A Genetic Perspective on African Prehistory

Pedro Soares, Teresa Rito, Luísa Pereira, Martin Richards

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The various genetic systems (mitochondrial DNA, the Y-chromosome and the genome-wide autosomes) indicate that Africa is the most genetically diverse continent in the world and the most likely place of origin for anatomically modern humans. However, where in Africa modern humans arose and how the current genetic makeup within the continent was shaped is still open to debate. Here, we summarize the debate and focus especially on the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and a recently revised chronology for the African mtDNA tree. We discuss the possible origin of modern humans in southern, eastern or Central Africa; the possibility of a migration from southern to eastern Africa more than 100 ka, carrying lineages within mtDNA haplogroup L0; the evidence for a climate-change-mediated population expansion in eastern Africa involving mtDNA haplogroup L3, leading to the “out-of-Africa” migration around 70–60 ka; the re-population of North Africa from the Near East around 40–30 ka suggested by mtDNA haplogroups U6 and M1; the evidence for population expansions and dispersals across the continent at the onset of the Holocene ; and the impact of the Bantu dispersals in Central, eastern and southern Africa within the last few millennia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAfrica from MIS 6-2
Subtitle of host publicationPopulation Dynamics and Paleoenvironments
EditorsSacha Jones, Brian Stewart
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-017-7520-5
ISBN (Print)978-94-017-7519-9
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2016


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