Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Seven Daughters of Eve and Maternal Mitochondrial DNA

The Seven Daughters of Eve and Maternal Mitochondrial DNA

The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes (Bantam Press, Corgi
Books, ISBN 0-552-14876-8) is recommended as a good read for
everyone although one should also be aware of such strong criticism of the
book as found at
a criticism which in its diffuse "science-pretentious" jargonism is
worse than anything which is being criticized.

That book review exemplifies a regrettable misunderstanding in university education which presumes that learning or writing "big words" like "phylogeneticist" or using empty meaningless catch phrases such as "'African replacement model' versus the multiregional hypothesis" makes one a scientist.

On the contrary, it just confuses the issue because everyone then
concentrates on the interpretation of such idiotic man-made catch
phrases rather than on the actual EVIDENCE as such. Hence, the book
review is a criticism of style - not of content. Unfortunate.


In his book Sykes gives a popular synopsis of modern genetic
maternal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) results for human populations,
explaining that 95% of all Europeans can trace their origins back to
only seven women in prehistoric days and showing that nearly all
peoples of the world can trace their origins back to ca. 33 women -
though I think the most recent estimate is ca. 36 women, and some
even say there are 22 ancient "clans" for Europe. It just depends on
where you put the dividing lines. And as Sykes writes, new evidence
will surely change these numbers. Nevertheless, the point is that we
all go back to common ancestors, and not so long ago.

Sykes writes that these seven daughters can allegedly be "dated"
chronologically and "located" geographically. They allegedly did not
all live at the same time, based on mutational algorithms for DNA -
where the mutational timeline used by Sykes is disputed. I
personally think the mutations involved are more recent than
currently assumed, but I am sure that the chronologies will get
better as more genetic evidence comes in.


Although there is no doubt from the genetic evidence that man's
origins are in Africa, the genetic evidence paints a different
picture for Europe than that we are accustomed to reading in our
history books.

To make these seven daughters of Eve easier to remember, Sykes has
given them individual names - and here they are, with their alleged
date, alleged location, and percentage of today's European

Ursula - allegedly 45,000 years ago - Greece, 11% (especially
prominent today in western Britain and Scandinavia)
Xenia - allegedly 25,000 years ago - between the Black Sea and
Caspian Sea, Ukraine, 6% (mostly Eastern Europe)
Helena - allegedly 20,000 years ago - Southern France, Dordogne,
Lascaux, 47% (continental Europe)
Velda - allegedly 17,000 years ago - northern Spain, Cantabria,
Santander, Altamira, 5% (one group allegedly went north as the Saami
of Finland and northern Norway)
Tara - allegedly 17,000 years ago - Tuscany, northwest Italy, La
Spezia, 9% (Mediterranean, western edge of Europe, particularly
numerous in the west of Britain and in Ireland
Katrine - allegedly 15,000 years ago - Venice, northeast Italy, 6%
(Italy, Mediterranean)

Jasmine - allegedly 10,000 years ago - Near East - 17%, Sykes writes
"One distinctive branch follows the Mediterranean coast to Spain and Portugal, whence it has found its way to the west of Britain where
it is particularly common in Cornwall, Wales and the west of
Scotland. The other branch shadows a route through central Europe
taken by the farmers who first cultivated the fertile river valleys
and then the plains of northern Europe. Both branches live, even
now, close to the routes mapped out by their farming ancestors as
they made their way gradually into Europe from the Near East."

Of course each of these seven is also related to each other,
as Sykes writes: "The clans of Helena and Velda are close to one another. They share a common ancestor.... Jasmine and Tara also have
a common ancestor, as do Ursula and Katrine...."

Sykes data, however, show some weaknesses either in analysis of the
evidence or in chronological errors relating to interpretation of
the genetic timeline of the data (this dating is made on mutational
timeline assumptions which may not be accurate).

As Sykes states, "the common ancestor of all Europeans"... is near to where the Xenia branch leads off from the rest of the daughters."
He continues: "Through this woman [one mutational ancestor prior to Xenia] the whole of Europe is joined to the rest of the world." That
is a very significant statement.

If that is so, then the age of 25,000 years to Xenia is misleading
since in terms of mutations, Xenia is only one ancestral DNA
mutation removed from a "mother" who is connected to all the rest of
the people of the world, not just the Europeans. By the same token,
Helena and Velda are 3 mutations removed from that woman, Tara and
Jasmine are also 3 mutations removed from that woman and Ursula and
Katrine are also 3 mutations removed from that woman. Since all six
of these daughters are 3 mutations removed, all of these daughters
once surely comprised one group at the same time and place.

East Europeans are Older

This may look like nitpicking, but it is crucial to the issue of who
was where when first. If Xenia is closest (only 1 DNA mutation) to
the rest of the peoples of the world, then Xenia (the Europeans of
Eastern Europe) represent the "older" DNA form - whereas all the
other six daughters of Eve, being 3 mutations removed, are "younger"
DNA forms, and that is really nothing new,.

By correcting the position of Xenia, things begin to make sense,
also in terms of linguistic analysis of Indo-European language.

Looked at in this manner, Syke's genetic data are to some degree
just a modern repeat of what we already know from previous blood
type distribution analysis at

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