Eurasian ancestors used Egypt to leave Africa

Eurasian ancestors used Egypt to leave Africa

Credit: Getty Images

  • Eurasian migration source.
  • Genes reveal more direct route.
  • Earlier than previously thought.

A new study finds that Egyptians were the final stop for Eurasian ancestors on their quest to leave Africa. Data is supported by genetic markers and recent scientific studies.

Study shows that Egypt was ancient route out of Africa and into Eurasia for many non-African populations. Recent study indicates former theories were not accurate.

Lead author Luca Pagani and co-authors published the report in the American Journal of Human Genetics, offering a look into the genome history of modern humans.

The expansion occurred around 50,000-100,000 years ago and has remained one of anthropology’s central questions. Genetic science holds some answers now.

One of the biggest factors indicates northern access (Egypt and Sinai) instead of a presumed southern route (Ethiopia, the Bab el Mandeb strait, and the Arabian Peninsula). The genetic mixture of Neanderthal DNA illustrates the pathway from the Levant region, which includes the eastern Mediterranean area, and not the Arabian Peninsula.

Charles Q. Choi from Live Science notes that modern humans first lived south of the African Sahara around 200,000 years ago. The largest controversy on the origins of humans stems from when they left. Previously, common scientific assumption indicated that humans migrated between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago.

But with recent findings pushing the possible movement to around 130,000 years ago, definitive answers became necessary. Tracing information backwards and linking the exodus to waves, the next step was to answer how the Eurasian community migration occurred.

Pagani told Live Science, “The most exciting consequence of our results is to have unveiled an episode of the evolutionary past of all Eurasians, therefore potentially improving the knowledge of billions of people on their deep biological history.”

And history is important when tracing maternal and paternal genetic markers, especially in relation to family histories of disease or illness. Genealogy businesses like 23andMe and depend on the data to connect family trees through scientific steps as well as historical record.

Using a random genome sample of 100 Egyptians and 125 individual samples from five Ethiopian populations, the scientists contextually used similar data found in the 1000 Genomes Project.

If following the northern route, more non-Africans in the Eurasian population should share some markers with Egyptians. And the evidence bore out as the Ethiopian populations showed a more “variable spectrum of genetic introgression” and supported previous reports.

Pagani is a molecular anthropologist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge in England, so the recent data is relevant to more than just cultural studies. Tying haplotypes together shows the human progression and diverging paths with other groups, like Neanderthals.

By taking into account of outside migration, researches eliminated the unnecessary genetic material and focused on the Eurasian background. Choi also points out that the migration seemed to occur in 10,000-year waves. Eurasian divergence started in West Africa around 75,000 years ago, then Ethiopians at 65,000, and finally Egyptians were the last stop approximately 55,00 years ago.

While the information does not address any cultural and anthropological controversies, the information does provide some background. However, Pagani and et al warn that a deeper look into Near Eastern, Papuan, and Australian genome research is needed to pinpoint and answer questions about early coastal expansion.

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