Various theories have pointed to the great African continent as the place where human life began. A new study may have confirmed this notion as well as uncovered a more detailed location as the origin of modern day humans.
According to the research, Homo sapiens’ ancestry began 200 millennia ago in northern Botswana. The recently published study indicates that humans probably lived fairly well for approximately 70,000 years in this area until shifts in climate forced many to find other more suitable spots on the planet. Eastern Africa was thought to be the region where human life originated thanks to certain fossil discoveries, but DNA evidence now suggests that the starting point for our species is actually southern Africa.
“It has been clear for some time that anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. What has been long debated is the exact location of this emergence and subsequent dispersal of our earliest ancestors,” stated Vanessa Hayes, the head author of the study. “We’ve been able to pinpoint what we believe is our human homeland.”
After gathering blood samples from South African and Namibian inhabitants, the researchers used the DNA to form a blueprint of our history in an effort to better understand the first 100 millennia of modern man.
“Mitochondrial DNA acts like a time capsule of our ancestral mothers, accumulating changes slowly over generations,” Hayes explained. “Comparing the complete DNA code, or mitogenome, from different individuals provides information on how closely they are related.”
This work established a register of over a thousand mitogenomes, such as the L0 lineage – the earliest recorded Homo sapien populations. The DNA tests also assisted with the detection of uncommon and undiscovered subsets of this lineage.
“We merged 198 new, rare mitogenomes to the current database of modern humans’ earliest known population, the L0 lineage. This allowed us to refine the evolutionary tree of our earliest ancestral branches better than ever before,” says Eva Chan, another author of the study.
Environmental conditions forced us to adapt
“We observed significant genetic divergence in the modern humans’ earliest maternal sub-lineages that indicates our ancestors migrated out of the homeland between 130,000 and 110,000 years ago,” says Hayes. “The first migrants ventured northeast, followed by a second wave of migrants who traveled southwest. A third population remained in the homeland until today. In contrast to the northeasterly migrants, the southwesterly explorers appear to flourish, experiencing steady population growth.”
The changing climate resulted in these early migrations which would ultimately be the influential positioning of humans around the Earth that led to our diverse cultural locations as we know them today.