Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Genographic Project

"We all have one common place of origin: East Africa."

This video will give you a much better description of what the Genographic Project is about than anything I can tell you. But, in case you are hesitant to click on the video or the link and find out for yourself what the project is about, here is a brief summary of it from their web site:

Genographic Project is a five-year (2005-2010) research partnership led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells. Dr. Wells and a team of renowned international scientists and IBM researchers, are using cutting-edge genetic and computational technologies to analyze historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world to better understand our human genetic roots. The three components of the project are: to gather field research data in collaboration with indigenous and traditional peoples around the world; to invite the general public to join the project by purchasing a Genographic Project Public Participation Kit; and to use proceeds from Genographic Public Participation Kit sales to further field research and the Genographic Legacy Fund which in turn supports indigenous conservation and revitalization projects. The Project is anonymous, non-medical, non-profit and all results will be placed in the public domain following scientific peer publication.
150 years after Charles Darwin published his seminal work on the theory of evolution and 55 years after the discovery of the structure of the DNA, there is now a near consensus in the scientific community about Africa being the single origin of modern human beings. The co-discover of Australopithecus afarensis ("Lucy"), the 3.2 million years old hominid skeleton found in the Afar region of Ethiopia, says the following in his article "Origins of Modern Humans: Multiregional or Out of Africa?":
There are two theories about the origin of modern humans: 1) they arose in one place -- Africa and 2) pre-modern humans migrated from Africa to become modern humans in other parts of the world. Most evidence points to the first theory because:
  • fossils of modern-like humans are found in Africa
  • stone tools and other artifacts support African origin
  • DNA studies suggest a founding population in Africa
Research on Y and X chromosomes in the past 20 years, including early result from the Genographic Project, so far also support the first theory. I came across this project by chance back in December while browsing the internet. Ethiopia, being at the center of the Eastern Africa region where all human beings alive today are thought to have directly originated from, naturally I got interested in the subject and I started reading about it. Since the project is open to the general public, I thought it would be interesting to participate in it myself and contribute to the scientific understanding of where human beings originated from and how they were able to colonize the Earth in about 60,000 years from a single point of origin. I also thought that such an understanding of our common origins, regardless of the journey our ancestors may have taken to get to their current abode, may help to mitigate our modern infatuation with our ethnic differences. So, I have decided to participate in this project and I will post a summary of my deep ancestry, which is what you get with the Genographic DNA test, when I get my results.

I am not aware whether the Genographic Project folks have gotten DNA samples from population groups in Ethiopia for this study. I would be surprised if they have not. Regardless, it is my hope that my participation in this project will encourage Ethiopians and other East Africans from all ethnic backgrounds to participate in this project.


enset said...

I received my Genographic DNA test result late last week. It is a fascinating result. I will post it in a couple of months.


Unknown said...

Hi Fikru, I just wondered if the Geographic project DNA analysis you have received reaffirmed your current status as an Ethiopian. I am from Addis and I have just posted my DNA sample for analysis.