BAMAD no.59

 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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BAMAD no. 59
Brit-Am Anthropology and DNA Update
10 September 2009, 21 Elul 5769
1. Ancient European DNA Was Much Different from the Present!
2. Special gene found in red haired women
3. Annual Red-Haired Day in
Breda, Netherlands

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1. Ancient European DNA Was Much Different from the Present!
Europe's first farmers replaced their Stone Age hunter-gatherer forerunners
Analysis of ancient DNA from skeletons suggests that Europe's first farmers were not the descendants of the people who settled the area after the retreat of the ice sheets. ... The researchers analyzed DNA from hunter-gatherer and early farmer burials, and compared those to each other and to the DNA of modern Europeans. They conclude that there is little evidence of a direct genetic link between the hunter-gatherers and the early farmers, and 82 percent of the types of mtDNA found in the hunter-gatherers are relatively rare in central Europeans today.

Now, a team from Mainz University in Germany, together with researchers from UCL (University College London) and Cambridge, have found that the first farmers in central and northern Europe could not have been the descendents of the hunter-gatherers that came before them. But what is even more surprising, they also found that modern Europeans couldn't solely be the descendents of either the hunter-gatherer alone, or the first farmers alone, and are unlikely to be a mixture of just those two groups. "This is really odd", said Professor Mark Thomas, a population geneticist at UCL and co-author of the study. "For more than a century the debate has centered around how much we are the descendents of European hunter-gatherers and how much we are the descendents of Europe's early farmers. For the first time we are now able to directly compare the genes of these Stone Age Europeans, and what we find is that some DNA types just aren't there - despite being common in Europeans today."

"Our analysis shows that there is no direct continuity between hunter-gatherers and farmers in Central Europe," says Prof Joachim Burger. "As the hunter-gatherers were there first, the farmers must have immigrated into the area."

The new study confirms what Joachim Burger's team showed in 2005; that the first farmers were not the direct ancestors of modern European. Burger says "We are still searching for those remaining components of modern European ancestry. European hunter-gatherers and early farmers alone are not enough. But new ancient DNA data from later periods in European prehistory may shed also light on this in the future."

2. Special gene found in red haired women
AUTHOR: Tim Utton
Blondes, they say, have more fun. But redheads have a definite edge when the going gets tough, according to scientists.
A gene found in flame-haired women means they are better at coping with pain than blondes or brunettes.

The research could help to explain the strong character of famous redheads down the ages - from Cleopatra, Nell Gwynne and Florence Nightingale to Lulu.
The gene, called Mc1r, is linked to ginger hair and fair skin. But while it gives women a higher pain threshold, it does not have the same effect on their male counterparts, researchers found.

Scientists at McGill University in Montreal believe this is because there are subtle differences in the way the male and female brains process pain.
Normally when humans and other mammals experience discomfort, the body reacts to dull it by releasing natural substances which are similar to medications such as morphine.

Professor Jeffrey Mogil and his colleagues decided to mimic this effect by giving women doses of an artificial painkiller and seeing how effective it proved.
They chose four groups of ten volunteers. Each was given the painkiller, pentacozine, and then subjected to varying degrees of pain.

The painkilling effect on redheaded women was three times as great as in the other groups.
The findings could help doctors make better choices when it comes to prescribing pain medication, Professor Mogil said. Pinpointing relevant genes should help doctors tailor dosages of drugs to each patient's needs.

Beyond the sex differences, it was clear that there are genetic differences which affect how well a drug will work, he added.

The results of the study are published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In other recent research, scientists have found that ginger hair and a pale skin offer an important advantage in the survival game.

Redheads boast a secret genetic weapon which enables them to fight off certain debilitating and potentially deadly illnesses more efficiently than blondes or brunettes.
A pale complexion permits more sunlight into the skin, where it encourages the production of vitamin D. This helps to prevent rickets, a disease which progressively weakens bone structures, and the lung disease tuberculosis, which can be fatal.

Red hair is mostly found in northwest-Europe and there are far more redheads in Scotland and Ireland than anywhere else. Between 7 and 10 per cent of Scots have red hair.

The downside of pale skin, however, is that it increases the risk of skin cancer in areas with strong prolonged sunlight.

3. Annual Red-Haired Day in Breda, Netherlands

Eager participants of all ages have painted a Dutch town "ginger" for the annual Redhead Day in the Netherlands.

Thousands of redheads including a legion of children celebrated their day at Breda with picnics, art, workshops and competitions.

The event, Roodharigendag, was created in part to help spread awareness about redheads ? who make up about 1 percent of the population worldwide and are becoming rarer, according to genetic research.

(b) Hit & Run: Red hair? It's so this season
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
As a child I used to get called "Duracell", "copper-coloured top", "ginger-nut" and "Orangina", admits Jordan Adams. "When I was a teenager groups of boys used to hang out of their car windows and yell at me, 'gingaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!'"

There's little chance that Adams, a 35-year-old music teacher from Brighton, would have heard these "gingerphobic" terms bandied about at Roodharigendag (redhead day) in the Dutch city of Breda. The two-day event, which took place last weekend, is a gathering for people with natural red hair. The event, which started in 2005, was the brainchild of Bart Rouwenhorst, a 38-year-old Dutch scientist and a part-time artist who, to start with, wanted to paint 15 red-headed models. However, after placing an ad in a local newspaper, he attracted 150 models, and decided to photograph them all in Breda's town centre. The idea of a group photo featuring redheads snowballed in popularity and last year 2,000 of them from 20 countries were featured for the picture; around 3,000 turned up this year.

"Redheads always stand out and it's difficult to find a place in this world," explains Rouwenhorst. "This is a festival that celebrates difference."

But red hair appears to be fiercely fashionable. BBC2's preposterous Desperate Romantics focused on the Pre-Raphaelite painters and their adoration of redheads, Hollywood's newest sweetheart Amy Adams is red and proud, flame-tressed Lily Cole is arguably our "hottest" model and the third in line to the throne, Prince Harry, is a ginger. The increasing success of Roodharigendag, the festival is experiencing "100 per cent growth each year",  is another sign of a redhead renaissance.

"This festival is unique," adds Rouwenhorst, whose favourite redheads, for the record, are Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and Meryl Streep. "The people don't come for somebody famous who has red hair, they come for each other."

Rousing stuff and it makes me, a reddish-head myself, want to break into "all we are saying is give redheads a chance". However, a lot of redheads don't feel the same way.

"The very notion of a redhead festival depresses the hell out of me," says 29-year-old Dan Sait. "I don't subscribe to this 'we're special' crap, either. As far as I'm aware I have no special ginger-witch powers, I just happen to have a hair colour that makes white van men want to throw empty cigarette packets at me."

James Spencer, a 37-year-old from Ipswich, concurs, pointing out: "I wish I'd thought of such a pointless way to make money." Rachel Drayson, a 29-year-old teacher from Surrey, is a little more relaxed about the idea, but confesses she "might be unnerved by my sudden non-uniqueness".

Bart, who is blonde, not ginger, points out that there is a little prejudice towards redheads in Holland, but maintains it appears much worse in England. Sait agrees: "As an English bloke with red hair I've certainly had to put up with way more than my fair share of random abuse but there's nothing I can do about it.

"As a kid the abuse was non-stop. Amazingly, at nearly 30 years old, I still, very occasionally, get people bellowing "Ginga!" from cars."

Perhaps it's time to follow Rouwenhorst's lead and set up a British Rood-harigendag. After all, if it can happen in the Netherlands, where only 2 per cent of the country has red hair, maybe it's only a matter of time until the Scotland (13 per cent) and Ireland (with 10 per cent) embrace the idea of a redhead celebration too. Here's to UK redhead day 2010. Ben Walsh

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