Sunday, April 29, 2012

Portions in Israel

Interestingly, Midrash assigns a portion to Asnat equal to that of each of the male tribal heads of Israel:

Gen. 43:24–34 relates that Joseph invited his brothers to eat with him when they went down to Egypt to procure food. In the midrashic depiction, this was a family meal in which Joseph’s wife and children also participated. Joseph sat his brothers before him, “from the oldest in the order of his seniority to the youngest in the order of his youth” (v. 33), and brought the portions to the meal. Joseph gave each one, including Benjamin, his portion, and then he took his own portion and gave it to Benjamin. Asenath took her portion and gave it to Benjamin, as did Ephraim and Manasseh. Thus, there were five portions next to Benjamin, as is recorded in v. 34: “But Benjamin’s portion was five times that of anyone else” (Tanhuma, Vayigash 4).

Asnat (as the granddaughter of Jacob and a nameless woman) has an equal portion (of Israel) in her own right distinct from the portions of her husband, her sons and Joseph's brothers. Asnat has inherited what Leah may have feared a son of Dinah's mother (Asnat's mother's mother) may have inherited after all.

Asnat, Granddaughter of Yaakov and Who?

In trying to tease out Asnat's likely matriline genetic haplgroup, I note that Jewish tradition teaches:

Asenath is mentioned in the Torah as “the daughter of Poti-phera” (Gen. 41:45), who was married to Joseph in Egypt. The Rabbis found it difficult to accept that Joseph, who withstood the wiles of Potiphar’s wife and proclaimed his loyalty to the Lord in the palace of Pharaoh, would marry a non-Israelite woman. The question of Asenath’s origins has significant consequences for the standing within the Israelite tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, the two sons born to Asenath and Joseph.

There are two Rabbinic approaches to the issue of Asenath’s descent. One view presents her as an ethnic Egyptian who converted in order to be married to Joseph. She accepted the belief in the Lord before she was married and raised her children in accordance with the tenets of Judaism. The second approach argues that Asenath was not an Egyptian by descent, but was from the family of Jacob. God directed matters so that she would end up in Egypt, so that Joseph would find a suitable wife from among the members of his own family. Accordingly, Ephraim and Manasseh are worthy descendents, who continue the way of Jacob. 

As we've seen in previous posts, given the ancient genetics of North Africa, it is unlikely that Asnat carried a Native African mtDNA haplogroup, even if she was an Egyptian. In fact, the long 400 year sojourn of the ancient Hebrews in Egypt as told in Torah, highly suggests that the Divine had some very important truth hidden there, in Egypt. This long heavy sojourn in Egypt which came about AFTER the time of Yosef and Asnat has a secret hidden in it - but I will get to that, bear with me.

Rabbis have grappled with the maternal descent of Asnat, suggesting that she was the daughter of Dinah (Dinah herself the daughter of Jacob by Torah and putatively by Leah by the Rabbis' conjecture) who was raped by a non-Hebrew. According to the Rabbi's thinking, the sons of Leah wanted to kill Dinah's half-blood child (Asnat), but instead they shipped her off to Egypt. This doesn't make sense to me. I can't see strong matriarchal Leah allowing her sons to do this to her granddaughter. This explanation by the Rabbis is not congruent with the reality of the strong personalities of the matriarchs. More likely, I think, is that Dinah was indeed the daughter of Jacob and some other unnamed woman, and that, like Sarah did with Hagar and Ishmael, Leah wanted to get rid of Dinah and her unnamed mother. Dinah's rape by a non-Hebrew gave Leah the political opportunity to advance her wish to exile Dinah and her nameless mother. This makes more sense - a woman's jealousy catalyzed Dinah's (and her nameless mother's and ultimately Asnat's) exile to Egypt rather than did male hatred of a helpless female infant (who wouldn't inherit anything anyway, unlike Joseph). Like Sarah didn't want to share her son's inheritance with Ishmael, neither did Leah want to share with Dinah's unnamed mother (who likely had no sons at this point, only a daughter named Dinah) her status as a mother of Israel. Sharing her status with her half-sister Rachel was bad enough. Leah would tolerate her half-sister (maybe - what exactly was the cause of Rachel's long bout with barrenness, an ancient anti-pregnancy potion not really made of Leah's famous mandrakes?), but she wouldn't tolerate another woman (just as Sarah wouldn't tolerate Hagar, although clearly, the Divine brought this nameless woman into the fold as a Matriarch of Israel despite Leah's attempt to exclude her from it). This makes perfect sense.

If my more likely explanation of Asnat's status as a Hebrew daughter of Jacob (and some other unnamed woman) is true, then the mystery opens up in our understanding in an even more revealing way - to enable us to possibly discover the original genetic matrilines of the ancient children of Israel. First, we must recognize, that in Torah, the Divine does not instruct Dinah's mother to return to the Hebrew tribes to be under the thumb of Leah (as was Hagar with Sarah). Instead, Dinah's mother and her daughter Asnat, were allowed, like Joseph, to go to Egypt and to be protected there. While there, Jospeh and Asnat hook up with destiny. Interesting story, this story, I think.

Importantly, given the way Asnat and her unnamed mother have been treated by tradition - the unnamed mother unrecognized as a Matriarch of Israel in her own right to this day (which I hereby rectify on behalf of my ancestors in the name of Asnat) and Asnat as a legitimate daughter of Israel - coupled with the 400 years of slavery in Egypt suffered by the children of Leah who lived in Goshen perhaps because of this lack of recognition, makes me think the Divine was trying to make a strong point, which never actually seemed to penetrate into the ancient thinking of the children of Leah. Even the Divine knows when take on another strategy for working it into recognition, as clearly that exile wasn't working. Even today, the strange ancestry of Moses troubles the minds of the children of Leah as to why Moses, with his strange Hebrew-Egyptian connections (like Asnat), was chosen by the Divine to lead the ancient Hebrews out of Egypt. Asnat was the (adopted?) daughter of a Egyptian priest, as Moses was the (adopted?) son an Egyptian princess. Coincidence or the working of wyrd?

In the counting of the Omer at Tel Shelmesh, Asnat is associated with hod shebetiferet – hidden truth:

Asnat is hidden in Potiphar's home to save her life. She receives this compassion because although she was born from a cruel act, she is a pure soul. Later, in spite of the secrecy around her birth, she discovers ways of honoring all the pieces of her identity. Hod can signify hiddenness, and tiferet can mean truth. Asnat is hod shebetiferet – hidden truth. We are most like Asnat when we open to the secrets of our past and allow our truth to be revealed.

How appropriate this speaks for the Matriarch, Asnat.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Asnat's mtDNA Haplogroup Likely Not Native to Africa

In follow-up to an earlier post suggesting genetic matriarch Asnat likely carried and bequeathed to Bnei Israel a Eurasian-linked North African mtDNA haplogroup as opposed to a Native African mtDNA haplogroup, several studies report that prehistoric North Africans were Caucasoid. North African facial features written in ancient stone support this finding of an ancient Caucasoid type inhabiting North Africa.

The presence of a Caucasoid type in ancient North Africa supports a significant genetic link of this African region with non-African haplogroups, possibly with those haplogroups which back-migrated from Europe into North Africa in the remote past (U5, for example).

There are four major craniofacial types (used to classify skulls by scientific anthropology) existing among modern humans today - they are Australoid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid. Wiki tells us that the Caucasoid type refers to

some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia (the Middle East), Central Asia and South Asia. Historically, the term has been used to describe many peoples from these regions, without regard necessarily to skin tone.

The word Caucasian refers to the mountains of eastern Europe and to the peoples that are native to this area. This region lies at the border of Europe and Asia, and is situated between the Black and the Caspian sea. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains. The point of all this is to support that Hebrew matriarch Asnat likely carried a mitochondrial genetic haplogroup which originated in Europe, Asia or the Middle East (as opposed to one native to Africa).

Three Matriarchal Structure of Ancient Israelities Supported by Jewish Tradition and Genetic Science

In follow up to an earlier post suggesting a three "most common ancestor" matriarchal structure for Bnei Yisrael consisting of Leah, Rachel and Asnat (in consideration of the split of Yosef's tribe into the two separate but equal tribes of Ephraim and Menashe), I've found a few pearls of support for this matriarchal structure in both Jewish tradition and modern genetic science.

First, Jewish tradition reveals:

The sefer Tiferes Shlomo al HaTorah in Parshas Vayetze brings a number of answers to the question of how Yaakov was allowed to marry two sisters. One of the answers is that Rachel and Leah were born to Lavan from two different wives and therefore not prohibited to Yaakov. 

In light of this information, we can ask, what were the names of Rachel and Leah's mothers? We may also ask more relevantly, what were the mtDNA haplogroups of these two sisters born of different mothers? It is highly conceivable that Leah and Rachel carried and bequeathed different genetic haplogroup motherlines to Bnei Yisrael.

Second, modern genetic science itself supports three major Jewish clusters:

Jews appear to be variable mixtures of three components (in the regional figure): pink, which is shared by them and Arab speakers; very light blue, which is shared by them and non-Arab West Asians and south Europeans; medium blue, which is centered on southern Europe ...

Jews form three major clusters: one between West Asia and Europe (Ashkenazim and Sephardim); one right in the middle of West Asia (Caucasus Jews and Iranian Jews), and one in the middle of Arabs (Yemenite Jews) ...

This study further uncovers genetic structure that partitions most Jewish samples into Ashkenazi–north African– Sephardi, Caucasus–Middle Eastern, and Yemenite subclusters...

So, my (rather elementary) hypothesis about ancient Israel having three primary motherlines deriving from Leah, Rachel and Asnat may not be off the mark at all. It just makes sense.

U5b 101: Basic Fact Findings

Before I go any further, I thought it a worthwhile endeavor to bring together into a post the basic facts concerning my mtDNA haplogroup (U5) and clade (U5b). This will help me when it comes to interpreting new relevant scientific results as they are published.

Source Wiki

Branch U5 of U is extremely old, and among the oldest mtDNA haplogroups found in European remains of Homo sapiens is U5. For example, Cheddar Man, the oldest remains of anatomically modern humans in Britain, was in Haplogroup U5. The age of U5 is estimated at 30-50,000 years but could be as old as 60,500 years. Approximately 11% of total Europeans and 10% of European-Americans are in haplogroup U5. The presence of haplogroup U5 in Europe predates the end of the Ice Ages as well as the expansion of agriculture in Europe. U5 has been found in human remains dating from the Mesolithic in England, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, and France. Haplogroup U5 and its subclades U5a and U5b form the highest population concentrations in the far north, in Sami, Finns, and Estonians, but it is spread widely at lower levels throughout Europe. This distribution, and the age of the haplogroup, indicate individuals from this haplogroup were part of the initial expansion tracking the retreat of ice sheets from Europe ~10kya. Haplogroup U5 is found also in small frequencies and at much lower diversity in the Near East and parts of northern Africa (areas with sizable U6 concentrations), suggesting back-migration of people from Europe to the south. U5b is about 24000 years old.

U5b arose around 24000 years ago and has polymorphisms in 150 7768 14182( + U5 polymorphisms).
 ---U5b1 arose around 18000 years ago and has polymorphisms in 5656( + U5b polymorphisms).
------U5b1a has polymorphisms in 5656 15097, 16189 and has lost its polymorphism in 7028 (backmutation)( + U5b1 polymorphisms).
------U5b1b: has been found in Fulbe and Papel people in Guinea-Bissau and Yakuts people of northeastern Siberia. [17][18] It arose around 11000 years ago and has polymorphisms in 12618 16189 ( + U5b1 polymorphisms).
------U5b1c has polymorphisms in 5656 15191, 16189, 16311 + U5b1 polymorphisms) and arose about 13000 years ago.
------U5b1d has polymorphisms in 5437 5656 and has lost its polymorphism in 16192 (backmutation)( + U5b1 polymorphisms).
------U5b1e has polymorphisms in 152 2757 10283 12616 16189 and has lost its polymorphism in 16192 (backmutation)( + U5b1 polymorphisms) and arose about 6600 years ago.U5b1e is mainly seen in central Europe among Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and southern Russians.
------U5b1g has polymorphisms in 151 228 573.1C 5656 10654 13759 14577 ( + U5b1 polymorphisms).
---U5b2 arose around 24000 years ago and has polymorphisms in 1721 13637( + U5b polymorphisms).
---U5b3: The subclade is found primary on the island of Sardinia.

Ancient U5 / U5b and Associated Cultures:

Middle/Upper Paleolithic DNA 
[Countries sampled : Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy]
*Magdalenian Culture (17,000 to 9,000 ybp ; Western Europe); U5

Mesolithic DNA 
[Countries sampled : Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg, England, Spain, Portugal]
*Tardenoisian, Azilian and related cultures (11,500 to 7,500 ybp; West & Southwest Europe); U5, U5b1c2, U5a and U5b1
*Maglemosian-Kongemose, Kunda-Narva, Neman-Zedmar and related cultures (11,500 to 5,000 ybp; North and Northeast Europe); U5b2, U5b1
*Pitted Ware Culture (5,200 to 4,000 ybp; Scandinavia); U5

Neolithic and Chalcolithic DNA 
[Countries sampled : Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Spain]
*Cardium Pottery Culture (c. 8,400 to 4,700 ybp; Mediterranean Europe); U5b1c, U5
*Atlantic Megalithic Culture (c. 7,000 to 4,000 ybp; Western Europe); U5b, U5
*Funnelbeaker Culture (c. 6,000 to 4,700 ybp; Northern Europe); U5

Bronze Age DNA 
[Countries sampled : Denmark, Germany, Spain, Greece]
*Corded Ware (Battle-axe) Culture (c. 4,900 to 4,300 ybp; North and Northeast Europe); U5b
*Western European Bronze Age (c. 4,500 to 2,800 ybp; Western Europe); U, U5
*Urnfield Culture (c. 3,300 to 2,750 ybp; Central Europe); U5b

Iron Age DNA
[Countries sampled : Denmark, Spain, Italy]
*Scandinavian Iron Age (2,500 to 1,200 ybp); U5b
*Iberian civilisation (3,100 to 2,200 ybp, eastern Spain); U5

SNP Admixtures by Population

Lots of good info on world regional population genetic admixtures and relatedness. DNATribes also now offers Autosomal SNP Admixture genetic testing.

DNA Tribes® SNP Admixture Results by Population

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Three Fates: Leah, Rachel & Asnat

The Three Fates (retained in the stories of ancient European tradition) who together weave the tapestry of Destiny ... (Leah, Rachel and Asnat)

Stories of Us

My thought - Everyone's genealogy is pleasingly rich I think, it's just a matter of teasing out one's unique connections. We all end up back at mitochondrial Eve, but most of us would love to know the stories of how we came to where we are today. Following the connections in our genes tells us about our own unique past and the paths we took to get where we are.

Hagar & Bnei Yosef mtDNA Associations

In follow-up to my previous post suggesting mother Sarah could have very likely belonged to mtDNA haplogroup U5, and noting that this haplogroup has evidenced a back-migration(s) into North Africa in the remote past, I thought it worthwhile to investigate mtDNA haplogroups native to Egypt given Abraham's relationship with the Egyptian princess Hagar and given Yosef's children's matrilineal descent through his Hebrew-Egyptian wife, Asnat1.

Wiki informs us regarding native Egyptian genetics:

Attempts to extract ancient DNA or aDNA from Ancient Egyptian remains have yielded little or no success until recently although the results continue to be hotly debated. Climatic conditions and the mummification process could hasten the deterioration of DNA. Contamination from handling and intrusion from microbes have also created obstacles to recovery of Ancient DNA. Consequently most DNA studies have been carried out on modern Egyptian populations with the intent of learning about the influences of historical migrations on the population of Egypt. However, there was one notable study of ancient mummies of the 12th Dynasty, performed by Paabo and Di Rienzo, which identified multiple lines of descent, including some from sub-Saharan Africa.

and further

Other studies have shown that modern Egyptians have genetic affinities primarily with populations of Eurasia, North and Northeast Africa, and to a lesser extent Middle Eastern and European populations. Studies done on ancient Egyptians' remains have shown uniformity and homogeneity among the samples, and cranial/limb ratio similarity with populations from North Africa, Somalia, Nubia, Southwest Asia and Europe. Blood typing and DNA sampling on ancient Egyptian mummies is scant; however, blood typing of dynastic mummies found ABO frequencies to be most similar to modern Egyptians and some also to Northern Haratin populations. ABO blood group distribution shows that the Egyptians form a sister group to North African populations, including Berbers, Nubians and Canary Islanders.

Some genetic studies done on modern Egyptians suggest that most do not have close relations to most tropical Africans, and other studies show that they are mostly related to other North Africans, and to a lesser extent southern European/Mediterranean and Middle Eastern populations. A 2004 mtDNA study of upper Egyptians from Gurna found a genetic ancestral heritage to modern Northeast Africans, characterized by a high M1 haplotype frequency, and another study links Egyptians in general with people from modern Eritrea and Ethiopia. Though there has been much debate of the origins of haplogroup M1 a recent 2007 study had concluded that M1 has West Asia origins not a Sub Saharan African origin. Origin A 2003 Y chromosome study was performed by Lucotte on modern Egyptians, with haplotypes V, XI, and IV being most common. Haplotype V is common in Berbers and has a low frequency outside Africa. Haplotypes V, XI, and IV are all supra-Saharan/Horn African haplotypes, and they are far more dominant in Egyptians than in Near Eastern or European groups.

Historically there have been differing accounts of the appearance of ancient Egyptians as compared to people of other nations. Egyptologists generally consider the ancient Egyptians to have been a continuum from the lighter northern population of Lower Egypt to the darker Upper Egyptians. A number of supporting studies have therefore been undertaken on craniometric patterns and skeletal remains. The results have varied, and interpretation has been complicated by conflict over the baselines to be used in analysing this data.

So, while none of this is conclusive and is only speculative, it seems plausible to suggest that Native Egyptian Hagar may have been from a more directly Native Egyptian M1 mtDNA, haplogroup (or alternatively, Fulani L2a, another Native Egyptian mtDNA haplogroup), while Yosef's Hebrew-Egyptian wife Asnat may have been of a mtDNA haplogroup associated with Egypt less directly through Hebrew-backmigration linked North African Berber U5b (my mtDNA haplogroup).

More on Ancient Native Egyptian DNA

1Yosef's tribe was split into Ephraim and Menashe, making their mother Asnat a matriarch of the Hebrews along with Leah and Rachel.

U5 Mother Sarah?

In follow-up to my previous post, from my research so far, it seems that most geneticists studying Jewish origins are focusing on male Y-chromosome research (as if Jewishness in reality descends from the male line only) and have more or less concluded that the original ancient Israelite matriarchal female line(s) has faded into oblivion through millennia of intermarriage and conversion. But, has it really?

Given the pattern of migratory dynamics and regional associations of mtDNA haplogroup U, I think it's very much a possibility that at least some of the matriarchs were of this matriline. As demonstrated in an earlier post, father Abraham was very likely genetically from ancient (semitic) Turkey (Anatolia), a region with strong links to mtDNA Haplogroup U5. Given this, mother Sarah very likely was from the same area as father Abraham and very likely could have been of (semitic) mtDNA Haplogroup U5 herself. If she was, then father Yitzak at the very least was of the U5 matriline as well, as mtDNA is passed from mother to both daughter and son (even though the son does not pass on his mtDNA to his children).

Now I need to see what genetic associations I can find for Rivkah, Leah and Rachel - and Yosef's Hebrew-Egyptian wife Asnat, as well.

So, while it's still possible that other matrilines may have been introduced into the ancient Isaelites through Rivkah, Leah and Rachel (I haven't investigated lines for these matriarchs yet), it is clear that U5 remains a persistent possible Israelite matriline through Sarah and Asnat at the very least.

Concerning the matriarchal lines as they pertain specifically to the ancient Hebrews, the lines most directly significant to descendents of the Hebrews as Bnei Yisrael are the lines of Leah, Rachel and Asnat.

(I think it's an interesting synchronicity that Leah, Rachel and Asnat form a trinity of women which could be associated with the female Three Fates of ancient European tradition who together weave the tapestry of destiny.)

Natufian Culture in Jericho & the Ancient Israelites

The ancient Israelites are commonly believed to have arisen from the epipaleolithic Natufian culture which ranged from Southern Turkey to Sinai.

The Natufian culture is the name given to the sedentary hunter-gatherers living in the Levant region of the near east between about 12,500 and 10,200 years ago. They were hunter-gatherers, foraging for food such as emmer wheat, barley and almonds, and hunting gazelle, deer, cattle, horse, and wild boar.

It is also known that Natufians were the first inhabitants of Jericho. Oh, wait! the Israelites famously conquered Jericho and its inhabitants, the first inhabitants of the Holy Land. Hmm, maybe the Israelites were not Natufians at all as commonly believed.

This scientific paper [Tracing European Founder Lineages in the Near Eastern mtDNA Pool] suggests mtDNA haplogroup U5 may have ultimately originated in the [semitic] Near [Middle] East about 50,000 YBP, migrated to Europe where it evolved, and then back-migrated to the Middle East (and North Africa, think sojourn to Egypt and Exodus) several times:

Recent back-migration can be estimated by an examination of the presence, in the Near East, of clusters that are most likely to have evolved within Europe. Haplogroup U5 is very ancient (∼50,000 years old) in both Europe and the Near East, but it occurs more sporadically in the Near East and is absent from Arabia. In the Near East, it is largely restricted to peripheral populations (Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Azeris, or Egyptians): only three individuals from the core Near Eastern regions (namely, the Fertile Crescent and Arabia) harbor U5 sequence types; of these, one is the root sequence type, whereas the other two are members of the highly derived subcluster U5a1a (for the nomenclature for U5, seetable 2). Overall, 8 of 22 Near Eastern U5 types are members of this highly derived subcluster, and an additional 6 are members of the next-most-derived subcluster, U5a1*. There are four members of U5b, one member of U5a*, and only three members of U5*. Moreover, these Near Eastern types are frequently derivatives of European intermediate types: one Egyptian type is derived from a Basque type, and many Armenian and Azeri types are derived from European and northern-Caucasian types. Therefore, whereas the U5 root sequence type (16270) could conceivably have originated in the Near East and have spread to Europe ∼50,000 YBP, with recurrent back-migration ever since, a European origin for the U5 cluster seems just as probable. In either case, the U5 cluster itself would have evolved essentially in Europe. U5 lineages, although rare elsewhere in the Near East, are especially concentrated in the Kurds, Armenians, and Azeris. This may be a hint of a partial European ancestry for these populations—not entirely unexpected on historical and linguistic grounds—but may simply reflect their proximity to the Caucasus and the steppes. Of the Near Eastern lineages, 1.8% (95% CR = .012–.027) are members of U5, in contrast to 9.1% (95% CR = .081–.103) in Europe; in the core region of Syria-Palestine through Iraq, the proportion falls to 0.5% (95% CR = .002–.015). Overall, this suggests the presence of as much as 20% of back-migrated mtDNA in the Near East but only ∼6% in the core region.

The point of all this is the possibility of a Middle Eastern origin for mtDNA haplogroup U5 (despite its larger evolutionary presence in Europe) with subsequent migration into Europe followed by recurrent back-migrations to the Middle East (and North Africa). Taken together with the fact that the ancient Israelities invaded an already present Natufian culture when they conquered Jericho suggests that the Israelites may not have been Natufian themselves as some believe they were. Consequently, in my mind, mtDNA haplogroup U5 cannot be excluded as a founder mtDNA haplogroup of the ancient Israelites based upon the evidence I've found so far. The many wandering travels of U5 seem quintessentially Jewish as well.

According to this blog, on the genetics of the Natufians:

There has been some bickering over their race, as they show a mix of features. Unfortunately there haven’t been that many burials found, so the sample sizes have been a bit too small to make definite conclusions about who they were. They seem to show a mix of racial features, and this varies in each era and site, so there was probably a fairly fluid population at that time. C Loring Brace’s paper that measured them said they were slightly closer to to the Eurasian Population, and all the Sub Saharan traits seem to vanish when the Natufian culture faded away.

Jewish DNA Genetic Research

"Scientists now believe that the Roman Jews contributed most of the DNA to what became Ashkenazi Jewry." Italy ranks fifth among sub-regions of Europe where my [autosomal STR] DNA profile is most common.

Haplogroup U Hunter-Gatherers in Epipaleolithic Northern Spain

Commentary from Dieneke's Anthropology Blog on another new paper [Hervella et al. 2012] on Haplogroup U Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherers in Northern Spain:

50% of the hunter-gatherers belonged to haplogroup U subclades, hence confirming for this region as well [as was found in mesolithic Scandinavia] that this lineage was over-represented in pre-farming populations ...

The mtDNA U haplogroup associated with many of the areas pinpointed in my autosomal STR results appears to be associated with scattered groups of Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherers.

U5 mtDNA Haplogroup & Mesolithic Scandinavian Pitted Ware Culture

Commentary from Dieneke's Antrolopology Blog on a new paper out in Science:

During the Neolithic period there still existed foragers in Scandinavia who belonged to the Pitted Ware (PWC) culture. These have been the object of a previous mtDNA study, which found them to be strongly differentiated from contemporaneous Funnel Beaker or Trichterbecherkultur (TRB) farmers.

In another commentary by the same author, 

The authors sampled 3 TRB individuals from "one passage tomb, Gokhem, dated to 5,500–4,500 years BP" which were found to belong to haplogroups H, J, and T, and 19 PWC individuals "from three different sites on the Baltic island of Gotland dated to 4,800–4,000 years BP" which were found to belong to haplogroups J, T, V (one each), "Other" (two), U5 and U5a (three each), and U4/H1b (eight samples).

U5b is my mtDNA haplogroup. So, it seems pretty certain that, of these Scandinavian groups, I am matrilineally more closely related to the Pitted Ware hunter-gatherer culture as opposed to the Funnel Beaker or TRB farmers of mesolithic Scandinavia.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Autosomal DNA Tests - STR Versus SNP Based

My first autosomal DNA test done through DNATribes was (short tandem repeats) STR-based (used genetic markers developed by the FBI for individual identification). The autosomal DNA test I am having done through Family Tree is (single nucleotide polymorphisms) SNP-based. I'm anxious to compare the results from these two autosomal tests to see what they say differently (if anything) about my comprehensive genetic ancestry (includes all of my genetic ancestors).

Full Sequence mtDNA + Autosomal DNA SNP Testing Kit On Its Way!

I just checked my account at Family Tree DNA and my kit for fully sequencing my mtDNA (plus finding more genetic family motherline matches) and doing an autosomal DNA SNP analysis is on its way to me now! You know, ancestral genetics is very addictive! I'm loving this! This service provider has alot of good resources on its site - there are pages which spell out the required genetic markers for each haplogroup, clade and subclade - I really that. Many links to scientific papers - I like that too!

Finding Forgotten Jewish Ancestry Using DNA "Reading Between the Genes"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Was Father Abraham Genetically Semitic?

We know that Abraham, the first father of the Jewish people, came from Ur Kasdim (Ur of the Chaldees) in Sumer. We also know that

modern historians have asserted that Sumer was first settled between ca. 4500 and 4000 BC by a non-Semitic people who possibly did not speak the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc. as evidence). These conjectured, prehistoric people are now called "proto-Euphrateans" or " Ubaidians", and are theorized to have evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia. The Ubaidians were the first civilizing force in Sumer, draining the marshes for agriculture, developing trade, and establishing industries, including weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, masonry, and pottery. However, some, such as Piotr Michalowski and Gerd Steiner, contest the idea of a Proto-Euphratean language or one substrate language. Sumerian civilization took form in the Uruk period (4th millennium BC), continuing into the Jemdat Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. It was conquered by the Semitic-speaking kings of the Akkadian Empire around 2270 BC (short chronology). Native Sumerian rule re-emerged for about a century in the third dynasty of Ur (Sumerian Renaissance) of the 21st to 20th centuries BC [2100 BC to 1901 BC].

So two ancient peoples inhabited Ur Kasdim, one non-Semitic and one Semitic. To which group did Abraham belong? It is tempting to think Abraham may have been Akkadian, given that many months in the Hebrew calender have ancient Akkadian names and we know Abraham was a descendent of Shem. Additionally, tradition places Abraham's birth sometime around the early 2nd millennium BC, into which the 20th century BC falls - at the time when Native Sumerian rule re-emerged and Akkadian rule declined. This could have propelled Abraham, potentially of Semitic Akkadian origin, to leave Ur Kasdim. But, all this is not proof of Abraham's Akkadian genetics, and only hints to the culture he had acquired and preferred while living in Ur Kasdim. Perhaps Abraham merely liked the Akkadian culture (which had been there for a long while before Abraham's time, and was the culture within which he may have grown up), while he didn't so much like the culture of the Native Sumerians (which may have reemerged to power during Abraham's time).

More importantly, tradition also disputes that UR Kasdim was Abraham's birthplace, instead suggesting (with Ramban supporting) that Haran (alternatively spelled Charan) was Abraham's native land and birthplace. Even if Abraham himself was born in Ur Kasdim (hosting both Semitic and non-Semitic populations), Abraham's father Terah was born in Haran (the House of Terah was in Haran), making Haran Abraham's genetic homeland. Haran is not Semitic Akkad. Biblical Haran is a Semitic Assyrian city whose ruins are in present-day Turkey. This indeed is a very interesting idea, as "all the children of Jacob (called Israel) are descended from Haran, through his daughter Milcah (and through Abraham's father Terah)," and as many Ashkenazi Jews genetically hail from the regions of Turkey (and are told they are likely descendents of the ancient Khazars and not of "original Semitic Jewish bloodlines").

So, was Abraham Semitic? I think both the genetic evidence and Torah tradition tell us that Abraham was most likely genetically from the area of Turkey (ancient Anatolia). So, yes, I suppose he was, as Turkey and Assyria are of Middle/Near Eastern location, and Turkey/Assyria seems to have been a place where Shem's descendents (at least Terah and his clan) settled.

My Middle Eastern Autosomal Genetic Panel Results

Monday, April 23, 2012

Scandinavian Roots, Gomer & the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

Sweden and Norway (part of Scandinavia) figure significantly in my autosomal mtDNA results, as did a Scythian ancestral connection.

Uncovering Scandinavian Roots

The term "Scythians" is sometimes applied by historians to a particular people and sometimes to all the nomad tribes in the vast territory north of the Black and Caspian Seas. It is this area where we must find the roots of the Scandinavian peoples. The Cimmerians were the oldest inhabitants of Scythia. Their history can be traced back to near the close of the eighth century Assyrian records. A collection of letters preserved in Ashurbanipal's library inform us of events in the Urartu area of Armenia during the years 707-706B.C. Included in this collection were reports from Assyrian frontier posts. One said the king of Urartu came into "the land of Gamir" and had to be forced back.

For many years E. D. Phillips studied the history of the nomads in Scythia. He says the Cimmerians "appear late in the eighth century on the northern border of the Kingdom of Urartu as the Gimirrai or Gamir of Assyrian records" (page 52, The Royal Hordes, Nomad Peoples of the Steppes). Other historians agree that the Gimirrai were the "Kimmerioi" Cimmerians of the Greeks.

There is also a connection with the biblical Gomer in Hosea's prophecy. Notice that the prophet Hosea married a woman called "Gomer" (Hosea 1:3). She represented the unfaithfulness and slavery of the ten tribes of the House of Israel (chapter 3).

This prophecy indicates that the northern ten tribes of Israel would also be called "Gomer" while in captivity. The Israelites were actually known as Gomerians or Cimmerians.

Read more at the link above.

The North African Exodus & the Missing Link

Is Jebel Irhoud the Father of mankind?

Jebel Irhoud is a cave site located about 100 km west of Marrakech, Morocco. The site is known for the numerous hominid fossils discovered there. Currently, the site has yielded seven specimens. The best known of these are portions of two adult skulls, Irhoud 1 and 2, a child’s mandible (Irhoud 3), and a child’s humerus (Irhoud 4). Fossils 1-3 were discovered while the cave was being quarried for barytes and thus their exact context and age has been subject to debate. Originally the Irhoud hominids were considered North African Neandertals. It is now clear that they are best grouped with other early anatomically modern humans such as Qafzeh (Israel) and Skhul (Israel).

Genetic Crossroads for Europe and Middle East in Armenia

Armenia, another top hot spot on my autosomal DNA results ... Armenian population structure with autosomal STRs

The archeology and ethnology of Armenia suggest that this region has acted as a crossroads for human migrations from Europe and the Middle East since at least the Neolithic.

What the Hell Happened During European Prehistory?

I don't think even a science fiction writer could have predicted the kinds of ancient DNA results we are getting from Europe. We have genetic discontinuity between Paleolithic and Neolithic, and between Neolithic and present, and, apparently, discontinuity between Neolithic cultures themselves, and wholly unexpected links to East Asia all the way to Central Europe.

When faced with data such as this, one can only say: what the hell happened during European prehistory?

Read more ... Unexpected ancient mtDNA from Neolithic Hungary

Ancient Britons Came From Spain, North Africa, Middle East & Rome

In follow-up to my earlier posts When Wales was Jewish, Sephardic Jewish U5b and Berber Jews, this article suggests ancient Britons came from Spain and that "small numbers of today's Britons are *also* descended from north African, Middle Eastern and Roman clans."

All of these clans are identified and show up in my mitonchondrial and autosomal DNA test results.

Excellent mtDNA Tutorial

Part 1, What is mtDNA?
Part 2, What are Ancestral Markers?
Part 3, How does it work?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Predicted U5b Subclade

Based upon my already identified mtDNA mutations, I'm going to predict that I might fall somewhere into the U5b2a subclade by full sequence mtDNA analysis. This article further supports my prediction via HVR1 mutations (as Poland came up as one among 16 genetic matches):

The most ancient identified subhaplogroup, U5b2, requires further phylogeographic studies. However the data presented here allow us to suggest that at least subcluster U5b2a is characterized by a predominantly central European distribution, since a large number of U5b samples from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic fall into this subcluster (Figure 1).

We'll see when the results come in (and all of my mtDNA genetic markers are identified) what U5b subclade I actually fall into.

Update - Until the full sequence mtDNA results come in to bring up additional markers from the coding region which might suggest otherwise (which is not altogether unlikely), using this chart, and based upon my HVR1 and HVR2 markers only, it looks like I might be in the U5b2a1 subclade of U5b.

UPDATE - using this mutation chart, based upon the mutations I already know, I could fall into either U5b1b or U5b2, so it looks like I can't really predict anything.

mtDNA tree Build 14 (5 Apr 2012)

The most current mtDNA phylotree, mtDNA tree Build 14 (5 Apr 2012).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rabbinical Court Recognizes Majorcan Conversos as Jews: What It Could Mean To Me

According to this article, a Rabbinical Court has recognized Majorican Conversos as Jews, and moreover, this ruling applies to all their Ancestors and Descendants.

Majorcan Jews, called Chueta (also spelled Mallorcan and Xueta, respectively) are Chuetan (Jewish). On the genetics of the Xueta, Wiki tells us

A variety of genetic studies conducted, principally, by the Departament of Human Genetics of the University of the Balearic Islands have indicated that the Xuetes constitute a genetically homogeneous group with the populations of Oriental Jews, and are also related to the Ashkenazi Jews and those of North Africa [*both of these populations* as well as Spain figuring significantly on my own mtDNA motherline test], based on analyzing both the Y chromosome, which traces patrilineal descent, and the mitochondrial DNA, which traces matrilineal descent.
Now, I'm more anxious than ever to see what additional genetic details might fall out to me through my Full Sequence mtDNA test.

This article suggests that many Xueta fall into mtDNA haplogroup pre-HV1 (not mine) at a frequency of 23%. Well, 40% of Ashkenazi Jews fall into mtDNA haplogroup K (not mine) too, but I'm matched exactly to several Ashkenazi Jews nevertheless even in haplogroup U5b, so we'll see. Twenty-three percent does not even account fully for 1/4 of the Xueta. More than 75% of the Xueta remain unaccounted for by the pre-HV1 haplogroup.

Rabbi Karelitz [leader of the Israeli Chareidi Religious court who gave the ruling] issued a statement that said because of the intermarriage patterns of the chuetas, “all those who are related to the former generations are Jews.”
original NY Times Article

Native American Ancestry Ambiguity

I'm running into alot of people with oral histories of Cherokee ancestry whose genetic tests come back negative for NA sequences. One woman's grandmother was a nearly full-blood Cherokee and even her results came back negative. So, even though my NA panel came back negative, I'm not ruling out the truth of my family's oral history. The small number of samples representing NA populations in the databases may be insufficient to capture my specific connection at this point in database development. I'll keep my mind open on the matter.

Native Genealogy

When Wales Was Jewish

In one of my autosomal DNA analyses (lookly broadly at the ancestry I inherited from both of my parents), Wales came in as one of my top five matches (along with Sweden, UK, Norway and Scotland) for Deep Ancestral Origins. Coupled with the results of my motherline genetic test and dreams I've had over years about being a Jew living among the Druids in ancient Celtic lands (in one dream, I was a half-breed Celtic-Jew taken under the tutelege of two Druidic priestesses), this is interesting:

When Wales Was Jewish

Significantly, Welsh tradition associates the Iron Age hilltop town on Conwy Mountain known as Castell Caer Seion with a settlement of ancient Jews. This site overlooks Conwy Bay on the north coast of Wales and lies on the ancient road between Prestatyn in Denbighshire and Bangor in Gwynedd opposite Angelsey. In the Black Book of Caermarthen, the Welsh national bard Taliesin casually remarks in the persona of the battling hero,

When I return from Caer Seon,

From contending with Jews,

I will come to the city of Lleu and Gwidion.[v]

Lleu and Gwidion are the names of two other legendary figures; they are believed to be historical and to have lived in the early centuries of the Common Era or anterior to it.

It is hard to avoid the thought that the hilly area to the west of the town of Conwy, in North Wales was once inhabited by Jews."

Full Sequence mtDNA Analysis In Process

This article on mtDNA tests provides some useful information for analyzing mtDNA ancestral motherline test results:

The mitochondria consist of 16569 SNPs that can be tested. Typically these are tested in three steps: (from Family Tree DNA’s FAQ)

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has two major parts, the control region and the coding region.

The control region is often called the hypervariable region (HVR). Hypervariable means fast changing. In mitochondrial DNA, the control region is the fast changing part. The control region may be further divided into two Hypervariable regions, HVR1 and HVR2.

* HVR1 runs from nucleotide 16001 to nucleotide 16569.
* HVR2 runs from nucleotide 00001 to nucleotide 00574.

The coding region (CR) is the part of your mtDNA genome that contains genes. Because it does contain some genes, the coding region is believed to be slower mutating than the control region. Often, it is the mutations that are found in the coding region that are used to define haplogroups.

* The coding region runs from nucleotide 00575 to nucleotide 16000.

The only complete test that will assign you with certainty to your haplogroup and subgroup is a Full Sequence test. The reason for this is that a lot of (but not all) of the mutations that define the different subgroups are placed in the Coding Region, which is only analyzed in a Full Sequence test.
Timeframe for Matches

HVR1 only:
The common direct maternal ancestor could have lived up to 50 000 years ago.

HVR1 + HVR2:
The common direct maternal ancestor could have lived many thousand years ago

FMS/Full Sequence test:
The common direct maternal ancestor could have lived from recently to about 3000 years ago.

The mtDNA test which placed me into motherline haplogroup U5b analyzed HVR1 and HVR2 of the control region. I've ordered a Full Sequence mtDNA test from a second testing company which will confirm my haplogroup placement with 100% certainty (since my entire mtDNA sequence will be elucidated), plus it will open up my access to another large genetic database for finding additional genetic matches. It offers another level of detail and confirmation of my motherline. The first test assigned me with good certainty to haplogroup U5b. The Full Sequence test can confirm my U5b placement, tell me if I belong to one of the many subclades of U5b, provide me with an additional set of mtDNA genetic markers from the coding region, and possibly link me up to new genetic matches as well. As a former scientist myself, I am more comfortable with independently confirmed results anyway.

It could be up to six weeks or more before I get results back, as I just ordered this test today. Soon, soon, soon I will know even more about my motherline.

Updated Haplogroup U Phylotree

From a new paper by Behar et al: ~ "Mutational events along the human mtDNA phylogeny are traditionally identified relative to the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence, a contemporary European sequence published in 1981. This historical choice is a continuous source of inconsistencies, misinterpretations, and errors in medical, forensic, and population genetic studies. Here, after having refined the human mtDNA phylogeny to an unprecedented level by adding information from 8,216 modern mitogenomes, we propose switching the reference to a Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence, which was identified by considering all available mitogenomes from Homo neanderthalensis. This “Copernican” reassessment of the human mtDNA tree from its deepest root should resolve previous problems and will have a substantial practical and educational influence on the scientific and public perception of human evolution by clarifying the core principles of common ancestry for extant descendants."

Click the link to see the phylotree. Looking at the defining markers on it, I'm still a U5b using this system of classification.Here is the full article.

Sephardic Jewish U5b

In follow-up to my previous post on Berber Jews, in relationship to the the 5 Ashkenazi Jews and 1 North African individual who share my U5b haplogroup and whose mtDNA genetic markers exactly match my own, I also note that I have an individual in Spain on my list of exact genetic matches. That fact made me wonder about a possible Sephardic Jewish connection.

Well, in a U5 online group I belong to (for both U5a and U5b clades), there is a Sephardic Jew who is in the U5b haplogroup.

I was also informed that in 1492 (and before that as well, due to a sharp increase in the severity of anti-semitism), when the Jews were expelled from Spain (where one of my own genetic matches is located, a Converso family perhaps), many moved into North Africa (hence, my North African Berber match is illuminated).

Clearly, my motherline has a long history of Jewishness. I've illuminated a possible route now during this period of the Middle Ages.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Berber Jews

There are at least 16 people (in the scientific database) in the world who are my "genetic twins" as far mitochondrial (motherline) DNA is concerned, which means that I share with these 16 people the same motherline down through time since pre-human hominids became human, clear back to "mitochondrial Eve" and that we share a recent common matriarchal genetic ancestor as well - all of our mtDNA markers are the same. On the list of my 16 exact mtDNA genetic matches (that I received from the lab that performed my motherline ancestral analysis) there are at least 4-5 disclosed Ashkenazi Jews in central Europe and Asia. Also on this list is an undisclosed individual in North Africa, identified as of the Berber tribe. Researching my North African Berber connection, I found this article which goes into the interesting relationship between the Berbers and the Jews. Wiki informs me that in antiquity, "some Berbers were Christians (some evolved their own Donatist doctrine), some were Jewish (Berber Jews), and some adhered to their traditional polytheist religion. The Berbers are the indigenous group of North Africa west of the Nile Valley.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Artistry in the Blood

י' בניסן תשע"ב
Raven 12
Alder 16

An interesting fact about my matrilineal genetic haplogroup U5b (also called Clan Ursula) is that members of this motherline group were the first human beings to evolve creative artistic expression in form of cave painting. The earliest cave art was done by Clan Ursula.

Very cool.

Dare to be true to yourself.