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   About me

This is my personal “Out of Africa story”, my ancestral migration 200.000 thousand years ago
from North East Africa to Western Europe and finally sending my name to Mars
on the NASA Perseverance Rover, 18-02-2021.
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“Our own genomes carry the story of evolution, written in DNA,
the language of molecular genetics and the narrative is unmistakable.
– Kenneth R. Miller –

Homo sapiens

A diorama at the Nairobi National Museum portrays early hominids processing game with tools.

A diorama at the Nairobi National Museum portrays early hominids processing game with tools.

Humans (Homo sapiens) are the most abundant and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality and large complex brains enabling the development of advanced tools, culture and language. Humans evolved from other hominins in Africa several million years ago.

In his book The history of the human brain, Bret Stetka writes: “By human, I don’t just mean Homo Sapiens, the species we belong to, but any other member of the genus Homo. We have gotten used to being the only human species on Earth, but in our not-so-distant past – probably a few hundred thousand years ago – there were at least nine of us running around. There was Homo habilis, or “the handy man” and Homo erectus, the first “pitcher”. The Denisovans roamed Asia, while the more well-known Neanderthalers spread through Europe. But with the exception of Homo sapiens, they are all gone.”

Homo sapiens emerged around 300,000 years ago, evolving from Homo erectus and migrating out of Africa, gradually replacing local populations of archaic humans.

Early humans were hunter-gatherers, before settling in the Fertile Crescent and other parts of the Old World. Access to food surpluses led to the formation of permanent human settlements and the domestication of animals.

Out of Africa

The spreading of Homo sapiens Out of Africa

The spreading of Homo sapiens Out of Africa

In paleoanthropology, the recent African origin of modern humans, also called the “Out of Africa” theory (OOA), recent single-origin hypothesis (RSOH), replacement hypothesis, or recent African origin model (RAO), is the dominant model of the geographic origin and early migration of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens). It follows the early expansions of hominins out of Africa, accomplished by Homo erectus and then Homo neanderthalensis.

The model proposes a “single origin” of Homo sapiens in the taxonomic sense, precluding parallel evolution of traits considered anatomically modern in other regions, but not precluding multiple admixture between H. sapiens and archaic humans in Europe and Asia. H. sapiens most likely developed in the Horn of Africa between 300,000 and 200,000 years ago. The “recent African origin” model proposes that all modern non-African populations are substantially descended from populations of H. sapiens that left Africa after that time.

There were at least several “out-of-Africa” dispersals of modern humans, possibly beginning as early as 270,000 years ago, including 215,000 years ago to at least Greece,and certainly via northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula about 130,000 to 115,000 years ago. These early waves appear to have mostly died out or retreated by 80,000 years ago.

The most significant “recent” wave out of Africa took place about 70,000–50,000 years ago, via the so-called “Southern Route”, spreading rapidly along the coast of Asia and reaching Australia by around 65,000–50,000 years ago, while Europe was populated by an early offshoot which settled the Near East and Europe less than 55,000 years ago.

In the 2010s, studies in population genetics uncovered evidence of interbreeding that occurred between H. sapiens and archaic humans in Eurasia, Oceania and Africa indicating that modern population groups, while mostly derived from early H. sapiens, are to a lesser extent also descended from regional variants of archaic humans.

There are three types of DNA

  • Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA tests trace a person’s autosomal chromosomes, which contain the segments of DNA the person shares with everyone to whom they’re related (maternally and paternally, both directly and indirectly.

The autosomal chromosomes gives you information that is most useful in looking back a couple of centuries.

Because everyone has autosomal chromosomes, people of all genders can take autosomal DNA tests, and the test is equally effective for people of any gender. With an autosomal test, your results won’t include information about haplogroups

  • Y-DNA

Because Y-chromosomes are passed from father to son virtually unchanged, males can trace their patrilineal (male-line) ancestry by testing their Y-chromosome.

Since women don’t have Y-chromosomes, they can’t take Y-DNA tests (though their brother, father, paternal uncle, or paternal grandfather could). Y-chromosome testing uncovers a male’s Y-chromosome haplogroup, the ancient group of people from whom one’s patrilineage descends. Because only one’s male-line direct ancestors are traced by Y-DNA testing, no females (nor their male ancestors) from whom a male descends are encapsulated in the result.

  • mtDNA

Mitochondrial DNA tests trace people’s matrilineal (mother-line) ancestry through their mitochondria, which are passed from mothers to their children.

Mitochondrial DNA testing uncovers a one’s mtDNA haplogroup, the ancient group of people from whom one’s matrilineage descends.

Because mitochondria are passed on only by women, no men (nor their ancestors) from whom one descends are encapsulated in the results.

Since everyone has mitochondria, people of all genders can take mtDNA tests.

Where did I test my DNA

I chose FamilyTreeDNA from Houston, Texas, USA, because they are considered the best option for dedicated mtDNA and Y-DNA testing. They’re the only company to offer dedicated mtDNA and Y-DNA testing. Established in 2000, they have a longer history of offering the service than most, and are highly regarded among the genealogy community. FamilyTreeDNA takes your privacy very seriously and will never share your test results with any other company. In fact, one of the reasons they are so popular is because they have a great track record of keeping your information safe, and of never sharing it

But remember, they are not cheap if you decide to go for the full package, as I did, but I think well worth the money.

Their Y-DNA testing has four levels based on how many markers you want to analyze: 37, 67, 111, and the BIG-Y with 700. You can easily upgrade without taking a new test. I started with the 37 marker test, but upgraded to the BIG-Y 700 text. FamilyTreeDNA has 2 different mtDNA tests; plus and full sequence. I decided to take the full sequence test.

So these are the test I ordered;  * Family Ancestry – Autosomal DNA, * Paternal Ancestry – BIG Y-DNA and  * Maternal Ancestry – full sequence mtDNA.

Prehistoric men hunting a young mammoth

Prehistoric men hunting a young mammoth

Lascaux, Depiction of aurochs, horses and deer

Lascaux, Depiction of aurochs, horses and deer, 15.000 – 17.000 years old.

My Autosomal DNA

Land bridge between the mainland and the British Isles (including Ireland) during the last Ice Age.<br /> Map made by <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Doggerland3er_en.png">Francis Lima</a>

Land bridge between the mainland and the British Isles (including Ireland) during the last Ice Age.
Map made by Francis Lima

Until the middle Pleistocene Great Britain was a peninsula of Europe, connected by the massive chalk Weald–Artois Anticline across the Straits of Dover. During the Anglian glaciation, about 450,000 years ago, an ice sheet filled much of the North Sea, with a large proglacial lake in the southern part fed by the Rhine, the Scheldt and the Thames.

Doggerland was an area of land, now submerged beneath the southern North Sea, that connected Great Britain to continental Europe. It was flooded by rising sea levels around 6500–6200 BCE. Geological surveys have suggested that it stretched from what is now the east coast of Great Britain to what are now the Netherlands, the western coast of Germany and the peninsula of Jutland. It was probably a rich habitat with human habitation in the Mesolithic period.

Around 7000 BC the Ice Age had ended and Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers had migrated from their refuges to recolonize the continent, including Doggerland which later submerged beneath the rising North Sea.  The majority of western European males belonged to Y-haplogroup I and northeast Europeans to haplogroup R1a.  Other minor male lineages such as R1b, G, J, T and E would also have been present in Europe, having migrated from the Asian Steppe, the Middle East and North Africa.

The most up-to-date research into these ancient migrations on the European Continent suggests that there were three major groups of people that have had a lasting effect on present day peoples of European descent: Hunter-Gatherers, Early Farmers, and Metal Age Invaders.

Metal Age Invader 13%, Farmer 39%, Hunter-Gatherer 48%, non-European 0%

The result of my Autosomal DNA analysis shows that my origins are 100% Europe.
Western Europe:
England, Wales, and Scotland 56%
Central Europe 23%
Scandinavia 21%
Ancient European Origins

Ancient European Origins

My Autosomal DNA origins

My Autosomal DNA origins

My Y-DNA

My migration pattern of Haplogroup I

My migration pattern of Haplogroup I

My Y-DNA HAPLO group is I-M223 which is a subgroup of I-M170

  • Parent haplogroup: I-M170. Age: 25,000
    Region: Western Asia to Western Europe; very low frequency in the Middle East. Along with G one of the first haplogroups in Europe.

Haplogroup I-M170
Available evidence suggests that I-M170 was preceded into areas in which it would later become dominant by haplogroups K2a (K-M2308) and C1 (Haplogroup C-F3393). K2a and C1 have been found in the oldest sequenced male remains from Western Eurasia (dating from circa 45,000 to 35,000 years BP), such as: Ust’-Ishim man (modern west Siberia) K2a*, Oase 1 (Romania) K2a*, Kostenki 14 (south west Russia) C1b, and Goyet Q116-1 (Belgium) C1a. The oldest I-M170 found is that of an individual known as Krems WA3 (lower Austria), dating from circa 33,000-24,000 BP. At the same site, two twin boys were also found, both were assigned to haplogroup I*.

Haplogroup IJ was in the Middle East and/or Europe about 40,000 years ago.The TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) for I-M170 was estimated to be 22,200 years ago, with a confidence interval between 15,300–30,000 years ago. This would make the founding event of I-M170 approximately contemporaneous with the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), which lasted from 26,500 years ago until approximately 19,500 years ago. TMRCA is an estimate of the time of subclade divergence.

Haplogroup I-M223
I-M223 is the shorthand form of the Y-DNA Haplogroup I branch and can also be shown as I2-M223. The M223 refers to the SNP at Hg38 location 19555421 on the Y-Chromosome with mutation G to A.

This mutation occurred in a man, approximately 17,400 years ago and M223 is one of 23 SNPs found derived (+) at the I-M223 node. We do not know which of the 23 SNPs mutated first and which was last. All men that are derived for M223 share a common ancestor that lived at least 13,200 to 10,800 years ago. It has now been confirmed by ancient DNA test that the first Homo sapiens to colonize Europe during the Aurignacian period (45,000 to 28,000 years ago), belonged to haplogroups CT, C1a, C1b, F and haplogroup I (to which my M223 belongs).

Haplogroup Y-M223 (formerly I2a2a) has been found in over 4% of the population only in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Scotland, and England (excluding Cornwall) – also the southern tips of Sweden and Norway in Northwest Europe; the provinces of Normandy, Maine, Anjou, and Perche in northwestern France; the province of Provence in southeastern France; the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, and Latium in Italy; Moldavia and the area around Russia’s Ryazan Oblast and Mordovia in Eastern Europe.

Haplogroup I-M223 variants:
M223,CTS10093,CTS10125,CTS10262,CTS11545,CTS12861,CTS2312,CTS5015,CTS7032,CTS7172,CTS7865,CTS9266,FGC3540,FGC3554,FGC3563,L34,L36,P219,P223,S2363,S2472,Z26370,Z77

  • Note: On the 29th June 2018, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) updated the Haplogroup I Tree to accommodate new branches and I-M223 has been given a new longhand classification of I2a1b1. Previous names were I2a2a, I2b1 and I1c, so please be careful as earlier reference material may refer to I-M223 or sub-clades under one of these previous longhand classifications. I-P222 is a sub-branch of I-M223 and is the parent branch of all sub-branches and clades in this Project. The I-P222 branch node has a further 55 SNPs. Sequencing ancient Y-DNA found at least two ancient male remains that were I-M223 but of a different sub-branch named I-FT355000. This is why I-M223 branch was split into the two sub-branches.

The I-M223 tree is incredibly old, approximately 17,400 years old.

There was a first man to be I-M223. He lived in Europe—probably. He lived 14,000 to 18,000 years ago—probably. We will never really know, because the only people we can test are his sons’ sons’ sons’ … sons’ sons who are alive today, including you.

His father was not I-M223. Neither were his brothers. They were I-M170. One of his father’s sperm had a Y-chromosome that had mutated, creating a slightly different order of base pairs. That sperm fertilized his mother’s egg at his conception and the I-M223 “family” was created in that moment.

The only reason this “type” (I-M223) shows up among the noise of history is because his male line survived. The first I-M223 had sons. If they had been named Rubble and kept his surname, they all would have been Rubbles. All of their sons were I-M223, and would have been Rubbles.

My paternal cousins (people you can trace to with only this male line) were probably among the first (re)settlers of Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia as the ice sheets receded. The “surname” stayed with them. Sometimes it grew in population in a particular area when a man had a lot of sons; sometimes it died out in a particular area when all the men with the “surname” had no sons.

How much of this is random?

Well, areas populated predominantly with this lineage do seem to be associated with Germanic languages—not because the first I-M223 man spoke a Germanic language (he most definitely did not), but because by about 1000 BCE many proto-Germanic groups had large numbers of I-M223 men—like the areas in northern Sweden and the centre of Germany that are dark blue in the modern map. The regional concentrations may be due to particular “branches of the Rubble family” that became dominant patrilineal clans in various Germanic tribes.

It is, in one way, very much like a surname—just a name. BUT a name with a lot more history.

Haplotree I-M223 and SNP variants

Haplotree I-M223 and SNP variants

Haplotree I-M223 and countries

Haplotree I-M223 and countries

What is a Y-DNA haplotype
A Y-DNA haplotype is a persons Y-STR profile. This includes the number of repeats at specific Y-STR markers. Y-DNA haplotypes are useful for tracing recent paternal lineages and connections. Haplotype is actually short for “haploid genotype” and refers to the combination of genetic markers in multiple locations in a single chromosome. If two people match exactly on all of the markers they have had tested, they share the same haplotype and are related.

What are Haplogroups
Y-DNA haplogroups are determined by testing Y-SNPs. Your Y-DNA haplogroup represents “deep ancestry” or ancient family group. A haplogroup is a series of mutations present in a chromosome. It is therefore detectable in an individual’s DNA and may vary from one population to another, or even from one person to another. Every person belongs to a certain haplotype and therefore to a certain haplogroup, so it can be traced back to where a person’s origin lies on the basis of genography.

There is a male and a female haplogroup classification. The Y chromosome (Y DNA) is used to distinguish the male haplogroups (Y chromosome haplogroup) and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to distinguish the female haplogroups (mitochondrial haplogroup). The X chromosome is not usable because the X chromosome is not recombining, but it is difficult to trace over several generations.

What are SNP’s
SNP’s (pronounced “snips”) is an abbreviation of single nucleotide polymorphisms, they are the most common type of genetic variation among people. Each SNP represents a difference in a single DNA building block, called a nucleotide. SNP’s occur normally throughout a person’s DNA. They occur almost once in every 1,000 nucleotides on average, which means there are roughly 4 to 5 million SNPs in a person’s genome. These variations may be unique or occur in many individuals; scientists have found more than 100 million SNP’s in populations around the world.

Once a SNP mutation occurs, it will typically be passed through subsequent generations and is unlikely to revert back to the default value. As such, SNP testing can be used to understand a genetic family tree (called a haplotree.) SNP tests, such as the Big Y-700 test from FamilyTreeDNA (my yDNA test), provide details on haplotree branching, as well as much better estimates of time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) than STR tests do.

My mtDNA

Haplogroup H and its subgroups, including mtDNA haplogroup H1C1

Haplogroup H and its subgroups, including mtDNA haplogroup H1C1

My mitochondrial haplogroup group (mtDNA) is H1c1 which is a subgroup of haplogroup H.

Mitochondrial haplogroup H is a predominantly European haplogroup that originated outside of Europe before the last glacial maximum (LGM). It first expanded in the northern Near East and the southern Caucasus between 33,000 and 26,000 years ago, and later migrations from Iberia suggest it reached Europe before the LGM. It has also spread to Siberia and Inner Asia. Today, about 40% of all mitochondrial lineages in Europe are classified as haplogroup H.

Variants of H1C1: A9150G, T16263C

  • Haplogroup group H1
    H1 encompasses an important fraction of Western European mtDNA lineages, reaching its local peak among contemporary Basques (27.8%). The clade also occurs at high frequencies elsewhere in the Iberian Peninsula, as well as in the Maghreb(Tamazgha). The haplogroup frequency is above 10% in many other parts of Europe (France, Sardinia, parts of the British Isles, Alps, large portions of Eastern Europe), and surpasses 5% in nearly all of the continent. Its H1b subclade is most common in eastern Europe and NW Siberia.
  • Haplogroup H1c1
    The woman who founded this line lived between 1.900 and 5.100 years ago. The branch was born in Northern Europe. Over time, groups containing women from this line have spread across Europe and are present in much of it at low frequencies of around 1% or less. Today this line is most common in Norway, where it is about 2% of material lineages

Geographic distribution of haplogroup H1
Haplogroup H is the most common and most diverse maternal lineage in Europe, in most of the Near East and in the Caucasus region. The Saami of Lapland are the only ethnic group in Europe who have low percentages of haplogroup H, varying from 0% to 7%. The frequency of haplogroup H in Europe usually ranges between 40% and 50%. The lowest frequencies are observed in Cyprus (31%), Finland (36%), Iceland (38%) as well as Belarus, Ukraine, Romania and Hungary (all 39%). The only region where H exceeds 50% of the population are Asturias (54%) and Galicia (58%) in northern Spain, and Wales (60%).

Hypervariable region (HVR)
A hypervariable region (HVR) is a location within nuclear DNA or the D-loop of mitochondrial DNA in which base pairs of nucleotides repeat (in the case of nuclear DNA) or have substitutions (in the case of mitochondrial DNA).

There are two mitochondrial hypervariable regions used in human mitochondrial genealogical DNA testing.

  1. HVR1 is considered a “low resolution” region.
  2. HVR2 is considered a “high resolution” region.

Getting HVR1 and HVR2 DNA tests can help determine one’s haplogroup. In the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence of the human mitogenome, the most variable sites of HVR1 are numbered 16024-16383 (this subsequence is called HVR-I), and the most variable sites of HVR2 are numbered 57-372 (i.e., HVR-II) and 438-574 (i.e., HVR-III).

HVR Differences:

  • HVR1 = A16129G,T16187C,C16189T,T16223C,G16230A,T16263C,T16278C,C16311T
  • HVR2 = G73A,C146T,C152T,C195T,A247G,315.1C,T477C,522.1A,522.2C
Extra mutations:
315.1C,522.1A,522.2C,C7468T
Coding region differences:
A769G, A825t, A1018G, G2706A, A2758G, C2885T, G3010A, T3594C, G4104A, T4312C, T7028C, G7146A, T7256C, C7468T, A7521G, T8468C, T8655C, G8701A, A9150G, C9540T, G10398A, T10664C, A10688G, C10810T, C10873T, C10915T, A11719G, A11914G, T12705C, G13105A, G13276A, T13506C, T13650C, T14766C
mt-DNA-human-Migration in thousands of years

mt-DNA-human-Migration in thousands of years

My H1 migration route

My H1 migration route

Spatial frequency distribution (%) of haplogroup H1 in western Eurasia and North Africa. The inset illustrates the geographic location of populations surveyed.

Spatial frequency distribution (%) of haplogroup H1 in western Eurasia and North Africa. The inset illustrates the geographic location of populations surveyed. Credit: Wikipedia

Mars

The 'Send Your Name' placard attached to Perseverance, which touched down on Mars on February 18. Three silicon chips (upper left corner) were stencilled with 10,932,295 names.

The ‘Send Your Name’ placard attached to Perseverance, which touched down on Mars on February 18. Three silicon chips (upper left corner) were stencilled with 10,932,295 names.

My DNA “Out of Africa” migration story ends here, with the landing of the Perseverance on Mars.

Perseverance, nicknamed Percy, is a car-sized Mars rover designed to explore the Jezero crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. It was manufactured by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched on 30 July 2020, at 11:50 UTC.

The rover’s goals include identifying ancient Martian environments capable of supporting life, seeking out evidence of former microbial life existing in those environments, collecting rock and soil samples to store on the Martian surface, and testing oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere to prepare for future crewed missions.

In 2019 Nasa announced that it was accepting applications for wannabe space explorers who wish to fire their names to the Red Planet. More than 1.2 million names were submitted on the NASA web site over a one year period! Some 20,000 visitors to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla., wrote their names on pages that were scanned and reproduced at microscopic scale onto two chips the size of a dime.

Engineers etched the names onto a silicon wafer or microchip. They used an electron beam “E-beam” machine at JPL that specializes in etching very tiny features (less than 1 micron, or less than the width of a human hair!).

On February 18 (12.55pm PT/3.55pm ET/8.55pm GMT) 2021
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover landed on the red planet’s Jezero Crater,
carrying a tiny silicon chip engraved with 11 million names, including MY NAME!

My NASA ticket to Mars

My NASA ticket to Mars

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover

The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood,
the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.

– Carl Sagan –