Albert Perry carried a secret in his DNA: a Y chromosome so distinctive that it reveals new information about the origin of our species. It shows that the last common male ancestor down the paternal line of our species is over twice as old as we thought.
Perry, recently deceased, was an African-American who lived in South Carolina. A few years ago, one of his female relatives submitted a sample of his DNA to a company called Family Tree DNA for genealogical analysis.
Geneticists can use such samples to work out how we are related to one another. Hundreds of thousands of people have now had their DNA tested. The data from these tests had shown that all men gained their Y chromosome from a common male ancestor. This genetic “Adam” lived between 60,000 and 140,000 years ago.
All men except Perry, that is. When Family Tree DNA’s technicians tried to place Perry on the Y-chromosome family tree, they just couldn’t. His Y chromosome was like no other so far analysed.
“Humanity does not gradually progress from combat to combat until it arrives at universal reciprocity, where the rule of law finally replaces warfare; humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination.The nature of these rules allows violence to be inflicted on violence and the resurgence of new forces that are sufficiently strong to dominate those in power. Rules are empty in themselves, violent and unfinalized; they are impersonal and can be bent to any purpose. The successes of history belong to those who are capable of seizing these rules, to replace those who had used them, to disguise themselves so as to pervert them, invert their meaning, and redirect them against those who had initially imposed them; controlling this complex mechanism, they will make it function so as to overcome the rulers through their own rules.”
In Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, four brothers fight in the Second World War – and only one comes out alive. But there is a British family that can go not only one, but five better. And in the case of the Windsor brothers, all nine lived to tell the tale. What’s more, one of the siblings also fought in the First World War, along with two older brothers.