Last Thursday night,while my 14 year old daughter fiddled at the computer and my wife wandered aimlessly about the house, I sat down and began watching the screener for a new National Geographic Channel documentary. Before long they were both at my side, enthralled at the amazing journey of man as layed out in The Human Family Tree.
Using genetic data collected “on a single day on a single street” in New York City, Dr.Spencer Wells, the Project Director of the Genographic Project, launched us on an amazing voyage of exploration to the roots of human diversity. By finding markers on the DNA collected in New York and comparing it to the data collected from indigenous populations around the world, the amazing paths of human migration were revealed. Dr. Wells explains how these markers originate:
“Markers are tiny changes – or “typos” – in your genetic code that occur from time to time as DNA is being copied to pass on from one generation to the next. When these are passed on through the generations, they become markers of descent – if you share a marker with someone, you share an ancestor, or a person in the past who first had that change in their DNA. We zoom in on these markers using sensitive biochemical techniques, using them to assign people to their position in the human family tree.”