Published On: Tue, Oct 29th, 2019

Scientists make major humanity breakthrough in ‘cradle of humankind’ discovery | World | News

Researchers have claimed to have traced the ancestral home region and “cradle of mankind” of all living humans to a vast area of wetland that sprawled much of modern day Botswana. The area served as an oasis where life thrived in an otherwise parched expanse of Africa, and became a focal point of anatomically modern humans, founder of humans for at least the past 70,000 years.

The study suggests the group of early modern humans remained in the region, living comfortably off the land until a shift in climate came about.

This shift was triggered by changes in the Earth’s tilt and orbit, bringing rains to the north east and south west, thus producing lush corridors that allowed our ancestors to migrate into new territories, according to the scientists.

Professor Vanessa Hayes, a geneticist and senior author on the study at the Garvan Institue of Medical Research in Sydney said: “We have known for a long time that modern humans originated in Africa and roughly 200,000 years ago, but what we hadn’t known until this study was where exactly.”

The conclusions are based on analysis of 1,217 samples of mitochondrial DNA, the genetic material in tiny battery-like mitochondria found in most cells.

All of the DNA used came from people living in South Africa today, including the Khoisan, an indigenous peoples who speak with “click” consonants and practice traditional foraging.

It is thought that our ancient ancestors once populated the area just south of the Zambezi River once home to an enormous lake similar in size to England, called Lake Makgadikgadi.

The lake sprawled all the way from Namibia, across Botswana and into Zimbabwe.

The lake’s eventual breaking up made a pocket of homes for ancient humans to spread out and inhabit.

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“A third population remained in the homeland until today.”

“Mitochondrial DNA acts like a time capsule of our ancestral mothers, accumulating changes slowly over generations.”

The study’s finding throws into question a call last year to accept that there was no single birth place or origin of humankind.

Scientists had urged the field of study to accept that the distinctive features that make us humans could be found spread across the continent of Africa, rather than in concentrated areas.

However, the new study conducted by Ms Hayes and her team suggests this assertion to be false.

The discovery of Lake Makgadikgadi was pivotal in arguing human’s concentration in the area, as it explains why out ancestors would have stayed in a single area for so long.

Ms Hayes explained: “It would have been very lush and it would have provided a suitable habitat for modern humans and wildlife to have lived.”

The first to migrate would have followed an area of dense vegetation to the north east that was previously arid land.

This group was followed by a second wave of migrants who headed south west around 20,000 years later as increased rainfall meant an increase in green lands.

The first group that migrated to the north east gave rise to farming populations.

Those who went south became coastal foragers, the scientists believe.

Ms Hayes said: “Essentially, these ancestors were the first human explorers.”

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