The Origin and Dispersals of Modern Humans - Computer simulations of prehistorical human populations

Dr Shuichi Matsumura

Saturday, 12 June, 2004; 7:00-9:00pm

Munby Room, King's College

We are often excited by findings about our roots. A paper published in 1987, which claimed that all the modern humans are decedents of a single woman living in Africa about 200,000 years ago, created a sensation all over the world. Due to some methodological flaws in the original analysis, most researchers believed that the existing DNA data were insufficient to claim the recent African origin of the modern humans.
For the last 15 years, molecular genetics as well as computer-intensive statistical methods have made remarkable advances. DNA sequence data have been accumulated for the peoples living in various parts of the world. Recent techniques made it possible to analyse ancient DNA including the Neanderthals'. Now we know much more about the origin and prehistorical movement of modern humans from molecular data. As a result, a new academic area 'Archaeogenetics' has been formed by interdisciplinary collaboration among archaeologists, anthropologists, and geneticists. It enabled us to integrate existing hypotheses in different disciplines into synthetic ones and to examine them from various points of view. The main objective of my current research is to infer past demographic events from molecular data using computer simulations.
Why we can know past events from DNA of present peoples? What did DNA of the Neanderthals tell us? What happened to the 'Mitochondrial Eve' hypothesis? I will show you some recent findings in 'Archaeogenetics'.