Updates in DNA studies along with Anthropological Notes of general interest with a particular emphasis on points pertinent to the study of Ancient Israelite Ancestral Connections to Western Peoples as explained in Brit-Am studies.
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Brit-Am Anthropology and DNA Update
1. DNA matches aren't always a lock
2. DNA: No Mycenaean political domination of Crete following Late Minoan
3. The Druze: A Population Genetic
of the Near East
4. Abuse Causes a Suicidal Switch in Brain Gene Activity
5. mtDNA of Jordanians: Ancestors Related to Black Africans?
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1. DNA matches aren't always a lock
Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times
Prosecutors and crime labs across the country routinely use numbers that
exaggerate the significance of DNA matches in "cold hit" cases, in which a
suspect is identified through a database search.
Jurors are often told that the odds of a coincidental match are hundreds of
thousands of times more remote than they actually are, according to a review of
scientific literature and interviews with leading authorities in the field.
Two national scientific committees, including the FBI's DNA advisory board, have
recommended portraying the odds more conservatively. But interviews with expert
witnesses and DNA analysts from crime labs across the country show that few if
any have adopted that approach.
The FBI lab, which oversees the nation's offender databases, has disregarded the
recommendation of its own advisory board, bureau officials acknowledged. So far,
the courts have ruled in law enforcement's favor on this issue.
As a result, some experts fear, a technology best known for freeing the innocent
could be causing its own miscarriages of justice.
"It is only a matter of time until someone is wrongfully convicted because of
this," said Keith Devlin, a Stanford mathematician who has studied the problem.
DNA profiles are widely perceived as a unique genetic fingerprint. In fact, they
are slivers of the human genome -- up to 13 markers that contain about a
millionth of the information on all the chromosomes. Relatives often share many
markers, and even unrelated people on average share two or three.
So DNA "matches" by themselves can never definitively link someone to a crime.
The best science can do is to estimate the likelihood that a match has occurred
by sheer chance. These statistics are easily distorted or misunderstood by
lawyers, judges, juries and even expert witnesses.
This potential for distortion is compounded in cold hit cases.
For years, police used DNA only to compare a crime-scene sample to a single
person they had other reasons to suspect. In court, prosecutors could
legitimately cite the remote odds that someone selected at random off the street
would share the same genetic profile.
But in cold hit cases, the investigation starts with a DNA match found by
searching thousands, or even millions, of genetic profiles in an offender
database. Each individual comparison increases the chance of a match to an
Nevertheless, police labs and prosecutors almost always calculate the odds as if
the suspect had been selected randomly from the general population in a single
The problem will only grow as the nation's criminal DNA databases expand. They
already contain 6 million profiles.
The general-population figures used by prosecutors portray the odds of matching
crime-scene DNA to a single, randomly selected person.
But because database searches involve hundreds of thousands or millions of
comparisons, experts say using the general-population statistic can be
Think of a lottery. If you buy a single ticket, your chances of hitting the
jackpot are remote. If you buy many tickets, your odds improve with each
2. DNA: No Mycenaean political
domination of Crete following Late Minoan
This contradicts the idea of a Mycenaean contribution into Crete following the
collapse of the Minoan civilization. From the paper:
The ?warrior burials?, ?burials with bronzes? and the single-chamber tombs
(tombs of Mainland architecture) are not necessarily associated with
Mainlanders. In fact, none of the examined individuals from these LMII?IIIA1 and
LMIIIA2 tombs was non-local at Knossos that would be expected based upon the
Journal of Archaeological Science doi:10.1016/j.jas.2008.03.006
"Mycenaean" political domination of Knossos following the Late Minoan IB
destructions on Crete: negative evidence from strontium isotope ratio analysis
Strontium isotope ratio analysis of human dental enamel and bone is applied to
investigate a highly debated question of population movement and cultural
discontinuity in Prehistoric Aegean Archaeology. The Late Minoan IB (ca.
1490/1470 BC) destructions on Crete are succeeded by cultural upheaval. The
novel cultural features that appear at Knossos (Crete) in this period have
forerunners in the Mainland. In Cretan context, the Linear B writing system, the
funerary architecture and burial practices of the Mainland style are interpreted
as evidence of an actual ?Mycenaean? long-term settlement and political
domination of Knossos. Human skeletal material from tombs that are associated
with non-locals from the Mainland based upon the material culture is analysed to
measure 87Sr/86Sr. The results of the analysis show that all the examined
individuals from the Knossos tombs were born locally.
3. The Druze: A Population Genetic
of the Near East
Based on study of female (mt)DNA
show Druze to be descended from many different female ancestors that come from
different places and may represent ancient Middle East populations no longer
Liran I. Shlush et al.
Phylogenetic mitochondrial DNA haplogroups are highly partitioned across global
geographic regions. A unique exception is the X haplogroup, which has a
widespread global distribution without major regions of distinct localization.
We have examined mitochondrial DNA sequence variation together with
Y-chromosome-based haplogroup structure among the Druze, a religious minority
with a unique socio-demographic history residing in the Near East. We observed a
striking overall pattern of heterogeneous parental origins, consistent with
Druze oral tradition, together with both a high frequency and a high diversity
of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) X haplogroup within a confined regional
subpopulation. Furthermore demographic modeling indicated low migration rates
with nearby populations.
These findings were enabled through the use of a paternal kindred based sampling
approach, and suggest that the Galilee Druze represent a population isolate, and
that the combination of a high frequency and diversity of the mtDNA X haplogroup
signifies a phylogenetic refugium, providing a sample snapshot of the genetic
landscape of the Near East prior to the modern age.
4. Abuse Causes a Suicidal Switch in
Brain Gene Activity
- At least, it does in the hippocampus
by Stefan Anitei, Science Editor
An abused child does not have only an impaired behavior, but also a structurally
different brain. That happens because early child abuse appears to permanently
change gene expression in the brain, as pointed by a postmortem investigation of
suicide victims, recently published in the Nature
It is clear that we are the result of gene interaction and of the environment.
External factors may determine which genes are turned on and off, thus impacting
on our development. Some of the control switches are set before our birth, but
many are programmed in early life and, in fewer cases, throughout our lives.
Genes are deactivated by adding methyl groups to their control DNA stretch. Food
quality and quantity and psychical factors (like stress or maternal care) are
proven to impact these "epigenetic" changes.
In 2004, a team led by Moshe Szyf at the McGill University in Montreal found
that young rats neglected by their mothers displayed different levels of
methylation and stress reactions compared to well-cared pups. That study also
revealed that certain interventions can change those gene expressions.
The new research analyzed the same phenomenon in humans, and started from the
fact that many suicide victims has been abused or neglected in early childhood.
Hippocampus, a brain nucleus involved in memory and mood, has been proven to be
reduced in victims of abuse. The team investigated this brain nucleus in 13
suicide victims with a known history of early neglect or abuse. The results were
compared with the analysis of 11 hippocampuses coming from 11 age and gender
matched controls, who had experienced normal care but had perished in sudden
The researchers looked for hippocampal genes activity assessing the presence of
protein-producing RNA. RNA showed that, in the case of those who had committed
suicide, much more genes had been deactivated, pointing that the hippocampus had
decreased activity and the suicide risk could have been boosted by epigenetic
effects. "The altered methylation is the result of child abuse and not suicide
itself. The question is whether we could design an intervention, dietary,
social, pharmacological, that could reverse it," said Szyf.
Suicide victims who had not experienced abuse could confirm the new finding.
"There's going to be a lot of heterogeneity in people who commit suicide,"
Arthur Beaudet, from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, told
of Jordanians: Ancestors Related to Black Africans?
Study of female (mt)DNA
Northern Jordan same as other countries in the Levantine (Syria, Lebanon,
Jordan, Palestinians) area.
Southern Jordan showed affinities to sub-Saharan (black) Africa but not due to
migration from there.
The affinities are related to the original inhabitants of the south Jordan area.
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