groups and the history of peoples |
from the Complete Blood Type Encyclopedia by Peter D'Adamo, published by
Penguin Putnam Inc, Copyright 2002
There is a vast span
of human existence of which little is known. Archeological ruins from the
beginnings of civilization have been unearthed, and there have been occasional
discoveries of a more prehistoric nature, but not much else. The impermanency of
our physical existence is responsible for this void; our flesh and body fluids
rapidly decompose after death. Unless preserved by extraordinary means, even
skeletal remains eventually crumble and disappear. Early peoples did not
practice ceremonial burial. Left to the elements, bodies soon completely
decomposed: "Dust to dust" was not a mere poetic metaphor. It was a
recorded observation of our transient natures.
Only in the last century have
scientists and anthropologists begun using biological markers such as the blood
groups in the search for humanity’s imprint on our distant past. These studies
have allowed a greater understanding of the movements and groupings of early
peoples as they adapted to changing climates, mutating germs, and uncertain food
supplies. Recent analyses, using sophisticated genetic measures, have produced
the most accurate picture to date of human evolution.
The variations, strengths and
weaknesses of each blood group can be seen as part of humanity’s continual
process of acclimating to different environmental challenges. Most of these
challenges have involved the digestive and immune systems. It is no surprise,
then, that many of the distinctions
between the blood groups involve basic functions of our
digestive and immune systems.
Evolution is usually considered
in the context of millions of years, which is the time frame needed to explain
the many differences between animals or other species. Yet humanity’s own life
span provides ample time for the myriad number of small day-to-day refinements,
representing the constant struggle between inherited traits and environmental
although evidence points to the fact that the individual genetic mutations that
produced the ABO genes are quite ancient (1) this is trivial importance with
regard to the actual demographics of the individual ABO blood groups in ancient
populations. In genetics it is not the actual age of the gene that matters, it
is its frequency or drift. This is computed by geneticists using a formula
called the Hardy-Weinberg equation. Hardy-Weinberg
posits that if the only evolutionary force acting on the population is random
mating, the gene frequencies remain unchanged constant. In essence if you start
off with a small number of a
particular gene in a larger gene pool (such as the gene for blood group B in the
gene pool for ABO blood type) and nothing other than random mating occurred, at
the end of a period of time, you would still have a small number of B genes in
the ABO gene pool.
So something other than random mating
is responsible for the present day differences in frequency between the ABO
blood groups; why for example, are there such large populations of blood group O
(40-45%) and A (35-40%) versus much lower rates of groups B (4-11%) and
First, it can be said that
perhaps the mutation that produced the B gene was just not as common an
occurrence as the mutation that produced the A gene. Yet, if they occurred at
the same time, why would this be? Also, if the mutations are of such paramount
importance, why is the distribution of the B gene so geographically limited to
an area of high concentration stretching as a belt of territory from the
Himalayas to the Urals?
The answer lies not in the ancient nature of the
mutations that produced the A and B genes, but rather in the discreet
interactions that occurred between early man and his environment that were under
the influence of his ABO blood group. These included the areas and climates he
chose to inhabit, each with their unique populations of microbes and foods that
he chose to catch or cultivate.
humans migrated and were forced to adapt their diets to local conditions, the
new diets provoked changes in their digestive tracts and immune systems,
necessary for them to first survive and later thrive in their new habitats.
Different foods metabolized in a unique manner by each ABO blood group probably
resulted in that blood group achieving a certain level of susceptibility (good
or bad) to the endemic bacteria, viruses and parasites of the area.
This probably more than any other factor was what has influenced the
modern day distribution of our blood group. It is fascinating to note that
virtually all the major infectious diseases that ran so rampant throughout our
pre-antibiotic history have ABO blood group preferences of one group or
This results from the fact that many
microbes possess ABO "blood types" of their own. It is perhaps useful
to understand that the ABO blood group antigens are not unique to humans,
although humans are the only species with all four variants. They are relatively
simple sugars which arte abundantly found in nature. A bacteria which for
example possessed an antigen on its surface that mimicked the blood group A
antigen would have a much easier time infecting a person who was group A, since
that bacteria would more likely be considered "self" to the immune
system of a blood group A person. Also microbes
may adhere to the tissues of one ABO group in preference to another, by
possessing specialized adhesion molecules for that particular blood group.(3)
horrors of the Black Plague, which ran unchecked throughout Europe in the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, is a perfect example. The Plague was a
disease caused by bacterial infection and was almost certainly fatal to those
who contracted it in the early years of its initial spread. By the fifteenth
century, however, fatalities were rare, although many people continued to
contract the infection. In just two generations, traits were developed in the
survivors that protected them from fatal infections. Since these traits were
necessary to survival, they were then passed on and retained as a form of
The Black Plague is especially
interesting from a perspective of the ABO blood groups, since Yersinia is a
bacteria with a preference for individuals of specific ABO group, in this case,
group O. (4,5)
effects of ABO blood group on survival against most forms of epidemic illness is
so distinct that a modern day map of the ABO
blood group distribution in Europe closely parallels the locations of
major epidemics, with higher densities of blood group A and lower frequencies of
blood group O in areas historically known to have had long histories of repeated
On the other hand, in
pre-urbanization days the survival advantage would have laid with blood group O
as they are known to be more resistant to the flukes and worms that routinely
parasitized these early humans, probably because they are the only blood group
with antibodies against two other antigens, A and B.
changes are reflected in the local success or failure of each
of the blood groups, which appear to have each had a moment of
pre-eminence at a critical juncture in our history. The ascent of humans to the
top of the food chain (the early advantage of
blood group O), the change from hunter-gathering to a
highly concentrated, urban environment and agriculturally-based diet (the
ascent of blood group A), and the
mingling and migration of the races from the African homeland to Europe and
Asia ( the opportunity for blood groups B and AB).
From a purely scientific point of
view, chemical analysis of the group O antigen
reveals that from a structural perspective, it is the simplest blood
group and it serves as the backbone for the synthesis of increasingly
complex A, B and AB. These later blood groups evolved by adding other
sugars onto the basic O sugar, much like a modern city might be built upon the
foundations of an ancient one. Thus
if the mutations that produced the A and B antigens are ancient, the gene for
blood group O is infinitely older.
Another dimension testifying to
the great antiquity of group O comes from the science of physical anthropology
and suggests that a greater part of humanity’s existence has been lived
exclusively as group O.
New studies on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
support the theory that Homo sapiens
emerged in Africa and only later infiltrated other regions.
Unlike DNA, which is inherited from both parents and changes minutely
with each generation, mtDNA is passed directly from mother to child. It is
contained in eggs but not in sperm. Since only random mutations alter its
sequence, it is a more accurate measure of the trajectory of human evolution.
Extensive mtDNA studies demonstrate that humans evolved from a common ancestor.
These studies also confirm the theory that the blood groups evolved as migratory
The extraordinarily high
percentage of blood group O in "ancient" or otherwise isolated
populations also testifies to its great age. (6)
Even though the early
migrations dispersed the gene for group O blood throughout the world,
there are some extraordinary examples of "old" populations existing in
our world today. Because of their
geographic locations, these societies have remained isolated from interaction
with other populations. If A, B and
O had developed simultaneously, the isolated population groups would have had
all of them. But these "old
societies" are group O because genes for the later blood groups never had
the opportunity to enter into their populations.
They have remained unchanged.
Basques are an ancient people whose origins are still a mystery.
The Basque language, the only western European language not connected by
Indo-European roots, appears to be related to several dialects found in small
isolated populations in the valleys of the Caucasus Mountains.
Although they look much like their French and Spanish neighbors, Basques
possess the lowest frequency of blood group B---originally having no group B at
all---and the highest frequencies of blood group O in Europe.
Cattle, abundant on the European plains, and fresh water fish seem to
have been the staples of their early existence, as evidenced by the
extraordinary renderings of the famous cave paintings found in the Basque
than fifty percent of the Basque population is Rh negative, as opposed to
sixteen percent for the rest of Europe. Like
the gene for group O, the genetic mechanism for the Rh negative blood type is
simpler, hence undoubtedly older, than the gene for Rh positive.
Americans are another example of the "old peoples" existing in our
world today. It has often been
asserted that all full-blooded American Indians are group O, and recent studies
on largely intermingled Amerindian populations show a very high (sixty-seven to
eighty percent) predominance of O, indicating that their migration from Asia to
Alaska was probably much earlier than previously believed.(7,8)
Their high rate of blood group O suggests that the Amerindians and
Eskimos are directly descended from Cro-Magnon ancestors, probably Mongolians,
who migrated around 15,000 B.C. to the Americas.
In contrast to the Basques, however, the Asian Amerindians must have
mingled extensively with other Asian populations, picking up along the way the
gene for Rh positive blood.
with the Basques, few Native Americans are group B, so they must have migrated
to the Americas late enough to pick up the Rh positive gene, but too early to
pick up the gene for B. (9) This migration probably took place across the land
bridge that at one time connected Siberia to Alaska.
As the last Ice Age ebbed and the lands warmed and glaciers receded, the
rising water levels eliminated the land bridge between Asia and American,
bottling up the Native Americans and a high-O enclave and
preventing for another 10,000 years
any communication between the continents.
Forensic studies support this theory: in Chile no B or AB have been
noted either in pre-Columbian or Colonial mummies. (19)
theory for the extremely high incidence of blood group O in Native Americans is
that O individuals seem relatively resistant to syphilis and smallpox, major
killers of Native Americans that were introduced into the Old World by Columbus.
advances in the Americas were late in coming, because the new American homeland
was abundantly populated with game and fish, which discouraged agriculture.
Even corn, which was the staple grain, didn't appear to be domesticated
until 4500 B.C., and common beans appear to be an even more recent addition,
first being cultivated around 2200 B.C. So, like the Basques, meats and not
grains were the primary staple of the Native American diet.
England, Wales and Scotland there is a strong association between ABO blood
group and geographical differences in the death
rate (10) Studies of blood
group distribution in the British Isles show a general increase of group O
frequency from relatively low numbers in southern England to increasingly higher
ones in northern England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. (11) This suggests that
the Anglo-Saxons had relatively high A levels, and that O increased as the
proportion of Celtic ancestry increased, although the origin of the high
incidence of blood group O in the Irish may represent the remnants of Mesolithic
peoples. (23) This is also the case
with continental Europe, where the percentage of group O increases in northern
Germans and Danes. It is also known
that the Icelanders had high O frequencies, close to those frequencies found in
the populations of Scotland and Ireland.
the Nomads of the Arabian Peninsula, and the Berbers of the Atlas Mountains, two
old populations, the frequency of the blood group O gene is high.
Africans, on average, have more O genes and less A genes than do
Europeans. So it can be seen that
the gene carried by people who are blood group O is ancient by evolutionary
Our first human ancestors likely
emerged in sub-Sahara Africa between 170,000 and 50,000 years ago.
These ancestors probably ate a rather crude, omnivorous diet of plants,
grubs, and the scavenged leftovers of other, more successful predatory animals.
Since humans have neither the sharp teeth or claws of a true predator,
one could speculate that these people were perhaps as much prey as predator. Yet
within these early humans lay the greatest predatory tool yet devised: The human
a study reported in the journal
Science, anthropologists said their tests of the carbon content of teeth of
Australopithecus africanus indicate that these individuals ate large quantities
of food rich in carbon 13 - like grasses and sedges - or animals that ate these
plants, or both. The research
indicated that the australopithecines, which walked upright but also climbed
trees, were already venturing out of their usual forest habitat to forage in
open grasslands. It also suggested
that hominids were consuming high-protein animal foods before the development of
stone tools for butchering. They noted that many theories of human origins
invoke a switch to a meat-rich diet to explain the sudden expansion of brain
size with the first Homo species. If
they were eating meat, it probably came from small animals that could be caught
without tools or the scavenged remains of meals left by large predators. (12)
Perhaps I am not alone in
recognizing the paradoxical nature of a high meat diet being the driving factor
behind the dramatic growth of the human brain, the result being the production
of nutritionists who advise a vegetarian diet for virtually everyone.
game hunting by humans started in Africa about half a million years ago,
although the full force of armed human bands may not have been felt much before
human's relationship to their environment changed dramatically with the
appearance of our first direct ancestor, Cro-Magnon, around 40,000 B.C. Named
for a site in France where remains were first identified and studied,
Cro-Magnons developed the beginnings of communication and tool working, and were
also superb hunters. Using simple signals and
gestures, they began
to hunt in organized packs, wielding bone or simple stone weapons. This major
advance catapulted what had been one of the less successful primates all the way
to the top of the food chain. As skillful and formidable hunters, Cro-Magnons
soon had little to fear from any animal rival.
Cro-Magnons possessed such
modern human features as a higher, vertical forehead, a reduced brow ridge, a
smaller face and teeth, and a chin. Their skeletons indicate great muscularity,
suggesting they were employed in much more strenuous activities than are most
By the time of the Cro-Magnons,
hunting and the consumption of a mostly carnivorous diet had become a way of
life. It was in the midst of this carnivorous frenzy that the digestive
attributes of Blood Group O reached its full expression, with the highly
efficient acid and pepsin production of the stomach geared for the digestion of
meat. With no natural predators (other than themselves), and an assured supply
of game, the population of wily, physically agile Cro-Magnon hunters must have
Once early humans had gained
ascendancy, it took a surprisingly short time for them to deplete the numbers of
major game animals. By 50,000 B.C., most large game herds were already extinct
in Africa. The scarcity of a primary food source led to widespread migration in
search of new and fertile hunting grounds. The feast had come to an end. It had
been a fairly routine task to feed a small hunting group on the kill of a single
enormous animal carcass for a week or more. Now, having to hunt and kill a
sufficient number of small game, most of whom proved fast and elusive, was much
more difficult. Hunger began to take its toll on the previously successful
tribes of hunters. The young, old, and weak fell by the wayside, succumbing to
disease and starvation. Bands of hunters began warring with each other for the
limited food supply.
This depletion of the large
game in Africa, coupled with climatic changes and possibly population pressures
encouraged early humans to begin moving out of Africa. The more barren northern
areas, previously covered with ice, had started to warm, while a shift in the
trade winds began to parch and desiccate what had once been fertile land in the
All of these factors joined
together into what was quite possibly the greatest series of migrations in human
history. These migrations seeded the planet with a base population of blood
group O, helping to make it the widespread and ubiquitous blood group it
continues to be to this day.
By 30,000 B.C., bands of
Cro-Magnons were migrating eastwards and northwards in search of new hunting
lands. By 20,000 B.C., migration into Europe and Asia was so significant that
large game herds began disappearing from those areas as well.
Other food sources had to be
discovered, and the search was a desperate one. Under these pressures, our
ancestors may have become omnivorous again, feeding on a broader menu of new
plant and animal species. In particular, the food resources of the shore and the
exploited for the first time.
Cro-Magnons were getting smarter and
more creative, developing more sophisticated housing and clothing. These
alterations allowed bands of hunters to search for new game herds in northern
grasslands and forests. By l0,000 B.C., human hunting groups occupied all the
main land masses of the earth, except for Antarctica. Hunting bands found their
way to Australia between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago. Some 5,000 to 15,000 years
later, other bands managed to cross the Bering Strait from Asia and entered the
Americas. In these later,
relatively more sophisticated hunting societies, the extermination of large game
accelerated. Cro-Magnon hunting methods were becoming increasingly efficient, as
evidenced by the vast number of animal bones piled up at some of the recently
unearthed archeological sites. At Solutre, France for example, the remains of
more than 10,000 horses have been found. At Dolni Vestonice in the Czech
Republic, a large number of bones from extinct mammoths litter the site. Some
archeologists estimate that from the time human migration to the Americas began
about 15,000 years ago, it took less than one thousand years to exterminate most
of the large game in North and South America. The reason that the Aztec
civilization was so easily toppled by the Spanish Conquistadors was the sheer
terror that the horse-mounted warriors brought to the relatively primitive Aztec
foot soldiers. Horses were previously unknown to the Aztecs---in earlier
migrations from north to central America, their ancestors had exterminated the
wild horses of the American plains, slaughtering them for food. They had no idea
that horses could be utilized to far greater purposes than as a food source.
expansion of Cro-Magnon hunting bands across the earth has been called
"a period of unalloyed success for humankind". The effect of a
carnivorous diet on human growth was profound. The movement of the early humans
to more temperate climates stimulated genetic responses. They developed lighter
skins, less massive bone structures, and straighter hair.
The skeleton, especially in Caucasians, matures slowly, and their lighter
skin is better protected than darker skin against frostbite. Lighter skin is
also better able to metabolize vitamin D, vital to survival in a land of shorter
days and longer nights.
The dominance of the Cro-Magnons
eventually brought about their own downfall. They suffered greatly from their
own success. Overpopulation soon
led to the exhaustion of available hunting grounds. Before long, most of the
large game herds in the populated regions were destroyed by overhunting. This
led to increased competition for a limited food supply. Competition led to war,
and war to further migration.
The Neolithic Period, or "New
Stone Age" followed the "Old Stone Age" or Paleolithic period of
the Cro-Magnon hunters, beginning around 30,000 B.C.
Agriculture and animal domestication are generally recognized as the
hallmarks of its culture. The ability to cultivate grains and livestock allowed
these early people to forgo the hand-to-mouth existence of their nomadic
ancestors, and settle down in cities, allowing for substantial population
concentrations. The British prehistorian V. Gordon Childe coined the term
"Neolithic Revolution" to describe the change from a hunting and
gathering society to one based on food production, and he considered it the
greatest advance in human history after the marshaling of fire.
The Neolithic Period was also an
important watershed in the distribution of
the ABO blood groups. This new,
relatively sedentary, agrarian lifestyle and the major change in diet resulted
in a new mutation in the digestive tracts and immune systems of these early
people. Many of them became carriers of group A blood. The blood group A variant
allowed humans to tolerate and better assimilate grains and other agricultural
products. Blood group A initially appeared in any significant numbers in the
early Caucasian peoples, sometime between 25,000 and 15,000 B.C., somewhere in
western Asia or the Middle East. The gene for group A was carried into western
Europe and Asia during the movement of these Neolithic societies, especially a
branch termed the Indo-Europeans, where it penetrated extensively into the
pre-Neolithic Type O populations.
The Indo-Europeans appeared
originally in South Central Russia, and between 3500 and 2000 B.C. spread
southward into Southwestern Asia, especially to Iran and Afghanistan. At some
point after this, they began to spread again, this time further westward, into
Europe. Not only did their migration serve to transport the gene for group A to
pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherers, but it also served as a major catalyst in
stimulating the adoption of Neolithic developments, such as agriculture. Almost
all modern Europeans share a common ancestry with the Indo-European peoples.
The invasion of the Neolithic
Indo-Europeans was scattershot and incomplete. In some areas, pre-Neolithic
societies were obliterated through warfare and intermingling, while leaving
others, such as the Basques of Spain, relatively alone and intact.
The Neolithic Revolution was
the original "diet revolution," as it introduced new foods and
lifestyle habits into the simpler immune systems and digestive tracts of the
early hunter-gatherers, and produced the environmental stress necessary to spark
the development of a new
blood group variation,
A. As the digestive tract of this
new blood group gradually lost its ability to digest the carnivorous diet of the
hunter-gatherers, the simpler, pre-agricultural diet dependent largely on
hunting and gathering disappeared.
Settling into permanent
communities presented new developmental challenges; the individualistic
tendencies of the hunter-gatherer now gave way to a more structured society.
Skill specialization can only evolve as part of a larger whole; the basket
weaver is dependent on the farmer, the farmer on the toolmaker. One no longer
thought of food only when hungry; fields needed to be sown and cultivated in
anticipation of future reward.
The cultivation of wheat and
barley, coupled with the domestication of food animals such as sheep, goats,
pigs, chickens, and later cattle, first occurred between 9000 and 5000 B.C. in
southwestern Asia, a fertile mixing ground in which all three major races
The new farming economies
spread slowly from southeast Europe to the north and west. The permanent
settlements that developed as a result of the new agrarian society gave rise to
the early cities.
Neolithic sites in southeast
Europe date from before 6000 B.C., and are located in areas with the most
workable soils and temperate climate. Cattle, sheep, or pigs, in addition to
wheat, barley, peas, beans, and flax, were raised. By 4000 B.C., a series of
settlements were established on the lake shores of Switzerland, and agriculture
was adapted to the Alpine environment, with emphasis on cattle, legumes, and
fruit, in addition to wheat.
crops and cattle were introduced to western France by 4000 B.C., and were in use
in southern Scandinavia, the British Isles, and in the northern European plains
by about 3500 B.C., pushing the remaining hunter-gatherer peoples farther north
into the wilderness, or influencing them to adopt the new, settled mode of life.
4000 B.C. marked the beginning of the Neolithic period in Britain and Ireland,
and is denoted by an extensive clearing of the forests at that time for
agriculture, burial rituals, and the building of "megalithic"
structures, such as Stonehenge in England.
There is good evidence to support the link between the ascendancy of
blood group A and the development of the urban society. As discussed, many areas
of the world that have long histories of urbanization and frequent outbreaks of
plague, cholera, and smallpox show a predominance of group A over group O. This
statistic clearly proved that group A was more resistant to and able to survive
the infections common to densely populated areas. One might well wonder how
blood group O survived at all-much less how it has remained to this day the most
ubiquitous blood group on the planet. One reason might be the sheer amount of
group O in the gene pool; it is recessive in A and B and thus remains
Blood group A is found in the highest
concentrations among western Europeans. Unlike
blood groups B and O, there are many varieties of group A. The major grouping,
A1, accounts for about ninety-five percent of all A blood. The largest subgroup,
A2, is found principally in Northern Caucasians. A2 is found in very high
concentration in Iceland and Scandinavia, particularly among the Lapps, ancient
settlers of the area. They are almost unique in their high frequency of A, and
have the highest frequency of A2, registering forty-two percent in one group.
The A2 gene is almost entirely confined to Caucasian populations.
The European frequency of group A
decreases as we head eastwards. Over much of
Europe the frequency of the A gene is greater than twenty-five percent. It is
also found in considerable numbers around the entire Mediterranean Sea,
particularly in Corsica, Sardinia, Spain, Turkey, and the Balkans. It is clear
that humankind most often laid down permanent settlements in those areas where
conditions offered them the best chance of survival.
The gene for blood group B first
appeared in significant numbers somewhere around 10 to 15,000 B.C., the tail end
of the Neolithic period, in the area of the Himalayan highlands now part of
present day Pakistan and India. Like the environmental conditions which spawned
the advent of group A, the
development of blood group B was in large part a response to changes in the
environment. But unlike A, which began to supplant group O as a response to new
types of infections, then thrived as a result of the new dietary changes, group
B appears to have been more of a response to climatic changes, followed by a
different set of dietary adaptations. Life in the tropical flat savannahs of
eastern Africa gave way to a harsher existence as the Cro-Magnon hunters
migrated to the colder, drier, mountainous areas of the subcontinent and the
barren endless plains of the central Asian steppes.
is possible that blood group B may have been the only blood group with the
capabilities to survive in such a harsh environment.
There is some science behind this theory: For example,
variability in the levels of
the hormones testosterone, estradiol, and somatotropic hormones in mountaineers
of the Pamirs and Kirghizes was examined in relation to their place of residence
in terms of elevation above sea level. At
high altitudes blood O group had had lower concentrations of estradiol and
testosterone, blood group B the highest. (13)
times of famine, two biologic functions diminish: First is the ability to fend
off infection. And the second is the ability to reproduce. Essentially
omnivores, group B may have been the only blood group whose immune systems were
capable of functioning with a diet described by one Roman historian as
"soured milk and mare's blood." In addition to having the ability to
survive pestilence, blood group B women may be more fertile than the A and O
counterparts (14) and may begin to menstruate earlier. (15)
concentrations of the group B gene exists in direct relationship with the
demographics of the pre-existing caste system. Since the caste system was the
direct result of consecutive layers of foreign conquest, it appears that the B
gene may have been introduced into the Indian subcontinent via conquest. (16) In
a study among fourteen Hindu caste groups, besides Christian and Muslim
populations of West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, India All the Hindu
castes except Brahmin, Kshatriya and Reddy exhibited relatively higher frequency
of group B over group A (24) In a
study of ABO distribution along the Silk Route of Northwestern China a distinct
increase of blood group B was seen, especially when those subjects of Mongolian
extraction were compared to Caucasian. (25)
An almost continuous belt of
mountainous terrain extends from the Urals in Russia to the Caucasus in Asia,
and then onto the Pyrenees of southern France. This barrier split the
migrations of the
blood groups into two basic routes; a northern stream and a southern one. The
invaders taking the southern approach became the ancestors of the Mediterranean
people and western Europeans, and carried with them the gene for blood group A.
The Ural Mountains prevented a large migration westwards from Asia, although
small numbers of Caucasians entered eastern Europe, carrying with them the gene
for blood group B that they picked up by intermingling with the Asian
Mongolians. This barrier served to divide blood groups into a western group, A;
and an eastern group, B.
Blood group B Mongolians continued to
travel northward, toward present day Siberia. They developed a different
culture, dependent on herding, and emphasizing the use of cultured dairy
products. These nomadic people were expert horsemen, and wandered extensively
over the Siberian flat lands, the great Steppes. These nomads must have been
compact, tightly knit, and genetically homogenous. A recent study using
sophisticated polymerase chain
reaction (PCR) technology determined
the ABO groupings of on the dried remains of nine human mummies which had been
discovered at Taklamakan desert in 1912. Of
the nine, eight were group B. (17) At various times they penetrated large swaths
of Eastern Europe, at one time reaching as far as the gates of Vienna, Austria.
The Mongolians were certainly responsible for introducing the gene for blood
group B into the eastern European populations.
basic blood group B population patterns emerged out of the Neolithic revolution
in Asia: an agrarian, relatively sedentary population located in the south and
east, and the wandering nomadic societies of the north and west. This schism
stands as an important cultural remnant in Southern Asian cuisine—the use of
dairy products remains practically nonexistent. To the Asian culture, dairy
products are considered the food of the barbarian.
In the Middle-East it appears that tribes of
Semitic group B nomads may have infiltrated into pre-existing Neolithic
cultures, both passively and aggressively. Semitic peoples called the Hyksos
were foreign rulers of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period.
Exactly who those foreign rulers were is not known, but it is assumed
they were Asiatics. The Egyptian
term for Hyksos merely means "rulers of foreign lands."
It was once thought that foreign rule in Egypt would have necessarily
entailed a violent overthrow, but instead there is the appearance of a peaceful
takeover. More likely, the numbers
of these foreigners slowly increased in the Delta region until they became a
powerful political force. Under the
rule of the Hyksos, the continuity of Egyptian culture and ritual was preserved,
indicating that these foreign kings had become fully Egyptianized.
Persian suzerainty may have
also added large amount of B gene to the upper-class
Egyptian gene pool, since a third century BC
Egyptian mummy, 'Iset Iri
Hetes' was recently typed and found to be group B. (18) Interestingly, Africa in
general (independent of any racial categorization) has a higher incidence of
group B than Europe or the Middle East. Whether this is the result of
intermingling or the original B gene pool is unknown, however it does
imply that the links between ancient Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa are
deeper and older than
blood group characteristics of the various Jewish populations have long been of
interest to anthropologists. As a
general rule, regardless of their nationality or race, there is a trend towards
higher than average rates of blood group B.
The Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe and the Sephardim of the Middle East and
Africa, the two major sects, share high rates of group B blood and bear no
discernible differences. Babylonian
Jews differ considerably from the present-day Arab population of Iraq, in that
they have a high frequency overall of group A, and an even higher frequency of
group B blood.
Jews of the Tafilalet Oasis in Morocco, an ancient community, now dispersed,
also had a high frequency of the gene for blood group B, around twenty nine
percent of the total society.
Karaites, who have an extraordinarily high rate of blood group B, are members of
a Jewish sect founded in Babylonia in the eighth century A.D. A singular
community of Karaites continues to exist in Lithuania, and they were known to
have migrated as a body from the Crimea. The
Karaites consider themselves Jews by religion only, not by race.
This claim of racial separation was accepted by the Nazi authorities, who
controlled Lithuania during the Second World War.
Because of this, the Karaites were spared the horrors of the Holocaust.
To modern day anthropologists,
blood group B continues to this day to be an "Eastern" blood group. It
is found in high numbers among Asians such as the Chinese, Indians, and
Siberians. In Europe, blood group B is more frequently found in Hungarians,
Russians, Poles, and other eastern Europeans. It is not found in large numbers
among western Europeans. Among pre-Neolithic people, such as the Basques and
Amerindians, group B is practically nonexistent.
Of all the ABO blood groups, B
shows the most clearly defined geographic distribution. Stretching as a great
belt across the Eurasian plains and down to the Indian subcontinent, blood group
B is found in increased numbers from Japan, Mongolia, China and India, up to the
Ural Mountains. From there westward, the percentages fall until a low is reached
at the extreme western end of Europe.
Blood group B is a distinctly
non-Indo-European blood type. In Europe, only two areas with a high rate of
blood group B appear: one among the group of non-Indo-European peoples known as
the Finno-Ugrics (such as the Hungarians and the Finns), the other among the
central Slavic peoples (Czechs, Southern Poles, and Northern Serbs).
The Viking invaders may have also had a relatively high percentage of B
gene, since many of the towns of Britain and western Europe that are linked to
the coast by internal lines of communication such as large rivers, have a
disproportional amount of blood group B when compared to the surrounding
The small numbers of blood
group B in old and Western Europeans represents western migration by Asian
nomadic peoples. This is most clearly seen in the easternmost Western Europeans,
the Germans and Austrians, who have an unexpectedly high incidence of blood
group B blood compared to their western neighbors. The highest frequency of
blood group B in Germans occurs in the area around the upper and middle Elbe
River, an important natural boundary between "civilization" and
"barbarism" in ancient and medieval times.
Modern subcontinental Indians, a
Caucasian people, have some of the highest frequencies of blood group B in the
world. Interestingly, among the Asiatics, they and the Japanese are the only
areas that show high frequencies of blood group A as well. The northern Chinese
and Koreans have high rates of
blood group B, and lower rates of blood group A.
Nowadays, blood group B
accounts for about ten percent of the world’s population.
Blood group AB is found in less than
five percent of the population. It is certainly the most recent blood group.
Unlike the other Abo blood
groups, group AB resulted from the intermingling of group A Caucasian people and
group B Mongolian people. Some of
this may have been peaceful, some must have been part of the violent turmoil
that marked the great "Migration of Peoples" at the end of the Ancient
This time period was
characterized by the collapse of the ancient civilizations, brought on by the
influx of various wandering hordes of predominantly Eastern origin. The
incidence of blood group B was probably very high in these Steppe dwellers, so
the appearance of group AB in Europe is probably the result of the intermingling
of these Eastern invaders with their European hosts. In Europe, the distribution
of this blood group parallels group B, with a low incidence in Western
Europeans. There is a very high incidence of AB blood in sub-continental
Indians, again probably the result of migration, conquest, caste distinctions
and intermingling .
evidence for the occurrence of group AB extends beyond 900 to 1,000 years
ago, when a large western migration of Eastern peoples took place. Blood group
AB is rarely found in European graves prior to 900 A.D.
Studies of prehistoric grave exhumations in Hungary indicate a distinct
lack of this blood group into the Langobard age (fifth to seventh century A.D.).
This would seem to indicate that, up until that point in time, European
populations of blood groups A and B did not come into common contact. If they
did, they neither mingled nor intermarried.
Blood group AB may be a purely human
invention. This blood group takes the concept of tolerance to the extreme, as it
sees all things A-like or B-like as self, and manufactures no opposing blood
group antibodies. As early as the 1940s it was noticed that blood group AB had a
higher incidence of cancer than the other blood groups. On the plus side, group
AB’s tolerance perhaps minimizes
the chances of allergies and other autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis and
may be a similar survival benefit with regard to possession of
a B antigen that is shared between groups B and AB. For example, it has
been noted that group B individuals are on average a bit taller than their A and
O counterparts, (20) and that women who are AB are in general a bit heavier than
the other ABO groups.(21)
Something about AB
"works" in a modern sense, because these people inherit the tolerance
of both A and B. Perhaps this serves to enhance the AB immune system's abilities
to manufacture more specific antibodies to microbial invaders, as it possess
neither anti-A or anti-B antibodies.
blood groups are not a hit or miss act of random genetics without any real
purpose. Rather, the ABO blood groups are a set of differing solutions to a host
of environmental variables, such as diet and infection, which insured the
survival of the human race. The blood group adaptations were a change in
"human antigenicity"---a biological desire to identify with the
prevailing currents of the environment.
looking at the distribution of blood groups today, we can see the threads of our
evolutionary history. In the United States, O is the most prevalent blood group,
A is second, followed by B, and finally AB. The breakdown in Great Britain is
very similar to the U.S. percentages. In Germany there are slightly more A than
O; B and AB remain almost the same as U.S. percentages. In Japan and China As,
Os and Bs are fairly evenly split, and the AB percentage increases over that
found in European populations.
Until the end of the Second
World War, physical anthropology usually meant the comparison of various
physical characteristics of the body between different human populations and
individuals. This usually included measurements of the body and its parts,
especially the skull. However probably as a result of the intensive use of blood
transfusions during the war the blood groups have come to provide an alternative
to the often highly subjective methods of body measurement. Here was a
definitive biological marker, that could be used to map migrations and classify
human groupings. Physical anthropology had its first scientific tool.
is bunk," wrote the industrialist Henry Ford. It is a quote with the ring
of truth in it. We are destined to interpret past events through the eyes of who
left the record (usually the winner) and our own modern day thoughts and
rationales. Losers rarely write history and it is just about impossible for the
average person to put himself or herself in the mindset of a person living in a
world without light, heat, supermarkets and the internet.
of all my writings on the blood groups, it has been their anthropologic
significance that readers have time
and again told me is their favorite section. There is something very
intellectually and emotionally riveting about understanding the ebb and flow of
our human experience. Not only is it fascinating from an intellectual
standpoint, but we also can see, feel and touch the modern day physical
ramifications of these long ago events.
that sense, we are all survivors.
EAT RIGHT 4 YOUR TYPE: THE COMPLETE BLOOD TYPE ENCYCLOPEDIA
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