DNA taken from the skeleton of a hunter gatherer boy found in Ballito Bay has pushed back the date when modern humans first emerged and reveals possible prehistoric trysts with a relative species. An international team of scientists that includes academics from the universities of Johannesburg and Witwatersrand were able to sequence genomes from the 2,000-year-old skeleton and estimate a split among modern humans occurred 350,000 to 260,000 years ago, somewhere in West Africa. Fossil evidence from East Africa had previously estimated modern humans had emerged at about 180,000 years. "This means that modern humans emerged earlier than previously thought," says Mattias Jakobsson, a population geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden, a project leader. The team, whose research appears in the latest issue of Science, sequenced the genomes of seven skeletons that were found in southern Africa of individuals that lived between 2,300 and 300 years ago. What the bones provided was a DNA s...

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