Monday, December 28, 2015

The Cassidy Earthquake: Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland and establishment of the insular Atlantic genome

Lara Cassidy et al. just put out a paper that injects a bit of welcome science into the world of R1b fantasy theories.  Those theories, of marauding bands of R1b warriors, are popular on online messenger boards.  (One prominent board even maintains that most of Western Europe -- millions and millions of men -- are R1b because they are descended from royalty).

Here are the findings from this recent paper:

1.  The very derived downstream clades of R1b like R1b1a2a1a2c were well-established in Ireland by 3750 before the present.  There is no evidence the ancient specimens in the paper were the first generation in Ireland, so it is likely they were present by 2000 BCE.

2.  The population of the Central European migrants to Ireland, who were herders, and had some Steppe-derived ancestry, were MUCH higher, compared to hunter gatherers.  In other words, R1b is so common in Ireland because of massive migration of such people.

3.  This is emphatically NOT consistent with pioneer colonization and elite dominance.

4.  The current distributions in many parts of Western Europe are due to a LACK of invasions since (no Anglo-Saxon or Roman penetration.) In other words, this was a second but more prounounced founder effect of sorts.

5.  This is consistent with comparisons to more centrally located, easy to reach locales, like Italy, where the genomes show greater variability in both autosomes and Y DNA, due to introgressions that occurred after the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age migrations.  (Cavalli-Sforza's admonishment to understand the difference between an expansion and an "impansion" come to mind.)

6. In Western Europe, Bell Beaker culture is the most likely candidate for the spread of R1b and related autosomal genes.

7.  R1b and this Western European expansion is strongly scientifically correlated to lactose persistence, which likely provided the demographic advantage to propagate in larger numbers in places like Hibernia.

8.  As an addendum, the megaliths of Western Europe are indeed likely linked to early cardial cultures, who bore of mix of HG and farming genes, which correlate to I-M26 in Ireland and Sardinia.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Spread of Haplogroups in Europe, Especially R1b

This post is intended to be a general foray into what I call "The Two -Ics" that explain modern haplogroup distributions: demographics and mathematics.  IMO, both are poorly understood.

It's been said, "to be an R1b Fantasist, you have to believe that I2-M26 came to predominate Sardinia by chance (e.g., Founder Effect and Drift) -- but that R1b came to predominate other locales (e.g., Ireland or Spain) by merit (e.g., military superiority or sexual selection)." 

It's also been said, "to be an R1b Fantasist, you have to now believe that R1b marks the spread of the first pastoralists, equestrians, and herders, and that you're now 100% correct that is right -- when just 2-3 years ago, you were 100% that Hg G2 was the mark of the first pastoralists and herders."

With respect to the first saying, I believe that most of the R1b apologists understand the former concepts (of chance as they apply to archaeogenetics), so this post is designed to build upon that knowledge, and add some demographics and mathematics too.

With respect to the second saying, I believe what is most key in a discipline like archaeogenetics is to recognize that theories and findings change from year to year, but the underpinnings of solid scientific method do not.

Let's get into it:

First, it is crucial to outline the possible outcomes.  Every generation, every clade and subclade of every Haplogroup has three "options" (or three outcomes).  Those are:

1.  Mutate (i.e., become something else)
2.  Propagate -- and, in more or less the same form, by having a male child who survives
3.  Die out, by having only daughters, or by having male children who fail to themselves breed

The "stakes" were more pronounced during prehistory than today, because the population sizes were so profoundly lower.  If you don't grasp this and accept it as fact, you can't grasp what I will detail later.

Population of Europe Over Selected Times  
(YBP = Years Before Present)

~50,000 YBP: No more than 10,000 (Neandertals)

~38,000 YBP - 19,000 YBP: No more than 37,000, likely population just 5,000

~12,000 YBP: About 28,000

~2000 YBP: About 35,000,000

-0 YBP: About 743,000,000
You can read more here.

In essence, you must remember that the population of Europe at the beginning of the time we are discussing (the post-glacial-maximum recolonization through the Bronze Age) was about 28,000 and peaked at maybe 100,000.  This is hard for the modern mind to comprehend, I know.  There were less people from Spain to Ukraine then, than there are in one city block in London now.

There are two takeaways:
1.  This made the population more susceptible to chance events, like a plague outbreak, or a famine in an area.

2.  This made the population more susceptible to massive dilution, when population started on its massive upward trajectory, after people started drinking milk, wine, and beer, when they started making cheese, when they started farming cereals and living in one spot, and when they started herding animals and having meat at will.

Going back to our three outcomes for Y Haplogroups, every generation: the first "takeaway" above should inform several likely mechanisms of how R1b spread over time.  If they entered a territory and had different disease resistance, it could have meant that large numbers of a tiny starting population would die off. 

Similarly, because the initial population was so small, when larger populations migrated for whatever reason, indeed possibly even as refugees from other regions, the other haplogroups would seem to have shrunk in size, whereas it really is different population sizes.

All this is just build up.  Our main focus, however, is the simple application of mathematics to Outcome 3 above.

This is what you need to know before we start:

1.  Hunter/gatherer women space babies on average 4.5 years apart, whereas farmers and moderns space them 1.5 years apart.

2.  The average paleolithic woman would have about 3.8 children.

3.  Infant mortality among hunter/gatherers is 30 times higher than among "civilized", and reached approximately 25% at many points during history.

4.  If the average hunter/gatherer family consisted of 3 children to live to adulthood, the odds of each family having just female kids survive was 12.5% each generation.  (.5 x .5 x .5)

Now just these numbers by themselves (HGs having fewer kids than farmers or pastoralists) explain a LOT. 

But the main point is thus: "older" non-mutated Y-chromosome haplogroups are found in lesser numbers simply because they are...older...

Every generation that a Hg exists and doesn't change, there is a 12.5% chance that those bearing it, in any one family, will not pass it along.  To be very clear: if a Hg does not mutate into something else -- or does not die entirely -- its numbers and distribution will decrease over time.  This applies to all except the most recent arrival, which is currently breeding like rabbits.  For example:

Many people believe that C1a was the first Y Hg in Europe.  There were probably just 5000-15,000 of them at any time.  By definition, the Hg C1a are folks that did not go on to mutate into any of the downstream clades.  Over time, the odds will catch up.

Many people believe that I2 was the next Y Hg in Europe.  There were probably just 10,000 - 50,000 of them at any time.  By definition, these are members of the IJ branch, and not members of F or K who mutated.  Over time, the odds will catch up.

These very simple concepts explain much of the modern distribution of haplogroups in Europe.  Is it more complex?  Sure.  Were there other factors?  Absolutely.  But over time, you cannot escape mathematics and demography being the biggest factors.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Review of All Theories, on Why R1b Is So Common in Western Europeans

The great Roman historian Tacitus begins the Germania by discussing how the Germans are separated from certain peoples by mountains, and separated from other peoples by rivers -- and where there were no rivers or mountains, the peoples were separated by Fear.

A similar, intangible concept applies today, to understanding why R1b is so common in Western Europe.  Some of it can be gleaned by archaeology, some of it can be gleaned by DNA -- and where archaeology and DNA cannot provide an answer, we must resort to what makes us human: Logic.

Below is a review of all of possible models explaining why R1b and its subclades are common throughout Western Europe.  After reading it, you decide which is the most logical.

1.  The Bronze-Age Badasses.

The theory goes:R1b males were an awesome military force, who swept through Europe and killed the overwhelming majority of other males in their path.  They started in modern Ukraine as bad-ass horsemen.  But by the time they got to the coasts, they turned into bad-ass sailors and navigators.  These horsemen built boats, and Ireland and England were next to be mowed down by their genocidal awesomeness.  Despite traveling the length of Europe, they were still pure R1b by the time they reached Ireland.  Sufficiently that some counties in Ireland are 80-98% R1b today.  This R1b Empire was the largest that Europe ever knew.  Not even Caesar's stretched from Ireland to Ukraine!  Even though there was plenty of open space in Europe (the population being less than 1/1000th of what it is today), they decided to conquer an empire this vast expanse and risk the lives of themselves and their children, just because they were such badasses.  They were such efficient killers they left no trace in archaeological records in Western Europe of destruction or razing.  Despite well-established standards for evolution of language, the empire spoke vastly different languages (i.e. Latin and Ukrainian), despite this all happening just 1000 years or so before the beginnings of Rome and Greece.

Believe it or not, this theory is favored by some people today, who just happen to be R1b males.

2.  The Irresistible Indo-Europeans  

This theory goes: R1b males had uniformly gorgeous looks, tremendous wealth, and all-star qualities that made all hunter-gatherer women swoon with delight.  Whether they had bright red hair, or looked like James Buchanan, cavewomen of all groups throughout Europe dropped their guys and decided to procreate with these R1b studs.  None of the local guys resisted.  They too were enamored by the R1b good looks, and some kind of genetic superiority that made them and their genes irresistible.  

Believe it or not, this theory is favored by some people today.  No, really.  They actually posted it in comments below.  And they just happen to be R1b males.

3.  Colonizing Conquistadores

This theory is a variation of theory 1, minus the genocide.  The theory is: just model the R1b spread after that of the Spanish conquest of the New World.  Nevermind that the Spanish had guns, germs, and steel.  Nevermind that they had cannon, smallpox, and boats that could traverse oceans.  Nevermind that in most places in Latin America, the native haplogroups like Q and C still dominate.  Just ignore these things and model R1b after the Spanish.

4.  Lactase Persistence

At last we enter the realm of the plausible. 

This theory goes as follows: very basal subclades of R1b were present throughout Europe in tiny pockets for a very long time.  

This is why a slightly more downstream clade of R1b*, ancestral to modern lineages, was found, already in Els Trocs Spain, 7000 years ago.  

I mean think about it.  He couldn't have flown there.  And in 5100 BC, he couldn't have even ridden a horse.  

We know that R1 originated in Eurasia, and that it was present on both ends of Europe by 5100 BC.

If you adopt regular migration theories for on-foot migrations, these very basal R1b people in Spain were likely present in small pockets throughout Europe by 6000 BC.  Perhaps in the modern Czech Republic, perhaps in France, perhaps in modern Germany.  We only have ~400 aDNA samples from this epoch, and a smaller percentage of them have been tested for Y DNA.

Perhaps they lived in a moist climate less likely to preserve remains.  Perhaps they cremated their dead.  Perhaps archaeologists ignore their tiny region.  But one thing is certain:  Basal R1b was present in Europe, end to end, by about 6000 BC.

At some point, during a period of profound starvation, Western Europeans evolved a tremendous caloric advantage: the ability to digest milk.  No more killing the cow to eat and therefore live: you can live off of turning grass into protein.

Let's assume the first humans to evolve this, living in some nameless, forgotten pocket of Germany or England or France or Spain were majority R1b, then their population would EXPLODE.  In a time of mass starvation and famine, those with a caloric advantage would propagate exponentially.  

(Perhaps these people come to worship the cow to some degree, creating taboos to killing it, as we see in modern lands, creating idols of bulls, as we saw in many ancient cultures, and creating elaborate drinking vessels in the shape of Bell Beakers -- but I digress...)

The population of Europe at this time was maybe a million people across the whole continent.  If you figure that R1b people had a greater fertility rate (more kids per female, less time to wean because of cowmil availability, less time between kids, healthier kids, more kids reaching adulthood to propagate), then the simple math of exponential demography will show that within as few as 200 years, your uniparental markers will dominate the landscape.

It should be noted that the various genes for lactase persistence mirror closely the distribution of R1b-S21 even today.

5.  Refugees and Different Cultural Attitudes

If you know a little about history or current events, this one is not hard to imagine.  The historical example is the Goths; the modern example is what is happening in Lebanon with Syrian refugees.

People used to think the Goths were bad-ass, uncivilized, warlike, mighty (insert "supreme" adjective here) Germanic overlords who conquered much of the Roman world. But anyone who knows the history understands that the truth is a little kinder to them (kinder, depending on if you believe being peaceful and not purposefully killing people is a good thing).

The Goths were not some mighty tribe hell-bent on destruction, who willfully took over the Roman Empire. Just the opposite: they started out from modern South Sweden because of FAMINE. They were so weak, they were forced to WANDER for centuries. Finally, they invaded the Roman Empire, because the Huns EVICTED them from their steppe lands in modern Ukraine.

In other words, one of the baddest-ass people in most people's minds were refugees, forced to emigrate not because they wanted to conquer, but because they themselves had been evicted from their homelands by famine (first) and then another people (the Huns).

If that is too hard on you, let's imagine something happening today. The population of Lebanon is about 2 million people. Aside from the districts controlled by terrible people, many of the coastal folks are pretty wealthy, modern, and diverse. They don't have extraordinarily high birthrates.

All hell has broken loose near them, in a country you may have heard a lot of recently. It's called Syria. In the last two years, Lebanon...has been swamped with 2 million Syrian refugees.

In other words, the population of the country has doubled, in a generation, from an influx of refugees.

Now imagine the Lebanese bear Haplogroup L, we will call it. Imagine like many wealthier people today, they're not having 20 kids each. More like 1 or 2.

Imagine the Syrian refugees bear Haplogroup S, we will call it. Imagine like many poorer people today, they DO have many kids...

The "old" samples within this area we call Lebanon will all be Haplogroup L. A future archaeologist would find that to be the case.

The "new" samples, after a few generations, will be like 75-25%, with Haplogroup S clearly "winning out." The cause is a mix of migration -- plus different cultural attitudes toward having kids.

Did the Syrian refugees "conquer" the Lebanese?  (No.)

Is it safe to say that the Syrian refugees genes were "selected for?" (No).

That the Syrian men were "more attractive" to women? (No).

That they bore some kind of genetic advantage, that made them fitter? (Again, no.) 

6.  Different Starting Population Sizes, Different In Time

This one is the hardest to fathom almost, because it is almost circular.  It states simply that R1b is the most numerous in Western Europe because they started out more populous, and were the most recent immigrants.  

Western Europe is a cul-de-sac for overland migrations.  Almost all haplogroups originated in Africa or the Near East, but came into Western Europe via the eastern entry points into Europe.  Iberia is the end of the cul-de-sac.

Imagine a 100-acre parcel. At first, it is a hunting preserve of sorts. It is inhabited by 5 families who own 20 acres each. They love the deer and geese they harvest from said land.

Next some farmers move in. 50 acres are used for farming. They support 10 farming families, who each have 5 acres.

The land is supporting 5 hunters and 10 farmers. (Have the farmers been "selected for?" No.  They are more numerous and more recent migrants).

Finally, some others land in the area. There are 100 refugee families or maybe just people who tolerate living close to one another, so they squeeze into one acre of the land. They have metals, which they trade for food, so they are able to live in a much smaller parcel.

Have they been selected for?  Again, no.

I just described something that has happened in recorded history several times, and surely in prehistory too.

Older, less numerous populations will appear to be "drowned out," unless you are careful. It's just simple math.  Those who have been in a locale the longest will be diluted over time.  

7. Disease

Many plagues in Western Europe entered through the east.  Since R1b-bearing males were the largest migration from the east, it must be considered that different immune systems played a role in their spread.

In sum: R1b could be simply the most common haplogroup in Western Europe because it came there later, in greater numbers, and perhaps as part of a people who had different cultural attitudes toward having children.

In subsequent posts, I will link or recap demographic studies that show the clear power of exponential growth with even tiny differences in birthrates.


Another Way of Thinking About Ancient Populations (Autosomes versus just Y and mtDNA)

I don't think Neandertals died out at all.
No more so than any population that existed from 600,000 to 25,000 years ago.

If you tested ANY species of Homo that old, of course they wouldn't match us exactly. The genus has evolved.

Neandertal population size was tiny. Imagine that there were 40,000 of them in Europe. (That number is actually large.  Many aDNA experts believe that there were never more than 10,000 Neanderthals alive at any one time!)

Now imagine that 1 million modern humans come into Europe, during various phases.
You mix them together, and you get the 4% of Neandertal autosomes in our populations.

You also get drastically smaller odds that their sex-linked DNA survives over time.

Never, ever forget population size.

This "study" has been replicated in modern times.

Imagine 100 men are marooned on an island. 4 have the surname "Rarityrareness."

After generations, it is likely that the sons of those 4 will have a generation or two that produces only daughters. In fact, it's almost certain.

So the odds are that there will be no Y chromosomes of the Rarityrareness males.

But did they survive? Yes. Their descendants through their daughters are very much alive in the population.  And like Neandertals, large percentages of their genome would survive autosomally, perhaps as high as 80%!

Never ever forget initial and comparable population size. It explains just about every ratio of the newer versus older Y Chromosomes in Europe. 

It explains the lack of Neandertal sex-linked DNA, and it explains the smaller number of the Old Europe haplogroups from small hunter-gatherer populations.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Proposal for a New Lexicon for Ancient DNA "Components" Like WHG, EHG, EEF, ANE, and CHG

Some of us a few years back started to decry the ever-ongoing ISOGG renaming process, which coupled with the discovery of new subclades, meant that one year, someone might be deemed R1b1b1a2bab2ba11babd12ba2b1c, and the next year R1b1b2bab2f1faf1fafaf1f1f1a. 

People started saying that it would probably be better to say the first couple letters and the major terminal SNP. For example, R1b-U106 or I2-M26. This was logical and goodUnlike the terminology, the SNPs never change. And they're shorter to write.
Here I humbly propose a new terminology for ancient autosomal samples. I think picking terms like, "WHG" was a mistake, and now that I read about EHG and CHG, I really think so. For the uninitiated, these acronyms stand for "Western Hunter Gatherer," "Caucasus Hunter Gatherer," etc.

People compare their modern genomes, or the genomes of modern populations or ethnic groups, to these ancient samples. And then they use the shorthand, like, "Scottish average 19% CHG." This is highly misleading.

Let me give the reasons why I think it is deficient, and tell me if you disagree.

1. As we get more samples over time, it will be hard to keep renaming the different samples, if they form a different component. We just saw this with the recent CHG finds. Imagine if we find a detectable signal of ancient genes from Iberia. What will we call that component? "Really Western Hunter Gatherer?"

2. The shorthand is deeply misleading (i.e., "Scottish are 19% CHG.") This to me is the most important point. Most people reading this are experts. But I see on so many other boards people who seem to think that some scientist somewhere took a survey of a bunch of ancient samples, "averaged" it, and that we are comparing populations to populations.

We're not. We are not comparing Scots to Western Hunter Gatherers. We are comparing Scots (or any other modern individual or group) to ONE SAMPLE. For WHG, it's Loschbour. For EEF, it's Stuttgart. For ANE, it's Mal'ta. Etc.

3. We don't know that that one sample will turn out to be representative of "Western Hunter Gatherers" any more than we know that taking Danny Devito or the harlequin model Fabio is a representative of a modern Italian. Indeed, as the number of samples we get grows, we know the situation is infinitely more complex.

We all remember, for example, when the first farmers sampled had very unique mtDNA. For a while, people tried to read too much into it. "OMG, what if all farmers bore this odd mtDNA?" was the refrain. But it turned out to be a one-off. This can and will happen again and again as we get more samples over time.

4. The acronyms will get repetitive real fast. We are talking about aDNA, remember? Before farming, the whole world were hunter gatherers. So, many (most) aDNA samples will eventually have -HG after them, if we follow the current convention.

I imagine a world where we have found 26 slightly different hunter gatherer samples, and thus we have one different -HG for every letter in the alphabet! That'd be just silly.


For these reasons, but primarily numbers 2 and 3, I think the current practice is misleading and doomed to failure. Europe is a very complicated place. We will find ancient samples with very unique genomes, which are detectable in modern populations. They will all be slightly different from one another, because one sample is, well, one sample... It is highly misleading to say that "John Smith..." or "Estonians are more Western Hunter Gatherer than..." because we have not sampled all, most, or even many Western Hunter Gatherers. (I don't mean to pick on WHG. This applies equally, indeed MORE, with EEF and ANE!)

So, what is the solution?

I think if we purport to be scientific, we need to speak with scientific precision.

If an individual or a modern population bears resemblance to an ancient genome, we should state that it has a percentage similarity to that one sample. And not try to make it more than it is, like the very official and extensive term like, "Eastern Hunter Gatherers."

As for the sample, we should also include the year discovered, the situs of the discovery, and the years Before Present (BP). 

Remember, many of these sites are caves where there have been and will be more discoveries. In other words, I expect there will be many more Loschbours, more Stuttgarts, etc., and it will get quite confusing unless we speak with specificity about when something was discovered and when in time it came from.
Let's avoid a situation like we had with terms like R1b1b1b1a2a1b2bc3d, which lose meaning. Let's refer to things with scientific precision.


Instead of, "Scots are 19% Ancient North Eurasian."

SAY: "On average 19% of the genes of the modern Scottish population match 2013Mal'ta-24,000BP."

Instead of, "Southern European populations have a lot more CHG blood than I expected."

SAY: "Southern European populations bear many genes matching 2015Kotias-10,000BP."

Instead of, "Sardinians are 45% WHG."

SAY: "Approximately 45% of the genes in the modern Sardinian population resemble 2013Loschbour-6000BP."

This convention is much more accurate.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

How Little We Know About Ancient DNA - Part II

Earlier this year, I posted a series of maps graphically depicting the (at that time) exhaustive list of Ancient DNA finds, mapped out for both time and space.

The post, while now a bit dated due to additional finds, is still worth examining.  When reading it, it should becomes very apparent to you, the concept in the title of this post: How Little We Know About Ancient DNA.

As you can see from the maps, it appears that people bearing certain Y Chromosome haplogroups "flew" across time and space.  And that certain parts of Europe had nobody in them until someone flew across the distances.  

Of course, this is impossible.  It simply reflects the fact that we continue to have immense gaps in skeletal finds and in our knowledge.

Most importantly, it shows that today's conventional wisdom, popular at echo chambers like the Anthrogenica boards, will certainly change tomorrow -- revealing the adherents to such theories to be akin to arrogant fraudsters, peddling certainty where none is scientifically warranted.

Recently, a poster at Anthrogenica, with the handle Tomenable, posted an excellent visualization of the same gaps in knowledge that I referenced.

You can view a list of aDNA finds here, in chart form, courtesy of Tomenable.

And even better, here is a chart, in chronological order, showing the same.

What does the chart show?   By applying *scientific* methods of taking things to their logical conclusions, and reducing our knowledge to a set of provable statements, you can easily see how little we know.

For starters, based on these chrono maps, it looks like Haplogroup C1 made it to Europe after I2.  Yet almost everyone, from the scientific community to the "citizen" scientists (their term) on Anthrogenica, agree that C1 is a rare, likely "Cro-Magnon" marker, that represents the very first humans out of Africa and into Europe.  On the other hand, it has been accepted for over a decade that Haplogroup I, notably I2, represents the second (or third) wave of the population of Europe, associated with the Gravettian dispersions.  

But again, this is *not* "what the aDNA shows."

Ask the wiseguys on Anthrogenica, or search their posts.  They express with certainty that C1 came first, followed by I2.  And it probably is true.  But it is NOT born out by the aDNA evidence.  (Yet).

However, the same group of people turn to the aDNA evidence (blindly) to express 100% confidence in other theories, for example, everything from the notion that R1b xV88 couldn't be found west of modern Poland until the Indo-European expansions.  (I find this notion laughable.)  

They also rely on the aDNA evidence to express 100% confidence in wild notions of sex selection that have more in common with dimestore novels than anything scientific.  The proponents of said theories also happen to be mostly males bearing R1b.  Yes folks, in a world where racial identity is taboo, any sense of ingroup-outgroup dynamics for Western Europeans has simply been transferred to tiny markers on one chromosome.

In other words, many of these folks blindly turn to our meager aDNA evidence to justify their pet theory du jour, but choose to ignore what the aDNA evidence shows, when convenient.  

They cite gaps in data (i.e., a lack of samples) as evidence for proving a negative, as if that was possible -- when they want to.

But they ignore the lack of samples when convenient, if it doesn't fit in their narrative for that time or place.  

Doubt them, they revert to the argument "well, the aDNA shows..." but they are more than willing to fill in gaps in aDNA when convenient.

It's already been a rough year for the arrogantly certain in Ancient DNA.  Notably, past theories on the dispersion of Haplogroup J2 have fallen by the wayside.  Theories posted on Anthrogenica just a couple months ago, and accepted by the echo chamber as gospel fact, have been called into serious doubt by recent academic papers.  

I've also posted repeatedly on how difference in culture and hyperlocal topography can affect what aDNA survives into modern times.  The easiest example is one tribe burying their dead, while another tribe cremates it.  Anyone who knows anything about written history understands that the reason why we don't have m(any) ethnic Roman skeletons is because they cremated their dead.  To those who don't grasp this concept, it would be as if the Romans, a powerful, numerous, colonizing, widespread, important society -- didn't exist.  

I can just see Anthrogenica in the year 2515: "but there are no Roman samples in aDNA," they would maintain adamantly.  Yes, you would reply.  But the Romans existed.

The point is simple: approach any theories explaining what happened before written history with caution.  There are major gaps in the record, and it is far, far too early to approach things with the smug certainty one sees on these boards.  

Look at the samples across time and space (geography).  Don't hide behind relative, subjective terms like "Mesolithic" and "Neolithic."  Instead, look at how Europe was populated, the way it was populated --- in gradations, over (real) time.  You, too, will notice "How Little We Know (Still) About aDNA."

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Eerie Similarities Between Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ

Over two-thousand years, some events happened. Tales of the events were passed down orally by common people, in societies where over 80% of the population was illiterate. The tales were modified over the almost 100 years that they were passed down verbally.   Local fathers changed certain details to meet the local geography, to make the story more relatable to their wide-eyed kids.

It is well-known that the Epic of Gilgamesh of the Babylonians matches almost exactly the Story of Noah's Flood from Genesis. Few credible scholars deny there was quite a bit of borrowing from one to the other.

This theory below, by Francesco Carotta, is more controversial.   But read the facts and determine whether you see the similarities.

Once upon a time, a great man lived whose initials were J.C. He was born quite poor, and lived among the common people, even though he was descended from the great, foundational King Romulus/King David. His aunt/his mother was named Maria. Some claimed for him a miraculous birth/a birth by Caesarian section. When he was still young, he was almost killed by the tyrant Sulla/Herod.

His deeds gained him significant fame during the early part of his public career, when he was operating in the province just to the north, called Gallia/Galilee. Everywhere he went, he was accompanied by his 12 faithful Lictors/disciples. He spoke in proverbs often, for example, “I came, I saw, I conquered/I came, I saw, I washed.” He was close to a promiscuous woman named Cleopatra/Magdalene and a righteous, powerful man named Nicodemus of Bithynia/Nicodemus of Bethany.

Eventually, his fate forced him to make a momentous decision and cross the Rubicon/Jordan river. On the way, he was tested at and performed miraculous deeds at a city called Corfinium/Cafarnaum. Then, he was operational in the capital, Rome/Jerusalem.

There had been a very similar man who he was close with, who had a similar following and career. Eventually though, Pompey/John the Baptist was beheaded by an Egyptian, and the head presented to him.

He was kind to the Caecilii (the blind), the Claudii (the lame), and the Metellii (the disfigured). He was so righteous that the common people started callimg him by the Greek term, “chrestos.” After operating in the capital for a while, his popularity was noticed by a jealous governing body, the Senate/the Sanhedrin. He was accused of having ambitions on becoming King.

He was betrayed by someone very close to him named Junius/Judas. The crowd is forced to choose between Brutus/Barabbas and him. A powerful man named Pontifex Lepidus/Pontius Pilate washes his hands of the matter. He is killed on March 15, wearing a Crown of Grass/Crown of Thorns. Right before being killed, he is stabbed between the ribs by someone named Cassius Longinus! His body was displayed to the people on a crucifix/he was crucified.

His followers were devastated, as predictions from all around the world had said that a Savior and the King of the World would be born around this time. So, he ascended into heaven and became a God. He took his place in the pantheon as the son of God – son of Jupiter/son of Jehovah.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What Is the Best and Most Accurate Ancestry Calculator (DNA Testing)?

What Is the Best and Most Accurate Ancestry or Admixture Calculator from DNA Testing?

We Review 23andme, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), DNA.Land, Dodecad, Eurogenes, etc.

Judging from community discussions in online forums, "Admixture" tests, where a company or entity takes your raw DNA data, puts it into a calculator, and then purports to tell you where your ancestors came from -- these are all the rage.  It is not rare for seemingly educated individuals to post on the Internet sheer and utter nonsense about their results, for example, assuming that a calculator identified their ancestry with something close to 100% accuracy.

In the online world, there is no such thing as perfect privacy.  And in DNA, there is no such thing as 100% accuracy for ancestry calculators. 

This is because all people are admixed, but not all ethnic groups form part of the samples.  Put another way, if your ancestors come from a valley in Switzerland where no one has ever been tested, you might show up in a test as French, German, Italian, Austrian, but not Swiss. 

You might say to yourself that you have documented ancestry back to the dawn of time that you are from Switzerland.  You may match other Swiss people exactly.  But because the Swiss are indeed mixes of the groups above, and because there are no specific, micro-targeted Swiss samples in the hypothetical database that match you more closely than those other nationalities, the test would be woefully inaccurate to YOU.  After all, you don't want a test to tell you you might be Northern Italian, if you are Swiss.  (For that matter, do you NEED a test to tell you that?  See below.)

In the online privacy world, they've named protections that are scientifically the best (and do their job pretty darn well) "Pretty Good Privacy."  In the DNA world, all we can hope for is "Pretty Good Accuracy" -- ancestry calculators that are scientifically grounded, don't make claims beyond what they can really do, and ones that get the broad regions correct in the very least.

The coolest benefit about living in a college town (Berkeley for this blogger) is that there are a ton of people from all over the world, with pretty well-defined ancestry.  For example, that Danish exchange student with 500 years of documented ancestors in Denmark?  That's a good candidate for testing some of these calculators.  Enough friends of mine have taken DNA tests, and we've plugged the results in the calculators across several paysites (testing companies) like 23andme and AncestryDNA, and free calculators, like the ones available on Gedmatch.  Who came out on top?

By far, the best and most accurate ancestry calculator is on 23andme.   Like all good scientists, they are humble instead of full of hubris.  They don't profess to give you one set of results and say, "this is it."  Instead, they give you three different results: standard, conservative, and speculative.  Each is pretty darn accurate for most of the people we know who have tested there and other sites.  Bottom line: 23andme's "Ancestry Composition" feature is outstanding, and the best, most accurate one online we could find.

It is our opinion that the least accurate ancestry calculator is at the new site  And the one on FTDNA is a close second.  Both are terrible.  Almost everyone who used the feature on reported that the calculator is way off; just not ready for prime time at time of writing this post.

How do these calculators work?  Well, remember, the data that comes out is only as good as the data that comes in.  It is worth to always remember the concept that computer programmers call "GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out."  What this means is that if the data on which a conclusion is based is faulty, the answer will also be faulty.  With calculators, this manifests itself two ways: with a shifted focus, or faulty or incomplete baseline data.

By a different focus, we mean: Several calculators, for example, the MDLP Ethnicity Calculator, also offered (with Eurogenes and Dodecad and Gedrosia) at Gedmatch, stands for Magnus Ducatiae Lituania Project.  As you might have guessed from its name, it focuses on the people from lands that used to form the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: places in Northeast Europe, including Poland, Estonia, etc. 

MDLP seeks to be very good at calculating ethnic tidbits of interest to those populations.  But is is good for determining the difference between, say, a Catalonian Spaniard and a Northern Italian?  No, it's actually quite bad on that front.  That's simply not its focus. 

Similarly, there are other calculators on Gedmatch that exist to focus on and cater to Asians, Africans, even mixed race folks.  And within European populations, you have other focuses, like Dodecad, which seems Grecocentric, for lack of a better word.  None of these will do that great outside their focus areas.  So take the results from those ones with a grain of salt, unless you happen to hail from their regions of focus.

Don't believe that?  Think I'm being extreme?  If you are European, try putting your data in a calculator that is focused on another population.  Like the East Asian-focused calculators.  It won't tell you that you are NOT East Asian.  It will tell you which East Asian population you resemble the most.  To be clear: if all a calculator has is East Asian samples, a European will be told he or she is Japanese or Chinese.  This same concept applies within European focused calculators at the regional level.

In terms of bad baselines, recall the Swiss example above.  Europe is filled with micropopulations that exhibit a high degree of population homogeneity (a little inbred, to use the pejorative term).  If a calculator does not have a sample from your micropopulation (the narrow region where your ancestor lived for millennia), then you will get a faulty reading. 

Put simply (to use a French example): It's a big country.  Normans are not Basques, Provencals are not Bretagnes, etc.  That is why the best calculators are HONEST.  23andme discloses quite readily that for the huge populations in the middle of Europe (French, Germans, but also Benelux countries, etc.), it cannot spot the DNA with certainty 92% of the time. 

Does the 23andme website have any drawbacks?  Sure it does.  But they are minor compared to the others. 

First, its "Countries of Ancestry" feature is not what it could be.  But it's important to understand three things:  (1) This is NOT their ancestry calculator, but another feature entirely, so perhaps it's unfair perhaps for us to even review it in this space.  (2) It's experimental, and they state that.  (3) They are wisely phasing it out.  What was the problem with that feature?  Well, it gave you the list of countries of people who have the most matches with you.  Let's say for example you are half Italian, half Polish (a common mix in Chicago).  In other parts of Chicago, another common mix is half Polish, half Irish.  For whatever reason, people of Irish heritage have tested themselves at far greater numbers than the others. Your Polish DNA would overlap (match) with the people who reported they were half Polish, half Irish.  And this feature would then tell you that "a high percentage of the people who have DNA similar to yours are from Ireland."  Do you understand?  It's a huge problem, especially for smaller populations, especially because so many Americans are now half this, half that.  It's just not that edifying then.

23andme also suffers from the same sample issues as many of the other ancestry calculators.  For example, 85% of Italian Americans (TRANSLATION: potential customers, since most people who test are from Britain or the US) hail from just 3 regions in the deep south of Italy: Campania (Naples), Calabria, and Sicily.  Yet the population samples that most of these websites use are from Tuscany.  Even though Dante tried to meld them, Tuscans are not Sicilians and vice-versa. 

Often, these calculators when they see Sicilian or rural Southern Italian genes, they, in effect, say: we don't know what you are! you are kind of Italian but you also resemble, a little bit, people from Cyprus or Jews.  So they give an odd result.  And then you have someone tested who says, "I might be Jewish."  No.  The answer is that your people were not included in the data-set by which the baseline was developed.  If they were, the calculator would recognize you as a run of the mill Sicilian.

All online ancestry alculators also suffer from lack of inter-operability and non-standardized terms.  For example, among the calculators on Gedmatch, some use the term "Caucasian" to mean "generalized European" (which is how it used in common parlance, of course).  Others use it to mean, the specific, like, from Soviet Georgia, Armenia, etc.

Here's the bottom line: don't expect any ethnicity or ethnic-origins calculator to be 100% correct.  Don't expect new insights if you have confirmed records.  In other words, if you look just like your dad (you're not a bastard), and you're not adopted, and you have records going back centuries -- why do you need an ethnicity calculator to begin with?

These admixture tests can help if you were adopted, and want to have a sense of where to start.  But keep in mind, the largest plurality of Americans come from German heritage, and yet the best currently cannot identify German DNA 92% of the time.

Avoid the mythology and those who oversimplify.  There are reliable sources out there in genetic genealogy, like Debbie Kennett -- and there are a lot of charlatans.  Be careful whenever someone oversimplifies to the point of exaggeration, falls into stereotypes, or tells you what you want to hear.  With DNA as with everything, the most parsimonious answer is often the best.  The exotic is often wrong.

As the science improves, you can't go wrong using the Standard or Conservative setting on the 23andme Ancestry Composition test.



Monday, October 19, 2015

Toward A New Understanding of Etruscan Origins

As this now archived thread on Anthrogenica shows, the two sides to the Etruscan debate are like ships passing in the night.  They can't seem to agree on much.  This post attempts to reconcile them, sort of, while debunking what I call the Contemporaneous Anatolian Origin of the Etruscans (CAOE) Model.

When talking about the origins of a people, it is important to specify timing as well.  Even the best scientists are guilty of disobeying this rule when they speak or write in shorthand.  The most obvious example is this: do you have any African blood?  Do you have an African origin?  You might answer, "no" if you took the question to mean in the genealogical time period (the last 500 years) or even during the post-Paleolithic time period (the last 40,000 years)!

But, as you know, everyone on the planet has an African origin if you go back long enough.  All modern humans migrated out of Africa.  So the same statements, "that population is of African origin" is both true and false, depending on the time context.

Let's apply this to the Etruscans.

What we have learned recently is that ALL Europeans descend from three primary groups:  Western European Hunter Gatherers (who originated in Western Europe during the Mesolithic), Farmers (who migrated from the Near East during the Neolithic), and Steppe People (who migrated from the flatlands between Europe and Asia during the early Bronze Age).

When the CAOE "Etruscans are exotic" folks ply their wares, they argue that Etruscans had an origin in Anatolia or the Aegean, right before they appeared in Italy.  Now, the first Etruscan sites date from approximately 900 BC.  We have clear Etruscan inscriptions dating to 750 BC, so they were probably writing by 800 BC.

I have always doubted there was a mass migration of Etruscans (from the Near East) before their appearance in Italy.  There are just too many facts weighing against it.

Then it dawned on me: we *all* came from the Middle East at some point.  Is it possible this argument is one of degrees?  That the CAOE folks have their timing wrong?  That the CAOE folks should have the "C" knocked off their theory, and the disagreements would be synthesized?

Here is how it might have worked:

There was mass migration to Europe of farmers from the Near East, and it appears to have been quite strong around 3000 BC.  The final waves of farmers were migrating to Europe around 2500 BC.  Now is it proper to call these "Anatolians" or "Aegeans" or "Near Easterners."  Insofar as those designations are intended to mean anything beyond geography: no.  This was pre-race, and since these people "became" modern Europeans, any such designation is pretty meaningless.  Most modern Europeans are about 40% descended from these people.

Is it possible that the Etruscans, having a stable, affluent, consistent civilization, retained more of their cultural practices, traditions, and indeed language, and thus some vague collective memory of this mass migration?  Is it possible that the first Italian culture to have writing was able to transmit more culture down between the generations because of it?  Because that is how it works.

In other words, ALL peoples in Europe then and now are partly descended from farmers who originated in the Middle East a long time ago.  If the Etruscan people (bringing the language) was from one of the later waves, and the Etruscan society was stable and had the ability to transmit culture, could these transmissions and uniqueness be the signals that the CAOE folks misinterpret and cite as evidence for a later Anatolian origin of the Etruscans?

Let's be clear: the land of the Etruscans overlaps perfectly with the land of the Villanovans, and there is no evidence for discontinuity or rapid replacement or trauma when Villanovan culture becomes unequivocally Etruscan.  I firmly believe the odds of an Etruscan "migration" event around 900-750 BC is sheer fantasy.

BUT, I think it is possible that of the peoples in Italy, the Etruscans, by holding the richest, most fertile, most well-defended, and most defendable pieces of real estate, simply did not suffer any further migrations and inflows after they established themselves in say, 2000 BC.  In other words, the Indo-Europeanized peoples of Italy ALSO descend from Western Hunter Gatherers and Neolithic Farmers (and the genetic evidence CERTAINLY backs me up on this point), BUT the Indo-Europeanized peoples of Italy (Latins, Umbrians, Oscans), experienced a more recent inflow of both people and genes, which resulted in language and culture change.  The Etruscans, for reasons already given, did not.

To this day there is very little genetic difference between the people of Tuscany and their neighbors in Italy.  The ancient Etruscans cluster with Southern Italians genetically, which would be consistent with this theory: that the ancient Etruscans had a smidge more Neolithic Farmer, plus cultural continuity, because they did not suffer an upheaval like the other peoples, when the Iron Age Indo European speaking Steppe people invaded.

This makes good sense.  This would explain also why the Etruscan language survived as a relic amidst a sea of Indo-European.

So next time you meet someone who thinks the Etruscans were contemporaneous (and ethnic) migrants to Italy from the Near East, remind them of the wealth of evidence against it.  And then, if they are the reasonable type, explain to them how ALL Europeans descended in a large part from people, who DID migrate to Europe from the same areas, just 1000 years before.  They could be spouting a mere truism, and be off by 1000 years or so.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Berkeley's "Center for the Study of Ancient Italy" Off to an Inauspicious Start

It started with so much promise.  A new, interdisciplinary center at a stellar university, dedicated to studying all matters ancient Italian.

Many of us had hoped it would focus more on the more understudied but significant Italic tribes (Umbrians, Lucani, etc.), but that dream quickly dissipated.  The center will have a "special emphasis on the Etruscans and Romans."  (If that makes you wonder how this makes it different from most existing efforts, you are not alone.)

But it is not this emphasis that calls the Center's academic rigor into question.  It is instead its first major effort, the Center's involvement in a workshop on the "Material Connections" between the Etruscans and Anatolia.

It acts like noticing similarities (and cultural exchanges) between ancient Mediterranean civilizations is something new and groundbreaking.  Yawn.  It's not.

But that is not the topic of this screed. Instead it is something that is frankly really surprising and deeply disappointing: the Center's website makes several pseudo-scientific statements that should be an embarrassment to anyone with one undergraduate class under her belt on historical or scientific method.

We quote verbatim from the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy's website, with commentary in bold italics (no pun intended).

"Similarities in Etruscan and Anatolian material culture have long been noted, but disciplinary boundaries ... have prevented scholars from exploring their implications."

Really?  You've got to be kidding me.  Plenty of scholars and other individuals have "explored" the "implications" of similarities ad nauseam.  In fact, there appears sometimes to be a neverending quest to find such similarities, based on the prejudiced assumption that if a culture was advanced and Italian, it simply had to be exogenous.

Then, the website continues with the somewhat redundant but absolutely bizarre statement that archaeologists apparently haven't studied enough the possible Anatolian connections with the Etruscans, and then a non-sequitur that recent DNA studies have muddied things further.  (Actually, they haven't, but we won't go into that here).

Then the two whoppers of all whoppers:

"This workshop will bring together international scholars for the very first time to explore the striking similarities between Anatolian and Etruscan material culture, without an agenda of proving or disproving Herodotus, [i.e., the ancient writer who claimed the Etruscans originated in Anatolia]."

1.  Really?  Is this really the "very first time" that any scholars have gotten together to talk about the alleged similarities between Etruscans and certain ancient Anatolian cultures? 

This is hype that is completely inappropriate for a scholarly web page.  

You want to bring together scholars for something totally new?  Put on a symposium about Dionysius of Helicarnassus, who unlike Herodotus had met an Etruscan, and lived among them for 20 years, and likely spoke their language, and had access to their histories now lost -- and who stated unequivocally that they were autochthonous.  Prove or disprove him.

2.  And the second part of that clause ("without an agenda or proving or disproving Herodotus") is criminal from the standpoint of historical or scientific method.  

You have a statement that this workshop will explore the "striking similarities between the two cultures" but that it won't be taking a side.

Come again?  

The conclusion has been stated before the study.  

The outcome has been determined before the workshop.  

Put in layman's terms, there is none of the "if" here, that marks scholarly hypothesis, with a hope for rigorous testing.  The bias is apparent from the statement.  "There are these massive similarities, but we're not taking a side."  LOL.

To add to the ridiculousness of this webpage, which really must be viewed in its entirety to be appreciated, it shows a painting by an Etruscan male holding up his right hand, and (gasp!) a painting of an Anatolian male holding up his right hand. 

If this Center wants to be taken seriously, here are some suggestions for topics:

1.  The similarities with Etruscan culture and Egyptian culture.  The tombs, the attitudes towards afterlife, certain gods and goddesses, certain foods and drinks consumed, certain pottery styles, the fact that the longest Etruscan text discovered was on an Egyptian mummy;


2.  The similarities with Etruscan culture with Campanian (native South Italic) culture.  Certain pottery styles, certain gods and goddesses, certain terms for officials, etc.


3.  The similarities with Etruscan culture with Greek culture.


4.  The similarities with Etruscan culture with Tartessian (ancient south of Spain) culture . . . Phoenician (ancient Lebanon) culture . . . Nuragic (ancient Sardinian) culture... on and on.

And then the question to pose:  Why is it that despite these other similarities, which in certain areas are "striking" do scholars continue to focus to the point of obsession on the alleged Anatolian similarities?  

Why, despite tremendous similarities between the Etruscans with Faliscans (Central Italy), Campanians (South Italy), Egyptians, Greeks, etc. -- why is it that no one tries to connect Etruscans to them?  It really is all Herodotus.  And the wacky "proof" to connect the Etruscans to Anatolians is the very same "evidence" that exists linking them to these other ancient cultures!

In other words, everyone knows the Mediterranean was the "superhighway" of the Ancient World, and that the traders, pirates, and warships traversed and interacted to a much higher degree than we moderns typically assume.  

So why do we continue to attach significance that the highly civilized Etruscans, the pirates and merchants of their time, borrowed culture from Anatolia?  

Why the focus on Anatolia, if it isn't to prove Herodotus?

Now THAT is a workshop I would love to see.

The other day as I enjoyed a Sapporo, watched my Sams-sung TV, and gazed at my replica Terracotta Army figures on my lawn, I wondered if some future Berkeley interdisciplinary student would assume I am of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese heritage.  (I'm an Irish-American, living in the Bay Area, which happens to trade a lot with Asia over the Pacific Ocean).

Sometimes the questions asked reveal a bias.

Sometimes the bias is so overwhelming that it overcomes all science.

Sometimes the premise is the conclusion.

Berkeley's "Center for the Study of Ancient Italy" has disappointed here.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Intact Samnite Tomb Discovered; Will They Recover DNA?

With all the focus in Southern Italian history being on exotic influences (which as we've posted before make up a very small part of the Italian genome), people often forget that there were people in Italy, in great numbers, who were highly civilized, before the peninsula was Romanized, and aside from the [insert invasion name here].

One of the most influential civilizations in Italy was that of the Samnites (Italian: Sanniti), a group of Oscan-speaking tribes, sometimes called "Sabellian," who lived in the interior of Italy.  If you are Italian and come from any region from Rome southward (including eastern Sicily), chances are that you are of predominantly Sabellian stock.  For hundreds of years, these hardy southern Italics fought off Roman domination and Greek colonization.

For a while it was even unclear who would be the master of Italy: the Romans or Samnites.  After the battle of the Caudine Forks (Samnite victory over Rome, 321 BC) and right before the battle of the Colline Gate (Roman victory over Samnites, 82 BC), it looked like the Samnites would be the masters of Italy (and perhaps an empire).

Archaeologists recently discovered an intact Samnite tomb, dating from 2400 years ago.  This was at the peak of Samnite ascendancy.

Let us hope they extract DNA.  We will confidently predict here that the DNA will be related to living people in Campania (incl Naples), Molise (the heart of Ancient Samnium), Basilicata, and Calabria (especially Cosenza province).

Here is the story if you want to read it.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Top Ten Myths of Genetic Genealogy, Archaeogenetics, and DNA Testing (10 through 7)

Any scientist visiting the websites or online forums of Eupedia, Anthrogenica, or Apricity (to name a few) is mortified.  The amount of shorthand claims, pseudo-science, pop-anthropology, and myths perpetuated there are truly astonishing, and quite sad.  Below we list the Top Ten myths of this world.  We will update the post over time to link to specific offenders, so you can share the laughs we shared.

Don't be an idiot.  Learn these myths, and for the love of all things holy, don't propagate them!

10.  If you are of Scandinavian heritage (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), you are a "Viking."  

Example post: "my gma is half Swedish and I am very adventurous; must be the Viking LOL."  

Vikings were the marauders sailing from Scandinavia who invaded many parts of Europe during the years of approximately 600 AD - 1200 AD.   Those of Scandinavian blood are emphatically NOT "Viking."  The Vikings were the adventurous ones who left.  Scandinavians are descended of the ones who stayed home.  

While Scandinavians may share common origin with the Vikings dating back 1500 years, technically it's not correct to say they are descended from them.  And to the extent there is a gene for adventure-seeking, violence, or the so-called, "warrior" gene, it's more probable that the ones who stayed in Scandinavia (as fishermen and barley farmers) do NOT have that gene.

Many Russians, Ukrainians, English, Scots, Calabrians, Sicilians, and Northern French have a better claim to be "directly descended from Vikings."  Sorry.

9.  You can determine by a test on Eurogenes or Gedmatch the precise percentages of EEF-ANE-WHG that you are.

For the uninitiated, these acronyms stand for "Early European Farmer," "Ancient North Eurasian," and "Western [European] Hunter Gatherer."

Example post: "Username: SteppeOverlord  EEF: 21.345%, ANE: 19.876% WHG 58.779."

It's important to note that these hypothetical populations were reconstructed from...ONE SAMPLE EACH.  Thus, when you take the Eurogenes EEF ANE WHG test, you are comparing yourself to each of three skeletons: the EEF is the LBK sample found in Stuttgart, Germany.  The ANE is the Mal'ta boy found in Siberia.  The WHG is the Loschbour skeleton found in Belgium.  Citation.

These populations were themselves admixed, especially the Stuttgart sample.  It's not accurate to use one exemplar to represent an entire group, especially ones with the huge geographical ranges of the acronym populations.  It's much more accurate to say that you tested whatever percentage in common with Loschbour, Mal'ta, or Stuttgart.  

 Many of the genes inherited so many generations ago will be the result of identical by state, (more or less coincidence, or breeding back, in a way), than Identical By Descent.  Citation.  Europeans are a homogenous lot, and these tests don't therefore reveal much, if anything, and the terminology, turned to shorthand, stinks.

8.  Admixture percentages are due to a historical event.

Example post: "OMG!  I am English, Irish, German, and Polish.  But Dodecad says I have 6% Siberian; this must prove the legend in my family that my great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess!"


"I am South Italian.  But Eurogenes says I have 12% southwest Asian.  Must be the Greek blood!"

People tend to overestimate historical events (i.e., those we know about due to past events being recorded in writing), but tend to underestimate non-historical events.  This is a recent-ness bias that comes from a little knowledge about history, often expressed in shorthand, (i.e., South Italy was Greek).

It is however, almost always not true.  In the first example above: many Europeans, especially Northern Europeans, test positive for some Siberian/ANE/even Native-American-like ancestry, but this is almost certainly the result of ancient Admixture from the first Indo-Europeans from the steppe, who had substantial Asian-like ancestry.  For the second example: the people who populated Italy in prehistoric times were descended in many cases from the first farmers, who came from the southeast fringes of Europe.  Such signals in modern ancestry are way more likely to indicate ancient admixture from population sources with common ancestry to historical populations.

Sorry, but the boring is almost always more true than the interesting.

7.  People from places with many years of recorded history are more admixed than people with less history.

example post: "If you are of South Italian ancestry, you're probably part Roman, Greek, Scandinavian, Arab, and Jewish."

This one is so obvious it is painful to have to post.  But it's the corollary of number 8 above: a little historical knowledge being dangerous.

Imagine two regions: Region 1 is fairly remote, but has had extensive writing for 2600 years, and every marauder, political shift, kingdom, invasion, battle, language spoken, and petty dukedom is recorded in glorious detail.  Imagine another region, Region 2, that has had extensive writing and civilization for only about 1100 years.  There are large gaps in knowledge of what happened there, because of the lack of historians.

I just described Basilicata, Italy and Hesse, Germany.  Yet so many online "mytholographers" perpetuate the notions that people like Italians, Jews, and Greeks (i.e., those with 25+ centuries of intense recorded history) are more admixed than those without such extensive documentation (i.e., Germans, French, etc.)

You can't escape this, on any online forum, people speculating on exotic sources in Italian ancestry, and almost no one does this for Germans and French.

Just because we don't know who was invading another area during prehistory or the Dark Ages, does it mean it didn't happen?  Just because we don't know the name of the king who pillaged a territory, does it make him any less historical?  Because there is no Trojan War story for Hesse, Germany, does it mean there was no warfare, invasion, or exotic influences?

The French and Germans are so "admixed" (i.e., generic European) that 23andme cannot identify their DNA 92% of the time.  Citation.  Yet the poor Greeks have to tolerate in every discussion, excruciating detail and speculation about every single exotic strain in their blood.

Aside from the remotest, hard-to-get-to, isolated regions of Europe (Finns, Northwest Irish, Basques, and Sardinians), everyone has been invaded, repeatedly, and everyone is very very admixed.  The paradigm, of focusing only on certain peoples for this, has to change, because it's simply not accurate.

Check back soon for the rest of the Top 10 list.