First ancient genomes from West Africa reveal complexity of human ancestry
The ancient DNA of four children who lived thousands of years ago in western Cameroon has unearthed many more questions than answers.
Tens of thousands of years ago, humans sought refuge from the elements in a rocky hollow near the crook of Africa’s western coast. They crafted stone tools, ate fresh kills or gathered plants, and eventually buried their dead. Some may have also formed the earliest words of the Bantu languages, which are spoken by hundreds of millions across the continent today.
Yet the precise identity of the Shum Laka residents has long remained a mystery. Buried in acidic soils in the hot and humid climes, many of their remains are broken and crumbling, their DNA thought to be long degraded—until now.
Researchers have announced the sequencing of the first genomes from this site, marking the analysis of the first full ancient