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article imageEuropean DNA comes from Egyptians who migrated out of Africa

By Stephen Morgan     May 30, 2015 in Science
"Walk like an Egyptian" say the words of the song, and it seems that Europeans and Asians did just that, when they migrated north from Africa tens of thousands of years ago.
New DNA studies show that Eurasians are more closely linked to Egyptians than other East African peoples, such as Ethiopians.
The findings suggest that the great migration north of homo sapiens from our ancestral home in Africa took a route north through Egypt, rather than from a more southerly starting point in the Horn of Africa — modern Ethiopia and Eritrea — as had previously been thought.
The new results are helping scientists put together the pieces of the jigsaw about the great human migrations which populated the planet, often referred to as the "Out of Africa" theory.
Sci-News quotes Pagani, the team leader from the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain, who said;
“Two geographically plausible routes have been proposed: an exit through the current Egypt and Sinai, which is the northern route, or one through Ethiopia, the Bab el Mandeb strait, and the Arabian Peninsula, which is the southern route.”
However, the new findings give strong support to the hypothesis that Egypt was the last point of departure, before homo sapiens traveled north-east through the Levatine countries of the Middle East — modern Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon — and then on up into Europe.
TechTimes says that the researchers made an analysis of the genetic data of six modern north-east African populations.
The team carried out a 225 whole-genome sequence, which showed that white Europeans and Asians are more similar genetically to Egyptians than other African groups.
"The most exciting consequence of our results is that we draw back the veil that has been hiding an episode in the history of all Eurasians, improving the understanding of billions of people of their evolutionary history," Pagani said.
"It is exciting that, in our genomic era, the DNA of living people allows us to explore and understand events as ancient as 60,000 years ago."
Others believe the African exodus may have begun far earlier at about 135,000 years ago, but this doesn't necessarily contradict the current findings.
Co-author of the study, Toomas Kivisild of Cambridge's Department of Anthropology and Archaeology says that;
"Our results do not address controversies about the timing and possible complexities of the expansion out of Africa."
However he added they do "paint a clear picture in which the main migration out of Africa followed a northern, rather than a southern route,"
Other genetic evidence from non-African and Neanderthal populations living in the Levant at that time tends to back up the reports results, as well as the recent discovery of 55,000-year-old human fossils in Israel.
But further genomic data will be needed to prove whether or not their thesis is correct.
"Did other migrations also leave Africa around this time, but leave no trace in present-day genomes? To answer this, we need ancient genomes from populations along the possible routes," he says.
Nevertheless, Science Daily reports;
"In addition to providing insights on the evolutionary past of all Eurasians with their new findings, the researchers have also developed an extensive public catalog of the genomic diversity in Ethiopian and Egyptian populations.
"This information will be of great value as a freely available reference panel for future medical and anthropological studies in these areas," says Pagani.
He added,
"Our research has generated the first comprehensive set of unbiased genomic data from Northeast Africans and observed, after controlling for recent migrations, a higher genetic similarity between Egyptians and Eurasians than between Ethiopians and Eurasians. This suggests that Egypt was most likely the last stop on the way out of Africa,”
The study was published in the May 28th issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.
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