Seventeen thousand years ago my six hundred and eightieth great-grandmother lived in the Dordogne Valley in France just along the edge of the ice sheet that covered Europe back then. Her name is Helena.
Not long ago, I took one of those DNA tests, and the results told me that my mitochondrial haplogroup was “H”. I won’t even try to explain the science – mostly because I don’t fully understand it – except to say that 95% of all individuals of European descent can trace their mitochondrial DNA (that is, the DNA that runs from mother to mother to mother) back to only seven women living in Europe around the time of the last Ice Age. There are about 30 or so such maternal genetic lines throughout the entire world. All thirty-some groups descend from one mitochondrial mother who lived in Africa uncountable aeons ago: Both science and the bible call her “Eve”.
The seven European clan groups are detailed in geneticist Bryan Sykes’ book, The Seven Daughters of Eve. The name the author labels the H haplogroup’s “mother” is Helena.
Helena teases my imagination. Who was she? What was her life like? How many children did she have? The Caves of Lascaux, home of the famous prehistoric cave paintings, are in the same area. Was she there when some of the images were painted? Did she paint any of them? Did she practice a religion? How did she die?
Also astounding to me is the fact that there are only 30 genetic lines going back to the first mother. Most genetic lines have died out over the millennia. If there are only about 30 lines left, this means we are all more closely related to each other than we think. We should be nicer to each other, right? That’s what families should do.
Helena, you’ve given me a lot to think about.
ljgloyd (c) 2017