What can DNA from the skeleton of a man who lived 2,330 years ago in the southernmost tip of Africa tell us about ourselves as humans? A great deal when his DNA profile is one of the ‘earliest diverged’ – oldest in genetic terms – found to-date in a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago.
The man’s maternal DNA, or ‘mitochondrial DNA’, was sequenced to provide clues to early modern human prehistory and evolution. Mitochondrial DNA provided the first evidence that we all come from Africa, and helps us map a figurative genetic tree, all branches deriving from a common ‘Mitochondrial Eve’.
When archaeologist Professor Andrew Smith from the University of Cape Town discovered the skeleton at St. Helena Bay in 2010, very close to the site where 117,000 year old human footprints had been found – dubbed “Eve’s footprints” – he contacted Professor Vanessa Hayes, a world-renowned expert in African genomes. Read more.
Ancient stone artifacts recently excavated from Saudi Arabia possess similarities to items of about the same age in Africa — a discovery that could provide clues to how humans dispersed out of Africa, researchers say.
Modern humans originated about 200,000 years ago in Africa. However, scientists have long debated when and how the modern human lineage spread out of Africa.
"Understanding how we originated and colonized the world remains one of the most fascinating and enduring questions, because it is our story as humans," said lead study author Eleanor Scerri, an archaeologist at the University of Bordeaux in France. Read more.
Oxford — A new study provides fresh insights into the life of early modern humans in North Africa, the only land route into Eurasia. Researchers have carried out the biggest ever comparative study of stone tools dating to between 130,000 and 75,000 years ago found in the region between sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia.
They have discovered there are marked differences in the way stone tools were made, reflecting a diversity of cultural traditions. The study has also identified at least four distinct populations, each relatively isolated from each other with their own different cultural characteristics.
The research paper also suggests that early populations took advantage of rivers and lakes that criss-crossed the Sahara desert. Read more.
During ongoing excavations in northern Sudan, Polish archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Poznań, have discovered the remains of a settlement estimated to 70,000 years old. This find, according to the researchers, seems to contradict the previously held belief that the construction of permanent structures was associated with the so-called Great Exodus from Africa and occupation of the colder regions of Europe and Asia.
The site known as Affad 23, is currently the only one recorded in the Nile Valley which shows that early Homo sapiens built sizeable permanent structures, and had adapted well to the wetland environment.
This new evidence points to a much more advanced level of human development and adaptation in Africa during the Middle Palaeolithic. Read more.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has returned eight works of art to Nigeria after determining that the documentation accompanying some of the items, six of which were bequeathed in early 2013 by a prominent donor and collector, was suspect or fraudulent.
Museum officials said the eight items were acquired “in good faith” by the donor, William E. Teel, and his wife, Bertha, in the 1990s from European and American art dealers. Six of the works were part of a 308-item bequest last year, mostly of art of sub-Saharan African or Oceanic origin. The other two objects were also donated by Mr. Teel, but in the 1990s. All eight were to be formally handed over to Nigeria on Thursday. Read more.
Early humans, or hominins, stretched further west—into today’s Central Africa—than previously known, according to findings by a research team that included NYU anthropologist Shara Bailey.
The results, which appeared in the journal PLOS ONE, expand the range of early hominins significantly farther west and suggest that they made use of a wide range of geographic locations and likely ecological conditions. They also reveal a need for a shift in our paradigm about where to search for early hominins.
"While the eastern branch of the Rift Valley is an important place for early human evolution, this find suggests additional results may come from farther west than we once thought," says Bailey. Read more.
It is well established that modern humans originated in Africa, before moving out to inhabit rest of the planet. They first spread into Asia and Europe via the Arabian Peninsula, and those in the Far East eventually reached America and the Pacific islands.
However, this simple picture does not explain several groups found across Asia and Oceania. Now, by looking at genetic and archaeological data, researchers think they might have found the answer, confirming theories that humans migrated out of Africa more than once.
Across Asia, people are usually similar in appearance to those around them. However, there are scattered populations on islands and in other isolated areas that look quite distinct. These people are sometimes collectively called Negritos (while this may sound archaic, it is the accepted scientific term). Along with Papuans, Melanesians and aboriginal Australians, they are generally much darker-skinned and curlier-haired than their neighbours. Read more.
Modern humans may have dispersed in more than one wave of migration out of Africa, and they may have done so earlier than scientists had long thought, researchers now say.
Modern humans first arose between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in Africa. But when and how the modern human lineage then dispersed out of Africa has long been controversial.
Scientists have suggested the exodus from Africa started between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. However, stone artifacts dating to at least 100,000 years ago that were recently uncovered in the Arabian Desert suggested that modern humans might have begun their march across the globe earlier than once suspected. Read more.