Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Rubbing Shoulders with Deep Ancestors
Since receiving my results from the National Geographic Genographic project of course I've become very interested in genetics. First I read Genome by Matt Ridley, a comprehensive and understandable overview of human DNA.
More interesting is The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes. He's the guy who figured out that the lineage of all Europeans can be traced back in time to seven women. Of course there are many familial strains in every European's ancestry, but these seven women all succeeded in giving birth to daughters, who gave birth to daughters, who gave birth to daughters and on and on in an unbroken line for thousands of generations. Everyone who has European heritage has the mark of one of these women in their mitochondrial DNA. (There's a way to trace paternal lineage, too, but only men can follow the line of the fathers back in time. Cool, isn't it?)
I'm a great great great great great great (repeat thousands of times) grandaughter of V, a woman who lived in northern Spain in the mountains of Cantabria 17,000 years ago. OK, she lived 17,000 years ago, probably in the mountains of Cantabria. They know for a fact that she was a real woman, but no one knows exactly where she lived.
V was a great great great great (repeat thousands of times) grandaughter of "mitochondrial Eve," a woman who lived in East Africa 100,000 years ago. Mitochondrial Eve is the mother of all Europeans and maybe even of everyone on earth, though no one knows that for sure yet.
Very fun to think about this!
How I would love to gather a group of seven women, one from each European haplogroup, sit together with my haplosisters, trance back in time, share visions of the distant past, the symbols of which are literally written in our DNA. Wouldn't that be a great way to celebrate Halloween/Day of the Dead? Wouldn't it be an excellent and fascinating event? How I would love to honor my deep ancestors with this kind of gathering.
What a great piece of performance art! What a powerful ritual of connection through time. It could be so interesting!!
It's probably too close to Halloween now to figure out how to locate these women, though I bet here in DC there are representatives of all seven groups. Maybe next year.