Background: The phylogeographic distribution of human mitochondrial DNA variations allows a genetic approach to the study of modern Homo sapiens dispersals throughout the world from a female perspective. As a new contribution to this study we have phylogenetically analysed complete mitochondrial DNA(mtDNA) sequences from 42 human lineages, representing major clades with known geographic assignation.
Results: We show the relative relationships among the 42 lineages and present more accurate temporal calibrations than have been previously possible to give new perspectives as how modern humans spread in the Old World.
Conclusions: The first detectable expansion occurred around 59,000-69,000 years ago from Africa, independently colonizing western Asia and India and, following this southern route, swiftly reaching east Asia. Within Africa, this expansion did not replace but mixed with older lineages detectable today only in Africa. Around 39,000-52,000 years ago, the western Asian branch spread radially, bringing Caucasians to North Africa and Europe, also reaching India, and expanding to north and east Asia. More recent migrations have entangled but not completely erased these primitive footprints of modern human expansions.