By Suyin Haynes
September 22, 2016

Researchers have found evidence to suggest that the ancestry of all non-Africans can be traced back to a single migration out of Africa at least 50,000 years ago.

Modern humans evolved in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago, but the question of how our species went on to populate the rest of the globe has mystified scientists for decades. In a series of genetic analyses published on Wednesday, researchers believe they have found an answer.

In analyses published in the academic journal Nature, three separate teams of geneticists surveyed DNA collected from cultures around the globe, many for the first time, and concluded that all non-Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population that emerged from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.

The DNA of indigenous populations is essential to understanding human history and mapping genomes, many geneticists believe. Yet until now, scientists have sequenced entire genomes from very few people outside population centers like Europe and China.

Dr. Luca Pagani, a researcher behind one of the projects, told the BBC that “all three papers all reach the same conclusions. That in Eurasians and also [Papua New Guineans], the majority of their genomes come from the same major migration.”

Write to Suyin Haynes at suyin.haynes@time.com.

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