Book of Mormon/DNA evidence/Geography issues/Haplogroup X2a

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    The Book of Mormon, DNA and Haplogroup X2a

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Questions


I've heard some members claim that the Book of Mormon fits best in a geography located around the Great Lakes, and that this is supported by a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) group called Haplogroup X2a. What can you tell me about this?

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


Answer


While interesting, at present it does not seem that haplogroup X can serve as good evidence of the Book of Mormon's antiquity given the problems of dating and the failure of the model to come to grips with textual issues from the Book of Mormon. Doing so would require us to misrepresent the current state of scientific evidence. This claim also fails to interact responsibly with a fairly large body of literature which has led most LDS scholars to reject the Great Lakes region as a feasible match to the Book of Mormon's requirements.

This conclusion will, of course, need to be revised if further information comes to light.

An additional argument for a Great Lakes setting is made on textual grounds.

Detailed Analysis

An additional argument for a Great Lakes setting is made on textual grounds.

While FairMormon applauds the efforts of Latter-day Saints to defend the Book of Mormon against critics' attacks, at present we feel unable to endorse this idea as persuasive evidence for the Book of Mormon's antiquity.

FairMormon and outside experts have examined the views of some enthusiasts on this point. The proponents' goal is to support the Book of Mormon with DNA by tracking mtDNA haplogroup X among native Americans.

The theory postulates that haplogroup X comes from the Levant (i.e., Israel/Palestine), and then reaches Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Western New York with the Lehi colony. Proponents of this model argue, then, that this group actually sailed around Africa and up through the South Atlantic and into the Gulf of Mexico. They then have them landing in what is now Louisiana.

But when Nephi's group fled from Laman's faction, advocates of this model have both the Nephi and Laman factions migrating north to the area designated above. There is no textual evidence in the Book of Mormon to support this, or an Atlantic crossing for the Lehi colony.

As LDS geneticist Ugo Perego put the matter:

  • "Does [haplogroup x] provide evidence to support a pre-Columbian Israelite migration to Western hemisphere? – No."
  • "Some argue that X shows arrival of Lehi, etc. but this is too easy an explanation. The data seems to indicate it was from an ancient group 12,000 years ago, and Lehi's mtDNA has disappeared."[1]

Problems of dates

A major difficulty with this speculation is the problem of dating. Haplogroup X, which is centered in Europe and the Levant is thought to have reached North America much earlier than the Lehi party, and to have brought the distinctive Clovis culture to the Americas (which dates from before 12,000 years ago). This culture involves what is often called the Clovis Point tools—that is, pressure flaked tools (arrow heads and so forth), which are not found in Alaska and Asia. This has led some revisionists to advance what has been called the Solutrean Hypothesis—that is, that haplogroup X got to North America (and specifically to the northeast) by people migrating from Europe on tiny skin boats along the edge of ice flows. Even if true, what exactly any of this has to do with the Book of Mormon is not clear, since such immigration would precede Lehi by thousands of years according the current scientific understanding.

Thus, even if haplogroup X2a has its origins on the Middle East, if those origins are thousands of years before the Book of Mormon timeframe, it is difficult to use them as strong evidence for the Book of Mormon account. At best, this demonstrates that the Bering land bridge is not the only source of the pre-Columbian American Indians.

In addition, many of these proponents have not addressed the sophisticated literature already published on the Book of Mormon by believing scholars. For example, they have not come to grips with archaeologist John Clark's assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a Great Lakes model.

Haplogroup X before Lehi

A paleo-Indian burial site in Windover, Florida has been carbon-dated to between 6980–8120 ± 100 years ago. Human brain tissue was extracted from mummified remains, and mtDNA was sequenced. It found haplogroups A, B, C, and D—and some unidentified haplogroups. This was in 1994, and so haplogroup X had not been named and characterized. But, later reports indicate that haplogroup X was found in the sample—demonstrating that (barring modern contamination) Lehi's migration 2,600 years ago cannot be the sole original source of haplogroup X in the Americas, if it is such a source at all.[2] This means that haplogroup X cannot tell us anything about Lehi, since other sources for haplogroup X in the Americas exist.

New data casts multiple founding theory in question

A February 2008 genetics study on American population migration states:

...the differential pattern of distribution and frequency of haplogroup X led some to suggest that it may represent an independent migration to the Americas. Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Native American haplogroups, including haplogroup X, were part of a single founding population, thereby refuting multiple-migration models.
Our results strongly support the hypothesis that haplogroup X, together with the other four main mtDNA haplogroups, was part of the gene pool of a single Native American founding population; therefore they do not support models that propose haplogroup-independent migrations, such as the migration from Europe posed by the Solutrean hypothesis. (emphasis added)[3]

This remains an active area of research, but it would not be accurate to claim that current science provides a model of these matters which allows haplogroup X to support the Book of Mormon.

Best articles to read next

The best article(s) to read next on this topic is/are:

  1. FAIR's reviews of Rod Meldrum's DVD, DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography. FAIRWiki link
  2. Ugo A. Perego, "The Book of Mormon and the Origin of Native Americans from a Maternally Inherited DNA Standpoint," FARMS Review 22/1 (2010): 191–227. off-site wiki
  3. Gregory L. Smith, "Often in Error, Seldom in Doubt: Rod Meldrum and Book of Mormon DNA (A review of "Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA" by: Rod L. Meldrum)," FARMS Review 22/1 (2010): 17–161. off-site wiki
  4. Matthew Roper, "Joseph Smith, Revelation, and Book of Mormon Geography (A review of "Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon and the United States of America" by: Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum)," FARMS Review 22/2 (2010): 15–85. off-site wiki
  5. Matthew Roper, "Losing the Remnant: The New Exclusivist "Movement" and the Book of Mormon (A review of "Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon and the United States of America" by: Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum)," FARMS Review 22/2 (2010): 87–124. off-site wiki
  6. Brant Gradner, "This Idea: The "This Land" Series and the U.S.-Centric Reading of the Book of Mormon (A review of "This Land: Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation; This Land: Only One Cumorah!; and This Land: They Came from the East" by: Edwin G. Goble and Wayne N. May; Wayne N. May; and Wayne N. May)," FARMS Review 20/2 (2008): 141–162. off-site wiki
  7. John E. Clark, "Evaluating the Case for a Limited Great Lakes Setting," FARMS Review of Books 14/1 (2002): 9–78. off-site
  8. John Clark, "The Final Battle for Cumorah (Review of Christ in North America by Delbert W. Curtis)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 79–113. off-site
  9. John E. Clark, "Two Points of Book of Mormon Geography: A Review (Review of The Land of Lehi by Paul Hedengren)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 1–24. off-site
  10. Steven L. Olsen, "The Covenant of the Promised Land: Territorial Symbolism in the Book of Mormon," FARMS Review 22/2 (2010): 137–154. off-site wiki

Notes

  1. Ugo Perego, "Haplogroup X in Light of Recent Book of Mormon Claims," 2009 FAIR Conference, Sandy, Utah (6 August 2009); notes in author's possession; off-site (last accessed 2 December 2009). See a published article dealing with the same material: Ugo A. Perego, "The Book of Mormon and the Origin of Native Americans from a Maternally Inherited DNA Standpoint," FARMS Review 22/1 (2010): 191–227. off-site wiki
  2. WW Hauswirth et al., "Inter-and Intrapopulation Studies of Ancient Humans," Experientia 50 (1994): 585–591; Peter Forster et al., "Origin and Evolution of Native American mtDNA Variation: A Reappraisal," American Journal of Human Genetics 59/4 (October 1996): 939; Jason A. Eshleman et al., "Mitochondrial DNA Studies of Native Americans: Conceptions and Misconceptions of the Population Prehistory of the Americas," Evolutionary Anthropology 12 (2003): 13.
  3. Nelson J.R. Fagundes, Ricardo Kanitz, et al., "Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas," The American Journal of Human Genetics 82/3 (28 February 2008): 583-592.


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims

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