I feel like Dr. Who traveling to distant times!
A few PayPal clicks and encrypted electronic funds transferred the $222.49 (with taxes and shipping) necessary to learn what my ancestors were doing up to 200,000 years ago! I think this might be what Neil Armstrong felt like as he climbed down that Apollo 11 ladder, toes scanning for the surface of the moon.
I have dabbled in my family genealogy, mostly reading through family trees compiled by aunts and cousins listing the names, occupations and other details about family members who lived their days on U.S. shores. I have only dabbled because I know the risk. Fall down a rabbit hole of family history research and you never know when you will next sleep, eat or shower as you obsessively search your past.
But when I read about National Geographic’s Genographic Project (https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com), I had to take the risk.
In a few days, my Geno 2.0 kit will arrive. A simple cheek swab mailed to the lab and in 10 weeks or less, I will receive:
- A percentage breakdown of my genomic ancestry by regional genetic affiliation. This breakdown helps to uncover the migration paths of ancient ancestors and how they mixed genetically with others.
- What percentage of Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA my bloodlines carry, if any.
Why am I so excited about learning this information?
- Because I have a suspicion there is some Neanderthal in the mix and would take pride in that fact!
- It will allow me to envision the movement of my forebears around continents and across oceans. Knowing where their lives were spent will make me feel more a citizen of the world than a localized phenomenon.
- This is like looking beyond our solar system and starting to understand the universe. I mean, I am miniscule…a drop in a bucket…more probably a drop in the ocean proportionally. But each drop adds more information to the whole picture. And when enough drops come together in one space, our distance past…and perhaps the origins of humankind will be visible like the bright contrasting dots in Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte creating a summer’s afternoon from a jumble of color when viewed at the right distance.
- The communal premise of this undertaking really inspires me…as does the fact that proceeds from sales of the test kits will be used to further research, which – in turn – supports community-led indigenous conservation and revitalization projects.
- I am a geek. So the science of this whole study makes me hot. But even beyond the science, is the story. Stories are the reason we have gathered around fires and hearths and stages and video monitors throughout time. This is a glimpse at the human story provided to us by science…and that is an awesome twofer.
But the number one reason I am so excited to participate is that I believe this research will not only demonstrate – but celebrate – that we are mudbloods all!
Our fear of the other has brought so much violence and cruelty into the world. What will happen when we find out we ARE the other? How can we hate or hurt ourselves? By defining ourselves in the macro rather than the micro, we can’t be separate. We can’t be hateful. To love who we are, we must love everything that went into us. DNA echoes from every possible point on the planet sound through our circulatory system with every heartbeat and every rush of blood through our bodies. That isn’t just blood of an ethnic clan or religious affiliation. It is the blood of the world since the beginning of our time.
The folks from National Geographic are giving us a chance to turn xeno into geno, and that – in my book – is a gift epochs overdue.