What are the goals of this project?
Our research forms a part of the wider, global human project to understand the family tree that connects us all, both on a large scale and in detail. In 2012, we found a branch on the human Y-chromosome phylogenetic tree, haplogroup A00, that's far older than any other branch previously known, having its origins at the dawn of the human species' emergence. The only peoples on earth it's known to exist among are a few African-Americans, and Cameroonians of certain ethnic groups.
This research will begin to give us a picture of its true distribution and history. By collecting samples from a diverse range of ethnic groups in Cameroon, starting with those where A00 is known to occur, we hope to map it, and by analyzing the patterns of relationship between different A00 lineages, and the complex histories of these peoples, with their widely varying social structures and ecological adaptations, we hope to understand much more about A00's place in human history.
Why is this research important?
As today's world gets smaller through instant worldwide communication, we are still divided by our lack of awareness of our common origins and shared human family history. We hope to contribute to revealing this and bringing people around the world more awareness of their African roots.
The human family tree is being revolutionized by the "big data" becoming available to us through next-generation DNA sequencing. We're gaining a tremendous amount of detail about the multitudes of small, recent branches...but we can also delve deeper into our earliest history as a species.
Data collected previously by historian Matthew Fomine Forka Leypey, of the Mbo ethnic group, show that A00 can be found among a number of different peoples of Cameroon -- a world biodiversity hotspot. New samples from Mbo, Bangwa, Bamileke, Banyang, and Baka, Gyele and Bedzan ethnicities, and more advanced testing than was previously possible, in combination with local, historical and ethnographic knowledge of these peoples, will help us gain a much clearer picture of who our A00 brothers really are, and glimpse some of their long journey.
How will the funds be used?
Our first fundraising campaign was a huge success, so we have what we need to launch our fieldwork, but we need to be ready to test the samples! And as it turns out, we also need funds to purchase the swab kits with which Matthew will collect the samples. He will be traveling to several villages in his own Nkongho-Mbo area; with the shared language and ethnic identity, he may be able to collect a large number of samples there, perhaps 200 or more. If the data we have from past sampling is a good indicator, we might find up to 10% who are A00. This also holds true of the neighboring Bangwa region, his second destination. He hopes to collect as many as 150 samples there. To test so many samples is not cheap, though we're seeking the most economical arrangements we can for testing.