Tracing Our Origins with DNA
Michael Hammer, Research Scientist, discusses the latest discoveries about the origin of our species, including the intriguing possibility of interbreeding between our ancestors and Neandertals.
What do the genetic data really tell us? Were our origins solely in Africa? Are modern humans a distinct species from ancient people such as the Neanderthals? And what contact did our ancestors have with them? How can we recognise modern humans behaviourally, and were traits such as complex language and art unique to modern humans?
Hammer’s primary research goals are to better understand the genomic and evolutionary factors shaping patterns of human variation and to test models of human origins.
The human genome holds clues to the mystery of human origins. With the recent completion of the first draft of the human genome sequence we are now in a position to examine patterns of variation across the entire genome in multiple human populations.
Such an undertaking will facilitate an understanding of events that took place tens of thousands of years ago, and the better design of studies to map genes involved in human disease today.