Where on Earth are you from?

The first of my ancestors to arrive in New Zealand was Anders Haeckel, a young Finn who sailed to New Zealand with the British Merchant Navy.

In 1892, he went gum digging in Northland, then tried his hand at gold mining on the West Coast. He settled in Hokitika, where he married and raised a family. His youngest daughter, Gertrude, was my grandmother.

Maori genealogical narratives go back many more generations than this, suggesting, along with radiocarbon dating of the earliest burial sites, that the first Polynesians arrived here some 800 years ago.

But how many were there? And where did they come from?

The pattern of mutations in the DNA of modern humans reveals that if you go back far enough, we all came from Africa – all people alive today have a common ancestor who lived in Africa 160,000 years ago.

About 60,000 years ago, our human ancestors began to migrate out of Africa. Recent discoveries suggest that as they travelled, they occasionally interbred with other hominids, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Work by population geneticist Spencer Wells, director of the National Geographic’s Genographic Project, and Lisa Matisoo-Smith, professor of biological anthropology at University of Otago and the Genographic Project’s Oceania investigator, is filling in the gaps between family genealogies and the broad narratives about our species’ journey from Africa. Continue reading.

More on the Genographic Project in NZ can be found at genographic.com

Source: The Listener

Image: National Geographic

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