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Dawn of human matrilineal diversity
Date:4/24/2008

nt paleoclimatological data suggests that Eastern Africa went through a series of massive droughts between 135,000-90,000 years ago. It is possible that this climatological shift contributed to the population splits. What is surprising is the length of time the populations were separate - as much as half of our entire history as a species.

Saharon Rosset, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, NY and Tel Aviv University, said: The analysis of such a massive dataset presents statistical and computational challenges as well as great opportunities for discovery of the events that shaped our history and genetic landscape. For example, we can see evidence of a population expansion period starting around 70,000 years ago, perhaps leading to the out of Africa dispersal shortly afterward.

The timing of these events coincides with the onset of the Late Stone Age in Africa, a change in material culture that many archaeologists believe heralds the beginning of fully modern human behavior, including abstract thought and complex spoken language.

Previous studies have shown that while human populations had been quite small prior to the Late Stone Age, perhaps numbering fewer than 2,000 around 70,000 years ago, the expansion after this time led to the occupation of many previously uninhabited areas, including the world beyond Africa.

Dr. Spencer Wells, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Director of the Genographic Project, said: This new study released today illustrates the extraordinary power of genetics to reveal insights into some of the key events in our species' history. Tiny bands of early humans, forced apart by harsh environmental conditions, coming back from the brink to reunite and populate the world. Truly an epic drama, written in our DNA.

Paleontologist Meave Leakey, Genographic Advisory Board member, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Research Professor, Stony Brook University, added: Who would have thought that as recently
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Contact: Glynnis Breen
gbreen@ngs.org
202-857-7481
National Geographic Society
Source:Eurekalert

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