Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Scroll to the Bottom to View Interesting Videos

There are several interesting videos at the bottom of this page I would like to point out. Several about the Lost Colony and one about the upcoming Henry Louis Gates Jr.s' African-American Lives2 which will be shown in Feb. Plus an interview with Bennett Greenspan, CEO of Family Tree DNA of Houston.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mysteries of the Lost Colony

The following excerpt is from The Knightshift Blogspot:

After we got back to our cars, Anita went on and then Lisa and I drove a few blocks to the North Carolina Museum of History to check out something that I've been wanting to see since it started in October...

For more than 400 years, one of the greatest enigmas of American history has been that of the Roanoke Colony, more commonly known as "the Lost Colony". 116 English colonists had simply vanished when Governor John White returned to Roanoke Island with fresh supplies in 1590. The only thing left behind amid the ruins of their fort was a cryptic word "Croatoan" carved in a tree.

What happened to them? Were they killed off or did they move elsewhere or did they (as some believe) inter-marry with neighboring tribes of Native Americans... which raises the possibility that descendants of the Lost Colony are living among us today?

"Mysteries of the Lost Colony" is an exhibit of the British Museum currently on display at the North Carolina Museum of History. There's lots of good stuff about the Lost Colony itself, but the real centerpiece of the show is the large number of original watercolors by John White (whose daughter Eleanor would be the one to give birth to Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World). A talented artist by trade before he was appointed to be governor of the colony, White did many depictions of the natives and wildlife of present-day coastal North Carolina. A lot of them have been reproduced in history books over the years, and it was quite a thrill to be able to see the originals, made by White himself. Toward the end of the tour, there's an interactive video with one of the actresses of CBS's CSI shows that lets you vote on what you think was the fate of the colony. When we left, "Killed" had a slim lead over "Absorbed", which is what I've come to believe is what happened to them. Maybe in the next few years the Lost Colony DNA Project will be able to come up with some indication about whether the colonists did indeed become the ancestors of the modern-day Lumbee and other Native American tribes in the state. If you want to see "Mysteries of the Lost Colony", it's on display until January 13th, 2008.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

La Navidad, the First "Lost Colony" in the New World

Christopher Columbus, anchored somewhere along the island's Atlantic coast, upped sails to begin the long voyage back to Spain with news he had discovered a western route to the Orient. The next day—Christmas, 1492—his flagship, the Santa María, lodged in a reef. He ordered his men to dismantle the ship and build a fort with its timbers onshore. Three weeks later, Columbus finally set sail aboard the Niña, leaving behind a fortified village, christened Villa de la Navidad, and 39 sailors charged with exploring the coast and amassing gold.

A year later, Columbus returned with 17 ships and 1,200 men to enlarge the settlement. But he found La Navidad in ashes. There were no inhabitants and no gold.

Over the years, many scholars and adventurers have searched for La Navidad, the prize of Columbian archaeology. It is believed to have been in Haiti. The French historian and geographer Moreau de Saint-Méry sought La Navidad there in the 1780s and '90s; Samuel Eliot Morison, the distinguished American historian and Columbus biographer, in the 1930s; Dr. William Hodges, an American medical missionary and amateur archaeologist, from the 1960s until his death in 1995; and Kathleen Deagan, an archaeologist at the University of Florida at Gainesville, in the mid-1980s and again in 2003.

And then there's Clark Moore, a 65-year-old construction contractor from Washington State. Moore has spent the winter months of the past 27 years in Haiti and has located more than 980 former Indian sites. "Clark is the most important thing to have happened to Haitian archaeology in the last two decades," says Deagan. "He researches, publishes, goes places no one has ever been before. He's nothing short of miraculous."

Moore first visited Haiti in 1964 as a volunteer with a Baptist group building a school in Limbé, a valley town about ten miles from the northern coast. In 1976, he signed on to another Baptist mission in Haiti, to construct a small hydroelectric plant at a hospital complex in the same town. The hospital's director was Dr. Hodges, who had discovered the site of Puerto Real, the settlement founded circa 1504 by the first Spanish governor of the West Indies. Hodges also had conducted seminal archaeological work on the Taino, the Indians who greeted Columbus. Hodges taught Moore to read the ground for signs of pre-Columbian habitation and to identify Taino pottery.

The Taino, who flourished from a.d. 1200 to 1500, were about 500,000 strong when Columbus arrived. They were reputedly a gentle people whose culture, archaeologists believe, was becoming more advanced. "Taino" means "noble" or "good" in their Arawak language; they supposedly shouted the word to the approaching Spanish ships to distinguish themselves from the warring Carib tribes who also inhabited Hispaniola, the island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. Male and female Taino chiefs ornamented themselves in gold, which sparked the Spaniards' avarice. Within a few years of Columbus' arrival, the Taino had all but vanished, the vast majority wiped out by the arduousness of slavery and by exposure to European diseases. A few apparently escaped into the hills.

For two decades Moore has traveled Haiti by rural bus, or tap-tap, with a Haitian guide who has helped him gain access to remote sites. Diminutive Haitian farmers watched with fascination as Moore, a comparative giant at 6-foot-2, measured areas in his yard-long stride and poked the soil with a stick. Often he uncovered small clay icons—a face with a grimace and bulging eyes—known to local residents as yeux de la terre ("eyes of the earth"), believed to date to Taino times and to represent a deity. Moore bunked where he could, typically knocking on church doors. "The Catholics had the best beds," Moore says, "but the Baptists had the best food."

Full Article Here:

Additional Information:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

First English Christmas in the New World

The first Christmas Celebration in North Carolina of colonists was by the English Colony referred to as the Lost Colony. The colony settled on Roanoke Island, where the present town of Manteo stands. The colonists arrived in July of 1787. Food was scarce, conditions harsh and relief from England late. Governor John White sailed to England for supplies, but war with Spain put his efforts on hold. Virginia Dare was born on August 18, 1587, making her the first english child born in the new world. When John White returned August 18, 1590, the colony was gone. They found the word “CROATOAN” carved on a palisade. To this day, the fate of the colonists remains a mystery. Many have theorized that they were either murdered by indians or assimilated into their tribes.

There have been many legends and rumors over the years of blond, blue eyed indians in parts of North Carolina. A very successful play has been performed in Manteo for many years, “The Lost Colony.” Andy Griffith was a member of the cast early in his career.

For information about The Lost Colony and the play visit:

Learn more about North Carolina Click here

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Changing Portrait Of DNA

Since Watson and Crick discovered DNA's structure in 1953, scientists have realized the double helix is only one part of our genetic makeup. The latest portrait of our basing building blocks.

By Mary Carmichael NEWSWEEK
Dec 10, 2007 Issue

Four years ago, a Duke University biologist named Randy Jirtle began an elegant little experiment that would ultimately lead him to confront one of life's biggest mysteries. He started with two groups of mice that gave birth to sets of identical babies carrying the same genes. The babies were raised the same way from birth. They should have looked alike but instead, they barely looked related. In the first group, the babies were overweight, prone to diabetes and cancer and covered in fur the color of rancid butter. The mice in the second group were beautiful: lean, healthy, brown. Same nature, same nurture, radically different outcomes. What was going on in there?

The difference, it turned out, wasn't due to the mice's genetic code, nor was it due to the environment. It lay instead in a mechanism that was mediating between the two. A gene in the sickly yellow babies was making a disease-causing protein called Agouti, which also affects coat color. The brown babies had the same gene, but it wasn't making much of anything. It had mostly stopped working. The brown babies' mothers had eaten a special diet during pregnancy: one rich in folic acid, which floods the body with tiny four-atom configurations called methyl groups. These methyl groups had infiltrated the growing brown mouse embryos and latched onto the flawed gene, shutting it down. This was the solution to the mystery: Jirtle had vividly illustrated why, at the biochemical level, the genetic sequence alone doesn't always equal destiny. Four humble atoms had been enough to override a serious defect in the brown babies' genomes. And what was true of the mice turned out to be true of men: there is much more to our nature than the plans laid in the genetic code.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fernback Dig Yielding Valuable Clues: Spanish Native American Clash of Cultures

Archeologists to search for lost mission

By Elliott Minor, The Associated Press

ALBANY, Ga. — Amateur archeologists will get a chance to search this summer for the lost mission of Santa Isabel de Utinahica, built in the wilderness in the 1600s for a lone friar who was dispatched to evangelize among the Indians on the edge of Spain's colonial empire.
"This was on the frontier," said Dennis Blanton, curator of native American archaeology at Atlanta's Fernbank Museum of Natural History. "It was perched on the edge of the known world in this hemisphere. A barefoot Franciscan was dropped alone into alien territory and given his marching orders to convert these Indians and probably gather a certain amount of intelligence."

More here:

Fernbank digs into early Georgian history


The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 12/11/07

JACKSONVILLE, Ga. — Jacksonville, Ga. -- Was it a fight, all those centuries ago? Looking at the dirt, you can't help but wonder.
The clay fragments form an arc, as if someone swept a pot off the shelf and watched it shatter. A bead turns up in the same area as last month. This time, diggers also find a pitted sliver of iron -- a weapon, maybe?

It's not scientific to conjecture, but it's so human. Did someone smash the pot and yank the bead from his enemy's neck? Who wielded the iron?
And who torched the house?

The questions come more readily than the answers in the woods of Telfair County, where archaeologists working with the Fernbank Museum of Natural History are shoveling into the past. They are learning more about a pivotal moment in North American history, when two cultures came together under a canopy of longleaf pines not far from the Ocmulgee River.

More here:

Photos of the dig

Monday, December 10, 2007

Humans Evolving More Rapidly Than Ever, Say Scientists

By Brandon Keim
December 10, 2007

Look out, future, because here we come: scientists say the speed of human evolution increased rapidly during the last 40,000 years -- and it's only going to get faster.

The findings, published today by a team of U.S. anthropologists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, overturn the theory that modern life's relative ease has slowed or even stopped human adaptation. Selective pressures are still at work; they just happen to be different than those faced by our distant ancestors.

"We're more different from people 5,000 years ago than they were from Neanderthals," said study co-author and University of Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending.

In the study, researchers analzyed genomes from 270 people belonging to four disparate ethnic groups: Han Chinese, Africa's Yoruba tribe, Japanese and Utah Mormons. By comparing areas of difference and similarity, they determined that about seven percent of the genome has undergone significant change since the end of the last Ice Age.

If human beings had always evolved at such a rapid clip, said the researchers, genetic differences between people and chimpanzees would be 160 times greater than they are.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Family Tree DNA to Offer First Genealogy X-Chromosome Tests

chromosome-X (National Library of Medicine).

HOUSTON, Oct. 12 -- Family Tree DNA, whose growing array of DNA tests for genealogical purposes has established them as the world leader in genetic genealogy, will introduce ground-breaking new X chromosome tests (X-STR) in early October. The X-STR tests are the first ever available for genealogy applications by focusing on linked "haplotype blocks" which are inherited intact over several generations. This test will be processed locally at the company's recently established Genomic Research Center. Headed by Thomas Krahn, whose German-based DNA-Fingerprint company was recently merged into Family Tree DNA, the state of the art Genomic Research Center is located at Family Tree DNA's Houston, Texas headquarters.

Krahn, a graduate of the Technical University of Berlin, is an expert in developing new molecular biological methods to resolve questions in biological heritage. Since 2003, DNA-Fingerprint specialized in more complex ancestry testing. This will give Family Tree DNA the ability to increase its current 67-marker Y-DNA test, the highest resolution Y-DNA test offered by any company in the world today, to over 100 Y-DNA markers.

Additionally, the new lab has allowed Family Tree DNA to significantly lower the price of its Full Mitochondria Genomic Sequence (FGS), which it began to make available a year ago. The Full Mitochondria Genomic Sequence is the last mtDNA test that anyone will ever need to take because it encompasses the entire molecule (all 16,659 base pairs) and is clearly the emerging platform for all Anthropology testing. The new lab also affords the capability to offer testing for CODIS markers for those who want to compare test results against existing databases of these universally used markers, including biographical databases.

Full Article Here:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Centuries-Old Map Baffles Researchers

By Janet Crain

The 500 year old map going on display at the Library of Congress on Dec. 13th raises some extremely intriguing questions.

In fact, if the government hadn't paid $10,000,000 to purchase the map in 2003 and another considerable amount to restore and conserve the map, plus reportedly more for a chamber to house the map than was spent on those for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, I would be tempted to dismiss this map as a fraud. But surely these guys know what they are doing.

The map was discovered in the Waldburg-Wolfegg castle archives in 1901. It was created by the German monk Martin Waldseemuller. The Duke of Lorraine brought Waldseemuller and a group of scholars together at a monastery in Saint-Die in France to create a new map of the world in 1505. The effort took two years and is stunningly accurate.

Some eighty years later and for many years after that, the English searched for a Northwest Passage to the Orient. This belief that such a passage existed was not completely squelched until Lewis and Clark made the Voyage of Discovery and reported back to Jefferson in 1805.

When the early English explorations along the Eastern coast of North America were made by the colonists, some of whom were later known as the Lost Colony, it was thought that the mainland was only a very narrow strip of land with a body of water on the other side which would lead to India and provide riches through trade routes.

How many futile trips were made searching for this chimerical goal? The lives and fortunes lost were in vain. It seems a shame this knowledge was not universally shared.

You can read all about this amazing map here:

Monday, December 3, 2007

AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 | Coming Feb. 2008 to PBS

In February 2008 on PBS, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. will guide an all-new group to build on the African American Lives experience — poet Maya Angelou, actor Morgan Freeman, theologian Peter Gomes, publisher Linda Johnson Rice, athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, radio host Tom Joyner and rock 'n' roll legend Tina Turner — on a journey to discover their ancestry in AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2.

The new four-part series will draw on DNA analysis, genealogical research and family oral tradition to trace the lineages of the participants down through U.S. history and back to Africa.

PBS air date: Starting Wednesday, February 6th at 9/8C (check local listings).

Scroll Down to View Video

Saturday, December 1, 2007

National Geographic's "Explorer: China’s Secret Mummies" attempts to unravel a mystery that could rewrite history

There are probably only a handful of finds of this nature in every century. It really is extraordinary given the context of where they’re found and given what we thought we knew about the history of that region. The question is, how did they end up in this East Asian realm?” — Dr. Spencer Wells

More than a thousand years before any known contact between East and West, hundreds of mummies, many with blue eyes and light hair, were buried in a Chinese desert.

It’s a discovery that could substantially rewrite the history of contact between East and West and challenge the assumption that China developed largely in isolation.

On Sunday, December 2, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, the National Geographic Channel’s Explorer: China’s Secret Mummies goes on a unique forensic journey to determine who these people were and where they came from.

The Tarim Basin in western China is an arid, forbidding landscape long thought to be one of the natural barriers that enabled the East to develop separately from the West.

But a remarkable archaeological find by a Chinese expedition in 1978 — a series of mummies, many with Caucasian features — called into question theories about East/West migration.
The mummies remained in a regional museum, all but hidden for a decade, until Victor Mair, an expert on ancient Chinese texts, chanced upon them and realized their importance.

Examining their clothes and the artifacts buried near them provided some clues about their origin. It wasn’t until earlier this year that Spencer Wells, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and director of National Geographic’s Genographic Project, went on a mission to use advanced DNA-analyzing technology to decode the mummies’ genetic identities.

Full Article Here: