This rather intriguing article applies directly to some topics that I have both blogged about on this site, and that members of this website and I have often discussed in our "members' vidchats", namely, that peculiar area where "paleoancient" (my somewhat redundant term) pre-history, archaeology, and genetics intersect. It was spotted by S.D., to whom a thank you for passing it along:
The article's authoress, Ms. Alice Roberts, begins by also noting this curious area where archaeology and genetics overlap, but note carefully what she goes on to say:
TWO seemingly disparate scientific disciplines have been drawn into each other’s orbits, set on a collision course. On one side is archaeology with its grimy earthiness, heavy with history and tradition; on the other is genetics, with its clinical brightness, brave and brash in its newness. Fusion can be difficult, but it can also create astonishing energy when it happens.
At the forefront of this merging is a new sequencing project called 1000 Ancient Genomes. Led by Pontus Skoglund at the Francis Crick Institute in London, it is the most ambitious ancient genomics project to date. The DNA it looks at will be completely sequenced, leaving no stone unturned, no stretch unread.
It is two decades since the human genome was first sequenced, and the pace of change in genetic technology in the intervening years has been breathtaking. Sequencing is now faster by several orders of magnitude – a human genome can now be deciphered in a day. And with DNA extracted from ancient bones, we are able to uncover the genetic secrets of our ancestors. (Boldface emphases added)
Now, fascinating as the rest of the article is - for example, Ms. Roberts mentions that the 10,000 year old "cheddar man" skeleton, given its genetic composition, may have been very dark complected with blue eyes, "a combination that is rare today" - what intrigues me here are the implications of the "1000 Ancient genomes" project.
Over the course of several books I have pondered the claims of some ancient texts - the Old Testament's nephilim, or the Babylonian or Egyptian kings' lists of Berossus and Manetho respectively, or Mesopotamia's "annunaki" - of an ancient intermingling of humans and the "sons of God" or the gods. Some researchers, myself included, have speculated that this may represent some sort of "genetic project", a speculation that presupposes a rather advanced civilization to do it. In Genes, Giants, Monsters, and Men I even speculated on the suggestive parallels between genetic haplogroup studies, and some of those ancient texts as interpreted by some of those researchers speculating on just such a "paleoancient" genetic program. But texts and parallels are a long way from proof or disproof.
But a project such as this 1000 Ancient Genomes might be a clue, perhaps, that a long term project might now be underway to test and prove or disprove such speculations.And governments can read those texts and understand their implications just as easily as you or I, and it stands to reason that they would try to seek some proof or disproof of them, even if only covertly. So here I am speculating once again in our tradition of "daily high octane speculation." It is interesting to note that the project has apparently begun at the "more recent" end of the archaeogenetic spectrum, a sensible step, since by the nature of the case there are bound to be more "younger" human remains than "older" ones, and also because the farther back one moves in history, the more theoretical the assumed evolutionary connections between modern humans and other members of the genus "homo" become. So how might such a project look for such a possibility, i.e., of deliberate genetic manipulation not only of the species, but perhaps of the entire genus? I suspect it would have to concentrate on two areas, or to look for two specific things: (1) a sudden emergence within the genetic record of persistent traits not previously there, and (2) evidence that these traits could not have been introduced by nature. The latter is important because the first - since the theoretical proposals of biologist Stephen Gould for evolutionary changes of "punctuated equilibrium" rather than "gradual Darwinian change through micromutations" - would not be sufficient in and of itself to indicate such tinkering.
Time will tell, of course, whether anything like such a grand project is actually the goal, but at least for now, you can put me in the suspicious column that it is, at least, a possible hidden goal of the quest.
See you on the flip side...