Goan scientist traces his ancient roots

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Old 04-May-2011
Goan scientist traces his ancient roots

Panaji: Where did the ancestors of today's Goans come from? Which routes did they take to arrive at this tourist paradise? A new book authored by a Switzerland-based Goan scientist answers these intriguing questions while searching for the roots of people from the state.

Titled The Last Prabhu, the book is authored by 65-year-old Bernardo Elvino de Sousa who traces his roots to the village of Aldona in Goa along coastal western India.

De Sousa, who has worked as a scientist for three-and-a-half decades in the chemical industry, says today it is easy to carry out DNA tests for haplogroups, which indicate one's ancestral migration routes, starting as long back as 60,000 years ago.

In the study of molecular evolution, a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor with a single nucleotide polymorphism mutation.

Common ancestors going back eight or more centuries can also be identified.

De Sousa writes: "Today ... my origin can be traced back ... to an African, the common male ancestor of the world's population whose descendants started migrating from northeast Africa, in the region of the Rift Valley, perhaps in present-day Ethiopia, Kenya or Tanzania, some 60,000 years ago."

He also looks at the DNA tests of half-a-dozen other Goans, whose results are available, and what this could mean.


"The first inhabitants of western India were those of haplogroup C, the seafaring coastal people who undertook the first migration out of Africa. With its accessible coastline, Goa would certainly be an optimal candidate for them to settle," he was quoted as saying in a press note.

He says whether the Mhars, traditional basket weavers, or the Kharwis (fishing populations) better fit the description of seafarers and were, therefore, the first inhabitants of Goa could be resolved by determining the haplogroups of these communities.

He traces the entry of the influential Saraswat Brahmins into Goa, and narrates how DNA testing helped him locate a relative, Errol Pinto, from the same clan from Aldona village but who had migrated to the southern coastal city of Mangalore, in Karnataka, generations ago.

Other surprises emerge in this book. "Brahmins all over India belong to quite different haplogroups and share these haplogroups with other varnas [castes] and in a lesser frequency with tribal populations," writes de Sousa, who has studied at St Xavier's College in Mumbai and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

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