Understanding the history of human life is a difficult task. To know where we came from and how we changed and evolved we have to rely on fossils found over time and piece the evidence together. However, there are many gaps between the evidence that we have and while scientists have done their best to fill in these gaps with educated theory, they have often been proved wrong. As more and more evidence comes to the fore it appears we are constantly redrawing the lines of our history and changing how we interpret the people of long ago and how we came to be. A recent discovery has cast further light on this problem.
Everyone knows that the earliest history of man comes from Africa. This has led historians and scientists to believe we have all evolved from these early individuals and that we slowly spread across the world. This theory is not just based on where and when bones were found but on the DNA extracted from these pieces compared with our DNA today. It is clear that there is some relationship between the people of old and people across the world. These modern humans first appeared in Africa 200,000 years ago. Their ancestor was the upright Homo Erectus that was in existence as far back as 1.9 million years ago.
Thirty years ago a site was discovered in Cameroon. The site has produced material that carbon dates back as far as 30,000 years making it a significant finding to allow us to interpret our own history. However, until recently DNA testing has been unreliable, and only now are we starting to reach a point of understanding that allows us to look at samples and gain a clear understanding.
The team analyzed two burials at the site and found based on DNA evidence that one site had two boys of ages four and fifteen. The other site had a four-year-old girl and a boy that was eight. While these are tragic burials to find they are also incredibly interesting. The two sites come from very different times. The two boys date back 8,000 years while the girl and the boy date back around 3,000 years.
While that is interesting, what is absolutely fascinating is that all four are related. The two boys are closely related and the boy and girl are closely related, yet all four are in some way related. The excitement doesn’t stop there when geneticists studied the DNA they found that all four of them had DNA that came from ancient hunters and gatherers in Western Central Africa. The other two thrids though is what caused the scientists to be shocked. The DNA appears to come from an ancient source that has been unknown until now. These are modern humans that no one knew existed. Experts are calling these people a “ghost population” as they appear to now be extinct and there is no other evidence of them to be found.
This may cause scientists to rewrite many ideas they had on the original modern humans. While in the past it was thought that there were three deep lineages, there now appears to be a fourth. This is a monumental discovery for the study of people and our ancestors and will help to fill in more pieces of the jigsaw going forward. More than that it suggests that there are still more truths hidden out there in the world waiting to be discovered.