Changing Planet

Modern Humans Wandered Out of Africa via Arabia

Modern humans migrated out of Africa via a southern route through Arabia, rather than a northern route by way of Egypt, according to research announced at a conference at the National Geographic Society this week.

“Evolutionary history shows that human populations likely originated in Africa, and the Genographic Project, the most extensive survey of human population genetic data to date, suggests where they went next…Modern humans migrated out of Africa via a southern route through Arabia, rather than a northern route by way of Egypt,” said a news statement released by IBM.

National Geographic and IBM’s Genographic Project scientific consortium developed a new analytical method that traces the relationship between genetic sequences from patterns of recombination — the process by which molecules of DNA are broken up and recombine to form new pairs, the news statement explained.

The statement continued:

“Ninety-nine percent of the human genome goes through this shuffling process as DNA is being transmitted from one generation to the next. These genomic regions have been largely unexplored to understand the history of human migration.

“By looking at similarities in patterns of DNA recombination that have been passed on and in disparate populations, Genographic scientists confirm that African populations are the most diverse on Earth, and that the diversity of lineages outside of Africa is a subset of that found on the continent.

“The divergence of a common genetic history between populations showed that Eurasian groups were more similar to populations from southern India, than they were to those in Africa.”

“The divergence of a common genetic history between populations showed that Eurasian groups were more similar to populations from southern India, than they were to those in Africa. This supports a southern route of migration from Africa via the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in Arabia before any movement heading north, and suggests a special role for south Asia in the ‘out of Africa’ expansion of modern humans.”

Ajay Royyuru, senior manager at IBM’s Computational Biology Center, said: “Over the past six years, we’ve had the opportunity to gather and analyze genetic data around the world at a scale and level of detail that has never been done before.  When we started, our goal was to bring science expeditions into the modern era to further a deeper understanding of human roots and diversity. With evidence that the genetic diversity in southern India is closer to Africa than that of Europe, this suggests that other fields of research such as archaeology and anthropology should look for additional evidence on the migration route of early humans to further explore this theory.”

According to IBM, the new analytical method looks at recombinations of DNA chromosomes over time, which is one determinant of how new gene sequences are created in subsequent generations. “Imagine a recombining chromosome as a deck of cards. When a pair of chromosomes is shuffled together, it creates combinations of DNA. This recombination process occurs through the generations<” IBM explained in its statement.

“Recombination contributes to genome diversity in 99% of the human genome. However, many believed it was impossible to map the recombinational history of DNA due to the complex, overlapping patterns created in every generation. Now, by applying detailed computational methods and powerful algorithms, scientists can provide new evidence on the size and history of ancient populations.”

Reconstructing Genetic History

IBM researcher Laxmi Parida, who defined the new computational approach in a study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, said: “Almost 99% of the genetic makeup of an individual are layers of genetic imprints of the individual’s many lineages. Our challenge was whether it was even feasible to tease apart these lineages to understand the commonalities. Through a determined approach of analytics and mathematical modeling, we undertook the intricate task of reconstructing the genetic history of a population. In doing so, we now have the tools to explore much more of the human genome.”

The Genographic Project continues to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of the history of humankind and unlock information from our genetic roots that not only impacts our personal stories, but can reveal new dimensions of civilizations, cultures and societies over the past tens of thousands of years, IBM’s statement added.

“The application of new analytical methods, such as this study of recombinational diversity, highlights the strength of the Genographic Project’s approach.  Having assembled a tremendous resource in the form of our global sample collection and standardized database, we can begin to apply new methods of genetic analysis to provide greater insights into the migratory history of our species,” said Genographic Project Director Spencer Wells. (Read a News Watch post by Spencer Wells about his book Pandora’s Seed, taking us back to a seminal event roughly 10,000 years ago, when humans made a radical shift in their way of life: we became farmers rather than hunter-gatherers, propelling us into the modern world.)

Mapping how Earth was Populated

The recombination study highlights the initial six-year effort by the Genographic Project to create the most comprehensive survey of human genetic variation using DNA contributed by indigenous peoples and members of the general public, in order to map how the Earth was populated. Nearly 500,000 individuals have participated in the Project with field research conducted by 11 regional centers to advance the science and understanding of migratory genealogy. This database is one of the largest collections of human population genetic information ever assembled and serves as an unprecedented resource for geneticists, historians and anthropologists.

The Genographic Project seeks to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species and answer age-old questions surrounding the genetic diversity of humanity. The project is a nonprofit, multi-year, global research partnership of National Geographic and IBM with field support by the Waitt Family Foundation. At the core of the project is a global consortium of 11 regional scientific teams following an ethical and scientific framework and who are responsible for sample collection and analysis in their respective regions. The Project is open to members of the public to participate through purchasing a public participation kit from the Genographic Web site (, where they can also choose to donate their genetic results to the expanding database. Sales of the kits help fund research and support a Legacy Fund for indigenous and traditional peoples’ community-led language revitalization and cultural projects.

Posted from news materials provided by IBM and National Geographic.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Lynda Swain Sheppard

    Absolute nonesense. Scandanavian geno plainly demonstrates a absence of any melting pot racial mix – caucasians are not the descendants of black Africans any more than Chinese, Japanese, or Indians would be and these are not obtuse enough to make a case for black origin. The question really is why Europeans so fear their own history that they prefer to cleave to another peoples identity? And yeah, europeans have made many cases, (replete with forensics, historians, (who lie) and publicity) alleging people they have known to be black African – were really caucasian, why? Alleged they knew nothing of black people until slavery – that too was a great big fat lie as Greek and Roman history plainly demonstrate. Alleged black peoples contributed nothing to this world when they have known that their contribution was substantial and very very significant; still depict black African Egyptian kings and queens as caucasians, along with king Solomon who was as black as coal and plainly not of mixed race. Now europeans want to be the children of black people whom they have consistently harmed and maligned throughout the ages. GET A LIFE – Preferably your own and take a leaf out of the books of China, Japan, India, Burma etc all of whom have their own proud history just as europe does and remember that no peoples history is excellent, by knowing our history we discover who we are, where we must be and with this information we can shape our destinies – this can never be achieved by stealing someone else’s.

  • Deepak Jain

    This map doesnt shows the migration of ancestors to American and australian continent. study of this two continents may help to connect all the links..

  • sharmalondon

    INDIA is the home of all NON AFRICAN people.

    Europeans come form india.

    the vedic indian culture is found throughout europe, and central asia, and east of india also.

  • Jay

    The Egyptians stated that came from the east.

  • Mubarak Aljassim

    with all due respect Mr. Shappard, these are scientific findings not a socio-political issue . The African Migration theory have been proven again and again to be true ( or as close as it gets..). The majority of archaeologists and anthropologists have confirmed this with findings throughout the world. Now with the relatively new science of DNA, the evidence is simply irrefutable..

  • Ayman Chehade

    I totally agree with Lynda !
    All nonsense, …. with too weak arguments

  • Jaygee

    Few hundred years ago the scientists were jailed for saying the world is round. In this day and age I am surprised some still do not accept the truth, despite the proven evidence!? We are all from the same seed, let us live in harmony!

  • Robert Bixby

    Humans came from Africa. They were not necessarily black-skinned people. Many of the oldest genotypes in Africa are not very dark at all. Selective breeding can yield any genotype from platinum blonde with straight hair to very dark with curly hair. People may go through an area, populating it as the first flood of africans populated the mediterranean, then return “from the east” tens of thousands of years later driven by drought, famine, or disease out of their native region. Scandanavians are a mixture of the pale people who could exist in the low-light areas of the world and the inuits, lapps, and other northern people. Scandanavians actively scoured the globe for people to mate with–as vikings, my own heritage. If human beings had more than one origin story–some being descended from some primitive ancestor of the snow macaques in Japan, perhaps, and others from chimpanzeelike creatures, a descendant of many thousands of years of generations in Nigeria could not interbreed with a scandanavian who had descended from thousands of years of scandanavians. In fact, we have no trouble producing healthy offspring regardless of our racial heritage. Even horses and donkeys, which are very closely related, cannot produce fertile offspring. Regardless of your race, you are no more distantly related to any other human than you are to the neighbors down the street.

  • Marjeta Manfreda Vakar

    I want to see the rout of people, who were in IJ y-DNA haplogroup! They came in Europe before Indo Europeans. On this map I do not see it.

  • Martin

    It is interesting how some folk – when confronted by irrefutable scientific evidence that we are all from the same seed – still insist that their racial purity theories override the empirically established facts. Even our ancestors, when grappling with trying to understand our genesis, concluded that we were all one human race. What this genetic research has done is demonstrate that this fundamental aspect of our ancient human tradition was right. No superior races, but a rich human history going back 190,000 years or so.

  • Chris Mally

    This map is possibly useful for some lay people, but it is very oversimplified. The movements in Africa are just plain wrong. They imply that non-Africans are descended from Yorubans, Chadians, Luhya and Maasi, which is simply not true. Those groups are mostly descended from other groups that never left african . Chadians, on the male line at least, are significantly descended from Out of Africa migrants who returned approximately 20 kyo, while the Yorubans and the Maas to a lesser extent are decended on the male line from haplogroup E, which has moved around africa, the middle east and the mediterranean in ways that aren’t yet clear.

  • Carla Bahri

    I’m in Haplogroup T, from the Genographics project. So, this makes more sense now.

    I am Lebanese and my grandmother’s family were born in Lebanon. I had no matches but one on Mitosearch. Haplogroup T is the oldest of the T groups-so we must have remained in that region for thousands of years.

    If its true that we were the people who began agriculture in the Fertile Crescent, a small group must have traveled to Europe to teach agriculture production (if this remains true that the people of the Fertile Crescent traveled to Europe to teach agriculture-T were migrators and were people of the Fertile Crescent-Genographic’s explanation). Interesting- T is found in small numbers in Pakistan, India, N. Europe, N. Russia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. Its the rarest of the haplogroups. This study makes more sense now. All very interesting!

  • Annette

    There is no migration from Africa to the U.S. because the U.S,A is a young country and the majority of it’s population are immigrants except those of African descent.( We all how the majority ended up in the U.S.). It has been proven over and over that the human race originated in AFRICA!!!! like or not. All Haplogroups are derrivatives of the AFRICAN gene. Basically this reports has proven what “Blacks in America” been saying for years. It is not about superiority or anything it is about the origin of mankind. Unfortunately those who are not African have a hatred for “people of color” of the world. Hence everyone else are a derrivate of those who they hate so much.

  • Glenn

    Ms Swain Sheppard please. We all belong to one human race. We all share a common ancestor, and we are all cousins separated by about 2000 generations. Although from your comments, I’d be perfectly happy for you to be an exception to overwhelming scientific fact.

  • Jamil

    Such foolish comments:

    “There is no migration from Africa to the U.S. because the U.S,A is a young country and the majority of it’s population are immigrants except those of African descent.”

    So how can they be of “African descent” if they’re aren’t immigrants? Any migration from one region to another is a migration such making African Americans immigrants.

    ” It has been proven over and over that the human race originated in AFRICA!!!! like or not. All Haplogroups are derrivatives of the AFRICAN gene.”

    Yet Africans consist of 3 distinct haplotypes: AfroEurasians, Bantus and Khosians…all of which are not related except the latter two. The AfroEurasians are an admixture via a south European migration into North Africa which traveled into Subsahara Africa. We know this because this DNA on the African continent is younger than the indigenous lineages and most of this DNA is found in North Africa. OR….maybe this DNA is there from the Islamic Slave Trade where Europeans were sold as slaves into the African and Arab slave markets.

    ” Chadians, on the male line at least, are significantly descended from Out of Africa migrants who returned approximately 20 kyo, while the Yorubans and the Maas to a lesser extent are decended on the male line from haplogroup E, which has moved around africa, the middle east and the mediterranean in ways that aren’t yet clear.”

    More Bullshit..Chadians=Tchad. This is the crossroads of Africa so you have E3a, E3b, and L3 and maybe even J2 once they test for it. Chadians NEVER migrated out of Africa. I’m Chadian via south Libyan extraction. Yes, this makes me a Garamante. And guess what? Much of this DNA is related to the Yoruba and other Nok people who migrated east just as much as it is related to those who migrated from the north and from Lake Chad. In other words Chadian DNA is a melting pot on the African continent.

    “Humans came from Africa. They were not necessarily black-skinned people.”

    Yet the oldest of L3 is found in south Europe while China and other regions in Europe have recently disclosed information of homo sapiens that predates those of subsahara Africa.

    The irony…

  • Beverly Sahin

    All my life I only knew about my European ancestry: German, English, French, Scottish, and English Canadian. From this project my DNA showed that my maternal ancestry is American Indian, or Native American. This is fascinating to me. It even ties in with a family tree book my mother had made. My great great great great grandmother is THE Indian woman whom a Frenchman married in Canada before they came down into New York state, where her daughter was born before she moved to Cavendish, Vermont, from where my family’s traceable ancestors had come. I love the fact that my mother’s maternal line was Native American, and I would never have known it, were it not for the DNA test of this project. And yes, that line also originated in Africa. I am white, but I welcome all you black folks into my family as long-lost brothers and sisters whose ancestors left Africa much more recently than mine did. Thank you, genome project, for adding this richness of knowledge to my life.

  • Richard Lazzara

    People evolved along side the whales, etc. in the Tethys closed rift on the coasts of the Tethys Ocean then went into Africa.

  • kumar

    It appears that Europeans are basically Indians, with African Bones and Mongolian Skin, who migrated into Europe after Last Ice Age.

  • Java

    I hereby stake claim to my portion of Africa, Arabia, India and such lands as were inhabited by them, in the name of my direct ancestors Homo Erectus and Homo Australopithecus et al. who inhabited those lands. So Take Notice!

  • Muhammad AbdulAlim

    In movie Gremlins. The off springs hated the original Gremlin.
    That maybe a natural behavior in humans. When will we get
    Beyond the tribal mentally. of hate, and religion is one of the,
    Motivating factor for hate. BTW My DNA revealed, The Americas, N&S, Europe, E&W, Asia, E&S, South Pacific,and
    Africa, N,E,W,S. (WE ARE NOT AN ISLAND).

  • Baskaran

    Dear National Geographic Team,

    There is a big mistake in the map according to the name of the south indian population. The name Parayar stands for the lowest caste of the south-indian caste system also known as Dalits. As a Tamil and Dravidian the true name of the south- indian population, I understand this as a disparagement of dravidians. I expect a apology and a correction of the name from parayar to dravidian immediately.

  • Ernest

    Hate appears to be stronger than science to accept this is to accept the dominant gene includes melanin the recessive gene does not. As Africans migrated when the world was one land mass Pangea. Before Vikings, Moors or any other later labels so if you doubt where humans originated, check you hate meter! Check it honestly.

  • Louise Sommerfeld

    Is this for real? Just as I was excited to find that my ancestors came out of Africa via Egypt, now the whole map has changed. I still like going straight north and turning left toward England. It seems like the closest most practical way to go has changed to a long drawn out trip into southern India and then north through Iran or perhaps an extended trip further East to Japan. I can see that the roads must have been very busy going west on the way to the Nile and perhaps there was too much traffic to go directly north! Wow! Still a long detour if you ask me!

  • Lynda Swain-Sheppard

    I have come to the conclusion that individuals who assert the monogenist view, have limited intelligence, which precludes them from employing reason to the facts. Mine is not a socio-political issue, or a racist perspective, nor has it any roots in any form of bigotry. Fact: Caucasian races are absent from the Lower and Upper Palaeolithic in Africa or beyond, nor are they evidenced during the Neolithic, in either the Blombos Cave art in South Africa, or the Neolithic Sahara Cave art, or the Egyptian, Kenyan, Zimbabwe Cave art et-cetera; all of which depicts “only” black tribes of people’s. Many of the worlds leading Scientist, confirm this, going further to state by placing their doctorates on the record, that Caucasian people have in fact, only been around for the last 10,000-7,000 years. Even if, Scientist wished to state a 30,000 year origination for Caucasians, this cannot detract from the fact, that South Africans have a 300,000 – 250,000 year human circa, making black peoples the oldest race on earth. Given that Caucasians et al came so much later, where precisely does this leave the Monogenist view that we all originated from a single couple? I am not even aware of “any” Scientist still pushing this fallacy. We are after all a long way from ignorant Medieval times. Do animals all originate from a single seed? No. Flowers? Fishes? So why should Humanity be bereft of diversity? Many scientific studies omit the rape factor during slavery, imperializm and colonization. Where studies have been conducted among racially pure black tribes, like the Hadza tribe, these were found to be related to no other people on earth! So this insane push against the facts is actually troubling. Caucasians then point to fair skin Africans or Africans with blue eyes. Africa has always had Albino’s, (unrelated to any Caucasian people), and Waardenburg Syndrome furnishes black Africans with blue eyes – Again, no Caucasian input. Further, Caucasians are not a by-product of African Albino’s.
    1. The absence of the Recessive gene is not found in sufficient quantity to substantiate this allegation, nor has anyone produced any evidence, scientific or medical, to explain how and why the African Albino physiognomy changed?
    2. As Caucasians were not present at the dawn of human history, how can they deny the first man and woman were a black couple?
    3, would not the chromosomes from this black couple determine their physical shape and unique identity?
    4. Can a Caucasian couple produce a African, Chinese or Indian child? Let’s keep it real.
    That some people want to believe in the Monogenist theory, does not make it true. Scientific tests now prove that it could not have been statistically possible for mankind to have originated from a single couple. I think Monogenist must revisit their theory, which at its roots, has fears, that if we are not all holding hands and singing Cum-ba-ya we will fall into global conflict. Not true. We would start respecting and appreciating our diversity. The enslavement by man of his fellow, inter-racial unions, even blood transfusions, creates probables that do not appear to be calculated when testing DNA. When pure bloodlines are investigated, the findings are quite astonishing. Frankly, if I were a Caucasian, I would want to know the truth about my origin. I would be open to candid discussions. honest debates, brain-storming and investigating the scientific research with a open mind. The history of man and the science does not add up. Find a Scientist willing to assert that Caucasians existed in the timeline of Africa 300,000 years ago. Then, if the assertion is, that Caucasians are a by-product of the African race. Explain how?

  • Krishna

    It never surprises me the racism people spit out. Many in the West couldn’t handle being genetically related to Africans, now they can’t handle coming from India. Racists will be racists.

    This map makes perfect sense based on ice melt from the last ice age and movement of animals. As the ice melted, it made it possible for animals to venture further out. Humans followed the animals for hunting. That is why they travelled through the lower Arabian peninsula because the upper part was probably still filled with many layers cold ice. As more and more ice melted, it made sense to venture further north. But before the northern areas melted, the South melted first.

    The older model used made no sense. Where they showed a direct migration into Europe from Africa via of Egypt. Europe was still way way to cold for animals or humans to migrate in mass. It makes more sense to travel along the coast of the Arabian peninsula and then along the coast of the Middle East to India where humans can travel to south India where it is warmest. The migrating animals would travel that direction and being along the coast gives access to plenty of fish.

    People, use some logic. Back then, people were in survival mode. They went the direction of least resistance and easiest pickings for food. Europe was way way told cold and hard living. The ice didn’t melt yet there. Made no sense to travel there.

    This map nailed it.

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