The Khoe-San people of Southern Africa have long been argued as one of the oldest distinct populations in the world — but it wasn't until now that we realized just how long ago that split actually happened.
A new report published this week in Science has undertaken a genomic study of 220 people from 11 different populations in Southern Africa. Researchers found the earliest population splits to be remarkably old. As in, 100,000 years old. In a press statement, lead author Dr. Carina Schlebusch explained:
The deepest divergence of all living people occurred some 100 000 years ago, well before modern humans migrated out of Africa and about twice as old as the divergences of central African Pygmies and East African hunter-gatherers and from other African groups.
So, 100,000 years ago, the Khoe-San people split off from the rest of the population of Africa, and then subdivided around 35,000 years ago. 45,000 years ago was when the rest of the peoples of Africa began to split into other groups.
The study, which looked at 2.3 million DNA variants per individual, was also able to identify environmental genetic adaptations that were selected for in the ancient past — specifically, genes related to muscle function, immune response, skeletal development, and UV-light protection. The genome data from this study is set to be freely released, and with further studies like this, we might be able to pick apart the ancient origins of modern humans.