Genetics to unlock secrets of Africa’s past

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Geneticists and archaeologists could soon be working together to investigate the genetic diversity of our human ancestors in Africa, a meeting on the ‘Human Genome and Africa’ was told last month.

In Europe, Neanderthal DNA has already been sequenced successfully. But ancient DNA has not yet been extracted from African hominid fossils, partly because very little organic material is preserved in African fossils more than 10,000 years old, as preservation requires cool, dry conditions.

Archaeologists have some potential sites in mind in South Africa, however. But most of the country’s nine provinces — which have recently been given responsibility for granting permission for excavations — lack the infrastructure to administer such a mandate, resulting in an effective moratorium on excavations.

Link to Nature news story

Reference: Nature 422, 460 (2003)

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The Human Genome and Africa conference