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Egypt May be the Key to Human Migration Out of Africa

May 28, 2015 04:27 PM EDT

Scientists are confident that all modern human populations can trace their ancestry back to Africa, yet the road they traveled along has remained unclear. But now, new research indicates that Egypt may be the key to the ancient human migration out of Africa.

Around 60,000 years ago, the ancestors of present-day Europeans and Asians moved out of Africa to colonize Eurasia.

According to a new genomic analysis, described in the American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG), Egypt was the major gateway out of Africa and that migration followed a northern rather than a southern route, as some scientists believed.

To uncover the true migratory path that Eurasian ancestors took, Dr. Luca Pagani, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge in the UK, and his colleagues analyzed the genetic information from six modern Northeast African populations (100 Egyptians and five Ethiopian populations each represented by 25 people).

"Two geographically plausible routes have been proposed: an exit through the current Egypt and Sinai, which is the northern route, or one through Ethiopia, the Bab el Mandeb strait, and the Arabian Peninsula, which is the southern route," Pagani explained in a press release.

"In our research, we generated the first comprehensive set of unbiased genomic data from Northeast Africans and observed, after controlling for recent migrations, a higher genetic similarity between Egyptians and Eurasians than between Ethiopians and Eurasians," he added.

These findings suggest that Egypt was most likely the last stop on the way out of Africa.

In addition to adding a crucial piece of information that allows us to better construct humans' evolutionary past, the researchers have also developed an extensive public catalog of the genomic diversity in Ethiopian and Egyptian populations.

"This information will be of great value as a freely available reference panel for future medical and anthropological studies in these areas," said Pagani.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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