The Origins Of Mankind: Was There An African Eve?
Archaeogenetics is a fascinating science. Accepted current research suggests that every human being on earth is descended in an unbroken line, traced through their mothers in a genetic system called matrilineal descent, from one woman who lived in western Africa some 200,000 years ago. She was given the rather catchy nickname, ‘ Mitochondrial Eve’ , after her genetic lineage and biblical counterpart.
Unlike her counterpart, however, no one suggests that she was the only woman who lived at the time.
The human population numbered in the tens of thousands back then. Other women alive no doubt passed on their lineage to people living today who carry their genes. But at some point, in the long human history since then, each of their lines of descent failed to generate a reproducing female, thus breaking the mitochondrial line. In order for the genes carrying this mitochondrial material to continue into the future, the offspring of these women had to, at some point, mate with the descendants of Mitochondrial Eve, the proposed African matriarch of everyone. Mutations have occurred, obviously. People share different color skin and eyes, for instance. But according to the Out of Africa theory, every person alive on Planet Earth today is, in one sense, African beneath the surface.
All this biology, however, still does not answer two questions. What makes people human? How did it get that way? Is the answer to these questions going to be found in biology, or in physical actions? In other words, are people human because of what they are, or what they do? If people became human when they started to walk upright, then it can be said that their evolutionary transition from ape-like hominin to human took place some six million years ago. But if they became human when ancient upright walkers started to have legs mechanically similar to modern man, then, according to Smithsonian studies, that would make mankind some three million years old. If people became human when they tamed and utilized fire, then they are about 350,000 years old.
If people became human when they started to bury their dead with grave implements, signifying religious thought or a belief in an afterlife, then they are a little more than 100,000 years old as a species.
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Jim Willis is author of 13 books on religion and spirituality, he has been an ordained minister for over forty years while working part-time as a carpenter, the host of his own drive-time radio show, an arts council director and adjunct college professor in the fields of World Religions and Instrumental Music. He is author of Censoring God: The History of the Lost Books (and other Excluded Scriptures)
By Jim Willis