Oldest African DNA found in Malawi cave fills some of human ancestry’s ‘crucial gaps’

| | September 29, 2017
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

A great irony about Africa is that, even though it’s the birthplace of our species, we know almost nothing about the prehistoric populations who lived there: the bands of hunter gatherers who moved across the massive continent, interacting with and sometimes replacing other groups. […] Thanks to new research that includes the oldest African DNA ever successfully read, we’re seeing Africa’s prehistory like never before. Archaeologists and paleogeneticists are finally starting to fill in some crucial gaps about the human story.

The dearth of aDNA from Africa made it hard to understand the continent’s rich past, and it also fueled a centuries-old myth that Africa was less significant.

[Researcher Jessica Thompson] remembered a cave she’d visited as a tourist: it was in Malawi, on a high-plateau mountain called Hora where human skeletons had been excavated in the mid-20th century. 

The genetic makeup of the seven Malawi aDNA samples was particularly interesting: They indicate a long-standing population, distinctive to all others, that lasted for about 5,000 years but no longer exists. What happened to the ancient Malawi people remains a mystery for now, but it’s a question that archaeologists and paleogeneticists may one day answer through further collaboration.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Oldest African DNA Offers Rare Window Into Past

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