New Genetic Survey: Humans Originated Near Current Border of Angola and Namibia

(Photo: a cc-licensed snapshot from Namibia by Flickr user Waterwin.)

Snip from a NYT article about a new study by a group of geneticists which pins the origin of humankind to a spot on the coast of southwest Africa near the Kalahari Desert. The study is said to be the largest ever of its kind on African genetic diversity. The researchers say Africans are descended from 14 ancestral populations that typically correlate with language and cultural groups.

Locations for the Garden of Eden have been offered many times before, but seldom in the somewhat inhospitable borderland where Angola and Namibia meet.

A new genetic survey of people in Africa, the largest of its kind, suggests, however, that the region in southwest Africa seems, on the present evidence, to be the origin of modern humans. The authors have also identified some 14 ancestral populations.

The new data goes far toward equalizing the genetic picture of the world, given that most genetic information has come from European and Asian populations. But because it comes from Africa, the continent on which the human lineage evolved, it also sheds light on the origins of human life.

The research team was led by Sarah A. Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, and reported in in a recent issue of Science: "The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans." (via Ned Sublette)


  1. @ #1,

    You are lucky I finished watching the series recently, or I’d’a had to reach through the intertubes and strangle you. :-)

  2. Kieran: I’d certainly hope so. I wouldn’t feel at all at home in the Kalahari.

  3. You have to very careful about drawing an6y conclusions from that map alone.

    A) Genetic diversity (with two legs) walks around. We area only capturing it where it is now. Where it was between 150 – 250 thousand years ago is another matter.

    B) That exit point is even more suspicious for the same reason.

    C) Post-Colonial populations are enormously mixed and depending on who you sample it can skew your data.

    D)Genetic Material from fossil hominids (such as the Lake Mungo skeletons ) suggest that there was much greater genetic diversity outside of Africa until quite recently, and only Africa preserves relics the pre-colonial genetic pattern.

  4. I read the article. I don’t buy the basis of their argument though. Factually, what they’ve done is find the most genetically isolated group to date. Genetically isolated != most distant ancestor. Realistically our most distant ancestor is lost in the annals of time, because their genes, shared with most people, traveled near and far as for whatever reason, they were more successful than this tribe who haven’t progressed at all in the last 4000 years. In fact you could make the argument that this is the least likely place that humans originated. Or, that this area is so inhospitable that nobody ever came back, or was able to leave. An eddy in the river of human progression if you will.

  5. So this is where we came from, and that’s what it looks like now?

    Well done, my good co-speciesists.
    Well fucking done.

  6. I’m surprised it took people this long to realise. There’s a footprint, embedded in stone, that has been dated to be the oldest human footprint ever. Location? Botswana, which encompasses the vast majority of the Kalahari Desert. Admittedly, the footprint is located on the Francistown road, which is on the other side of the country, but still.

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