London: Scientists claim they have found vital clues which suggest that the first modern humans settled in Arabia on their way from the Horn of Africa to the rest of the world.
An international team, led by the University of Leeds in Britain and the University of Porto in Portugal, says it has used genetic analysis in its research to look for clues about
human migration over 60,000 years ago.
"A major unanswered question regarding the dispersal of modern humans around the world concerns the geographical site of the first steps out of Africa.
"One popular model predicts that the early stages of the dispersal took place across the Red Sea to southern Arabia, but direct genetic evidence has been thin on the ground," said team leader Dr Luisa Pereira at the University of Porto.
In fact, in its research, the team analysed three of the earliest non-African maternal lineages. These early branches are associated with the time period when modern humans first successfully moved out of Africa.
Using mitochondrial DNA analysis, which traces the female line of descent, the scientists compared complete genomes from Arabia and the Near East with a database of hundreds more samples from Europe. They found evidence for an ancient ancestry within Arabia.
Team member Prof Martin Richards at the University of Leeds added: "The timing and pattern of the migration of early modern humans has been a source of much debate and research.
Our new results suggest that Arabia, rather than North Africa or the Near East, was the first staging-post in the spread of modern humans around the world."
The findings have been published in the latest edition of the `American Journal of Human Genetics`.