A recent news story in the June 7, 2017, issue of Nature, about the discovery in Morocco of what might be the oldest Homo sapiens fossils yet discovered, reminds me of a story told by the geneticist Spencer Wells: “A family tree for humanity,” on TED in 2007.
Wells suggested that, based upon examination of human mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome samples from people in the contemporary world, all modern humans originate from Africa. His initiative, the Genographic Project 2005 – 2017, has gone beyond the search for the earliest humans in an attempt to fill in the larger picture of how our species evolved and populated the planet. Thanks to DNA-testing kits distributed in more than 143 countries, upwards of 800,000 people have participated in elucidating the origin and migratory dispersal of H. sapiens.
By using Web of Science, you can assess the impact of Spencer Wells’ article, “The genographic project public participation mitochondrial DNA database” (D.M. Behar, et al., Plos Genetics 3: 1083-95, 2007). You can also link to Data Citation Index (DCI), which allows you to navigate to data in Figshare, one of well-known repositories that allow researchers to publish all of their research outputs in a citable, shareable and discoverable manner. In DCI, you can also find repositories containing 40 data sets from Spencer Wells and colleagues. In all, DCI covers more than 300 repositories, and you can find and link from data to article or article to data.
In his TED talk, Wells added that 70,000 years ago, the human population was less than 2,000 individuals, due to cold weather and other harsh conditions, so we human beings are really close to each other in DNA aspects. That means that the worldwide human population derives from an original number less than that of my home town in Tokyo.
That fact is something beyond all the thoughts and beliefs of many religions or local ethnic groups. For example, in my case, according to written history, the ancient Japanese are believed to have come from the Korean peninsula during the period 300 BC to 300 AD, and one of Japan’s legend stories starts from Izumo, Shimane. It was written in 700 BC.
Seventy thousand years ago seems like the blink of an eye in the evolutionary history of Earth, but the fact that Japanese ancestors could be people living in Africa is far beyond my thoughts. It is not written in the legend story. Someone has to write the story of this long human journey, which is beyond our traditional ethnic or linguistic limitations.