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Where do we come from and how did we get to where we live today? One of the most fascinating and debated scientific questions in recent decades has been where did Homo sapiens first emerge, and by what routes did our early ancestors spread across the globe. For a long time, fossils offered the best clues about humanity’s distant past, but the incompleteness of the fossil record and arguments over interpretation made definite answers elusive. Recently, breakthroughs in population genetics have given scientists a powerful new tool for answering questions about human migration. It turns out that the story of humanity’s journey can be found within each of us—encoded in our DNA.

Already, DNA analysis has indicated that all modern humans are descended from a man who lived in central Africa some 60,000 years ago, and from an ancestral female who lived in central Africa some 150,000 years ago. To fill in more details of the human journey, National Geographic and IBM, with support from the Waitt Family Foundation, joined forces in 2005 to launch one of the most ambitious scientific research initiatives ever undertaken, the Genographic Project. Led by population geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, the project is gathering and analyzing the world’s largest collection of anthropological DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of participants worldwide. Wells is traveling the globe and has recently led expeditions to Chad and Tajikistan, to assemble the genetic evidence he believes will illuminate the detailed story of humanity’s journey out of Africa. Individuals can participate by purchasing a kit which will enable them to add their own DNA to the database—and receive a report explaining what their genes reveal about their individual deep ancestry.

A gifted communicator, Wells wrote the acclaimed book The Journey of Man, which was also made into a National Geographic Channel/PBS Film. His newly published National Geographic book, Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project, describes the motivation behind the project, its approach and what he hopes it will accomplish. In this presentation, Wells shares images and adventures from his recent expeditions to Chad and Tajikistan, and reports on the progress made so far in reconstructing human history from the clues in our own bodies.

Wells’ new book, Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project, will be available for purchase and signing.

Official Website: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/nglive/seattle/wells.html

Added by agregov on January 17, 2007