Ancient DNA Sheds Light on Africa’s Past and Present
(Courthouse News) – Recently discovered fossils of ancient people living in eastern and southern Africa have been used to shed light on the migration patterns and genetic backgrounds of modern humans on the continent.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers reveal important clues about Africa’s mysterious prehistory, which has been difficult to reconstruct due to the continent’s limited fossil record.
To overcome past research hurdles, the team sequenced DNA from the genomes of 15 ancient sub-Saharan Africans who lived between 8,000 and 1,000 years ago – prior to the spread of food production.
“Ancient DNA has been able to provide an extraordinary view into human history, mostly on the Eurasian continent,” said senior author David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School. “We are excited to bring ancient DNA to answer questions about African prehistory and were lucky to have colleagues in archaeology who were interested in this as well and had suitable samples.”
The researchers compared the ancient DNA with previously generated genomic data from an Ethiopian highland individual who lived about 4,500 years ago. Genomes from present-day Africans and populations around the world were also analyzed.
Malawi’s Mount Hora yielded two ancient DNA samples – including the oldest one at about 8,100 years ago.