Though we may be extremely well-informed about our recent history, from the time of civilization and the advent of writing, we still know precious little about our pre-history. With the invention of human genetic sequencing, the light of the past becomes clearer: Our very genetics tell us more about ourselves than maybe any book can.
In three separate studies from Copenhagen, Estonia, and Harvard, 787 individuals were examined for the sequencing of their genomes. Studying less-focused-on groups, the researchers chose Native Americans, Papuans, and native Australians. What the study revealed is surprising!
In unanimous conclusion, the studies agreed that almost all Non-African DNA comes from a single human exodus that left Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago. While the researchers are still uncertain what caused this mass migration, they are very clear that it was an unprecedented event in human history.
David Reich, author of one of the studies, says “There does not seem to have been one or a few enabling mutations that suddenly appeared among our ancestors and allowed them to think in profoundly different ways. Geneticists often search for examples where genetics is the explanation. Here, paradoxically, genetic data are showing that there will be no clear genetic answers.”
Increasingly, it’s becoming apparent that genes aren’t entirely responsible for our evolution. What might be responsible for our rapid progress, then? Nature speculated that it may have been weather, with early tribes following rainfall periods that opened new land-bridges from Africa into Eurasia. They haven’t ruled out lifestyle or other environmental changes, though.
The three studies have most definitely given insight into the location of our prehistoric ancestors, but they also reveal that genetics alone will not explain everything that we seek to understand. No, who we are runs much deeper than what we’ve been able to measure in laboratories.
Check out the article that inspired this one here