Daughters of Eve

May 20, 2001 - Reuters

We are all descended from the 33 daughters of Eve. Just take a swab from your cheek and you can find which one is your original ancestor.

That is the view of Professor Bryan Sykes, one of the world's top geneticists who has spent the last decade mapping out where we come from.

``Your genes have been through a fantastic journey,'' he told Britain's leading literary festival Tuesday in the Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye where he laid out a fascinating DNA pathway to the past.

Now, after opening such a fascinating Pandora's Box, he has found that thousands of people around the world, from the United States to South Africa, are consumed with curiosity and want to find out who their original ``clan mother'' is.

``This shows how closely connected we all are,'' he said

The Oxford University professor first started taking DNA from archaeological bones and then in 1994 was called in to examine the frozen remains of a 5,000-year-old man trapped in glacial ice in Northern Italy.

This led him to research how a gene passed undiluted from generation to generation through the maternal line and helped him to track down our own genetic ancestors.

``If you look at the mitochondrial gene, it is DNA which is just inherited from your mother. It is found in eggs not sperm,'' he explained in an interview with Reuters.

After taking several thousand DNA samples, the clan mothers in Europe were narrowed down to ``The Seven Daughters of Eve,'' the title of his new book chronicling his DNA detective work.

``To bring these women alive I gave them names and worked out where they lived and when. They range from Ursula in Greece 45,000 years ago to Jasmine 10,000 years ago in Syria -- she came from the Middle East along with the farmers,'' he said.

``There are roughly 33 equivalent clusters if you take the whole world. Eventually it all comes down to Mitochondrial Eve in Africa 200,000 years ago,'' he added.

Sykes said ``Thousand of people have asked to have a DNA test to find out who they are descended from.''

So oxfordancestors.com was set up on the Internet.

You send off 150 pounds, receive a swab kit and then send it back for analysis that will reveal your origins.

``The majority came from the United States. I think the reason for the interest is rediscovering the fact we have a history and the genes are not just something you are given like a National Insurance Number,'' Sykes said.

``Your genes are a very, very precious gift and you should be proud of them,'' he concluded.

The Seven Daughters of Eve

Europe's Seven Female Founders

Are you by any chance related?