DNA found in 4,500-year-old human skeleton

DNA has been found in a 4,500-year-old skeleton with enough genetic material to create one entire genome. This ancient skeleton belonged to a human who was discovered in a cave in the highlands of Ethiopia, while the DNA was discovered in the subject's ear bone. This is the first time a genome has been assembled from DNA found in a set of fossils found in a tropical climate – previous finds have only been made in cooler climates – much further away from the equator and far more well preserved.

DNA evidence suggests that humanoid migratory efforts out of Africa began around 60,000 years ago. After that – once Eurasians had developed agriculture, and the like, many moved back into Africa. Mota lived in the time between the large migration of humans out of Africa and the large migration of humans back into Africa. His relative age and lack of Eurasian DNA suggests that the second migration happened only 3,000 years ago.

"Roughly speaking, the wave of West Eurasian migration back into the Horn of Africa could have been as much as 30% of the population that already lived there – and that, to me, is mind-blowing," said University of Cambridge Department of Zoology's Andrea Manica, senior author of the study on Mota.

"The question is: what got them moving all of a sudden?"

Now that DNA can reliably be extracted from African skeletons, more studies like this will be able to be published. As these bits and pieces to the big puzzle are assembled, we'll have a far better idea of what human migratory patterns were like some 3,000 years ago – and beyond.

You can read more about this study in the paper "Ancient Ethiopian genome reveals extensive Eurasian admixture throughout the African continent" as published in the scientific journal Science under code DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2879. This paper was authored by M. Gallego Llorente, E. R. Jones, A. Eriksson, et. all.