BAMAD no.28

 DNA and 
 Anthropology Updates 

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
IB destructions
3. The Druze: A Population Genetic
Refugium 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,0,6367136.story
Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times

Limited Extracts:

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 innocent person.

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 try.

 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 misleading.

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 purchase.

2. DNA: No Mycenaean political domination of Crete following Late Minoan IB destructions
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 tested theory.

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 (87Sr/86Sr)

A. Nafplioti

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 Refugium of the Near East

Brit-Am Preliminary Explanation:  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 extant elsewhere.

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.

Principal Findings

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
Neuroscience journal.

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 accidents.

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 NewScientist.

5. mtDNA of Jordanians: Ancestors Related to Black Africans?
Brit-Am  Explanation: 
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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