Stanford University researchers peering at history's footprints on human DNA have found new evidence for how prehistoric people shared knowledge that advanced civilization.
Using a genetic technique pioneered at Stanford, the team found that animal-herding methods arrived in southern Africa 2,000 years ago on a wave of human migration, rather than by movement of ideas between neighbors. The findings shed light on how early cultures interacted with each other and how societies learned to adopt advances.
"There's a tradition in archaeology of saying people don't move very much; they just transfer ideas through space," said Joanna Mountain, PhD, consulting assistant professor of anthropology. Mountain and Peter Underhill, PhD, senior research scientist in genetics at Stanford's School of Medicine, were the study's senior authors. Their findings will appear in the Aug. 5 advance online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
"We know that humans had to migrate at some point in their history, but we also know humans tend to stay put once they get someplace," Underhill said.