May 8, 2013 by

We’re all descended from Charlemagne … and related to each other.

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Charlemagne, or ‘Charles the Great’, was the ruler of what is now France in the early Middle Ages.  He had 18 children by 10 different wives and concubines. His children then went on to populate Europe, which is why everyone with European ancestry is descended from Charlemagne.  From the BBC:

“Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was king of the Franks and Christian emperor of the West. He did much to define the shape and character of medieval Europe and presided over the Carolingian Renaissance.

Charlemagne was born in the late 740s near Liège in modern day Belgium, the son of the Frankish king Pepin the Short. When Pepin died in 768, his kingdom was divided between his two sons and for three years Charlemagne ruled with his younger brother Carloman. When Carloman died suddenly in 771, Charlemagne became sole ruler.

Charlemagne spent the early part of his reign on several military campaigns to expand his kingdom. He invaded Saxony in 772 and eventually achieved its total conquest and conversion to Christianity. He also extended his dominance to the south, conquering the kingdom of the Lombards in northern Italy. In 778, he invaded northern Spain, then controlled by the Moors. Between 780 and 800, Charlemagne added Bohemia to his empire and subdued the Avars in the middle Danube basin to form a buffer state for the eastern border of his empire.

In 800 a rebellion against Pope Leo III began. Charlemagne went to his aid in Rome and defeated the rebellion. As a token of thanks, Leo crowned Charlemagne on Christmas Day that year, declaring him emperor of the Romans. Although this did not give Charlemagne any new powers, it legitimised his rule over his Italian territories and attempted to revive the imperial tradition of the western Roman emperor.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/charlemagne.shtml

genealogical relations in europeA new study has confirmed that not only are all people of European ancestry related to Charlemagne, but we are all related to each other, with only going back 1000 years.

“A genetic survey concludes that all Europeans living today are related to the same set of ancestors who lived 1,000 years ago. And you wouldn’t have to go back much further to find that everyone in the world is related to each other.

“We find it remarkable because it’s counterintuitive to us,” Graham Coop, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Davis, told NBC News. “But it’s not totally unexpected, based on genetic analysis.”

Family researchers have long known that if you go back far enough, everyone with a European connection ends up being related to Charlemagne. The concept was laid out scientifically more than a decade ago. Now Coop and University of Southern California geneticist Peter Ralph have come up with the evidence. Their findings were published on Tuesday in the open-access journal PLOS Biology.

“Anyone alive 1,000 years ago who left any descendants will be an ancestor of every European,” the researchers say in an FAQ file about their study. “While the world population is larger than the European population, the rate of growth of number of ancestors quickly dwarfs this difference, and so every human is likely related genealogically to every other human over only a slightly longer time period.”

…The cold, hard genetic evidence points to a warm and fuzzy fact. “It underlines the commonality of all of our histories,” Coop said. “You don’t have to go back many generations to find that we’re all related to each other.”

For the rest of the article see:  http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/07/18107175-all-europeans-are-related-if-you-go-back-just-1000-years-scientists-say?lite

4 Responses to We’re all descended from Charlemagne … and related to each other.

  1. Frida

    “And you wouldn’t have to go back much further to find that everyone in the world is related to each other.”

    Well, not really true.
    All non-africans descend from one group (100, to several hundred?) that left Africa about 70-80 000 years ago.

    And the most common recent ancestor of all humans was a woman who lived 150 000 years ago. So quite a lot more than 1000.

    • Sarah Post author

      I realize what you’re saying (I have a Ph.D. in anthropology) but the point is that while the human family tree appears to crossroads at that 150K point, some researchers are arguing that, in fact, you don’t have to go that far back. The above quote is referencing this bit of information:

      “Estimating time to MRCA of all humans based on the common genealogical usage of the term ‘ancestor’ is much harder and less accurate compared to estimates of patrilineal and matrilineal MRCAs. Researchers must trace ancestry along both female and male parental lines, and rely on historical and archaeological records.

      Depending on the survival of isolated lineages without admixture from modern migrations and taking into account long-isolated peoples, such as historical societies in central Africa, Australia and remote islands in the South Pacific, the human MRCA was generally assumed to have lived in the Upper Paleolithic period. With the advent of mathematical models and computer simulations, some researchers have argued that the MRCA of all humans lived remarkably recently, between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago. Rohde, Olson and Chang (2004), for example, constructed a mathematical model that considered the tendency of individuals to choose mates from the same group, as well as the relative geographical isolation of such groups.[1] The mathematical model with one particular set of parameters showed that the MRCA lived about the year 300 BC and yielded an identical ancestor point (IAP) of 3,000 BC.

      The same 2004 Rohde paper also presented results from a computer program based on Monte Carlo simulation designed to overcome some of the limits of the mathematical model. The program took into consideration realistic population substructure and migration patterns, allowing the researchers to simulate historical human demography. A conservative simulation yielded a mean MRCA date of 1,415 BC and a mean IA date of 5,353 BC. A less conservative simulation gave an MRCA date of AD 55 and an IA date of 2,158 BC.[1]

      An explanation of this recent MRCA date is that, while humanity’s MRCA was indeed a Paleolithic individual up to early modern times, the European explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries would have fathered enough offspring so that some “mainland” ancestry by today pervades remote habitats. The possibility remains that an isolated population with no recent “mainland” admixture persists somewhere, which would immediately push back the date of humanity’s MRCA by many millennia. While simulations help estimate probabilities, the question can be resolved only by genetically testing every living human individual.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Most_recent_common_ancestor

      The point of the article is to say that we aren’t actually all that diverse, even if skin color, eye color, etc. varies among the human population. There was a lot of movement among populations in ancient times–far more than we might give credit for. So if all Europeans are descended from Charlamagne, maybe the whole world is descended from a single soldier of Alexander the Great* :)

      *I’m making this up, but this is, essentially, what they’re saying.

  2. John Cowan

    Until the Age of Discovery, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) probably lived about 40,000 years ago when Native Australians and New Guineans split off from the rest of humanity. (This is not Mitochondrial Eve or Y-Chromosome Adam, who are our most recent common ancestor through females only and males only respectively.) But now there has evidently been enough mixing that the MRCA probably lived only about 3000 years ago, and it’s only another 2000 years back to the “identical common ancestors point”, the moment at which everyone alive is either the ancestor of everyone alive today or no one alive today.r

  3. Venkata Ponakala

    That is so cool! Amazing how much genetic and phenotype variability could spring up in the 5000 years of conscious human history.