My Ancient Origins Part One


As most visitors know by now, the study of DNA and archaeology informs us that we humans all originated in Africa and spread from there to cover the globe. Scientists believe early human migrations began approximately two million years ago with the out-of-Africa migration of the archaic Homo erectus. This initial migration was followed by other archaic humans, including Homo heidelbergensis, who lived around 500,000 years ago and was the likely ancestor of both Denisovans and Neanderthals.

Within Africa, Homo sapiens evolved and dispersed around 300,000 years ago, and modern humans outside of Africa descend from a population of Homo sapiens migrating from East Africa roughly 70–50,000 years ago. Modern humans then spread along the southern coast of Asia and to Oceania about 50,000 years ago and across Europe about 40,000 years ago. About 20,000 years ago, following the peak of the last Ice Age, North Eurasians travelled to the Americas. Arctic Canada and Greenland were reached around 4,000 years ago, and, finally, humans immigrated to Polynesia within the past 2,000 years.

DNA testing also tells us modern humans interbred with local varieties of archaic humans so that now many human populations carry some genes (less than 10%) from archaic humans.

Ancient Homo sapiens fossils, dated to 194,000–177,000 and 210,000 years old respectively, have been found in Israel and Greece. These fossils seem to represent earlier migration attempts by Homo sapiens who never reached Europe and who were likely replaced by local Neanderthal populations.

To get a sense of who my early ancestors were, I had Y-DNA and Autosomal DNA genealogical tests done. Y-DNA to facilitate research into my father’s line and autosomal DNA to help identify the ancient origins of my combined parental DNA. The following paragraphs show the percentages of autosomal DNA (i.e., from both parents) that I carry from these ancient groups.


My ancient European roots originate with hunter-gatherers who found their way into Europe about 45,000 years ago. These organized themselves into bands who gathered what they could and hunted large herd animals as they travelled along their migration routes. Hunter-gatherers dominated Europe for thousands of years until the arrival of people who relied on farming and animal husbandry.


Some 8,000–7,000 years ago, after the last Ice Age, farming populations began migrating from the Near East into Europe. These migrations marked the beginning of the New Stone Age in which humans practiced a more sedentary lifestyle as their subsistence relied more on stationary farming, which allowed the emergence of artisan practices such as pottery making. Although farming populations were dispersed across Europe, they all show clear evidence of close genetic relatedness.


The third major wave of migrations into Europe is comprised of peoples from the Bronze Age; specifically, nomadic herding cultures from the Eurasian steppes found north of the Black Sea. These migrants were closely related to the people known as the Yamnaya. This migration changed life in Europe. Not only did the Yamnaya culture bring their domesticated horses, wheeled vehicles, and metal tools, they also changed the social and genetic makeup of the region.

By 2,800 BC, evidence of cultures such as the Bell Beaker and Corded Ware were emerging throughout much of Western and Central Europe. These formed through a mix of the local European farming cultures and the newly arrived Yamnaya peoples. Based on recent research, linguists also believe the Indo-European languages are rooted in the Yamnaya.


Most of the world is, of course, not of European descent. Accordingly, many of us have DNA contributions from populations of non-Europeans. And because we lack scientific data on these people, they cannot be grouped into the above three ancient categories.