Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I Demand a Recount

According to a story at, everyone now alive on Earth -- all six billion of us -- is descended from a person who lived only 3,500 years ago:
We are all related to man who lived in Asia in 1,415BC
By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
(Filed: 30/09/2004)

Everyone in the world is descended from a single person who lived around 3,500 years ago, according to a new study.

Scientists have worked out the most recent common ancestor of all six billion people alive today probably dwelt in eastern Asia around 1,415BC.

Although the date may seem relatively recent, researchers say the findings should not come as a surprise.

Anyone trying to trace their family tree soon discovers that the number of direct ancestors doubles every 20 to 30 years. It takes only a few centuries to clock up thousands of direct ancestors.

Using a computer model, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology attempted to trace back the most recent common ancestor using estimated patterns of migration throughout history.

They calculated that the ancestor's location in eastern Asia allowed his or her descendants to spread to Europe, Asia, remote Pacific Islands and the Americas. Going back a few thousand years more, the researchers found a time when a large fraction of people in the world were the common ancestors of everybody alive today - while the rest were ancestors of no one alive. That date was 5,353BC, the team reports in Nature....
Got that? Here's what I take from it: There was a guy living 3,500 years ago who's the common ancestor of everyone now living. (His mate should be our common ancestress, but maybe he had more than one mate.) Anyway, that guy was descended from a bunch of people who are, therefore, our common ancestors, too. But a big bunch of people -- everyone else living 3,500 years ago, and all their ancestors -- don't have any living descendants. I guess you could say their genes faded.

(Thanks to Captain Ed for the tip.)