Scientists were able to map the first ancient genome from Africa, and the findings were significant. Genetic data gathered from a 4,500-year-old skull that belongs to a man from Ethiopia showed that an ancient migration to Africa was much more impressive than scientists originally thought.
The new DNA study revealed that the migration affected the genetic makeup of African populations to this day although it occurred more than 3,000 years ago.
Scientists said that they found intact genetic material from a human in a cave in Ethiopia. The cave’s conditions preserved the DNA for millennia, which it doesn’t occur too often. So far, paleogeneticists found well preserved DNA only in northern latitudes including the Arctic.
But this time, a research team was able to recover and sequence a human genome in the very ‘cradle of humankind’ for the first time. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Science.
The skull found in Ethiopia is older than a migration that took place 3,000 years ago. In the event, which was dubbed the ‘Eurasian backflow,’ thousands of people from Western Eurasia returned home in Africa.
Scientists concluded that these people were the descendants of a group of ancient farmers that brought agriculture to European regions thousands of years earlier. The team also learned that modern Africans in the eastern parts of the continent have up to 25 percent of their genome made from material stemming from the 3,000-year-old event.
Moreover, other populations across Africa have at least five percent Eurasian ancestry because of the migration. Study authors argued that the findings suggest that Eurasians who came to Africa accounted for more than 30 percent of the population that was already there, and affected the continent’s entire populations in the wake of the backflow.
Scientists weren’t able to tell what drove so many people to suddenly leave their homes and return to Africa, the place from where their ancestors started their journey to Eurasia.
And people who learned that scientists were able to map the first ancient genome from Africa explained that a single genome of a human can help us learn the story of an entire population.
The team didn’t find a link between climate change and the Eurasian backflow, but they did find an association between Eurasians’ arrival and the beginning of more complex agriculture in Africa’s eastern parts. This suggests that migrants helped local populations learn the skill, and grow barley and wheat.
Scientists estimate that migrants’ ancestors were ancient farmers that left Eastern Africa and settled in Europe thousands of years prior the migration. Genetic traces of those farmers were located in populations living in Sardinia, an isolated Italian island.
Image Source: Pixabay
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