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Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Great Human Migration

The prevailing theory among scholars, based on genetic studies, is that Homo sapiens (modern humans) originated somewhere in Africa around 200,000 B.P. and then began their great migratory journey to colonize the globe around 60,000 B.P. The details of that migration are still elusive, but scientists hope to come one giant step closer to filling in the knowledge gaps by conducting a worldwide project to collect and test the DNA of diverse populations and thereby trace the pattern and directions of the migratory routes. Called the Genographic Project, it will be the largest study of its kind ever undertaken. Some of the questions the project hopes to address are rather intriguing: Was there interbreeding between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens? Is it possible to extract DNA from the remains of extinct hominids? Who is the oldest population group? What are the origins of human population differences? Did any migrations to the Americas come across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans?

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