11 February 2010

Analysing ancestry

Nature reports, today, the first "near complete" genome sequence of an "ancient human" from a lock of frozen hair. Ancient is a relative term, here, since the individual concerned dates from about four thousand years ago (8000HY, or 2000BCE) but it's far enough back to offer new insights into human history – indicators for a previously unevidenced migration from Siberia to Greenland in approximately 6500HY, for instance. A PNAS article last month indicated that biological diversity in much older human populations was greater than now, on a par with current great apes.

Divining the possible strands of our unwritten past is done, and has always been done, in many ways. I wrote, three years ago, about a statistical study of how the skull has evolved. Involvement in a combined aid/research project at a central African site, last summer, brought me the payoff of new insights emerging from dust and data analysis. But I find the new genetic searchlight on human prehistories particularly exciting. Perhaps I should get out more...

  • Rex Dalton, "Palaeogenetics: Icy resolve" in Nature, 2010. 463(7282): p.724.
  • C D Huff, et al, "Mobile elements reveal small population size in the ancient ancestors of Homo sapiens" in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010. 107(5): p. 2147.

No comments: