Ancient DNA from West Africa reveals clues about ancient humans

Africa is the where humans first originated, and is home to the highest human genetic diversity on the planet. An international research team has recently sequenced DNA from four children buried 8,000 and 3,000 years ago at Shum Laka in Cameroon, a site first excavated by a Belgian and Cameroonian team 30 years ago.

The team’s research was published in the 22 January 2020 issue of Nature, and represents some of the oldest DNA recovered from Africa. The study has enabled a new understanding of the ancient ancestral relationships among early Homo sapiens in sub-Saharan Africa.

This study was the product of collaboration among geneticists, archaeologists, biological anthropologists and museum curators based in North America (including Harvard Medical School and the Université de Montréal); Europe (Royal Belgian Museum of Natural Sciences, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Université Libre de Bruxelles and Saint Louis University’s Madrid campus); Cameroon (University of Yaoundé, University of Buea); and China (Duke Kunshan University).

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