Sonntag, 1. April 2007

Adventurer and geneticist: Spencer Wells

A very good interview with geneticist Spencer Wells about his Genographic Project at PlosGenetics. He says about Hungary:

We've gotten some fascinating results and a lot of e-mails. For example, a Hungarian woman wrote in and said, “You've got to redo my test. You told me I'm native American or Siberian, and I know my ancestors came from Hungary—I can tell you the village they were living in in the sixteenth century.” The Hungarian language, Magyar, is actually related to languages spoken in Siberia, and this is one of the first cases where we've actually seen Siberian lineages showing up in the Hungarian population. They are there at very low frequency. We now through this project have over 350 people who are of Hungarian descent and we see these [Siberian] lineages at four to five percent on both male and female sides.

And he says about the traditional tribal genealogical thinking (here in southern Tajikistan):

... Most people are interested in their history, and indigenous people, who are the ones who give us the clearest glimpse of their genetic history, are particularly interested, because in many cases it is all they have—what they cling on to—their sense of identity.

I was just in Tajikistan a week and a half ago, and we were sampling all over the southern part of the country and asking people to name their grandparents and great-grandparents and so on. I could do that back to maybe to my great-grandparents. These people can do it back six, seven, eight generations. They've always lived in the same place and beyond that they know even more about their history, but not necessarily their names.

So they have a sense, a clear idea of where they came from, that something is passed from generation that ties them to their ancestors. You explain to them that that thing is DNA and that it will tell us not only about the people they can name but also people beyond that that they can't name ...

Some personal things about this blonde Spencer Wells:

My father (...) he comes from a military family. His father, whom he never knew because he died in World War II, graduated top of his class from West Point and was apparently a wild man out in the field. I think maybe I got some of my love of danger and going to strange places from him. ...

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