A geographically explicit genetic model of worldwide human-settlement history

Am J Hum Genet. 2006 Aug;79(2):230-7. doi: 10.1086/505436. Epub 2006 May 30.


Currently available genetic and archaeological evidence is generally interpreted as supportive of a recent single origin of modern humans in East Africa. However, this is where the near consensus on human settlement history ends, and considerable uncertainty clouds any more detailed aspect of human colonization history. Here, we present a dynamic genetic model of human settlement history coupled with explicit geographical distances from East Africa, the likely origin of modern humans. We search for the best-supported parameter space by fitting our analytical prediction to genetic data that are based on 52 human populations analyzed at 783 autosomal microsatellite markers. This framework allows us to jointly estimate the key parameters of the expansion of modern humans. Our best estimates suggest an initial expansion of modern humans approximately 56,000 years ago from a small founding population of approximately 1,000 effective individuals. Our model further points to high growth rates in newly colonized habitats. The general fit of the model with the data is excellent. This suggests that coupling analytical genetic models with explicit demography and geography provides a powerful tool for making inferences on human-settlement history.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Eastern
  • Computer Simulation
  • Emigration and Immigration / history*
  • Genetics, Medical / history*
  • Genetics, Population / history*
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic*