Bronze Age origins of bubonic plague

Study finds evidence of Yersinia pestis bacterium in 5,000-year-old human teeth

Three pandemics of bubonic plague have occurred in historical times: the first began with Plague of Justinian from AD 541 to 544, continuing intermittently until AD 750 AD; the second began with the Black Death from AD 1347 to 1351, continuing in waves including the Plague of 1665-66 into the eighteenth century; and the third which started in China in the mid-nineteenth century and triggered a series of outbreaks worldwide during the first half of the last century. The Black Death alone killed 30 to 50 percent of the European population. Deaths totalled at least 75 million, more than the number of deaths during World War I and II combined. Continue reading

Modern humans were in China 100,000 years ago

Assignment of fossil teeth from Fuyan Cave to Homo sapiens is ‘unequivocal’

Ever since genetic evidence emerged to support the ‘recent Out of Africa’ model of modern human origins, the orthodox view is that until around 60,000 years ago modern humans were confined to Africa and a short range extension into Southwest Asia. The latter is thought to have been brought to an end as colder, more arid climatic conditions set in around 90,000 years ago. The model has been challenged by archaeological evidence suggesting that modern humans were established on the Arabian Peninsula 125,000 years ago and had reached India 77,000 years ago. Continue reading

Ancient DNA reveals more extensive Neolithic back migrations to Africa from Eurasia

Sequenced genome of 4,500-year-old Ethiopian male provides genetic baseline for researchers

Modern humans are generally accepted to have originated in Africa, and the genomes of native Africans is therefore of great importance in reconstructing early migrations as our species dispersed around the world as it provides a baseline against which later events can be viewed. A problem for geneticists is the back migrations from Europe and Southwest Asia that have occurred within historical times, which act as a confounding factor when working with genetic data from present-day populations. Continue reading