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Coasting to Asia in the Stone Age

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2:19am, May 18, 2005

Two new studies of DNA obtained from Southeast Asian islanders support the unconventional view that, roughly 70,000 years ago, our African ancestors migrated into Asia by traveling along that continent's southern coast.

Anthropologists have traditionally held that the first modern people left Africa around that time by following the Nile River northward and then crossing the Sinai Peninsula into Asia. The new genetic evidence, published in the May 13 Science, fits with a scenario in which Stone Age Homo sapiens used boats or rafts to cross the Red Sea from eastern Africa and then headed east along the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Both investigations focused on island populations that have lived in isolation and harbor in their cells' mitochondria DNA that can be dated to its presumably prehistoric roots.

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