Some Stone Age humans ventured back to Africa

female skull from Pestera Muierii cave

RETURN TRIPPER  DNA from a woman who lived in what’s now Romania around 35,000 years ago indicates that Stone Age humans migrated to North Africa from West Asia. The ancient woman’s skull is shown here.

E. Trinkaus, A. Soficaru

DNA from an ancient woman who lived in what is now Romania indicates that people in Asia trekked to Africa starting between 45,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Evidence for this back-to-Africa trip comes from the partial remains of a 35,000-year-old human discovered in a cave more than 60 years ago. A distinctive pattern of alterations to mitochondrial DNA extracted from two teeth are similar to alterations seen in mitochondrial DNA of present-day North Africans, signaling an evolutionary connection, researchers in Europe say May 19 in Scientific Reports.

After evolving in Africa around 200,000 years ago, human populations spread beyond the continent by 50,000 years ago. The ancient Romanian woman’s DNA came from a maternal line that originated in West Asia after humans initially left Africa but then ended up in North Africa, the scientists propose.

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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