The mtDNA Legacy of the Levantine Early Upper Palaeolithic in Africa

The mtDNA Legacy of the Levantine Early Upper Palaeolithic in Africa

Sequencing of 81 entire human mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) belonging to haplogroups M1 and U6 reveals that these predominantly North African clades arose in southwestern Asia and moved together to Africa about 40,000 to 45,000 years ago. Their arrival temporally overlaps with the event(s) that led to the peopling of Europe by modern humans and was most likely the result of the same change in climate conditions that allowed humans to enter the Levant, opening the way to the colonization of both Europe and North Africa. Thus, the early Upper Palaeolithic population(s) carrying M1 and U6 did not return to Africa along the southern coastal route of the “out of Africa” exit, but from the Mediterranean area; and the North African Dabban and European Aurignacian industries derived from a common Levantine source.

Pretty much agrees with every other conclusion about the colonisation of North Africa I’ve ever seen, although the date is older than a couple. Some of the bickering about the entry dates has ben rendered moot by the Taroralt Mt DNA that shows Eurasian DNA 12,000 years ago in Morrocco. The date has to be very much prior to the Ibero Maurassian though (20,000) because the Eurasian ancestry was in situ in Morocco before the Halfan migration north from the Egypt area spread out across as far as East Morocco and the Levant, and into East Africa. The Logic? The Western IM samples are ‘all Caucasoid’ but the samples from east Morrocco as far as Israel show a mix of Sub Saharan and Eurasian traits. The Eurasian migration had to predate it.

I’d just like to ask how, looking at the distribution pattern of M1a which shows a hot spot in Egypt and has a date predating the expansion into east Africa, it has been labelled as East African in origin. It shows up in Southern Iberia, so the sanest explanation is that it’s NE African in origin and dates back prior to the Hafan expansion that turned into the Kebaran and Ibero-Maurussian cultures.

m1-dist

I’m still searching for the full text of this.

9 responses to “The mtDNA Legacy of the Levantine Early Upper Palaeolithic in Africa

  1. “did not return to Africa along the southern coastal route of the ‘out of Africa’ exit, but from the Mediterranean area”.

    I’m still far from convinced regarding this southern route. I’m firmly of the opinion (so far) that the Mediterranean route has always been the main exit from Africa (until boats were invented at least).

  2. I’m firmly of the opinion (so far) that the Mediterranean route has always been the main exit from Africa (until boats were invented at least).

    Boats were probably invented long before you think. Crossing Bar-el-Mandeb anyhow poses no navigational problems.

    What does pose a problem is that mtDNA M, and Y-DNA C (and probably D too) appear to have an origin in South Asia. This can very hardly be explained by a mainland West Asian route (that could be feasible for mtDNA N instead, though not necesary). Overall the whole Eurasian genetic pool appears to have a South Asian urheimat, not a West Asian or North African one. This can only be explained by either:

    1. The coastal route, which appears supported by Afro-Indian technological similitudes in the Middle Paleolithic.

    2. A total or nearly total extinction of H. sapiens in West Asia and North Africa, maybe because of Neanderthal and climatic pressure, followed by recolonization from South Asia.

    It’s not impossible that there was a double route anyhow, with M centered in South Arabia (from where it would be removed by mere drought, eventual back-migrations and drift) and specially South Asia (where it’s still dominant), and N going via the Fertile Crescent as far as South Asia too and back-migrating after the Neanderthal interlude with R already as dominant subclade (R also appears to have an Indian urheimat).

    In such hypothetical scenario, for the Y-DNA, it’s clear that C and D would have also used the coastal route along with mtDNA M, while the situation for F and derivates is less clear. The area with stronger F(xK) dominance is West Asia, but it’s hard to explain the wide spread of the clade without considering India and SE Asia. Even if F had a West Asian origin, its major derivate, K, must have coalesced in India before spreading east and west.

  3. “Boats were probably invented long before you think”. By 50,000 years ago in order to reach Australia, but probably somewhere round the South China Sea, not in Africa.

    “The coastal route, which appears supported by Afro-Indian technological similitudes in the Middle Paleolithic”. But isn’t that just as likely to indicate a technological movement in the other direction?

    “Y-DNA C … appear[s] to have an origin in South Asia”. Have a look at the distribution of Y-DNA C*. It’s concentrated around what would have been, during any ice age, a virtually land-locked South China Sea. The small amount of C* in India is just as likely to have come from this region rather than indicate an origin in India.

    Y-DNA C’s history before it reached the South China Sea cannot be determined with our present knowledge. But. Both it and mtDNA N are the main haplogroups in Australia, and probably arrived together. As you say, a Central Asian route “could be feasible for mtDNA N”. In fact very likely. No early branches on mtDNA N are found in India, except R which is also reasonably common around the South China Sea. Certainly R’s descendants must have moved through India to reach Europe but her descendants are also extremely common in the East, including Australia.

    “while the situation for F and derivates is less clear”. I’m reasonably convinced F is an early India haplogroup but, again, it’s route there is problematic. Apart from H its early branches are very common around the Zagros and Caucasus Mountains. They may have arrived there from India but it’s as likely they are remnants dropped off during F’s migration into India.

    Finally. “Crossing Bar-el-Mandeb anyhow poses no navigational problems”. Not by the time it happened. It’s beginning to look extremely likely that there was indeed a movement across it: by Y-DNA E and M DNA haplogroups. Not ‘out of Africa’ but into it.

  4. I’d like to remind you of more thing Luis. Just recently I had reason to thank you for pointing out that the relatively recent prehistoric movements that gave rise to the present language distribution around Europe were much more complicated even than what I’d thought.

    I feel I should return the favour and point out that the ancient prehistoric movements that gave rise to the present haplogroup distribution around the world will be much more complicated even than what you think.

  5. It’s been suggested that Homo Erectus must have had boats to reach Flores.

    I’m still behind the Nile as the simplest exit route from Africa. Following a river downstream isn’t rocket science.

  6. I agree with the last part, but I suspect that Homo erectus reached Flores by accident. On top of a buch of vegetation or logs perhaps.

  7. They weren’t small mammals that could reproduce quickly Terry. Like us or any large ape, you’d need a decent sized founder population to set up a viable colony. This makes the ‘stray couple clinging to a natural raft by accident’, a bit unlikely. You’d need a dozen foundersat least, which makes an accidental colonisation seem a bit unlikely. I’m not suggesting sails and stuff, but logs tied together are possible.

  8. I agree you need a decent sized population but they needn’t all have arrived at once. But I still think the crossing was largely accidental because once any group with any sort of boat (reeds tied together say) had reached Flores there would be other places they could quite easily have got to. Not Australia, for sure, but other islands in Wallacea. Of course it’s possible we haven’t found the evidence for wider dispersal yet. Perhaps next week something will come out?

  9. I think that the “discovery” of Flores and other islands probably happened in the same way as the Vikings “discovered” Markland – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markland – in that a Viking ship was sailing from Iceland to Greenland and got blown off course, by a storm, and accidently discovered the Labrador coast of Canada. They finally made their way back to Greenland, and from there set out later in an organized fashion to potentially colonize Markland.

    So if some Homo Erectus/Neanderthal guys were out fishing on a log raft and got blown off course by a storm, and discovered Flores, but were able to paddle their way back from whence they came, mightn’t they later set out with a bunch of females, tools and supplies to colonize the island?

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