Topic: Ancient Genetics
It began with hunter-gatherers, not herders and farmers, says this genetic study.
It seems there is no end these days to what genetics might be telling us about our past. To add to the profusion of new findings are the conclusions of another study that suggest an early human population boom around 60,000 – 80,000 years ago, marking perhaps the first great population expansion of human history, or pre-history, as the case would be.
The prevailing theory is that, as humans transitioned to domesticating plants and animals around 10,000 years ago, they developed a more sedentary lifestyle, leading to settlements, the development of new agricultural techniques, and relatively rapid population expansion from 4-6 million people to 60-70 million by 4,000 B.C.
But hold on, say the authors of a recently completed genetic study. Carla Aimé and her colleagues at Laboratoire Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie, University of Paris, conducted a study using 20 different genomic regions and mitochondrial DNA of individuals from 66 African and Eurasian populations, and compared the genetic results with archaeological findings. They concluded that the first big expansion of human populations may be much older than the one associated with the emergence of farming and herding, and that it could date as far back as Paleolithic times, or 60,000-80,000 years ago. The humans who lived during this time period were hunter-gatherers. The authors hypothesize that the early population expansion could be associated with the emergence of new, more sophisticated hunting technologies, as evidenced in some archaeolocal findings. Moreover, they state, environmental changes could possibly have played a role.
The researchers also showed that populations who adopted the farming lifestyle during the Neolithic Period (10,200 – 3,000 B.C.) had experienced the most robust Paleolithic expansions prior to the transition to agriculture. “Human populations could have started to increase in Paleolithic times, and strong Paleolithic expansions in some populations may have ultimately favored their shift toward agriculture during the Neolithic,” said Aimé.
Tue, Sep 24, 2013