BAMAD no.36

 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. The Cagots of France
The last untouchable in Europe
2. An Updated World-Wide Characterization of the Cohen Modal Haplotype
3. Caucasoid Phenotypic Variation

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1. The Cagots of France
The last untouchable in Europe
The only living Cagot traces the roots of her pariah people, who endured centuries of brutal prejudice for reasons no one can even remember
By Sean Thomas


If the word "Cagot" means nothing to you, that is not surprising. The history of the Cagot people is obscure; some assert it has been deliberately erased. Marie certainly believes that: "To talk about the Cagots is still a bad thing in the mountains. The French are ashamed of what they did to us, the Cagots are ashamed of what they were. That is why no one, these days, will confess they are of Cagot descent."

As Marie-Pierre avers, the truth about the Cagots is obscure. The people first emerge in documents around the 13th century. By then they are already regarded as an inferior caste, the "untouchables" of western France, or northern Spain. In medieval times the Cagots ? also knows as Agotes, Gahets, Capets, Caqueux, etc, were divided from the general peasantry in several ways. They had their own urban districts: usually on the malarial side of the river. These dismal ghettoes were known as Cagoteries; traces of them can still be found in Pyrenean communities such as Campan or Hagetmau.

For hundreds of years, Cagots were treated as different and inferior. In the churches, they had to use their own doors (at least 60 Pyrenean churches still boast "Cagot" entrances); they had their own fonts; and they were given communion on the end of long wooden spoons. Marie-Pierre adds: "When a Cagot came into a town, they had to report their presence by shaking a rattle. Just like a leper, ringing his bell."

Daily Cagot life was likewise marked by apartheid. Cagots were forbidden to enter most trades or professions. They were forced, in effect, to be the drawers of water and hewers of wood. So they made barrels for wine and coffins for the dead. They also became expert carpenters: ironically they built many of the Pyrenean churches from which they were partly excluded.

Their provenance is opaque. That is partly because the Cagots themselves have disappeared from view. During the French Revolution, the laws against Cagots were formally abandoned - indeed many Cagots pillaged local archives and erased any record of their ancestry. After 1789, the Cagots slowly assimilated into the general populace; many may have even emigrated.

Nonetheless, there are historical accounts that afford an intriguing glimpse. Contemporary sources describe them as being short, dark and stocky. Confusingly, some others saw them as blonde and blue eyed. Francisque Michel's Histoire des races maudites (History of the cursed races, 1847), was one of the first studies. He found Cagots had "frizzy brown hair". He also found at least 10,000 Cagots still scattered across Gascony and Navarre, still suffering repression ? nearly 70 years after the Cagot caste was "abolished".

So who is right? It's a confusing picture. But Marie-Pierre Manet-Beauzac, "the last Cagot in the world", has no doubts where she comes from: "I believe the Cagots are descendants of Moorish soldiers left over from the 8th century Muslim invasion of Spain and France. That's why some people called them 'Saracens'. I am quite dark, and my daughter Sylvia is the darkest in her class."

2. An Updated World-Wide Characterization of the Cohen Modal Haplotype
[A Very Important Paper
Confirms claims made by Brit-Am:
DNA Racial Classifications Refuted!
Case Study: "The Cohen Gene"]

J.E. Ekins1, E.N. Tinah2, N.M. Myres1, K.H. Ritchie1, U.A. Perego1, J.B. Ekins1, L.A.D. Hutchison1, L. Layton1, M.L. Lunt1, S.S. Masek1, A.A. Nelson1, M.E. Nelson1,
K.L. Pennington1, J.L. Peterson1, T. Tolley1, S.R. Woodward1 1) Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF), Salt Lake City, UT, USA; 2) Department of
Micro and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, USA

The bulk of the CMHg chromosomes were observed in J1 (54.1%)
and J2 (41.7%), with a small portion falling outside of haplogroup J (4.2%). Members of the CMHg were
observed throughout the world, with significant frequencies in various Arab populations: Yemen
(34.2%), Oman (22.8%), Iraq (19.2%), Palestine (8.0%).

The significant presence of CMH chromosomes in deeply divergent clades J1 and J2 (>25ky), indicates the present CMH definition is not sufficient to distinguish lineages that likely arose by parallel IBS mutations. An expanded STR definition is proposed which allows differentiation between CMH-compatible chromosomes in J1 and J2.

A world-wide sampling of 12,372 individuals with known paternal geographic origin was surveyed for occurrence of chromosomes compatible with at least 5 of the 6 STR alleles defined as members of the CMHg (Thomas et al.
1998). ...CMHg-compatible chromosomes were observed in 49 countries in Eurasia, Africa, America, and Australia.

Of note in the geographic distribution of CMHg chromosomes is the high occurrence in Middle Eastern regions that are not traditionally considered admixed with mainstream Jewish populations. CMHg types are seen in high frequency in Yemen (34.2%), Oman (22.8%), Negev (21.9%), and Iraq (19.2%) populations with a presence also in various parts of the Levant and Anatolia, although with lower incidence. The great majority of the observations of CMHgcompatible chromosomes in these geographically defined Middle Eastern populations occurs in individuals harboring only 5/6 CMH STR alleles. In contrast, individuals matching at 6/6 of the CMH markers are found in the greatest proportions in Eastern European populations. This observation is compatible with known Jewish diasporan movements into that area. CMHg-compatible chromosomes, both 5/6 and 6/6, were observed at lower levels throughout Europe and South America.
In agreement with previous observations (Thomas et al. 1998), both Sephardic and Ashkenazi self-identified Cohanim exhibited the highest frequency of the CMHg (65.2%-67.1%, 47.4%-52.2% 6/6) of any other subgrouping surveyed, ethnic or geographic. Other Jewish designations also present CMHg individuals, although at lower levels (<25%). Many other non-Jewish groupings have a comparable occurrence of the type: Muslim Kurd (22.1%), Bedouin (21.9%), and Armenian (12.7%). However the frequency of 6/6 CMH chromosomes is markedly higher in Jewish than in non- Jewish populations, where individuals matching at only 5/6 markers are most commonly observed. Note that in comparing estimates from Figures 1 and 2, the most frequent occurrence of CMHg-compatible chromosomes following the Cohanim occurs in Yemen, which is currently inhabited by a Muslim Arab population.

3. Caucasoid Phenotypic Variation

1) Swedes and Dutch are more Nordic than Germans, who have a strong Alpine component; and Britons are distinguished from all by the Mediterranean elements in their population.

2) Likewise, Spaniards and Portuguese are more Mediterranean than Italians and Greeks, who both have Alpine and Dinaric elements in their make-up.

3) Eastern Slavs (Ukrainians) show the Baltic/Uralic "Slavic look" more prominently than western Slavs (Poles/Czechs) and southern Slavs (Serbians/Croatians), who resemble their non-Slavic neighbors.

4) Despite much crossbreeding with the spread of Islam, three Middle Eastern Mediterranean types are well-defined: Irano-Afghan of Iran, Orientalid Arabian, and Berberid Tunisian of North Africa.

5) The average Caucasoid looks, well, average -- he could fit in just about anywhere; and the four constituent composites have distinctive looks that sharply delineate their respective regions.

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