Mankind’s Nursery

by Nathan Hamm on 10/6/2004 · 3 comments

I managed to catch Journey of Man in its entirety on PBS this evening (book here).

It’s not often that I talk about science here, but I think I’ve mentioned this book and video before. Journey of Man tells the fascinating story of human migrations through markers on the Y chromosome. If you’re at all intereted in human migrations and how our genes tell that story, I recommend both the book and video, the latter of which occasionally shows up on PBS.

I bring it up here because one of the fascinating things that I learned from the research is just how central Central Asia really is to the story of humans. In the words of the researcher, Spencer Wells, “If Africa was the cradle of mankind, then Central Asia was its nursery.” If you are European, Native American, Indian (well, not all of them, really, but many), East Asian, or, of course, Central Asian, your ancestors at one time likely followed herds on the steppes of Turkestan.

And, while we’re on the topic of things old, check out Sarmish’s page if you haven’t already (though it’s certainly not as old as the people we’re talking about… I think…).

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Mark Hamm October 7, 2004 at 12:54 am

THe Sarmish petroglyphs are as old as the neolithic period (~7000 years ago) Some tourist guides said as old as 10,000 years ago. Most of the really cool looking ones are much more recent. The European and Asian migrations out of Centrla Asia were probably around 30,000 years ago.

It’s interesting to note that Spencer Wells wrote that the original populations that migrated from Africa to the Middle east then Central Asia were isolated by an ice age around 40,000 years ago. THis population was forced south from the steppes by the ice and survived in relatively small amount of land between the ice and Central Asian mountains. When the ice retreated they spread out north, east and west.

Mark Hamm October 7, 2004 at 12:58 am

In the PBS program I seem to remember them interviewing a Kazak family that were direct descentents form this ‘nursery’ populaton.

Another interesting fallout of the fall of the USSR. THis and other scientific investigations probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Mark Hamm October 7, 2004 at 1:01 am

OK, one more comment. I want to get credit for calling the above phenomena the ‘Science Dividend’ as in the post soviet ‘Peace Dividend’. Probably already named though I haven’t seen it.

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