Uncovering the ultimate family tree

From the BBC: Uncovering the ultimate family tree.

The Lichtenstein Cave is a short drive away from Manfred’s village, deep in the Harz mountains.

This is the spot where Manfred’s relatives, dating back 3,000 years, were buried. The cave remained hidden from view until 1980, and it was only later, in 1993, that archaeologists discovered 40 Bronze Age skeletons.

The 3,000-year-old skeletons were in such good condition that anthropologists at the University of Goettingen managed to extract a sample of DNA. That was then matched to two men living nearby: Uwe Lange, a surveyor, and Manfred Huchthausen, a teacher. The two men have now become local celebrities. [continue]


One thought on “Uncovering the ultimate family tree

  1. So it’s always interesting how people perceive this kind of research. The modern Herr. Manfred merely shares genetic markers from the Y chromosome of the 3000 year old skeletons. But imagine how many individuals have potentially contributed to his genotype – 2^120 is approximately 1 followed by 39 zeros. Many of those ancestors may have passed no genes whatsoever to Manfred since at each of the couplings approximately half the genes or alleles are lost out to the other parent or at least become recessive. Genetics over this magnitude of time becomes a statistical game e.g. the chances are good that both you and I are also descendants of the 3000 year old skeletons since if the 3000 year old ‘Germans’ have any descendants at all after 120 generations, then they have a high probability of being a common ancestor of all Anglo- Saxons. Mathematicical models of mating and genetics dictate that any fertile individual has about an 80% chance of being a common ancestor of the entire human race in the far future.

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