Scientists are confident our ancient ancestors came from Africa. But, where did they leave Africa? That’s been a long-standing debate.
Modern humans first popped up about 200,000 years ago in Africa. The main trek out of Africa is believed to have happened about 60,000 years ago. Researchers still debate on the exact date early humans left Africa. There is evidence that modern humans left Africa around 125,000 years ago.
There are two lines of thinking for early humans exit out of Africa. One draws the path north through Egypt and Sinai. The other takes a southern route through Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula.
New analysis of 225 human genome sequences from Ethiopians and Egyptians point to Egypt as the primary exit point out of Africa.
“In our research, we generated the first comprehensive set of unbiased genomic data from Northeast Africans and observed, after controlling for recent migrations, a higher genetic similarity between Egyptians and Eurasians than between Ethiopians and Eurasians,” said Dr. Luca Pagani from the University of Cambridge.
Translation? It appears our ancestors migrated across Egypt.
If the southern path were the predominant exit point, Ethiopians should be more genetically similar to Eurasians.
These findings give us a clearer look into our evolutionary past. Pagani and his colleagues also created an extensive catalog of the genomic diversity of the Ethiopian and Egyptian populations. Pagani says the information will be a great resource for “future medical and anthropological studies in these areas.”
Where Did Humans Go From Africa?
While the picture of early humans’ exit out of Africa gets a little clearer, you may be wondering – where did our ancestors go from there?
First stop was southern and southeast Asia around 60,000 years ago. Australia was reached about 55,000 years ago.
Next stop was Europe between 40,000-30,000 years ago. Modern humans walked through Russia about 40,000 years ago.
Our ancestors’ move into the Americas is still debated. Evidence points to modern humans reaching North America around 20,000. South America was even more recent at around 15,000 years ago.
This matches up when sea levels were low, and a land bridge connected Siberia and Alaska. The first modern humans would have hugged the west coast to avoid the icy interior.
One sizable land mass wasn’t settled until just 2,500 years ago – Madagascar.
Top image credit: Wikipedia