Identifying the Garden of Eden

Seminar by Prof. Vanessa M. Hayes from University of Sydney

10 December 2018
KST 10:00 – 11:30

Archaeological and genetic data concur that anatomically modern humans (AMHs or Homo sapiens sapiens) arose in Africa some 200 thousand years ago (ka). However, the exact birthplace and the reasons for subsequent migrations remain elusive. While the oldest AMH skeletal remains suggest an east African origin, southern Africa is home to contemporary populations representing the earliest branch of human phylogeny. Hayes and her team have been using DNA signatures from whole genomes, to maternal genomes (mitogenomes) to DNA markers to redefine early modern human timelines, origins, prehistory and dispersal pathways, with a focus on southern Africa. Recently the tem generated the largest mitogenome resource for poorly represented human lineages from the root-region of AMH’s maternal phylogenetic tree. The study focuses on contemporary southern Africans of KhoeSan heritage, specifically click-speaking forager peoples. Overlaying our genomic data with linguistic, ethnic, cultural, historical, anthropological, archaeological, geographic and ultimately astronomically-driven climatological data, we propose an AMH homeland south of the Zambezi River. We show evidence for an extended homeland period with an out-of-homeland migration event driven by significant climatic change. Different African-wide trajectories in turn gave rise to independently evolving geographic AMH isolates.