Say What? (part 2)


(for part 1 click here)

Humanity; what a trip. 

Do you define yourself as “Italian”, Irish”, Spanish”, or “German”? Have you ever thought about why you define your heritage or ethnicity the way you do? Because your parents did? Maybe its where your great-grandparents lived before immigrating to America. I’ll grant you that defining details such as language, recorded history and (ugh) physical traits are natural points of reference. But if your recent ancestors came from Europe, perhaps you should take into consideration even bigger parts of your lineage. 

It just may be that we are all “African-Americans”.

Human fossils have been dated (arguably) to 200,000 years, with some scientists estimating as recently as 104,000 years. But while “modern” humans have been dated back to only 35,000 years, we can safely assume a relatively agreeable age of humanity to be about 160,000 years old. Any of these numbers though are a fractional blip when compared to the age of Mother Earth- 4.5 billion years. 

My curiosity about “deep ancestry” grew after reading about National Geographic’s “Genographic Project“. They tell it like this….

“The National Geographic Society, IBM, geneticist Spencer Wells, and the Waitt Family Foundation have launched the Genographic Project, a five-year effort to understand the human journey—where we came from and how we got to where we live today. This unprecedented effort will map humanity’s genetic journey through the ages.”

It is an incredible undertaking. The information, graphics and multimedia presentation are eye-opening and I was eager to get involved. For $99 I received a very informative DNA test kit. Because I am male I was able to choose which side of the family I wanted to trace back. I chose the maternal side. About 4 weeks later I had the results along with a custom online mini-video summary of Dr. Wells describing my ancestral journey.

My maternal/mitochndrial DNA traced back to the “Mitochondrial Eve”; a woman that lived in East Africa about 160,000 years ago. This DNA grouping, the haplogroup “H”, is the dominant European haplogroup. About 50% of people with European ancestry are members of “H”.

My ancestors were part of the 2nd major wave out of Africa between 45,000 and 50,000 years ago. They entered the Middle East and then migrated north into Europe 10,000 to 15,000 years later during the last Ice Age. As the Ice Age worsened they were forced south to what has been called “Refugia” by scientists; present day Spain, Italy and the Balkans. With the end of the Ice Age, within the last 10,000 years, populations then expanded back through central and northern Europe.

A time line tracing my maternal lineage reveals over 110,000 years of African great-grandmothers, a relatively brief transition to the Middle East lasting about 35,000 years, before “settling” in the new place; Italy for the last 15,000. Oh, and then there’s that sliver of 100 years here in North America- an almost humorous 1/10th of 1% of the time my ancestors lived in Africa.

If these years were chip counts at the WSOP final table, it would barely be a contest. Africa has 3 times the stack of the Middle East and 7 times Italy. North America would barely fit the definition of “a chip and a chair”.

So what is the point of all of this? I assume its self-evident, and I suppose we all have heard about scientific hypothesis that humans are said to have originated from one place. However, my joy comes from not only being a part of the hard science, the facts, the proof; but from promoting an inclusive ideology that ties us all together. We all came from the same place, whether in the physical sense; Africa, or in the profound sense, “The Source”. We are all likely headed to the same place too.

As Paul Harvey would say…

“…and now you know….the rest of the story”. 


Close Menu