A new study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics is questioning the notion that the first humans came from Ethiopia. Instead, the study suggests that modern humans exited from Egypt.

The lead author of the study is Luca Pagani of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at the University of Cambridge. He explains that the research has created unbiased genomic data from Northeast Africans that shows “a higher genetic similarity between Egyptians and Eurasians than between Ethiopians and Eurasians.” Pagani says that the results have revealed an important part of the evolutionary history of Eurasians, giving billions of people more information about their biological history.

The study suggests that humans exited Africa and began their dispersion across the globe as early as 130,000 years ago, not between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago, as previous research suggested. They would have exited Africa out of one of two routes: a northern route in what is now Egypt and Sinai, or a southern route in what is now Ethiopia and Arabia.

If the southern route were the primary way out of Africa, Ethiopians would have genetic similarities to Eurasians. However, since the study found that Egyptians had more similarities to Eurasians, the northern route may have been the primary path out of Africa.

The fact that non-Africans possess DNA from Neanderthals suggests the northern route, as Neanderthals were present in the Eastern Mediterranean along that route. However, there is evidence that indicates some humans did take the southern route out of Africa.

Current research suggests that Eurasians drifted away from Egyptians genetically roughly 55,000 years ago, away from Ethiopians roughly 10,000 after that, and away from West Africans an additional 10,000 years after that.

Pagani suggested that future studies could look into whether any of the humans that took the southern route out of Africa left genetic traces in modern day Oceanians.

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