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Challenging Our Origins


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Bushmen Rock
Painting


According to a recent BBC news report, a study that has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that modern humans may have actually originated in southern Africa, rather than eastern Africa as previously thought. It is widely believed that Homo Sapiens originated on the African continent, but the exact location is hard to pinpoint.

The extensive genetic study looked into the patterns of genetic diversity in 27 distinct African populations, to try and determine which of these hunter-gatherer people contained the most varied genetic material, and which therefore is the most ancient population. The results concluded that these hunter-gathers are found in parts of southern Africa, where they would have roamed a vast area 60,000 years ago.


Bushmen Starting
A Fire

Co-author, Dr Brenna Henn, told the BBC that they saw a decline in the genetic diversity in different populations as you move from southern to northern Africa. As new populations are created there is a loss of genetic variation from the larger, older population to the smaller, newer one, which indicates that the most ancient populations began in the south of the continent, and it is therefore the origin of modern people.

However, leading palaeontologist, Professor Chris Stringer, told the BBC that, "This is a landmark study, with far more extensive data on hunter gatherer groups than we have ever had before, but I am cautious about localising origins from it." He also suggests that modern humans probably did not originate from one place and that we are in fact made up of the genetic material from a number of ancient populations.


Population Density
Map

The report named, Hunter-gatherer genomic diversity suggests a southern African origin for modern humans , was published online on the 7th March 2011 and found that the Namibian and Khomani bushmen of Southern Africa, the Biaka pygmies of Central Africa and the Sandawe of Eastern Africa, appeared to have the most diverse genetic material and were therefore the most ancient populations.

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