Bryan Sykes, an Oxford scientist, wrote a book called "The Seven Daughters of Eve" in which, using studies of mitochondrial DNA, he had claimed to be able to trace nearly all living Europeans back to a founding population of just seven women—the 'daughters of Eve' of the title—who lived during the Palaeolithic. To each of these women Sykes given a name—Ursula, Xenia, Jasmine and so on—and even a detailed personal history.

Is there consensus among historians and palaeontologists about these findings? If not, what are the (historians and palaeontologists)'s arguments to confute these findings?

  • Why would historians have an opinion on genetic studies? Pretty much by definition all the events in question took place prior to any meaningful definition of history. – MCW Jun 7 '13 at 13:05
  • 1
    @Mark, then what serve the paleotag? If it doesn't serve to anything could you please give a date at your choice when history is begun? – user2237 Jun 7 '13 at 13:28
  • 1
    @Carlo_R. - Your first question is excellent, and I'll have to think about the paleo tag. My answer to your second question history largely begins with the invention of narrative. I am dubious of historian's perspective on technical details of genetic studies. – MCW Jun 7 '13 at 14:50

No, this interpretation is misleading.

Let's say that you analyze the ancient level of inheritance where you had one hundred grand-grand-parents. Using mitochondrial DNA you can only research only one of these 100 grand-grand-parents, the single grand-grand-mother that is in the most maternal position in the tree. In other words only mother-of-mother-of-mother(-of).

This is because mitochondrial DNA is only inherited from a mother (Wikipedia). If mother has only sons, they do recombine her DNA further, except mitochondrial DNA. This mother has her line of mitochondrial DNA lost forever.

So even if a scientist determined that only seven distinct most-maternal-grandmothers exist it still says nothing about the giant number of the rest of grandmothers and nothing at all about grandfathers.

PS. It is impossible to determine if these seven women lived in the same generation (quite unlikely!).

PPS. And seven women aren't a "founding population" because they are not even a "population" per standard definition.

  • 1
    That the "seven daughters" belonged to a "founding population" and the implication that they lived in the same generation is a misinterpretation on the part of the asker. Sykes does not suggest that the women lived concurrently, in fact it's the opposite: he claims that some of the "daughters" may descend from other "daughters" (separated by a few thousand years), although not maternally. – yannis Jun 7 '13 at 3:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy