Our Common Ancestors
As your typical young Australian, I spent some time living in London during my youth. One think that always struck me was how interesting it was people watching on the underground tube. Humanity was on display in all its glory. There were people as black as the darkest night, Indian wives in multihued saris, red headed Celts, and every shade of skin colour under the sun. Talk about a melting pot!
It is fascinating to think that we all share pretty much the same genetic material. It has been speculated that humanity can close to extinction about 70,000. At that time there were as few as 2,000 people alive on the planet. It is this common ancestry that drives our genetic commonality, despite surface difference there is only one ‘species’ of humanity.
Humanities closes genetic cousins, the chimpanzees, can have more genetic diversity in one tribe than exists in every single person who is alive on the earth at the moment. This certainly puts racism in perspective!
Estimates suggest the last common female ancestor lived between 150,000 and 170,000 years ago. The last common male ancestor is estimated to have lived between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago. These are the individuals who everyone is descended from.
If we adopt a broader definition to ‘descended’ so that it includes anyone reachable along any path of succession using either father or mother and we find that humanity is effectively very close cousins. Academic Douglas Rohde developed a model that suggests:
“Our most recent common ancestor probably lived between 2,000 and 5,000 years ago and that nearly everyone alive prior to a few thousand years before that are the ancestors of either no one or of everyone alive today.”
I think they might have been these guys!