Art & Ancestry: The Ancestral Shadow

Peaceful Science is inviting artists into dialogue with science. This is the second image of a series by David Rygiol. The Genealogical Adam and Eve is written in five movements: Fracture, Ancestor, Human, Mystery, and Crossroads. This image is Rygiol’s response to Ancestor.

The Genealogical Adam and Eve explores the difference between genealogical ancestors and genetic ancestors. Genealogical ancestry is the true and complete story of how we came to be, tracing the history of biological reproduction that gave rise to us.

Genealogical ancestry is distinct from recorded genealogies, a human construction – formed by tracing family ties that often do not transfer any genetic data. Marriage, adoption, surrogacy – all of these and more shape how we perceive our history. Our true genealogical history, however, is an immutable fact of our existence.

Genealogical ancestry is distinct from genetic ancestry, the history of particular pieces of DNA in our genomes. Surprisingly, our genetic makeup does not include information from all of our ancestors. Most of our ancestors leave us no genes at all – they are genetic ghosts in our past – untraceable.

This image shows a person, descending from a family tree that looms like a shadow. Our genetic ancestors leave traces of themselves in the branches of the tree, but most of our ancestors are genetic ghosts, filling in the negative space between the limbs.

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