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African Origin of Modern Chinese

Saturday, July 15, 2000

Modern humans, or Homo sapiens, might migrate from Africa into China by way of Southeast Asia between 18,000 years and 60,000 years ago, researchers say.

This latest research finding by Chinese scientists and their international colleagues concluded that modern humans might have moved from Africa to China replacing Mono erectus (archaic upright- walking human beings) there to become the ancestors of the country 's modern humans.

The conclusion is based on the comparison and analysis of Y- chromosome DNA using samples of the extant 88 populations living in East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Oceania, says Li Jin, one of the Chinese researchers of the study "Chinese Human Genome Diversity Project."

Li Jin is a professor of both the National Human Genome Center in Shanghai and the Institute of Genetics of Fudan University.

Scientists found that the variations of Y-chromosome in north China are derived from those in south China, a result proved as that a small number of settlers of African origin moved to northern China due to the hurdle of the mighty Yangtze River. And Polynesians, who live in the islands in the Pacific Ocean, are found to have different Y-chromosome to Taiwanese, forcing scientists to reconsider the hypothsis that Polynesians were descendants of ancestral Taiwanese aborigines.

As a whole, nearly all Y-chromosome variations in East Asia and the Oceania could be found among those in Southeast Asia, adds Li Jin.

So, the findings also indicate that modern humans migrated from Africa to Southeast Asia nearly 60,000 years ago.

Subsequently, the migrants were believed to have headed for two directions: one moved northwards to south China and then spread to the country's northern areas by crossing the Yangtze River, and the other went to Indonesia and ultimately reached the Oceania.

The Y-chromosome research is an important method for tracing the human migration patterns and the findings make clear the relationships between people groups in Southeast Asia, and East Asia and the Oceania, says another major Chinese researcher Jiayou Chu, who is a professor of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

This latest research result was published in today's issue of the Proceeding of National Academy of Sciences, a U.S. journal.

The finding means that scientists have made headway in the pursuit of human origin, though the conclusion that modern Chinese human beings migrated from Africa still remains controversial, says academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Zhu Chen, who is also the director of Shanghai's National Human Genome Center.

In 1987, the U.S.'s scientists brought forward a theory based on mitochondrial DNA evidence that all human beings originated in Africa and later migrated to other corners of the globe. In the intentional academic circles, few arguments were raised about the theory that all palaeoanthropic mankind originated in Africa. Meanwhile, the scientists note that fossils of Peking Man who lived 500,000 years ago and Yuanmao Man over 1.7 million years ago were found in China, but both lack any direct hereditary connection with modern Chinese man.

There is a disconnection or "faultage" in fossils of palaeoanthropic Chinese who lived some 60,000 to 100,000 years ago, researchers say.

Coinciding with the fossil record, Chinese scientists discovered last year that primitive elements of DNA found in modern Chinese are identical with those found in Africans.

The discovery has provided weighty evidence on the genetic basis for the theory that modern Chinese were not evolved from the archaic upright-walking human beings in China but originated in Africa.

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