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K. Kris Hirst

The Human Family Tree on National Geographic

By November 14, 2012

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National Geographic's Human Family Tree is a 90 minute DVD covering the results of the ongoing Genographic Project. The program features the research of Spencer Wells and colleagues, The program is a fascinating presentation of what the studies of modern people's DNA has told us about the ancient migration patterns of our ancestors.

The Human Family Tree - National Geographic
National Geographic's Human Family Tree. Photo by National Geographic (c) 2009

The Genographic Project is a five-year-long (2005-2010) research study funded by National Geographic and IBM to collect human DNA from people all over the world, and analyze those data to determine the various general migration pathways humans took as they left our home in Africa. The Human Family Tree describing their recent findings aired on the National Geographic Channel on August 30, 2009.

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August 28, 2009 at 2:31 pm
(1) Ann says:

Interesting questions. In Belgium, another DNA research project is ongoing, to find out once and for all if the ‘Flemish’ and ‘Wallon’ are related or not. Hopefully all those research projects share will share their data eventually. They they mention anything about that? Any ‘universal’ databases for this kind of research?

August 28, 2009 at 9:17 pm
(2) Marco Grandmann says:

NAT GEO Human Genome Project

It has been online for a while but for some reason they have added a rather dubious map of Human History at the opening page. The overall project has been anticipated for a long time and is a fantastic piece of work and will give many clues to historians where and how to look into history.Especially it will, if published in the correct manner show people that we are all related and should get over petty racial conflicts and get on with the important things.
The texts in this History map however discredit the project quite substantially, using false, outdated and I dare say politically and religiously motivated misinformation. E.g. Israel: it is neither 3500 years old, nor has there been many of the events quoted.Indeed it is one of the oldest human settlement areas but as Finkelstein, Silberman and many others have meanwhile proven archeologically there has been neither an Israel (there has been but that has nothing to do with Judaism) , no Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, in fact no Jews in the sense at all until appr. 500 BCE, no bible and he proves when and who wrote the various pieces.
Equally Marco Polo , himself being a historical person no doubt, his travel descriptions by no means are historically founded and accepted as based on fact. I have yet to go over all texts.
In a project this size and monumentous importance it must be expected to contain nothing but scientific fact, independant on what religious or political facet any editor or author belongs to, that is the basic idea of science or it discredits itself. Please !!! put a scientifically oriented historian on these texts and if there is only information of this type then it is better not to put any at all. Don’t ruin a magical piece of work .

August 29, 2009 at 9:13 am
(3) PearlDuncan says:

Some of our ancestors’ ancient migrations — and conquests — are in fact reflected in our DNA. They were reflected in the DNA tests I began doing as early as 1999, but the geneticists informed me that it’s serendipity, sheer luck, that they found the results they did in my family’s DNA.

On the surface, culturally and ethnically, we humans look diverse, but genetically, we’re similar. But it will continue to take time to embrace not only all our shared human genetic heritage but our shared human history. I write about this subject, and I’m always amazed at the comments some readers try to engage in. I welcome the debates, because that’s the only way we’ll see the shared history and shared DNA. Let’s keep talking and sharing DNA information.

August 29, 2009 at 12:10 pm
(4) Robert M. Cerello says:

Thank you for giving us notice of this interesting program. Let me argue against the major premises cited here, for a moment.
The so-called public scientists nowadays range from brilliant realists to construction bosses of fantasies. What they really do I assert is monopolize machineries; they then use these to discover new data, and subsequently and separately (one must hope) attempt to interpret the attested facts they have now found.
Their undisclosed agenda is however to defend former hypotheses, preconceptions and majority indefensible former positions, because this is what they have done for two enturies now.
They do not define categories correctly, because the normative basis of every science has not been defined.
In this case let’s consider several ideas not considered, so far as we know, by this interesting program’s makers.
1. Mankind evolved in a now-sunken continent?
2. Humanoids are far older than has previously been admitted?
3. Infalling radiation, affecting dating methods and available evidence, was not always uniform (as has been claimed).
4. If landmasses were far different in their freedom from ice, positioning etc. in the past, then global warming, melting of boreal tundra and future discoveries may add new pathways, developmental site, etc. to our present scanty knowledge.
i raise these questions as the mind who has defined how to define a category, in the hopes that some of these queries will someday be addressed by those assuming, yet again, within the “academic community” a claim to be doing ‘science’ to which at the moment they are unfortunately not entitled.
This data may bring us one step closer to a science of human origins and diaspora. That is what, I suggest, we all can only hope will happen.

August 31, 2009 at 6:36 pm
(5) Miriam Pat says:

The original program that Spencer Wells produced, “Journey of Man” showed in much more detail how the DNA markers of the different families worked. The recent program about his experiences in the Bronx didn’t explain the DNA markers as well as the original program

August 31, 2009 at 7:34 pm
(6) Glenda Ray says:

Very interesting as far as it went. I would have liked more information on how they came to some of the conclusions. I am still wondering about the history of the neanderthalls. Do we have no kinship? We are all made of the same “star material”. It does not in anyway surprise me that we are so close genetically.

September 1, 2009 at 8:42 am
(7) Glenda Ray says:

I found the answer to my question: Recent mitochondrial DNA studies at the site of Feldhofer Cave suggest that Neanderthals and Humans had a common ancestor about 550,000 years ago, but are not otherwise related; nuclear DNA on a bone from Vindija Cave supports this supposition although the time depth is still in question.

September 1, 2009 at 9:11 am
(8) Kris Hirst says:

Yep, you’re right–I think that’s the mainstream opinion, Glenda. There are probably a few scholars around who are still poking around in the issue, but as far as I can tell, most of them have agreed that we are not closely related to Neanderthals.



November 19, 2012 at 11:25 pm
(9) Ray Weitzman says:

Re: Caveat on Marco Grandmann’s Comments:

Marco Grandmann has greatly distorted the archeological findings summarized by Finkelstein and Silberman in their book The Bible Unearthed. While it is true that no concrete evidence has been found to support either the existence of Moses or the exodus from Egypt, Grandmann is mistaken in suggesting that there were no Jews before around 500 BCE, certainly not based on the Finkelstein and Silberman book. I suggest that Mr. Grandmann go back and read that book a little more thoroughly or at least look at the description and reviews of it to be found at Amazon.com.

November 20, 2012 at 5:33 am
(10) Christopher Raynes says:

Mr. Cerello, there is no evidence for any ‘sunken continent’ anywhere in the world, at least anytime when humans could have evolved. You pretend to request scientific evaluation, if so, then look at realism and get your head out of pretentious inventionalism and GROW UP! Or are you pushing the theory that there were 6 gunmen in the Kennedy assassination? But I guess one can’t change the mind of one that’s made up, no matter how good the facts are. And I realize that this response is useless, because you have a very made up mind, with no real scientific background, or rather, a selected background, one that you can make fit your beliefs. How convenient.

May 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm
(11) Gillian says:

With reference to no. 2 by Marco Grandmann you do have a very distorted agenda with regard to Israel and appear to have very limited knowledge of the Bible.

Of course the Israelites existed and the details of the exodus from Egypt have been passed down generation after generation with the most important of Jewish holidays – Pesach. What on earth is the problem with that?! And it is highly unlikely, not to mention inconceivable, that over 3000 years later that you are going to find any Bronze Age tent pegs and ancient tent coverings lying around dating from the Israelites’ encampments in the Sinai desert – absence of evidence there is most definitely NOT evidence of absence. Whereas there IS archaeological evidence that the Israelites were living in Egypt and in Israel as the Bible records. And various artifacts and other items from a long time ago – eg Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem which you can go into today – have been found which correlate very well with Biblical historical accounts.

May 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm
(12) Gillian says:

2) But the bottom line is that the commandments and historical details of the Torah have been handed down for thousands of years. Judaism is the ONLY religion, unlike others which usually have a revelation to only one person or at most to a very limited number, which posits that there was a mass revelation to six million people all at once, where all heard the same commandments given to them by G-d. How could anyone create a plausible lie where there were six million witnesses who would have passed on their memory of the event to their descendants?!

Among the many commandments that observant Jews keep to this day, the Israelites were commanded to keep the shmittah year in Israel, one in seven years, not planting any crops and leaving all their fields fallow, and were told that the Creator would ensure that enough rain would fall to ensure sufficient food supplies to last not only during the shmittah year but for the year afterwards when new crops would still have been growing. What lunatic would invent such a law, giving a guarantee that noone could possibly give in the Middle East that there would be sufficient food in the sixth year to last not only that year but the following two years as well?! This was not something invented by a human being, for sure. And many of the Creator’s commandments for the Jewish people can ONLY be kept in Israel, and the Bible is replete with many references to the land of Israel and also to its capital, Jerusalem (whereas for instance Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Quran). Jews have always prayed towards the Temple Mount, site of the Jewish ancient Temples, in Jerusalem, and continue to do so today.

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