MOTHER TONGUE
Newsletter of the Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory

Issue 25 · Summer 1995


New Dating of Biogenetic Phylogeny?

New analyses, new data, new dates for anatomically modern man, starting the diaspora from Africa. This are mostly confirming type conclusions but the analysis is new. David Goldstein (Pennsylvania State) and colleagues reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 18, 1995, that they had determined a date of 156,000 years for the African diaspora. The technique involved microsatellites, (nuclear DNA particles) and assumptions about mutation rates and the length of generations. Theirs was 27 years. Masatoshi Nei at Penn State said that small, isolated groups of early humans evolved independent mutations which can complicate calculations. Also he favors assuming 20 years per generation, making 115,000 the date of diaspora. However, it seems moderately culture-bound to assume a generation of 27 years, modern middle class Euroamericans. I would assume about 16 years, making the diaspora about 92,000 years. David Pilbeam (Harvard), when asked, saw 15-20 years as the best assumption for chimpanzee generations. So perhaps Nei's estimate fits best.

Alan Templeton (Washington U.) thinks the new techniques are interesting but, of course, the assumed split between Africans and non-Africans never occurred. Our common humanity goes back nearly a million years and genes flowed between continents, he says.

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(c) 1996 Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory