The Human Family Tree and more (1)


The African 'oldest) part of the Human Family Tree

The African 'oldest) part of the Human Family Tree

The research of the human family tree never stood still but since DNA Research began it is in full motion. Below we use a research (that uses many others) that offers new insights. The last word concerning the human family tree however is still not said and it will probably not be spoken for a very long time.

A new study by Joseph Pickrell and Jonathan K. Pritchard, “Inference of population split from genome-wide allele frequency data and mixtures”, yielded a new family tree of humanity. In fact a new human family tree of which different variants were produced. In this pedigree, account was taken of important migrations that happened after the great spread of humans across the world from Homo heidelbergensis on. We discuss the most important aspects.

When looking at the tree we see that Homo Neanderthalensis and the Denisova hominins (that may be another kind of Neanderthal) first split from this human tree. They descended, like Homo sapiens, from Homo heidelbergensis and migrated from Africa to Eurasia around 800,000 years ago where they split in two branches around 640,000 years ago. These are approximate values which are based on average mutations.

Homo heidelbergensis evolved to Homo sapiens In Africa. On the family tree, we see that the San (or Bushmen) appear at the oldest split of Homo sapiens groups. One study states that this happened maybe between 150,000 and 90,000 years ago.[1]

The next Division was that of Mboeti-Pygmies that live in Northeast Congo.

The third division was that of the Biaka Pygmies that mainly live in the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

These three groups lived until recently as hunters and gatherers. The DNA of these peoples was so long preserved because they lived isolated until recently from recent developments such as the further spread of agriculture in Africa from Cameroon/Nigeria to the East and the South. From the fact that KhoiSan stand at the root of the human family tree we cannot infer that modern humans originated in southern Africa. It just means that very old mutations are found there. If we go back far enough in time all humans have the same ancestors but one branch must have the oldest least changed DNA.

The next group that we see on the human family tree are the Bantus of southern Africa. Their ancestors were the first that departed from Cameroon about 4000 years ago. The forefront retained its DNA. One sees also that the fork of the Bantus in Kenya is more recent. That points to a later departure from the core area in Cameroon/Nigeria.

To the African Branch of the modern humans we also see the Mozabite people. These are Berbers who live in the Algerian Sahara. The article gives no detailed explanation about them but we know that for the related Tuareg female DNA (mtDNA) is for approximately 82% sub-Saharan[2] and male DNA (y-chromosome) only 20%. 18% of Tuareg mtDNA is Berber and 82% of male DNA. The Mozabite people did to slave trade and it was the men who traveled. Mixing with black female slaves was obvious. Arrows connect the Mozabite people with the Middle East, with the spread of agriculture to North Africa and southern Europe.  

[1] Doron M. Behar et al., The Dawn of Human Matrilineal Diversity, The American Journal of Human Genetics, 24 April 2008.

[2] Rando (1998), “Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Northwest African populations reveals genetic exchanges with European, Near-Eastern, and sub-Saharan population


A new Type of Human in Southwest China?

Simulation of the man found in Longlin en in Maludong 1 in Southwest China

Simulation of the man found in Longlin en in Maludong 1 in Southwest China

Finds discovered in in two places in Southwest China, Longlin and Maludong 1, point towards a type of human that had both modern and archaic characteristics.

On 14 March 2012, it was announced that a find in Southwest China could represent a new type of man. The results of the investigation of a partial skull found in a Longlin Cave (Guangxi) was announced together with those of Maludong (Yunnan) where multiple human bones were found. The finds are between 14,300 and 11,500 years old. According to the researchers they belonged to the same type of man, who had mix of modern and archaic characteristics. Archaic are e.g. the big eyebrow arches and no chin. Modern is that the front part of the skull indicates a frontal brain development.
The authors give two possible explanations:
– These were late survivors of an archaic population such as were also found in North Africa in Dar-es-Soltane and Temara (The authors compare a similar situation, not the remains) and perhaps also in China in Zhirendong.
– East Asia may have been colonized by humans in different waves. The finds of Maludong and Longlin could be of a type that had come from Africa before for Homo sapiens was the most important human living there.
On the BBC Isabel de Groot spoke about a third possibility: the finds in China are the result of a mixture of an old archaic population and modern people (sapiens).

A skull found in  Longlin

A skull found in Longlin

I think that these three explanations are thre possibilities, even in combination. Speaking of a new type of human seems to be premature. The researchers will try to extract DNA from the bones. If they would succeed multiple questions might be solved at once. Which would inevitably raise new questions.

Source: Darren Curnoe et al. , Human Remains from the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition of Southwest China Suggest a Complex Evolutionary History for East Asians,  PLoS ONE 7(3): e31918. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031918

About older types of humans in China:
Marc Vermeersch. De geschiedenis van de mens. Deel I. Jagers en verzamelaars. – Boek 1, van Pan tot Homo sapiens. p.112-113; 156-161; 165-166; 181;219-220.
– Boek 2, de maatschappij van -jagers en verzamelaars. , p.44; p.159-160.

The Problem of the Homeland of Afro-Asiatic (2) and the origin of agriculture

(blog ready for 30%)

In order to explain where the homeland of the Afro-Asian (or Afrasian) is located, we need a general explanation about the spread of agriculture.

The spread  of Afro Asiatic in Africa and Arabia

The spread of Afro Asiatic in Africa and Arabia

Origin  and Spread of Agriculture

Agriculture was born approximately 12,000 years ago in Southeast Anatolia and the North of Syria and Iraq. From there it spread in multiple directions. Europe was one of those directions. A route that was followed here was the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. Seaworthy boats were used. Cyprus was first populated by humans around 11.750 years ago from northern Syria or Lebanon. Via Greece or the Bosphorus farmers travelled to the North. It would take thousands of years before agriculture reached Ireland and Scandinavia.
A second major direction was to Central Asia, a third to Iran, the Indus Valley and further in India to the southernmost point of the subcontinent and then to Ceylon.

A fourth trek went to Arabia. Along the Western side farmers travelled to the South. In Yemen they found a favorable climate for agriculture. Yemen is poorly researched but at last five thousand years ago, agriculture flourished there. Yemen was known in the antiquity of the Middle East it is mentioned both in the Old as in the New Testament.

A fifth expansion went from Southwest Asia to Egypt and along the southern edge of the Mediterranean Sea in North Africa to Morocco and later even further to the Canary Islands. All these migrations left from the agricultural centre that Southwest Asia was with plants, domestic animals such as goats and sheep, the first domesticated animals after the dog. They traveled pretty quickly with the first spreading farmers before pottery was invented in this part of the world.

Once South-West Asian farmers had invented pottery, their knowledge catched up with the farmers that had left first. The same happened after cattle (Bos taurus) had been domesticated. Cattle reeding spread along the routes that had been trevelled.

Farmers had a high productivity in comparison with hunters and gatherers. They could produce more food and therefore raise more children. In comparison with hunters and gatherers the number of farmers increased quickly, they spread their genes. They also intermixed with hunters and gatherers but in many places they replaced them partially or almost completely. Sometimes their advance stalled when they reached other climate zones and crops had to adapt to wetter and/or colder weather, or vice versa dryer and warmer weather. This could delay advance for a long time. Farmers could in many cases domesticate local plants and animals. The Zebu (Bos indicus) was e.g. domesticated in India. It was better suited than South-West Asian cattle to live in a hot climate.

Dissemination of farmers and their languages

Since the number of farmers increased easily, chances were that they spread their languages with their agricultural techniques. Human groups living in the same area that speak different languages need a lingua franca. Hunters and gatherers spoke languages that had had a lot of time to grow apart. Farmers spoke languages that spread fast and diverged little. An important advantage to be adopted as a common language of farmers and different groups of hunters and gatherers.

A second wave of expanding farmers could inundate a first. The Celts had spread their language and habits from Italy to Austria up to Ireland and Spain. They would be overwhelmed by a next wave, the Germans and the ancient Italic people (Indo-Europeans invading Italy) and finally only survive on the fringes of Western Europe.

However, the language of the farmers did not always win. Sometimes they spreading farmers collided on a border where people would retain their own language. We do not know which language the first European farmers spoke, proto-Afro-Asian, proto-Caucasian or language related with that of Lemnos and Etruscan but it did not conquer conquer the western edge of the Pontic-Caspian steppe (north of the Black Sea) where people spoke a precursor of proto-Indo-European.

Read more on Afro-Asiatic?

The Problem of the Homeland of Afro-Asiatic (1)