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DNA History

September 25, 2015

DNA evidence is filling in gaps in human history.



History written in DNA. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers are recovering human history by digging into human DNA. In the journal Current Biology, University of Oxford human evolution professor Cristian Capelli describes how genetics can reveal the migrations of people centuries ago.

CRISTIAN CAPELLI (University of Oxford):

You can recover signature of historical events about migration of people and exchange of genes, where such events have not been recorded in the history books.


Capelli’s group identifies fragments of genes that are shared between modern people of different backgrounds, and analyzes them to reveal when in history the groups intermixed. They’ve found a large wave of Mongolian migration centuries before Genghis Khan, as well as frequent mixing between Mediterranean Europeans and African populations.  The work fills in information missing from archaeological remains and historical texts. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society. 


Gene flow within West Eurasia is shown by lines linking the best-matching donor group to the sources of admixture with recipient clusters (arrowhead). Line colors represent the regional identity of the donor group, and line thickness represents the proportion of DNA coming from the donor group. Ranges of the dates (point estimates) for events involving sources most similar to selected donor groups are shown. (Busby, et al./Current Biology 2015)