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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Oldest Story Never Told

A "Great Lesson" for today:

A couple of days ago my friend and I, each with an occupied dog carrier, climbed into a taxi with an imposing disgruntled driver. “Dogs in the back! Dogs in the back!” he ordered, referring to a third seat, and then aimed a couple additional commands at us which I did not understand.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Africa,” was his reply.

“What country are you from? Africa is a big continent and I'm not smart enough to place your accent.”

“Nigeria. Where are you from?” Still a little hostile.

“Oh, I'm from the United States, the mid-west actually. Ohio.”

Then my friend pipes up from the third seat with the dogs, “I'm from Chicago. I'm Japanese but I was born here. Where were you born?”

“I am from Africa, Nigeria.”

To this I replied, “I guess we could all say we were from Africa.”

“Why do you say that?” He was caught off guard.

“Have you heard of the Human Genome Project? It is a group of people who are trying to find all the human genes. They have gone all around the world to collect representative samples from as many different people as they can locate. When they brought all the findings together, they saw that there were many different human genes in all the continents, but the only continent that had all of them, all the different genes, was Africa. That's when they knew...”

“Knew what?” His tone had changed.

“Well, maybe I should have said 'suspected.' That's when they realized that if all the genes were in Africa, then all of our ancestors must have brought them with them when they left Africa. In other words, we are all from Africa, only some of our families left sooner than others.”

“So why did they leave?”

“Well, according to a Nova program on PBS, they were hunters who depended on animals for food. When the animals ran out of food, they left for greener pastures, and for generations these hunters followed their prey.“

“I'm from Africa so why haven't I heard this?”

“I don't think very many people have heard this story. More people should tell it.”

Studies indicate that all modern humans share a common female ancestor who lived in Africa about 140,000 years ago, and all men share a common male ancestor who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. These were not the only humans who lived in those eras, and the human genome still contains many genetic traits of their even more ancient contemporaries. But these are only Humanity's most recent common ancestors. They are identifiable because their lineages have survived by chance in the special pieces of DNA that are passed down the gender lines nearly unaltered from one generation to the next. These ancestors are part of a growing body of fossil and DNA evidence indicating that modern humans arose in sub-Saharan Africa and began migrating, starting about 65,000 years ago, to populate first southern Asia, China, Java, and later Europe. Each of us living today has DNA that contains the story of our ancient ancestors' journeys.

From: genomics.energy.gov


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