DNA, mtDNA, genealogy,mass spectroscopy and nuclear related matters. Byron Deveson.
Courtesy Byron Deveson.
Based on some experience of tracing the genealogical connection between people sharing similar or identical mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) I think Mitochondrial DNA testing of the hair samples from the plaster bust of SM stands a reasonable chance of identifying close relatives of SM.
It might take two or thee years because the present public databases of mtDNA connected to genealogical data is fairly limited at present. But the databases are growing quickly.
Hair contains very much more mitochondrial DNA than nuclear DNA and DA’s team has already extracted mtDNA from SM’s hair and shown that SM’s mitochondrial DNA belongs to the H haplogroup (as does mine H1ag1) and Derek recently told me (below) that his team are hoping to refine the haplogroup (sub-clade) data. If his team are successful in this, then it is just a matter of time before SM is identified.
The mtDNA relatives would have a strong case in my view for the exhumation and autosomal DNA testing of SM’s remains. I am aware that identical mtDNA can be shared by relatives who are separated by up to fifteen generations. But such distant connections have never stood in the way of Attorney General Rau, and many others, granting ownership of archaeological remains to present day clan groups. Autosomal DNA testing, as opposed to mitochondrial DNA testing, is the genealogical gold standard.
Mitochondrial DNA will be very useful in unraveling the identity of SM but it won’t be as easy as unraveling the autosomal DNA data. As an example my autosomal DNA links me to over 4,000 living people.
These genealogical connections can go out as far as seven or eight generations and the sheer number of these connections means that there is enormous redundancy, and hence the potential error checking and error correcting attached to the associated genealogical information. Every match (ie. 4,000 in my case) can be cross-checked against every other.
The following is attributed to Derek Abbott.
We have tried the hairs (re: DNA).
The problem is that to blind search the man’s DNA cousins on genealogical DNA databases we need his autosomal DNA. But that is difficult to extract in sufficient concentration. That’s one of the reason we need an exhumation as his teeth would be a much better source. His YDNA and or mtDNA would be easier to extract from the hair, but that doesn’t give us the information we need to triangulate close relatives on databases.
However, we did do a simple low-cost mtDNA test just to prove there is extractable DNA still there and we found the Somerton Man’s mother belongs to haplogroup H. Not that exciting because half of Europe is an H. But I was pleased with the result because it establishes that there is viable DNA there that has not been corrupted by the embalming fluid.
Back to Byron Deveson.
I have just seen updated mass spectroscopy (MS) data for Somerton Man’s hair. The results show many anomalies and throw up many more questions than they answer at present.
There are many leads to follow and I am sure that SM’s occupation and/or hobbies, and the localities where he spent the last two weeks of his life, will become clear when the MS data are fully evaluated. At present there is just too much to check and digest but there are two matters that seem to be straightforward enough to warrant immediate comment.
First, SM’s hair contains what could be regarded as normal levels of the nuclear associated elements uranium 238, thorium 232 and lithium 7. I know that U238 isn’t the primary isotope used in fission weapons but it would generally serve as a marker for exposure to un-enriched uranium such as uranium mining and ore processing, transport and enrichment.
The same applies for Thorium 232 and lithium 7. It does not preclude the possibility that SM was involved in other nuclear related matters because these do not involve ingestion/exposure to significant amounts of uranium etc. I will suggest to DA that uranium 235 MS data should be extracted and maybe the other lithium and thorium isotope data should be extracted as well.
Second, SM’s hair contains abnormally high concentrations of both silver and gold. In general SM’s hair contains elevated concentrations of many elements, particularly metals that are associated with ore deposits of base metals such as lead, zinc and copper, and this suggests that SM might have been an extractive metallurgist – a metallurgist involved in extracting metals from ores, or a chemist working at an ore processing facility.
Zinc is the third most used non-ferrous metal after aluminium and copper. About 50% of production is used for galvanising steel to protect it from rust. Zinc compounds and dusts are used in cosmetics, plastics, rubber, ointments, sun screen creams, soaps, paints, ink, fertilisers and batteries. Around 30% of zinc used in the western world comes from recycling.
This post copies a comment by Byron Deveson in its entirety.