Friday, September 2, 2016

DNA Tests Solve Historical Questions

Before we leave behind the general overview of ancient DNA migrations, I wanted to sidetrack a bit to point out some interesting questions solved by DNA that Bryan Sykes mentions in his book "Saxons, Vikings and Celts".

Sykes mentioned an oral myth of the Hazara tribe in Pakistan who claim descent from Ghengis Khan (1162-1227). Interestingly DNA tests have proven that this is true. Not only is Ghengis Khan the ancestor of a large number of people alive today, but other strong leaders for the Middle Ages also show up with many descendants. Although Ghengis Khan is not in my database, Niall Mor "of the Nine Hostages" is and I show up as one of his descendants. Of course, Niall lived so long ago (in the fourth century), that surely everyone of European ancestry is descended from him. But what is interesting with both Ghengis Khan and Niall Mor is that there is a very high percentage of living males that share their Y-DNA chromosome, men that can claim direct paternal lineage from them. I have provided links at the bottom to interesting articles discussing the DNA tests concerning these two men.

Polynesians are another interesting case. The big question surrounding them for quite some time was whether the native islanders from Hawaii to New Zealand originated in Southeast Asia or the Americas. In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer, sailed from  Peru to French Polynesia in a balsa wood raft in an effort to prove his theory that the Polynesians floated the ocean currents from the Americas to populate the islands. Most anthropologists even then, believed that based on linguistic, physical, and genetic evidence the islanders had come from Asia.

Heyerdahl wrote a book called "Kon-Tiki" about his adventure. The book was first published in 1950 and was quite popular during the 1950's and 1960's.  The copy I have was the 14th printing in 1962 and the book is still available today. (See link below to Amazon). A second book called "Fatu-Hiva" first printed in 1974 describes Heyerdahl's year in 1936 living with his new bride among the primitive Marquesas Islands like a modern day Robinson Crusoe. DNA testing has now proven that all Polynesians came from Asia, confirming what other scientific evidence had already shown. The debate is now finally settled. Sykes mentions that Hawaiki, the legendary homeland of the Polynesians was thought to be in Indonesia and DNA has now proven that this was true.

Even though Heyerdahl's theory has proven incorrect, his books are a real adventure to read and I highly recommend reading the two books mentioned. Adventure books like these were very exciting to me when I was younger and such true adventure books still attract my attention even now that I am older.

Here are some links to help you learn more about the subjects discussed in this post.

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