The most unique Christmas gift that I received this year was a Genographic Project Test Kit (thank you, Michelle & in-laws). It included some documentation about the human journey out of Africa, an informational DVD, and a kit that I used to collect some of my own genetic material so it could be sent back to the lab for analysis. The results have finally arrived and they confirm something that I've known for a quite a while - I'm very white. I was secretly hoping that I had some kind of unexpected genetic lineage, perhaps an ancestor of mine was the bastard son of an Indian chief and a missionary's daughter or something like that. Still, it's exciting to see the path that my ancestors followed. The results that came back were for my Dad's side of the family. The lab can analyze DNA using genetic markers on the Y chromosome (father's side) or mitochondrial DNA (mother's side), but they can only do one test per kit so I had to choose (women, not having a Y chromosome, don't have that option).
My family's journey began somewhere around modern day Ethiopia about 50,000 years ago. From there, we headed north and crossed the Red Sea. By 45,000 years ago, we were on the Arabian Peninsula, where we headed north for a while before we took a sharp right turn around 40,000 years ago and headed east across Iraq, Iran, and finally stopped at the confluence of the Tian Shan, Hindu Kush, and Himalaya mountain ranges in Tajikistan about 35,000 years ago. Instead of fanning out across Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, we headed north toward Kazakhstan. Some of the population broke off to the northeast and headed for Siberia and eventually, North America, but we tacked to the northwest just east of the Ural Mountains and went on to become some of the first people to enter Europe around 30,000 years ago. We kept heading west through Russia and into Belarus and Poland before fanning out across Western Europe. We then huddled in Southern Spain during the last ice age before spreading back out across Western Europe once the glaciers retreated. After that, it's anyone's guess.