Khoisan mDNA and Africa’s Eve

There are a few things we know about the ‘original’ man of Africa. Genetics have traced our roots to a specific set of mDNA markers existing 200,000 years ago, a sort of genetic Eve for modern man. Archaeological evidence has traced the outpouring of man across the other continents to about 60,000 years ago (though this outpouring is still a theory only). A variety of methods and tactics have been employed to trace the relations of various groups of people from that point on, both through physical remains and modern biology, and through cultural markers such as language, tradition, history, and religion. But there’s still quite a bit we don’t know.

Quite a bit of what is left unknown is from that time span prior to the diaspora. The stone age began at some point before the diaspora. Such toolmaking has long been interpreted as the advent of civilization and a result of language, but the evidence is spotty at best. Conflicting theories of development (such as the idea, also largely unsupported, that Neanderthals had spoken language) are just as reasonable. Of particular interest are ideas of how one species may have replaced or interbred with another in a specific area.

Through studying the mDNA of Khoikhoi and San peoples, new theories are being posed for this early developmental time in Africa.  Maybe we were all meant to die out 70,000 years ago.  Maybe the speakers of that wonderful clicky language diverged from us genetically earlier than we’d previously thought.  Maybe they’re all closer to our genetic Eve mother and how we’re all ‘supposed’ to look.  Maybe after cheating death for thousands of years, our time as a species has come.  Maybe mDNA Eve is only one instance of the genetic change that was taking place across the globe all at once, and this whole diaspora idea is baloney.  Who knows?  But if we as a species were near extinction way back there in Africa, how would the world have developed without us?  It’s worth thinking about.


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