Environmental Settings of My Ancestors

I chose my paternal genetic lineage to depict the biogeographical setting of my ancestors because of its trace ability through Y-Chromosome (Y-DNA) testing. It provides a deep view of paternal ancestry as each generation of fathers pass on intact copies of their Y-DNA to their sons over the ages of time. In this case, my haplogroup O originated during the middle Stone Age.

Figure 14
The Stone Age

Stone Age Timeline

Stone Age remains have been uncovered of early modern humans, such as Yuanmou Man, who inhabited China 1.7 million years ago in the Yuanmou area of present day Yunan Province. As early as 200,000 years ago modern humans are estimated to have lived in China and both my maternal and paternal ancestral lines stem from Paleolithic environs. Much is being learned of their cultural patterns, lifestyles, and population migratory patterns.

Life in the Paleolithic period meant my earliest ancestors had to contend with thick year-roundice sheets, frigid climate, and dwindling hunting and foraging spaces. To keep warm in the cold climate,they would be wrappped in animal skin. They would take shelter in the warmth of caves, staying near themouth of the cave where it would be lighter for better vision. Where no caves existed, they built temporary shelters from branches, leaves, and animal skins. As hunters and gatherers they made crude tools and weapons from stone and bone, stone axes, and carved wooden spears for hunting and fishing, which they cooked over fire. They also gathered edible plants, fruit, and collected eggs from bird nests. A single killof a woolly mammoth would provide a clan with food for months.

Paleolithic people were also the first to leave behind art. They used combinations of minerals, ochres, burnt bone meal and charcoal mixed into water, blood, animal fats and tree saps to etch humans, animals, and signs. They also carved small figurines from stones, clay, bones and antlers.

My such ancestors are classified genetically as Haplogroup O. They originated in the Stone Age during the time of the Last Glacial Maximum of the Ice age, ~30,800 years ago in the East and Southeast area of present day China where researchers are finding the skeleton remains of prehistoric Asians as well as new archaeological and paleoclimate data. This is also the area of origin of my earliest genetic ancestors. Hereafter I will refer to them as ancestors for reading ease.

Interestingly, with the advent of the Neolithic Period 18,000 years ago the matriarchal clan society existed in China. It was a social system in which the mother was head of the family and descent was traced through the mother's side of the family.

The dimension of the world of my early ancestors included living among other types of human beings, which is relevant to my genome. At some point, my ancestors encountered these other archaic humans and not unexpectedly, interacted with them. Both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA markers are present in modern Asian populations, including mine. My genome includes 1.4% Neanderthal and 1.8% Denisovan.

Figure 15

Neandertal-Denisovan image

Neanderthals and other humanids, such as the Denisovans had long interbred with Asians as noted in this video. Deniovans wandered Asia for hundreds of thousands of years and remained in existence as recent as the time of my ancestors. Their genes are found in modern East Asian populations and the Oceanic islands and records show Denisovans interbred with early modern humans in Southeast Asia, particularly among the modern residents of the Pacific islands, including the Philippines and New Guinea. "As a result of ancient interbreeding, people living today on islands of Southeast Asia and Oceania have genomes with up to 6 percent Denisovan DNA." Furthermore, Clare Wilson points out "Our species may have been interbreeding with Denisovans as recently as 15,000 years ago." To that end, genetic analysis uncovered a direct descendant of two different groups of early humans with the now proven existance of humans with a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

A report of the other hominids living along side Neanderthals and Denisovans in southeast Asia can be viewed in this video. A research team led by David Reich discovered at least three major waves of human migration into the South Asia over the past 50,000 years and during that time the anatomically modern hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia interacted with the ancient human Homo erectus, Homo floresiensis, and Denisovan " populations. Moreover, in addition to (Homo floresiensis) in Fores in indonesia, other hominids lived in the area as well, such as in present day Luzon in the Philippines with (Homo luzonensis). Current evidence suggests that Southeast Asia was occupied by Hoabinhian hunter-gatherers until about 4000 years ago.

Figure 16
Homo luzonensis

It might have been the harshness of ice age weather or global cooling that drove both animals and man south and prompted my ancestors continued southern migration. My early ancestors also lived in a time when many of today's Southeast Asia islands were still above sea level. They were connected to the Asian mainland to form a great landmass known as the continent of Sundaland. It was twice the size of India and it stretched east to west from Burma to Borneo and included present-day Malaysia and Indonesia and extended all the way to the Philippines.

Figure 17
Ice Age Asia
with Sundaland above sea level

Ice Age Asia

Animation of Sundaland
Slowly Sinking Below Sea Level

Sundaland in Asia Sinking

While the extensive savanna of Sundaland remained above sea level my ancestors would have adapted to this environment and likely settle on the broad riverine flood plains and, in time, integrate with the existing communities.

To summarize, a pattern of genetic variation among my early ancestors would be largely shaped by continued human migration into Southeast Asia. Their journey may have even been overland into the continent of Sundaland, which would not wholly sink under the sea until ~12,000 years ago and possibly separate them from the mainland.


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