While genealogy allows us to trace our ancestry back 5 to 10 generat
ions, the National Geographic Society’s genographic study of DNA of 350,000 people over 4 years traced ancestry over thousands of generations, back to a “scientific Adam and Eve.” That is, they claim to trace the DNA of every living human to a single Homo sapiens man and woman in Africa over 200,000 years ago.
This does not contradict the evidence of earlier man outside of Africa. Rather, it supports the theory that there were multiple, or “wave” migrations out of Africa over time. The test results for two ECHO Molise directors who took part in the study indicate their ancestry was in a second out-of-Africa migration (circa 50,000 years ago) rather than direct evolution of the Homo erectus who settled La Pineta (opens Earliest Inhabitants article) Isernia 750,000 years ago.
Out of Africa II
DNA passes to each generation and combines father’s and mother’s DNA to give us individual characteristics.
Some parts of the DNA chain (such as Y-chromosomes) pass intact only from father to son, generation after generation. Mothers pass mitochondrial DNA, also intact, to sons as well as daughters. Intact, that is, except for occasional and randomly occurring mutations.
These mutations, called “genetic markers,” identify divergences in our Homo sapiens sapiens family tree.
Genetic markers occur at a fairly steady rate, providing evidence of when they occurred. And clusters of people with the same mutation provide evidence of where they occurred. Working backward in time, then, allows one to chart a probable migration route out of Africa and eventually into Italy.
"Two roads diverged..." (at right) combines and outlines the migration results of our two directors. You can see a map of your own probable haplogroup migration (free) at Ancestry.com.
Both the National Geographic Genographic Project (opens new window) and Ancestry.com provide more and clearer detail on the role of DNA in tracing ancestral migration, and both will test your DNA for a fee.
and our ancestors took...?
50,000 years ago, a retreat of the Ice Age opened new grassland corridors. Some of the estimated 10,000 Homo sapiens used these corridors to move north and out of Africa.
45,000 years ago, with a population of Homo sapiens reaching tens of thousands, an ancestral branch began to move through the Middle East toward the steppes of Central Asia. A smaller group diverged, continuing toward the Balkans.
40,000 years ago, the “Eurasian Clan” followed the herds into Tajikistan. At this point, the clan diverged, with one group heading into North Central Asia and another toward Pakistan and India.
35,000 years ago, the onset of an Ice Age pushed some of the estimated 100,000 Homo sapiens into Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and southern Siberia.
30,000 years ago, with continued glacial expansion, the population began another divergent migration—part heading south toward India, part heading west into Europe (particularly France, Germany and the Ukraine or Russia). These "Homo sapiens sapiens" brought better tools and a complex society that may have eventually marked the end of the Neanderthal era.
20-15,000 years ago, expanding ice sheets forced another southerly move toward the Balkans, Spain and Italy. The nomadic steppe dwellers who headed south also spread from Iceland to India. Their descendants (opens the Samnites-I Sanniti article) are credited with domesticating the horse and spreading Indo-European languages.