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, 9 (1), 4728

A Dispersal of Homo Sapiens From Southern to Eastern Africa Immediately Preceded the out-of-Africa Migration


A Dispersal of Homo Sapiens From Southern to Eastern Africa Immediately Preceded the out-of-Africa Migration

Teresa Rito et al. Sci Rep.


Africa was the birth-place of Homo sapiens and has the earliest evidence for symbolic behaviour and complex technologies. The best-attested early flowering of these distinctive features was in a glacial refuge zone on the southern coast 100-70 ka, with fewer indications in eastern Africa until after 70 ka. Yet it was eastern Africa, not the south, that witnessed the first major demographic expansion, ~70-60 ka, which led to the peopling of the rest of the world. One possible explanation is that important cultural traits were transmitted from south to east at this time. Here we identify a mitochondrial signal of such a dispersal soon after ~70 ka - the only time in the last 200,000 years that humid climate conditions encompassed southern and tropical Africa. This dispersal immediately preceded the out-of-Africa expansions, potentially providing the trigger for these expansions by transmitting significant cultural elements from the southern African refuge.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing interests.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Genetic structure of Africa using mitochondrial DNA and genome-wide data. (A) Schematic African mtDNA tree, scaled using maximum likelihood and a time-dependent molecular clock for whole-mtDNA genomes (age estimates in black). Age estimates in blue in L0 were obtained using an ancient DNA calibration with BEAST. (B) Maximum-likelihood population tree and admixture events inferred by TreeMix, with five inferred migration edges. The colour of the migration arrows indicates different migration weights. The branch lengths are proportional to the extent of genetic drift that has occurred in each population.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Bayesian skyline plots for haplogroup L0. Blue line corresponds to L0 in eastern Africa and red line corresponds to L0 in southern Africa. Highlighted regions in grey correspond to the probable Middle Stone Age population increments.

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