Variation in the human mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) is now routinely described and used to infer the histories of peoples, by means of one of two procedures, namely, the assaying of RFLPs throughout the genome and the sequencing of parts of the control region (CR). Using 95 samples from the Near East and northwest Caucasus, we present an analysis based on both systems, demonstrate their concordance, and, using additional available information, present the most refined phylogeny to date of west Eurasian mtDNA. We describe and apply a nomenclature for mtDNA clusters. Hypervariable nucleotides are identified, and the relative mutation rates of the two systems are evaluated. We point out where ambiguities remain. The identification of signature mutations for each cluster leads us to apply a hierarchical scheme for determining the cluster composition of a sample of Berber speakers, previously analyzed only for CR variation. We show that the main indigenous North African cluster is a sister group to the most ancient cluster of European mtDNAs, from which it diverged approximately 50,000 years ago.