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To What Extent Has Dna Technology Helped Our Understanding Of Human Colonisation And The Spread Of Agriculture In Europe Over The Past 10 000 Years? How Is This Supported By Language Evidence?

1741 words - 7 pages

Although the focus of this essay is to discuss how DNA technology helped our understanding of human colonisation and the spread of agriculture in Europe over the past 10 000 years, it will first look at the recent African origin theory as it is relevant to show how modern humans arrived in Europe in the first place. As later discussed it will also have a bearing on the development of agriculture.The two main hypotheses agree that Homo erectus evolved in Africa and spread to the rest of the world around 1 - 2 million years ago; it is regarding our more recent history where they disagree. The multiregional theory takes the view modern humans evolved from earlier hominids(such as Neanderthal and Homo erectus in different parts of the world. It is supported by physical evidence, such as the continuation of morphological characteristics between archaic and modern humans. However with the aid of new technology such as DNA analysis suggesting an alternative view, this has become a minority theory.The recent African origin theory, or Eve theory supposes that modern humans evolved in Africa before colonizing the world and subsequently colonised the rest of the world without genetic mixing with archaic forms thus replacing all previous populations of Homo Species. This theory is supported by the majority of genetic evidence as it predicts that all humans living today can trace their ancestry to a single population living in Africa sometime during the Late Pleistocene. This is supported from evidence from DNA of the mitochondria which shows that African populations have a higher level of genetic variation than non-Africans, which is consistent with an earlier origin of African populations than in other regions of the world. This explanation assumes that the ancient ancestors to living humans was small at its origin and later expanded in number and in geographic range.Genetic research has become important in helping our understanding of human colonisation because the level of genetic variation present in humans today may be related to the size of the human population in the past. Genetic research seems to support the theory that only inhabitants of a very small area could be ancestral to living humans, while inhabitants of other areas apparently went extinct. Takahata, 1993 and Harpending et al., 1998 research has lead them to conclude that the human population ancestral to us was limited to a size of around 30,000 individuals, or 10,000 breeding adults, during most of the Pleistocene. Since this number is so much smaller than that estimated, it would be consistent with a recent African origin model for our evolution.However use of DNA and genetics in answering questions about the origins of modern man is far from conclusive. For example studies using DNA of human mitochondria, indicates that the population began to spread world wide between 40,000 and 70,000 yr ago. This differs with the anatomical evidence which suggests that there were presence of...

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