Why Europeans are Almost 1/3 African

This is an article I’ve posted on Medium.com about the little known, yet substantial, recent African ancestry that all people of European descent have inherited.

Why Europeans are Almost 1/3 African

It should be common knowledge by now that human beings in their modern form, Homo sapiens, first evolved in Africa. Exactly when we emerged on the scene remains uncertain (recent fossil discoveries suggest it may have happened over 300,000 years ago, a hundred millennia earlier than we originally thought), but whenever it was, most of our species’s history of existence would have played out on the so-called “Dark Continent”. It would have been no earlier than 70,000 years ago — and possibly as soon as 55,000 years ago — when the ancestors of all people outside of Africa would wander out of the continent and colonize the rest of the habitable world.

This would not have been the first dispersal of hominin apes out of Africa, mind you. Much in the press has been made of the fact that between 1–7% of modern human ancestry outside our ancestral continent comes from the descendants of earlier emigrants such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans. What may not be so widely publicized, however, is that the famous “Out of Africa” migration between 70–55,000 years ago would not have been the last movement of Homo sapiens from Africa into Eurasia and beyond, either. There is in fact a plethora of compelling evidence that humans from Africa continued to venture out and leave a permanent genetic mark on the ancestry of their Eurasian kin— even the “white” peoples of Europe.

I don’t mean a light dash, either. Almost one third of European ancestry descends from African admixture within the last 55,000 years.


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