My Mitochondrial Past

by Anna

Ok, so I spit into this small tube, put it into the post and a month later I learn that I descend from the pioneers that populated Europe after the last ice age a few thousand years ago. 20 000 years to be precise, or as precise as today’s genetics can be. Of course, we are talking about DNA here.

I was curious. Watching Eddie Izzard ( discover his ancient genetic relatives left me wanting to know more about my own. Actually, I was even more interested to compare the findings with my theory of soul connections.

Katharina Zinsenheim 1833

My great great great grandmother Katharina Zinsenheim, born 1833 in Germany.

Considering that I have names of my maternal line for a good seven generations up to about 1800 AD and given that my surname, from my mother’s father, is one of the most common names in Germany, I don’t know much beyond that.

And what did my spit reveal?

2013-02-27 11.40.07

It revealed the journey of ancient humanity, homo sapiens, the first humans leaving Africa 60 000 years ago to discover the plains of the globe, vast untouched wilderness, only populated by wild animals.

As a woman I can only be tested for my mother line with the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is contained in our cells, male and female, but can only be given on to an offspring with the fertilized female egg. Men can be tested for the mtDNA as well as the Y chromosome (YDNA), but I would have to somehow convince my non-existent father to donate some spit in order for me to learn more about my father line, which is presently impossible.

My mitochondrial DNA markers indicate that I belong to the haplogroup H ( with the subtype of H5a. To not confuse you too much, a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes, sharing common ancestors with the same mutation, which are assigned letters to group similar ones together and set them apart from those with different mutations.

It is estimated that my haplogroup H arose about 40 000 years ago in the vast land between Western Iran, Kazakhstan and Mongolia and then went on to move towards Europe. Today it is the most common group in Europe with the biggest percentage of 47% alone in Germany, which, who would have thought, is my country of origin, closely followed by the Balkans with 36% and Slovakia with 34%.

France contributes with 29%, which is the place Bryan Sykes ( pinpointed as “Helena’s” place of birth a good 20 000 years ago, the mother of all those grouped together in haplogroup H. In case you’re wondering how he knows the name of this ambitious “clan leader”, he simply made up names beginning with the letter assigned to the different haplogroups.

Talking about soul connections, a strange coincidence was that I had booked myself a trip to France head over heels to visit a Buddhist retreat for a week, unknowingly exactly where I later learned Helena was said to have originated, in the Dordogne region, with the cave of Lascaux (ice-age refuge with magnificent paintings) only an hours drive away.

Rolling hills in Dordogne, France

Unfortunately, other than a present day photo of a heavily farmed Southern France, there is obviously no other photographic evidence of Helena’s existence, just traces of DNA extracted from bones excavated over the years, traced back to one person, the mother of the mother of a mother, an unbroken chain for 20 000 years. In “The Seven Daughters of Eve”, Bryan Sykes gives us a glimpse into what life must have been like for Helena and the other “clan mothers” based on meteorological data and archaeological finds.

What I find interesting is that some research ( suggests that the reason why haplogroup H is so dominant and widespread is that the genetic predisposition offers a naturally high protection from infection. I can personally attest that I hardly ever get ill, other than a little cold every now and again. On the other hand, there is also a risk factor for late onset Alzheimer’s Disease. At least it’s not early onset 🙂

My subtype H5a is said to have arisen in Europe about 5500 years ago and is most common in Iberia, the Balkans and Scandinavia. The report I received from the test lab wasn’t very extensive. However, I did find a website ( which assigns markers to excavations, where I for example discovered that I share the same genetic marker for blue eyes as does the famous Copernicus (

If anyone out there has done a DNA test and would like to compare, my marker definitions for subtype H5a are: 10398A,  12705C,  2706A,  7028C,  456T,  4336C.

I tested with Britains DNA, mainly because they had a program on national TV so I found I could trust they would give me a good result. Please do your own research before ordering any tests to find a test lab that suits your circumstances.

So far, so goo. Now that I have given you the facts, let me ponder on the influence of our higher self or soul on our genetic blueprint.

Until the next.