Beginnings – My Maternal Side

The female side of the equation is tracked using Mitochondrial DNA. “Eve”. Eve gave rise to two descendant linages known as LO and L1’2’3’4’5’6. Some African tribes are the direct descendants of these lines and have changed very little from Eves genetic makeup. Around 67,000 there was a genetic change that created a female group called L3 in East Africa. Most of this group stayed in Africa with their LO relatives. Most Bantu speaking tribes in Africa today have this linage as do many African Americans. However, some left Africa to populate the rest of the world. Even Norway. Why they left is unknown but probably related to the desire to eat.

Around 50,000 years ago, the Sahara was a much wetter place. As the ice in the northern hemisphere began to melt, a corridor of savanna filled with food on the hoof was available to a new offshoot of the L3 linage known as N. This group began to appear around 60,000 BC. They were the ones to take off across the Sahara probably following the Nile and then across the Sinai. Many of the early members of these migrants settled in the eastern Mediterranean and in western Asia. This “haplogroup” N coexisted with another hominid group the Neanderthals who also lived in modern day Israel. Evidently, the Neaderthal population could interbreed with the LO,L3, N immigrants as most Northern Europeans like me have some Neaderthat genetics. In my case, 2.1% of my genes are Neanderthal. I have to believe that these genes cam from my Dad’s side of the DNA mix. The current understanding is that the Neanderthal population became absorbed by the much more numerous N linages. The N haplogroup would eventually populate most of Europe along with western and central Asia.

Around 55,000 years ago another haplogroup called R begins to live with and migrate with its “sister” haplogroup N. the two groups will mix their DNA and populate the Near East and north Africa as well as Russia and Central Asia. Some 75 to 95% of European maternal linages contain this R genes. About 41,000 years ago the R0 linage begins. Some head for India, some return to Africa and the group will dominate Arabia. Some of the group head west and are known as the Cro-Magnon. I have to smile when I think about southwest France and the beauty of that area and the caves inhabited by the Cro-Magnon. I think we got the better part of the deal for our R0 haplogroup. It is also at this time that the Neanderthal disappear but not before sharing some valuable genes that provided for some immunity against diseases common in cold climates.

Branch HV and its offshoot H, to which I also belong, continued to reside in the Middle East and particularly in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia. While the HV marker is only found in 1% of Europeans, it is found in 21% of Armenian maternal linages and 7% of India. The H branch spread what is known as the Aurignacian culture across Europe. They were innovators in stone tools for skins and woodworking. The bad news was that 15,000 to 20,000 years ago marked the arrival of the Ice Age. The H group along with others retreated to the Iberian Peninsula and the Balkans. As the ice retreated the H group will become the dominate maternal linage in western Europe with some 40% to 60% of European populations. So this was the group that lived through the Ice Age and lived to dominate the European landscape.

It is also after the Ice Age that we became much lighter in skin color. It is generally agreed that that the ability to receive enough Vitamin D is related to the ability to process UV radiation. As we moved north, there was less UV and darker skinned people got sick in northern latitudes. It is also conjectured that this happened at the time when agriculture was spreading because as we became farmers we started to lose the Vitamin D from our hunting diet. One diet change that we did do was to eat more Vitamin D rich fish and we became pretty much universally lactose tolerant so we could get our D from milk and cheese. By the way, it was also in this 6,000 to 12,000 BC time frame that some woman got blue eyes. All of us with blue eyes are descended from her.

At the end of the Ice Age another group speaks from the Caucasus and blends with the H branch. The H6 makes up 10% of maternal linages in Croatia and 3% in Norway. The story of its movements are still emerging. Another branch is known as H6a1a that all originated in the Caucusus and is most common on the Arabian peninsula, Croatia with small percentages in Western Europe.

So what does all this mean? I can conclude that my Mom’s Scandinavian heritage evolved from living in or near the Caucasus while surviving the Ice Age before heading north.

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