DNA evidence tells ‘global story’ of human history

By | February 25, 2010

http://xenophilia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/men.jpgIn recent years, DNA evidence has added important new tools for scientists studying the human past. Now, a collection of reviews published by Cell Press in a special issue of Current Biology published online on February 22nd offers a timely update on how new genetic evidence, together with archaeological and linguistic evidence, has enriched our understanding of human history on earth. “To understand what it is to be human, it is essential to understand the human past,” says Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge, who first coined the term “archaeogenetics” and is the author of a guest editorial in the special issue. “Nearly all civilizations have their own origin or creation myth. Now we can use archaeogenetics to tell a global story that is robust and applicable to all human communities everywhere.”

The journey started around 60 to 70 thousand years ago in Africa, where modern humans evolved more than 150 thousand years ago, and where human diversity is still the highest among all continents in terms of genetic variation and languages. From there, humans settled Europe and South Asia and reached Oceania. The Americas (apart from the remote Oceanian islands) were settled last.

The course and the extent of these first migrations remains evident in the genetic makeup of humans living today, but later migrations and the cultural practices that people carried with them—farming in particular—have also left their legacy. That legacy looks remarkably similar wherever farming spread, in Europe, Africa, and East Asia. Natural selection also left its mark: A review by Jonathan Pritchard of the University of Chicago examines evidence for the genetic basis of human adaptations and the extent to which differences among human populations in characteristics such as lactose tolerance have been selected for over evolutionary time. …

via Paleontology news: DNA evidence tells ‘global story’ of human history.

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