Eddie Izzard: ‘Everything I do in life is trying to get my mother back’ | Culture | The Guardian
Comedian and actor Eddie Izzard embarks on a unique, epic and personal journey using his own DNA to trace the migration of his ancestors out of Africa and into Europe. Eddie Izzard: 'I'm % Neanderthal' More information about Evolutionary Genetics and DNA Ancestry can be found at. Jim Wilson just said Izzard's haplogroup was very rare in Britain and Posted: Fri Feb 22, am . JeanM wrote: Did anyone watch?. Meet the Izzards is a two-part documentary broadcast by the BBC in February Over the Christmas holiday I took the opportunity to watch the.
At each stage of the journey Eddie visited his genetic cousins around the world who shared these "significant" markers with him.
It can of course be argued that both the Y-DNA and mtDNA lines represent a tiny percentage of our ancestry and that this proportion decreases the further back in time you go. However, the advantage of using Y-DNA and mtDNA is the fact that in both cases the DNA is inherited virtually unchanged and we can therefore trace these lines back like a laser beam into the distant past.
Genetic genealogists realise the limitations of the tests but still form an emotional attachment with their Y-line or mtDNA line, in the same way that genealogists often develop a particular interest in a specific surname or a particular ancestor in their family tree, so I think such an approach is valid.
The first programme started with Eddie providing his DNA sample "for science" and focused on the results of his mitochondrial DNA test which tells the story of his matrilineal ancestors. Eddie's mother died when he was six years old, and so the opportunity to explore his female line was of particular interest to him. Eddie started his genetic journey in Africa, which is where mitochondrial Evethe most recent common ancestor of all living humans on the mtDNA line, is thought to have lived.
The first genetic cousins he met were the San Bushmen who live on the edge of the Kalahari desert in Namibia. These are one of the last remaining peoples to preserve the hunter gatherer lifestyle practised by our distant ancestors, and Eddie was given a taste of the hunting and gathering lifestyle.
Eddie was told by Dr Jim Wilson that the point at which his line connected with his African cousins occurred aroundyears ago. I have been unable to verify how such a precise date was calculated but it should be noted that there are considerable uncertainties over the date of mitochondrial Eve. Indeed, two studies published last year, albeit after the programme had aired, produced wildly differing estimates. Eddie's next significant marker was the N branch haplogroup of the mtDNA tree.
Haplogroup N is not found in Africa today but is prevalent in Arabia, and possibly points to the place where modern humans first left Africa 60, years ago. The programme did not make clear that these proposed journeys are highly speculative and have not been scientifically proven. Nevertheless Eddie was transported to the small country of Djibouti to see for himself the possible route that his ancestors might have taken, a spot which is the lowest place in Africa and where the sea is saltier than the Dead Sea.
From here it is just 35 kilometres across the sea to the Arabian country of Yemen where "it is thought that modern humans first stepped out of Africa".
How Hackers Changed the World and Meet the Izzards – TV review
Bizarrely Yemen is the country where Eddie was born, though political unrest prevented Eddie from seeing his birthplace. Eddie's journey jumped forward 42, years to look at the T2 branch of Eddie's mtDNA tree which is thought to have originated around 18, years ago, and is today most common in the Middle East and Turkey. We were told that Eddie's ancestors probably moved north up the Fertile Crescent to Turkey and were there for the birth of agriculture about 10, years ago, which provided a good excuse for Eddie to travel to the Black Sea coast in Turkey to learn how agriculture and the domestication of animals transformed our lives.
The programme then took a very confusing turn. Rather than focusing on the mitochondrial line we had a digression into autosomal DNA to learn about the development of a genetic change which occurred in most Europeans which allows them to digest milk.
There was also a brief discussion of how Eddie Izzard came to have blue eyes, another trait which is inherited autosomally. We were told that the most up-to-date research from a team of researchers at the University of Copenhagen had found that everyone with blue eyes can be traced back to one person who lived on the Black Sea coast 10, years ago.
This appears to be a reference to the study by Eiberg et al which discovered a set of SNPs in " blue-eyed individuals from Denmark, and in 5 and 2 blue-eyed individuals from Turkey and Jordan" that were suggestive of a common founder mutation.
It is therefore somewhat premature to draw conclusions at this stage on the geographical origin of a specific trait. The next stage of the journey took Eddie to Istanbul on the pretext that his ancestors would most likely have travelled to Europe across the Bosphorous Straits, the narrow stretch of water which separates Asia and Europe. It transpired that Eddie's parents spent their honeymoon in Istanbul, and he was given the opportunity to stay in the very same room that they shared.
He was then whisked off to Pompeii where he was introduced to the skeletons of some of his "genetic cousins" who died in 79 AD after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Geneticists were able to extract DNA from the teeth of the skeletons.
Although not explained very clearly in the programme the reason for the diversion to Pompeii is that some of the skeletons were thought to belong to haplogroup T2b, a sister branch of Eddie Izzard's own mtDNA haplogroup. The letters T2f2a1 flashed up on the screen and although the word haplogroup was not mentioned these letters referred to Eddie Izzard's haplogroup assignment. A test covering such a small number of markers is not going to be sufficient to provide such a detailed haplogroup assignment so we must presume that the mtDNA testing was not done by BritainsDNA.
Eddie Izzard was told that T2f21a confusingly described as a "marker" dates back about years, or fewer than 70 generations ago. Jim Wilson then went on to inform Eddie that his "mother's mother's mother's people were Vikings". Eddie was promptly despatched to a Viking port in Denmark to meet a Danish brother and sister who share his marker or more specifically his T2f21a haplogroup.
A somewhat absurd conversation followed whereby Eddie and the two Danes tried to find some traits and interests in common. As Eddie and the Dane are only very distantly related through their mitochondrial DNA any traits they share in common will be purely by chance rather than through a shared genetic inheritance.
Cruwys news: BritainsDNA, the BBC and Eddie Izzard
Continuing with the Viking theme Eddie was put into a replica Viking longboat to recreate the journey his supposed Viking ancestors would have made to Britain. Haplogroups do tend to cluster in specific geographical locations but the mtDNA of living people is not necessarily representative of the DNA of past populations, and it is simply not possible to determine that a specific ancestor from years ago was a Viking, a Norman, a Celt or any other such tribe. Jim Wilson also conveniently overlooked the fact that there was no such group known as the Vikings years ago!
Only four matches were found. We were informed that they shared a maternal line ancestor within the last to years. However, Eddie was told that he has a "unique motherline marker" so I presume that his sequence was not an exact match with that of the sisters. With one mismatch the common ancestor could have lived well over years ago. Nevertheless, Eddie proceeded to share a cup of tea with the sisters while they discussed their shared "Viking" heritage.
The sisters had considered themselves to be Anglo-Saxons and were therefore somewhat surprised to be told that they were "Vikings"! It is a pity that they were not informed that if you go back just a few thousand years we all have so many ancestors that we will invariably have multiple ancestors who were Vikings, Anglo-Saxons or indeed any other group that takes our fancy.
Meet the Izzards Part 2: The Dad's Line The second programme began with Eddie visiting his father in Bexhill-on-Sea and reviewing his father's genealogical research. The Izzard line has been traced back to the 17th century to a William Izard who married Mary Dalloway in Darlington in Eddie's father was hoping that the DNA testing would help to take the family tree further back in time.
The focus would be on the "significant markers" in Eddie's Y-chromosome which would determine the key points in Eddie's "journey" through his fatherline. SNP is an abbreviation for single-nucleotide polymorphism, and it is the SNPs which define the branches of the human Y-chromosome tree. The Y-SNP tree is now a very large and complicated structure, which is in a constant state of flux. Their size is believed to be an adaptation to the dense vegetation and low ultraviolet light in the forest. The Bakola were chosen to represent haplogroup A which, at the time the programme was made, was the most ancient branch on the human Y-DNA tree.
We were told that Y-chromosome Adamthe most recent common ancestor of all living men, dates back aroundyears ago. This date is derived from a paper published by Cruciani et al in Jim Wilson, the programme's consultant, might not have known about the imminent publication of this paper.
However, if the BBC had done what they should have done and sought a range of opinions from leading population geneticists, they might well have learnt in advance of this important change in the Y-tree as the findings would no doubt have been discussed at scientific meetings. Michael Hammer, one of the co-authors of the paper.
However, regardless of the date of Y-chromosome Adam it really would have made no difference whether Eddie had visited the Bakola or the Mbo people because the present-day location of a haplogroup is unlikely to coincide with its point of origin several hundred thousand years ago.
As Mendez et al remind us, the finding of haplogroup A00 "underscores how the stochastic [random] nature of the genealogical process can affect inference from a single locus and warrants caution during the interpretation of the geographic location of divergent branches of the Y chromosome phylogenetic tree for the elucidation of human origins". This event was thought to have occurred over 60, years ago, and provided an excuse to send Eddie Izzard off to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where he had a meeting in an exclusive hotel with archaeologist Jeff Rose who discussed with him the latest archaeological findings from Arabia.
A big population explosion is thought to have occurred around 50, years ago at which point humans began to spread out from Arabia.
TV preview: Meet the Izzards | Complicit | Funny Business
Eddie was taken to meet a year-old man in Dubai who has been responsible for his own mini-population explosion having fathered 93 children to date by four wives. His youngest child was just nine months old, but he has two more children on the way and plans to go on until he has children, despite having recently lost a leg in a car accident.
This clip can be seen on YouTube. Given that the programme was supposed to investigate Eddie Izzard's male line it was somewhat confusing to digress into a discussion of Neanderthal DNA. This aspect of the programme has also caused some confusion with people who have purchased the BritainsDNA test because they were misled by the company's advertised link with the programme and were expecting to be given Neanderthal percentages.
They are, as they like to say, legion. We Are Legion BBC4 was a loose affiliation of people who swear a lot, like a bit of fun, don't mind confrontation and take pains to make sure their collective heart is in the right place. It's even harder to summarise the history of hacktivism — that branch of computer hacking concerned with political activism and freedom of expression — in an hour, especially for a TV audience.
One runs the risk of patronising those who know anything at all about the topic, while still leaving the uninitiated bewildered. Overall, this was a cleverly laid out primer which relied on interviews with past and present members of the group. Hacktivism began at MITaccording to one commentator's account, where a tradition of nerdy pranks collided with the wild frontier of computing.
The term itself sprang from a 90s collective called the Cult of the Dead Cow, which specialised in the sort of encryption technology that allowed hackers to bypass the controls put in place by repressive regimes. Almost every enduring internet meme — hilarious, juvenile, revolting — began life here. This online community, knit together by in-jokes and arcane etiquette — "like the masons with a sense of humour" — grew into its collective identity through the simple notion of treating 4chan's "anonymous" almost everyone posted anonymously as one person, and acting accordingly to cause disruption.
Their trolling was not initially terribly high-minded. They all joined the children's site HabboHotel and dressed their little avatars identically so they could mass them into swastikas on the deck of the virtual pool. Their first good deed involved harassing a neo-Nazi called Hal Turner he picked on a 4Chan member. They also targeted the Church of Scientology, in some ways a cultural inversion of the loosely affiliated, open-sourced hacking community.