numbers:  Elizabeth Hirschman

  (Part Two of a Series)

We interviewed Rutgers marketing professor Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, author of several books and articles incorporating DNA in her research, to hear her personal story in our continuing series about the people behind the scenes in the field of DNA testing.


Elizabeth Hirschman with MBA students at Rutgers in December 2009.

When did you first get interested in DNA?

ECH: I got interested in DNA testing around 2000 when I discovered I was Melungeon after reading Brent Kennedy's 1994 book. Brent suggested several different ancestries that possibly contributed to the Melungeon population and I wanted to find out which of these were correct and which ones I had. I already suspected Jewish ancestry because of the naming patterns in my family over the past 300 years, as well as some of their habits --e.g., not eating pork, getting married in a home instead of a church, cleaning house on Friday afternoon, no eggs with blood spots, washing all meat, etc. We also had some genetic anomalies -- shovel teeth (sinodonty), palatal tori and large rear cranial extensions, as well as polydactylism.

Tell us more.


ECH:  Over the course of the past decade I have been found to have Native American, Spanish, Ashkenazi Jewish, African, Mediterranean and Gypsy/Northwestern India ancestry. My Dad turned out to have substantial Gypsy and African ancestry. He and I share a large cranial rear extension that I believe likely comes from the African ancestry -- the photos I have seen of the !Kung Bushmen look just like our head shapes. My Mom has Native American and/or Sino-Siberian ancestry. She also possessed the Asian teeth and palatal tori found in this group.

You've written several books and articles with Donald Yates; how did that come about?

ECH:  We shared ancestry from the Coopers, a prominent pioneer family in Daniel Boone’s time. In 2000, I wrote him out of the blue when he was a professor in Georgia and introduced myself and asked if possibly the Coopers were Jewish. We began to correspond by email. I told him I was sure one of the reasons I was working so hard to figure out the Melungeon story was because I had to figure out who I am. “Up until last year,”  I remember telling him, “I thought I was Scotch-Irish, English , white and Presbyterian.” It was a big transition to Sephardic, brown and Jewish. It turned out that we were distant cousins and had numerous links in our Melungeon ancestry.

What was a typical publication?

ECH: One article was called “Suddenly Melungeon! Reconstructing Consumer Identity Across the Color Line.” This was published by Routledge in 2007 in a handbook on consumer culture theory edited by Russell Belk.  


How did the Jewish findings play out?


ECH:  On a personal level, both Don and I, as well as his wife Teresa, returned to Judaism, he and Teresa in Savannah and I in New Jersey. On a professional level, we started the Melungeon Surname DNA Project, which focused on Scottish clan and Melungeon surnames (i.e., male or Y chromosome lines), and later included Native American mitochondrial DNA.  Initially, many people in the genetic genealogy community were frustrated that the incoming Jewish DNA results were not originating in the Middle East, as they had strongly believed and hoped, but were showing a lot of Khazar, Central Asian, Eastern European and Western European/Spanish/French input.

Can you elaborate?

ECH:  Critics were not happy that DNA was proving a wider and more inclusive picture of the Jewish people. Where Don and I have performed a service, I believe, is by just following the DNA trail and accepting new findings (e.g., the Gypsy/Roma) when they come in, instead of clinging to an a priori theory/belief/wish, for instance, the claim of a Middle Eastern origin for the majority of Jews.

What tests have you ordered from DNA Consultants?


ECH: I ordered every test as they became available over the years, first the Y chromosome and mitochondrial or male-line and female-line tests and later the autosomal or DNA fingerprint tests that analyze your total ancestry.  I helped organize the first autosomal Melungeon study by contributing samples from my mother and brother and obtaining samples from well-known Melungeons like Brent Kennedy and his brother Richard. Increasingly, our testing took on the aspect of a family group study. For instance, I was able by comparing multiple results from relatives to reconstruct my father’s ancestry quite satisfactorily, even though he died many years ago. I took the Rare Genes from History for all available family members. There is a streak of the Thuya Gene and First Peoples Gene in all of us, as well as the Sinti Gene (which is Gypsy), while my brother Dick got our father’s Khoisan Gene, which is African. Incidentally, it has the same source as the !Kung people and head shape I mentioned before.

If you had H. G. Wells' time machine where would you go?


ECH: I would love to be able to visit my ancestors and see what they looked like, where they lived, how they lived and learn how they got to Appalachia from such disparate parts of the world. I wish I could talk with them. My project now is to visit all the places they are known to have come from and see what the architecture, climate, food, and people are like. That is about as close to "meeting" them as I will be able to get. So far, I’ve traveled to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Spain, Tunisia and Morocco on the trail of my Sephardic Jewish ancestors. I am trying to get to the Silk Road to see Central Asia, Turkey and Northwest India in the near future.

Professor Hirschman has published over 200 journal articles and academic papers in marketing, consumer behavior, sociology, psychology and semiotics. She is past President of the Association for Consumer Research and American Marketing Association-Academic Division. Professor Hirschman was named one of the Most Cited Researchers in Economics and Business by the Institute for Scientific Information in 2009; this recognition is given to the top .5% of scholars in a given field.  


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How Did That Neanderthal DNA Get Into Me?

Thursday, August 23, 2012
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A new Cambridge University study claims that the 1-4% Neanderthal DNA in the average European is not the result of admixture or hybridization, as widely believed when the Neanderthal sequences were discovered in human DNA, but the signature of a remote split in hominid species in early Africa. The study is headlined "Humans, Neanderthals Did Not Have Babies" in Discovery News. According to the new model, Neanderthals died out 30,000 years ago in Europe and never had the opportunity to produce hybrid progeny with anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens). 

But the new model is just that, a model, and proves nothing, say many critics of the explanation. Statistical programs can be set up to "prove" anything. The new model just proves that it could be a scenario that might have occurred in the dim human past. Not all possible scenarios are true, and in fact, many possible scenarios are unlikely . . . and well, not possible except in a statistical sense.

Essentially, the Cambridge study uses a conclusion to prove a hypothesis. It's supposed to work the other way around. And we thought Cambridge was the home of logicians!

Also, why are there no Neanderthals in Africa?

See our post "Most Humans Part Neanderthal"


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Melungeons: Seeing Red, Seeing Black

Saturday, May 26, 2012
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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

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


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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Obama Shares Melungeon Ancestry with California Professor

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

San Diego State University professor D. Emily Hicks has traced some common ancestry with President Barack Obama. According to the professor of Chicana/o Studies, she and the President share Melungeon roots. Obama is a descendant of Mary Collins of Orange County, Virginia as well as of Nathaniel Bunch of Louisa County and John Bunch of New Kent--well known "feeder" counties for what became the Melungeon settlement described in Brent Kennedy's book, The Melungeons, The Resurrection of a Proud People.

Obama's Bunch line was found to carry E1b1a haplogroup, a sub-Saharan African male lineage. He is also supposed to have Cherokee ancestry in his mother's colonial genealogies.

Read the whole story at PRLOG.

More information about Melungeons
Toward a Genetic Profile of Melungeons in Southern Appalachia
Melungeon Studies
Melungeon Match


pamela commented on 07-Apr-2012 07:21 PM

hello i have been tracing my hertiage i am back 10 1595 and i am dirrectly linked to nathaniel bunch and john bunch my mothes maiden name is bunch john bunch was her great great grandfather and i am blonde hair blue eyed my mother looked native i am proud
to be a melundgeon and this is cool that i am related to obama

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Replacement or Assimilation: Origin of Our Species

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In a review of Chris Stringer's book The Origin of Our Species (Lane, 2011), Jean-Jacques Hublin sides with one of the first promoters of the 30-year old Recent African Origin hypothesis and supports the notion that modern humans out of Africa entirely replaced Neanderthals because they were, well, fitter and superior.

See "Palaeoanthropology:  African Origins" in Nature 476, 395 (August 25, 2011).

But could the true scenario have been that "we" were already hybridized with Neanderthals, and that's why "we" won out? Recent work has brought evidence that Neanderthals gave "us" our immunities to a wide range of disease and thus allowed "us" to survive. The question doesn't have to be an either/or dilemma.

Above:  Krapina Neanderthal Museum. N. Solic.


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Emerging Prehistory of Ethnic Groups

Thursday, June 16, 2011
As Revealed by Autosomal Markers

No scientific work, to our knowledge, has ever hazarded a guess on what the mutation rate for autosomal CODIS-type markers might be. Is it like mitochondrial DNA, which has a molecular clock measured in the thousands or tens of thousands of years, or is it like STRs on the Y chromosome, with its much shorter timeframe? The question is important if you are trying to extrapolate the history of the human race from today's autosomal population statistics.

From what we can see, putting on diachronistic lenses, the mutation rates for the DYS values on what are commonly called CODIS markers or the DNA profile for individuals are very small. The values appear to have been set from the beginning of mankind and to have mutated little in the past 100,000 years.

If this is true -- and it cannot be a very big "if" or we would have more diversity between populations than what is known -- the oldest markers are Sub-Saharan African and the newest European. Statistical divides bear out this reading of the human genetic record, as shown now in our updated map included with the DNA Fingerprint Plus.

We will try to make some notes on the individual markers in future posts.


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Pre-historic Arabia Crossroads for Early Humans (and Neanderthal Hybrids?)

Saturday, February 05, 2011
The Southern Route “Out of Africa”: Evidence for an Early Expansion of Modern Humans into Arabia

Science 28 January 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6016 pp. 453-456 DOI: 10.1126/science.1199113

By Simon J. Armitage, Sabah A. Jasim, Anthony E. Marks, Adrian G. Parker, Vitaly I. Usik, and Hans-Peter Uerpmann


The timing of the dispersal of anatomically modern humans (AMH) out of Africa is a fundamental question in human evolutionary studies. Existing data suggest a rapid coastal exodus via the Indian Ocean rim around 60,000 years ago. We present evidence from Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates, demonstrating human presence in eastern Arabia during the last interglacial. The tool kit found at Jebel Faya has affinities to the late Middle Stone Age in northeast Africa, indicating that technological innovation was not necessary to facilitate migration into Arabia. Instead, we propose that low eustatic sea level and increased rainfall during the transition between marine isotope stages 6 and 5 allowed humans to populate Arabia. This evidence implies that AMH may have been present in South Asia before the Toba eruption (1).

First paragraph.
The deserts of the Arabian Peninsula have been thought to represent a major obstacle for human dispersal out of Africa. AMH were present in East Africa by about 200 thousand years ago (ka) (2). It is likely that the first migration of AMH out of Africa occurred immediately before or during the last interglacial [marine isotope stage (MIS) 5e] (3). During MIS 6, the Afro-Asiatic arid belt was hyperarid, restricting movements of human populations out of Africa. Finds from Qafzeh and Skhul in the Near East, dated between 119 ± 18 and 81 ± 13 thousand years ago (ka) (4, 5), suggest that AMH first migrated along the “Nile Corridor” and into the Levant. 

The location of Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates, along with key sites mentioned in the text. The dashed line represents the –120-m paleoshoreline, indicating the maximum exposure of land during marine lowstands. Science.

Did Modern Humans Travel Out of Africa Via Arabia?

By Andrew Lawler

Science 28 January 2011: 387. [DOI:10.1126/science.331.6016.387]

JEBEL FAYA, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—The barren desert and hills here seem wholly inhospitable, with sparse rain and sandy soil supporting only a few nomadic Bedouin. But things were different 125,000 years ago, when the desert was savanna, with plentiful water and game, and under the protection of a rock overhang, a group of hominids whiled away their time making stone tools. A Germanled team argues on page 453 that these tools were made by modern humans who may have crossed directly from Africa as part of a migration spreading across Europe, Asia, and Australia. Although most researchers agree that our species came out of Africa in one or more waves (see p. 392), those dates are more than 50,000 years earlier than most believe our ancestors left the continent.

The audacious claim by Simon Armitage of Royal Holloway, University of London, and colleagues is sparking interest and controversy. “This is really quite spectacular,” says archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who has previously argued that Homo sapiens left Africa before the massive eruption of an Indonesian volcano 74,000 years ago, a catastrophe thought to have left much of Asia unlivable for early humans (Science, 5 March 2010, p. 1187). “It breaks the back of the current consensus view.” But others, such as archaeologist Paul Mellars of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, say that although the discovery is important and well dated, the conclusions are flawed. “I'm totally unpersuaded,” he says. “There's not a scrap of evidence here that these were made by modern humans, nor that they came from Africa.”

The debate centers on a collection of stone tools found here at Jebel Faya, a long limestone mountain an hour's drive from the bustling urban center of Sharjah and 55 kilometers from the Persian Gulf. A rock shelter indents the mountain's end, a few meters above a desolate plain where only camels graze today. The overhang is modest, but it has sheltered humans for millennia, say excavators Hans-Peter and Margarethe Uerpmann of the University of Tübingen in Germany. They began digging here in 2003, uncovering artifacts from the Iron, Bronze, and Neolithic periods before hitting material from the Middle Paleolithic era, roughly 300,000 to 30,000 years ago. Using single-grain optically stimulated luminescence, which measures how much time has passed since materials were last exposed to light, the team dated the oldest set of artifacts, including stone hand axes, blades, and scrapers, to about 125,000 years ago.

Arabia and its fierce deserts have long been seen more as obstacles than conduits to human migration, and most archaeology here has focused on historical times. Recent studies, however, show wetter periods such as one that began around 130,000 years ago. And a spate of findings in the past 25 years show that hominins were in the region during the Middle Paleolithic. Early H. sapiens skulls and tools from Skhul and Qafzeh caves in Israel are now dated to 100,000 to 130,000 years ago, for example.

Co-author Anthony Marks of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, says the combination of artifacts from Jebel Faya, such as two-sided blades and small hand axes, is remarkably similar to assemblages made during this period in East Africa, when our own species was the only known hominin on that continent. Other hominins, such as the Neandertals who populated Europe and north Asia, did not use this combination of tools and were not likely to have been in Arabia, he says. That makes the African origin likely “by process of elimination.”

Marks says the tools don't resemble those from Israel or the Aterian tools from the same era in North Africa (Science, 7 January, p. 20). He suggests that H. sapiens may have left Africa in different waves, with the Arabian tools representing a migration launched from East Africa.

Petraglia agrees that it's likely that H. sapiens made the tools and that they came from Africa. “This is out of the habitat range of Neandertals,” he notes. “So they make a really strong and plausible argument.” The team believes that these early modern humans may have even pushed on across the Persian Gulf, perhaps to India, Indonesia, and eventually Australia. Petraglia claims evidence of early H. sapiens in India both before and after the Indonesian eruption, though others dispute that assertion.

Mellars, in contrast, sees no evidence that the Jebel Faya artifacts are of an East African style. He says one of the bifacials is stout rather than narrow like those common in Africa and adds that the authors have not ruled out Neandertals and even H. erectus as the toolmakers. “Everything hinges on whether that material is explicitly African—and I don't see that.”

Other researchers are enthusiastic about the Jebel Faya discovery but cautious about the conclusions. Archaeologist Mark Beech, a visiting fellow at the University of York in the United Kingdom who has worked extensively in the United Arab Emirates, praises the paper but adds: “One site does not confirm the out-of-Africa-via-Arabia hypothesis.”

Hans-Peter Uerpmann agrees, saying that fossil bones are needed “before we can be absolutely sure” that the tools were made by H. sapiens. Other researchers are hot on the trail: Petraglia leaves this month to continue work in Saudi Arabia, and other archaeologists plan to comb Arabian caves and sands for signs that our ancestors passed this way.

We've been saying as much all along.

See our blog post on Prehistoric Arabia.


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