Africa : The first ancient African genome reveals complex human migrations


Aug 28, 2015

Mota cave, where the ancient human was found. (Kathryn and John Arthur)

Africa is considered to be the birthplace of humankind -- the cradle of humanity. But because its climate is poorly suited for DNA preservation, all of the ancient genomes to be analyzed have been from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. That changed on Thursday, when researchers published a paper in Science documenting the genetic code of a man who died 4,500 years ago in what's now Ethiopia.

Scientists know that after the great migration from Africa, where all early humans originated -- treks that took place about 60,000 years ago -- some of the Eurasians who had developed agriculture made their way back into Africa.

That's what makes the newly sequenced man, named Mota by scientists, so interesting. Mota lived in Africa before this second, backwards migration. Unsurprisingly, Mota lacked the Eurasian DNA that seems to have proliferated across the region about 1,500 years after his death.

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