"Eve" Came from East Africa; American Association of Physical
Anthropology reportStudy: 'Eve' Came From East Africa
By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
April 24, 2003 ‹ "African Eve," the female ancestor of all humans,
likely hailed from East Africa, according to a recent study.
If the current analysis is correct, East Africa probably served
as the cradle of humanity many thousands of years ago.
Sarah Tishkoff, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor
of biology at the University of Maryland, explained that the
term African Eve" refers to an ancestral mitochondrial DNA genome.
"All genomes today are descended from one person, but she lived
in a larger population. By chance, her neighbor's mtDNA genomes
'died out' and never made it into the modern gene pool."
Mitochondrial DNA is inherited unchanged from the mother only,
allowing researchers to trace unadulterated DNA back hundreds
of thousands of years.
For the Eve study, blood samples were taken from over 1,000 ethnically
and linguistically diverse populations in Tanzania. Tishkoff
and her colleagues focused on the mtDNA from a subset of 500
that represented remote populations, many of which have never
been studied before.
Tishkoff presents the findings on Thursday at a meeting of the
American Association of Physical Anthropology.
The oldest DNA lineages show the greatest diversity. When the
Tanzanian test subset was compared with existing genetic data,
Tanzania and other East African countries, such as Kenya and
Ethiopia, displayed the most diversity, and are therefore likely
the oldest mtDNA in Africa.
While Tishkoff and her team were unable to narrow Eve's origins
down to a single population, possible candidates include the
Burunge and Iraqw, who probably migrated from Ethiopia to Tanzania
within the last 5,000 years; the Maasai and Datog, who are thought
to have originated in southern Sudan; and two very ancient Tanzanian
populations, the Sandawe and Hadza.
"The Sandawe and Hadza live about 150 km (93.21 miles) apart,
but they look very different," Tishkoff told Discovery News.
"The Hadza are dark skinned and the Sandawe are light skinned,
for instance. They both practice hunting and gathering and are
thought to be descendants of very ancestral populations from
The two populations speak using a click language. A South African
group, the !Kung san, also speak with a click language and previously
were thought to be one of Africa's oldest populations.
Because genetic studies reveal the !Kung san and Sandawe share
a common ancestor from 37,000 years ago, Tishkoff and her team
now believe the !Kung san may have originated in East Africa
and later migrated southward.
Alison Brooks, professor of anthropology at George Washington
University, thinks the East Africa Eve theory is "definitely
Brooks found some of the earliest evidence for modern human behavior
‹ finely crafted barbed bones that were used for fishing ‹ in
Eastern Zaire. She told Discovery News that long-distance trade
networks, microlithic technology (small, interlocking tools),
and the presence of an animal- and plant-rich environment all
suggest East Africa was the origination point for modern human
Brooks said, "From Ethiopia into Tanzania and Zambia, we see
evidence for a large human population that was culturally complex
very early on, even by the Middle Stone Age (200,000-30,000 years