Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? These fundamental questions have been widespread throughout human history, shared across different cultures from distant epochs and geographical locations. The search has been as much a philosophical as an empirical one, capturing the imagination of the philosopher, the theologian, the artist and the scientist alike. Hence, the quest for unveiling our origins is probably as old as humanity itself. From a scientific point of view, which we address in the present article, the question of human origins became deeply intertwined with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in the late 19th century. This led to the development of scientific fields such as palaeoanthropology, which analyses fossil remains, stone tools and cultural artefacts to piece together our past. Recently, however, the possibility to assess genetic information from thousands of individuals across the world and, more importantly, to obtain DNA from specimens that lived thousands of years in the past (so-called ancient DNA [aDNA] analyses) is rapidly transforming long-held beliefs about our origins. As such, we have never been in a better position to ask what do our genomes have to tell us about where we came from. Ultimately, however, can they tell us who we are?
Feature| January 31 2020
A genetic perspective on human origins
Biochem (Lond) (2020) 42 (1): 6–10.
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Matthew Williams, João Teixeira; A genetic perspective on human origins. Biochem (Lond) 31 January 2020; 42 (1): 6–10. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/BIO04201006
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