by Tyler Livingston on April 29th, 2010
Although this point has been hit on quite a bit, I’d like to add a few points to the discussion of the X haplogroup as evidence for The Book of Mormon. I am not a geneticist, but Ugo Perego, a leading geneticist who has published on the X haplogroup, assisted with the article, and had the final say of it’s content. I’d also like to add that this is not meant to attack anyone, but to just present the facts. Contrary to nearly all the haplogroups in the mtDNA tree, haplogroup X is not geographic specific being found at low frequencies in several places around the world. 1 It is now a commonly accepted theory that the ancient origin of this lineage is the Middle East. 2 In a recent study, the Native American specific branch of haplogroup X (called X2a) was estimated to arrive to North America approximately 14-17,000 B.C. 3 Because X2a entered into the Americas long before Lehi and his party did, it cannot be used as an evidence for any of The Book of Mormon peoples. However, if it is possible that there was an ancient migration originating from the Middle East, would it also be just as possible for a migration to have come from Israel and enter the Americas around 600 BC.?
How haplogroup (X2) arrived in North America, is still a matter of debate that currently cannot be absolutely determined. As stated before, the ancient X root seems to have originated in the Middle East, but by the time it arrived in the Western Hemisphere, it had accumulated enough mutations to differentiate substantially from the other X lineages. As of today, two X2 lineages are found exclusively in North America and nowhere else (X2a and the recently discovered X2g). 4 One recent study placed X2 as being a founding lineage along with the pan American A2, B2, C1, and D1 haplogroups, thousands of years before the Nephites and Jaredites existed:
“Native American populations exhibit almost exclusively five mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups (A-D and X). Haplogroups A-D are also frequent in Asia, suggesting a northeastern Asian origin of these lineages. However, the differential pattern of distribution and frequency of haplogroup X led some to suggest that it may represent an independent migration to the Americas. Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Native American haplogroups, including haplogroup X, were part of a single founding population, thereby refuting multiple-migration models. Our results strongly support the hypothesis that haplogroup X, together with the other four main mtDNA haplogroups, was part of the gene pool of a single Native American founding population; therefore they do not support models that propose haplogroup-independent migrations, such as the migration from Europe posed by the Solutrean hypothesis.” 5
Therefore, haplogroup X2 in America is also believed to have come from Asia across Beringia with the other haplogroups. Ugo Perego, a scientist specialized in Native American mtDNA studies, explains why X2 is found only in the Great Lakes area. He writes “haplogroup X2a might have arrived from Beringia through a path that was different from that followed by the pan-American haplogroups. According to environmental and paleoecological data, such a path existed and was represented by the ice-free corridor between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets, which opened approximately 15 kya or possibly was never completely closed. Through such a corridor, where some glacial-refuge areas have been recently identified, X2a could have moved from Beringia directly into the North American regions located east of the Rocky Mountains. This latter scenario would imply that the X2a expansion in America occurred in the Great Plains region, where the terminal part of the glacial corridor ended, and is in complete agreement with both the extent of diversity and distribution of X2a observed in modern Native American populations.” 6
Since X2a is not found anywhere else in the world, it makes it difficult to trace. A close Asian counterpart to X2a–called X2e–found among the Altai people of Siberia, is thought by some to be the link demonstrating a passage through Asia of the ancestors of Paleo-Indians that eventually brought X2a to the Americas. However, this Asian branch of the X tree is actually a younger “sister” to the American clade, with less genetic variation than the lineages found in North America. In other words, the Asian X2e cannot be considered ancestral to X2a as it has a younger age than the latter. Additionally, X2e is also found among the Druze of the Middle East, thus implying its presence among the Altai as the result of a more recent migratory event. 7
Although it is obvious that the Asian X2e is not ancestral to Native American X2a haplogroup, there is no reason to assume that the ancestor of X2a came also from Asia, through Beringia and then into North America. This could be possible, as geneticist Ugo Perego points out, if “the Asian ancestor of X2a disappeared due to genetic drift (it basically went extinct for not known reasons simply because all the female lineages belonging to the ancestral haplogroup died out – a phenomenon to keep into consideration when studying ancient populations using DNA samples from individuals living today). Genetic drift (a naturally occurring event) and bottleneck (caused mainly by the non-random extermination of millions of Native Americans after the arrival of the Europeans) took over the millennia since the first expansion of the Paleo-Indians to the Americas and greatly shaped the genetic landscape of today’s Native American populations.” 8
He also theorizes that the reason why X2a harbors a unique mutational motif that distinguish it from the other non-American X2 branches is the long period of forced isolation experienced by the ancestors of Paleo-Indians belonging to this haplogroup (as well as to the other Native American lineages) during the time they were “trapped” in Beringia as a consequence of the last Ice Age (20-37,000 years ago). The truly continental in size landmass of Beringia offered a natural refuge for thousands of years. As the water was trapped in ice during that period, the level of the sea was much lower, exposing a natural land bridge connecting Siberia to Alaska. Strong winds and other factors kept ice from forming on the ground, thus providing an ecosystem that would have allowed the survival of small groups of anatomically modern humans. This area was most likely all steppe and tundra and resources were scarce. As such, population growth was not experienced during this time. MtDNA lineages continued to experience accumulation of mutations, which are now observed in the haplogroups that survived and later colonized America’s double-continent. When climate conditions improved, the ice began to melt opening the way into the Americas, for Paleo-Indians belonging to X2a as well as to the other pan-American haplogroups to expand into the inhabited New World. 9
Some North American theorists attempt to show the X haplogroup introduction into the Americas at a more recent time, in an attempt to make it look like it could be from Lehi. While the dating of mtDNA is controversial at best, the dates that are produced by this dating system are generally within an accepted time range. In order for the theory of “Lehi’s X haplogroup” to work, these clocks would have to be off by tens of thousands of years, something that would not be feasible when the evidence is weighed. Ugo Perego wrote “We know few things about [the mutation rate of mtDNA], we assume few things about it- and, as a scientific community, we hope to continue to develop studies that will provide an ever more accurate calculation. However, I seriously doubt that it will move from thousands to hundreds of years ago.” 10
We also have evidence of a late(r) arrival of homo sapiens to the Americas in other dating systems, namely archaeological and geological, which place the populating of the Americas by the founding groups (the X haplogroup being one of them) in the same time period as the mtDNA clocks. Many archaeological sites have been found in the Americas which carbon date to around 12,000 years BP, a date that is not disputed among scholars. Several sites have later dates, but are controversial in one way or another and I do not feel it necessary to enter the debate of arguing for pre-clovis cultures, or whether there was one wave, or three waves of migration into the Americas.
The Clovis culture, a founding population in the Americas, “is considered to be the oldest unequivocal evidence of humans in the Americas, dating between 11,500 and 10,900 radiocarbon years before the present (14C yr B.P.). Adjusted 14C dates and a reevaluation of the existing Clovis date record revise the Clovis time range to 11,050 to 10,800 14C yr B.P.” 11 The melting of the glaciers and the improvement of climate conditions around the same time period allowed for expansion from Beringia.
It has also been claimed that certain cultures in the Great Lakes area, namely the Hopewellian culture, date back to the same time period as The Book of Mormon and therefore, seems to strengthen their case of the geography of The Book of Mormon taking place in North America. In answer to this, one LDS scholar noted “The same principles that scientists use to date the phylogenetic change are used in other processes. Rates of change are indicated and assumed to create a “clock.” That is how archaeological sites are dated, not through phylogenetic changes, but through atomic changes. Same science, different clock.
If you don’t accept any time frame deeper than 7,000 years, then you must also reject the C-14 clock and assume that all dates that it gives are much earlier. If that is really your position, how do you accept the dates for the Hopewell? According to the logic of the way you use science, we shouldn’t trust them and therefore they must be much younger than Nephite society.
How does the C-14 clock get it right only when you want it to, but get it wrong at all other times? Why can you believe that there were people along the Mississippi from AD 200-400 if you believe that all scientific clocks are too fast? They should be much younger than that.” 12
If you accept one form of dating system, you must not reject another when the same principles are used in both. Archaeology and Genetic clocks compliment each other and fit within similar time periods.
1. A 2007 paper reported finding haplogroup X in Mexico: “Characterization of mtDNA Haplogroups in 14 Mexican Indigenous Populations, Rosenda I. Peñaloza-Espinosa et al., Human Biology, June 2007, v. 79, no. 3, pp. 313–320. However, when the samples were retested by a second laboratory, it turned out that they harbored the mutations for haplogroup A2 (a common lineage in Mexico) and therefore they were not X2 as originally reported.
2. Reidla et al. Origin and Diffusion of mtDNA Haplogroup X, American Journal of Human Genetics 73:1178–1190, 2003; Liran I. Shlush et al., The Druze: A Population Genetic Refugium of the Near East, PLoS ONE 3(5): e2105. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002105
3. Ugo Perego et. Al. Distinctive Paleo-Indian Migration Routes from Beringia Marked by Two Rare mtDNA Haplogroups, Current Biology 19, 1–8, January 13, 2009
4. Ugo Perego et. Al. Distinctive Paleo-Indian Migration Routes from Beringia Marked by Two Rare mtDNA Haplogroups, Current Biology 19, 1–8, January 13, 2009
5. Nelson J.R. Fagundes, Ricardo Kanitz, et al., “Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas,” The American Journal of Human Genetics 82/3 (28 February 2008): 583-592
6. Ugo Perego et. Al. Distinctive Paleo-Indian Migration Routes from Beringia Marked by Two Rare mtDNA Haplogroups, Current Biology 19, 1–8, January 13, 2009, pgs. 4-5
7. Liran I. Shlush et. Al., The Druze: A Population Genetic Refugium of the Near East, PLoS ONE 3(5): e2105. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002105
8. Personal correspondence with Ugo Perego 3-30-09
9. Ibid, this theory is also supported in a 2007 study “These archaeological dates suggest two likely scenarios. First, the ancestors of Native Americans peopled Beringia before the Last Glacial Maximum, but remained locally isolated (likely due to ecological barriers) until entering the Americas at 15,000 ybp (Beringian incubation model, BIM). Second, the ancestors of Native Americans did not reach Beringia until just before 15,000 ybp, and then moved continuously on into the Americas, being recently derived from a larger parent Asian population (direct colonization model, DCM… The finding that humans were present at the Yana Rhinoceros Horn Site dated to 30,000 ybp suggests that the isolation in Beringia might have lasted up to 15,000 years. Following this isolation, the initial founders of the Americas began rapidly populating the New World from North to South America.” ´ Erika Tamm et. Al. Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders, PLoS ONE 2(9): e829 2007) This would give the X plenty of time for mutation.
10. Personal correspondence with Ugo Perego 3-30-09
11. Michael R. Waters et. Al. Redefining the Age of Clovis: Implications for the Peopling of the Americas, Science 23 February 2007:Vol. 315. no. 5815, pp. 1122 – 1126, http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/315/5815/1122 hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&FIRSTINDEX=0&maxtoshow=&minscore=5000&HITS=10&searchid=1&resourcetype=HWCIT
12. Brant Gardner, September 6, 2008, in a blog post at: http://bookofmormonevidenceblog.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/initial-response-to-fairs-reviews-of-this-research/#comments
Thank you to Ugo Perego in his great assistance with this article.
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