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The DNA of all people around the world contains a record of how living populations are related to one another, and how far back those genetic relationships go. Understanding the spread of modern human populations relies on the identification of genetic markers.
Different populations carry distinct markers. Once markers have been identified, they can be traced back in time to their origin – the most recent common ancestor of everyone who carries the marker. Following these markers through the generations reveals a genetic tree of many diverse branches, each of which may be followed back to where they all join – a common African root.
A synthesis of mtDNA studies concluded that an early exodus out of Africa, evidenced by the remains at Skhul and Qafzeh by 135,000 to 100,000 years ago, has not left any descendants in today’s Eurasian mtDNA pool. By contrast, the successful exodus of women carrying M and N mtDNA, ancestral to all non-African mtDNA today, at around 60,000 years ago may coincide with the unprecedented low sea-levels at that time.
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