Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Seven Daughters of Eve

I am always doing something like this...  planning on something that I want to write about, then doing an abrupt 180 and writing about something totally different.  But, sometimes things jump out at me and are glaring me in the eye until I get it out of my system.  Such happened this morning.  I had promise to lend a co-worker a book, and as I was looking for it The Seven Daughters of Eve popped out at me.  I have no back on my bookcase, and somehow it had slipped out of its place and fallen behind the other books.  I know I had mentioned this book before, but today I'd like to tell you a little more about it.  Actually, the title of this book was coined by the book's author, Bryan Sykes. The book, very readable, explains the connection between genetics and Mitochondrial DNA.  In the book, which is almost written as if it were a novel, he observes that there are seven major clan mothers for European lineage.  Now, let's face it...just about everyone of us here in the states and Canada stem from European lineage so this book is about you and I.  The author also gives the names of the common ancestors for 29 other lineages in the world...including nine clan mothers in Japan alone.

Each individual's maternal history can be traced by their Mitochonrial DNA; both men and women possess it, but only the women are able to pass it on to their children.  So it is that we all have inherited this DNA from our mothers, but not from our fathers.  Your mother inherited it from her mother, who inherited it from hers, and so on all the way back into time.  Therefore, by using this DNA, we can trace an unbroken maternal line back through time for generation upon generation farther back than any written record.  The Seven Daughters of Eve is the story of our ancient female ancestors...the clan mothers.  Everyone in the same clan is a direct maternal descendant of one of these clan members and carries her DNA within every cell of their body...so, every time you take a breath, you are using your clan mother's DNA.

So, ladies and gents, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to your maternal ancestors. To emphasize that they were real people, they all have been given names.

Ursula (Haplogroup U in Western Asia) was one of the first arrivals of the new, modern human, the oldest of the clan mothers.  She lived some 45,000 years ago.  Her clan shared the land with the Neanderthals for some 20,000 years and moved further into a very frigid Europe than any of their kind had done before. Eventually, with their new and sophisticated type of stone tools, they edged the Neanderthals into extinction.  Currently, Ursula's clan makes up about 11 percent of the modern European population.

Xenia (Haplogroup X in Asia) and her clan came into being about 25,000 years ago.  Of all the clans, hers is, by far the most mysterious. This was at the time when an earlier species of the genus Homo had gone and extinct.  Xenia and her clan lived in one of the remote wooded valleys of the Caucasus Mountains on the eastern edge of the Black Sea. And, as the climate grew worse with the onset of the last Ice Age, three branches of Xenia's clan fanned out across Europe. 6% of today's Europeans can trance their DNA back through Xenia's clan.

Helena (Haplogroup H in Southwest Asia/Middle East) was formed by genetic mutations which began about 20,000 years ago.  These new Europeans were pushed southwards and settle up against the Alps and the Pyrenees. Her family were hunters, and, not long after she was born, the summers began to grow warmer. The cave paintings that have been found at Dordogne in France may be the works of her clan.  Hers was, by far, the most successful of all the clans; her children have reached every shore.  47% of modern Europeans are descended from them.

Velda's clan, (Haplogroup V in Western Eurasia) lived in Spain about 17,000 years ago, and over a span of three centuries, migrated to southern France, Italy, and into the Iberian Peninsula due to frequent conflicts between her clan and Ursula's clan.  There, they maintained a permanent base camp and produced symbolic and naturalistic art.  About 5% of Europeans are members of this clan.

Tara's clan (Haplogroup T in Mesopotamia) was launched about 17,000 years ago in Tuscany.   At that time, Europe was still in the depths of the last Ice Age, and there were only parts of the continent where life was possible.  There was little to eat,   and they were less prosperous than the others...raising their families and holding the pangs of hunger at bay by fishing for small trout and crayfish.  Eventually, Tara's children walked across the dry land that one day would become the English Channel and moved right across to Ireland, from which the Celtic kingdom of the clan took its name. 9% of Europeans are members of the clan of Tara. 

Katrine's clan (Haplogroup K in northwestern Italy) was differentiated about 15,000 years ago.  People were still in small bands at the time, but the world was warming and would soon make this hunting lifestyle less necessary. Instead, they began living on fish and crabs supplemented by small mammels and roots. It was  Katrine's clan who first domesticated animals to live in herds and provide food and companionship. Then, as the glaciers began to retreat, her children ventured further to the north into the valleys. The most famous of Katrine's clan is the Ice Man, the hunter who had lost his way and died of hypothermia. 6% of native Europeans are from her clan who are still found in the Alps, 5,000 years after the Ice Man.

Jasmine's clan ( Haplogroup J in western Asia)was formed when the last Ice Age was coming to an end, and while the other six clan members had to endure many hardships to bring up their children, Jasmine's clan was enjoying the warmth of the savannah.  Life was good.  Little by little, the hunters abandoned their nomadic ways and settled into  permanent quarters planting seeds, raising crops, and herding animals.  Today, 17% of Europeans are in the clan of Jasmine.  One group followed the Mediterranean coastline and found its way to Britain and is common in Cornwall, Wales, and the west of Scotland.  the other is common in the central portion of northern Europe. 

Note:  The clan mothers were NOT the only people who were alive at this time, but they were the only ones who have been found to have direct maternal descendants living in the present day.  There were other women around, of course, but they either had no children at all or only had sons who could not pass on the Mitrochondrial DNA.  I am seriously considering having my DNA tested, but it all depends on the price.


  1. This sounds like amazing stuff. I've thought about doing the DNA test like they did on "Who Do You Think You Are?". But I have no idea on the cost, and if its too pricey I'll have to pass for now. But it would be cool to know which group one comes from.

  2. It is a great book, but parts of it have been contradicted since. Worth a read anyways. :)

  3. DNA fascinates me too and i was considering being tested...have to wait till i have the money to spare though :)

  4. Very, very cool! I'm adding this book to my "must read" list!

  5. My Mitochondrial DNA is from Helena or H. I too find this stuff very interesting. My Y-DNA (from my fathers line)goes off in a different direction. National Geographics and IBM have a great study involving DNA. It costs about 100 dollars for testing either the Y-DNA or the Mitochondrial DNA. You get a lot of info, a dvd and membership in an online website that uses DNA and geneology to help a person explore thier ancestors. X

  6. That is so exciting. Please send me the information. $100 isn't bad at all. I can afford that...and I deeply into genealogy.

  7. http://www.dnaancestryproject.com/?gclid=CK2ajv3ptKICFRAMDQodoSad3g

    Here's the website. Just copy and paste. I was a little off on the cost. It's 119.00. Still cheaper than you can have it done elswhere, plus you get the extra's. X.

  8. This is so cool! Off to find the book and check out the website. Thanks so much Mary for so much information. You are the best!


  9. Mary, this is so interesting! I will check the book! Thank you XO

  10. I apoligize. I've posted the wrong website. It is probably ok however.

    Here is the National Geographic website.


    The price for the kit at National Geographic is $99.95. X.

  11. 23sndme Check out there with you everything from ancestral to mutations