Above is displayed the sequence of the mitochondrial genome that was analyzed in the laboratory. These DNA results identify us as belonging to a specific branch of the human family tree called haplogroup H. The map above shows the direction that our maternal ancestors took as they set out from their original homeland in East Africa. Over time, the descendants of our ancestors spread across Eurasia and today make up the most frequent western European haplogroup. The string of 569 letters shown above is our mitochondrial sequence, with the letters A, C, T, and G representing the four nucleotides -- the chemical building blocks of life -- that make up our DNA. Geneticists use these markers from people all over the world to construct one giant mitochondrial family tree.
By looking at the mutations in this sample, the lineage can be traced, ancestor by ancestor, to reveal the path they traveled as they moved out of Africa. Each segment on the map above represents the migratory path of successive groups that eventually coalesced to form our branch of the tree. She was awarded this mythic epithet in 1987 when population geneticists discovered that all people alive on the planet today can trace their maternal lineage back to her. It is difficult to pinpoint the chain of events that led to Eve's unique success, but scientists can say with certainty that all of us trace our maternal lineage back to this one woman. These groups are referred to as L0 and L1, and these individuals have the most divergent genetic sequences of anybody alive today, meaning they represent the deepest branches of the mitochondrial tree.
Haplogroups L1 and L0 likely originated in East Africa and then spread throughout the rest of the continent.
At some point, after these two groups had coexisted in Africa for a few thousand years, something important happened. L2 individuals are found in sub-Saharan Africa, and like their L1 predecessors, they also live in Central Africa and as far south as South Africa.
L2 individuals are most predominant in West Africa, where they constitute the majority of female lineages. Fortunately, collaborative sampling with indigenous groups is currently underway to help learn more about these types of questions and to possibly bridge the gap that was created during those transatlantic voyages hundreds of years ago. Our next signpost ancestor is the woman whose birth around 80,000 years ago began haplogroup L3.
While L3 individuals are found all over Africa, including the southern reaches of sub-Sahara, L3 is important for its movements north.
Our L3 ancestors were significant because they were the first modern humans to have left Africa, representing the deepest branches of the tree found outside of that continent. Why would humans have first ventured out of the familiar African hunting grounds and into unexplored lands? Other L3 individuals, our ancestors, kept moving northward, eventually leaving the African continent completely. The first of these groups, M, was the result of the first great wave of migration of modern humans to leave Africa. The second great wave, also of L3 individuals, moved north rather than east and left the African continent across the Sinai Peninsula, in present-day Egypt. The ancient members of haplogroup N spawned many sublineages, which went on to populate much of the rest of the globe. After several thousand years in the Near East, individuals belonging to a new group called haplogroup R began to move out and explore the surrounding areas.
The story of haplogroup R is complicated, however, because these individuals can be found almost everywhere, and because their origin is quite ancient. Because the two groups lived side by side for thousands of years, it is likely that the migrations radiating out from the Near East comprised individuals from both of these groups. Descending from haplogroup R were a group of individuals who formed a western Eurasian lineage. Individuals in haplogroup pre-HV can be found all around the Red Sea and widely throughout the Near East. As we have seen from haplogroups N and R, descendants from these western Eurasian lineages used the Near East as a home base of sorts, radiating from that region to populate much of the rest of the world. Haplogroup pre-HV is of particular importance because over the course of several thousand years, its descendants split off and formed their own group, called HV.
While some descendants of these ancestral lineages moved out across Central Asia, the Indus Valley, and even back into Africa, our ancestors remained in the Near East. Haplogroup HV is a west Eurasian haplogroup found throughout the Near East, including Anatolia (present-day Turkey) and the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia and the republic of Georgia.
Much earlier, around 30,000 years ago, some members of HV moved north across the Caucasus Mountains and west across Anatolia, their lineages being carried into Europe for the first time by the Cro-Magnon.
This wave of migration into western Europe marked the appearance and spread of what archaeologists call the Aurignacian culture. Around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, colder temperatures and a drier global climate locked much of the world's fresh water at the polar ice caps, making living conditions near impossible for much of the northern hemisphere. Beginning about 15,000 years ago—after the ice sheets had begun their retreat—humans moved north again and recolonized western Europe.
Today haplogroup H comprises 40 to 60 percent of the gene pool of most European populations. While haplogroup H is considered the Western European lineage due to its high frequency there, it is also found much further east.
Importantly, the age of haplogroup H lineages differs quite substantially between those seen in the West compared with those found in the East. Haplogroup H is a great example of the effect that population dynamics such as bottleneck events, founder effect, genetic drift, and rapid population growth, have on the genetic diversity of resulting populations.
Still, our own genetic sequences often reveal that we fall within a particular sub-branch, a smaller, more recent branch on the tree.
While it may be difficult to say anything about the history of these sub-groups, they do reveal other people who are more closely related to us.

Although the arrow of our haplogroup currently ends throughout Western Europe, this isn't the end of the journey for haplogroup H.
A fundamental goal of the Genographic Project is to extend these arrows further toward the present day.
In his popular book "The Seven Daughters of Eve", Bryan Sykes named the originator of this mtDNA haplogroup Helena (see also his company Oxford Ancestors). There is still debate over the origins of Modern Humans: Multiregional or Out of Africa (2001 article). This sequence was compared against the Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS), which is the standard mitochondrial sequence initially determined by researchers at Cambridge, UK.
Haplogroup H contains the following subgroups: H, H*, H1, H1*, H10, H11, H11a, H12, H13, H14, H15, H1a, H1b, H1f, H2, H2*, H2a, H2a1, H2b, H3, H4, H4a, H5, H5*, H5a, H5a1, H6a, H6a1, H6c, H7, H8, H9. While humans did travel many different paths during a journey that took tens of thousands of years, the lines above represent the dominant trends in this migration. The number(s) at the top of the page [in our case, one number 16519C] refer to the position(s) in a sequence where informative mutations have occurred in our ancestors, and tell us a great deal about the history of the genetic lineage. Every once in a while a mutation -- a random, natural (and usually harmless) change -- occurs in the sequence of mitochondrial DNA.
As can be imagined, the tree is very complex, but scientists can now determine both the age and geographic spread of each branch to reconstruct the prehistoric movements of our ancestors.
Homo sapiens evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago, and the first hominids—characterized by their unique bipedal stature—appeared nearly two million years before that. Her descendents, moving around within Africa, eventually split into two distinct groups, characterized by a different set of mutations their members carry.
Importantly, current genetic data indicates that indigenous people belonging to these groups are found exclusively in Africa. Today, these lineages are found at highest frequencies in Africa's indigenous populations, the hunter-gatherer groups who have maintained their ancestors' culture, language, and customs for thousands of years.
And because L2 individuals are found at high frequencies and widely distributed along western Africa, they represent one of the predominant lineages in African-Americans.
It is a similar story: an individual in L2 underwent a mutation to her mitochondrial DNA, which was passed onto her children.
It is likely that a fluctuation in climate may have provided the impetus for our ancestors' exodus out of Africa. Around 50,000 years ago the ice sheets of northern Europe began to melt, introducing a period of warmer temperatures and moister climate in Africa. These people currently make up around ten percent of the Middle Eastern population, and gave rise to two important haplogroups that went on to populate the rest of the world.
These people likely left the continent across the Horn of Africa near Ethiopia, and their descendants followed a coastal route eastward, eventually making it all the way to Australia and Polynesia.
Also faced with the harsh desert conditions of the Sahara, these people likely followed the Nile basin, which would have proved a reliable water and food supply in spite of the surrounding desert and its frequent sandstorms. Early members of this group lived in the eastern Mediterranean region and western Asia, where they likely coexisted for a time with other hominids such as Neandertals.
In fact, the ancestor of haplogroup R lived relatively soon after humans moved out of Africa during the second wave, and her descendants undertook many of the same migrations as her own group, N. They simply moved together, bringing their N and R lineages to the same places around the same times. The descendants of pre-HV live in high frequencies in the Anatolian-Caucasus region and Iran. While this genetic lineage is common in Ethiopia and Somalia, individuals from this group are found at highest frequency in Arabia. Their descendants comprise all of the western Eurasian genetic lineages, and about half of the eastern Eurasian mtDNA gene pool. This group—thanks in large part to a brutal cold spell that was about to set in—gave rise to the two most prevalent female lineages found in Western Europe. Descending from haplogroup pre-HV, they formed a new group, characterized by a unique set of mutations, called haplogroup HV.
It is also found in parts of East Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, where its presence there indicates recent Near Eastern gene flow, likely the result of the Arab slave trade over the last two millennia. Their arrival in Europe heralded the end of the era of the Neandertals, a hominid species that inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia from about 230,000 to 29,000 years ago. The culture is distinguished by significant innovations in methods of manufacturing tools, standardization of tools, and use of a broader set of tool types, such as end-scrapers for preparing animal skins and tools for woodworking. Early Europeans retreated to the warmer climates of the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and the Balkans, where they waited out the cold spell. By far the most frequent mitochondrial lineage carried by these expanding groups was haplogroup H. In Rome and Athens, for example, the frequency of H is around 40 percent of the entire population, and it exhibits similar frequencies throughout western Europe. Today it comprises around 20 percent of southwest Asian lineages, about 15 percent of people living in Central Asia, and around five percent in northern Asia. In Europe its age is estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 years old, and while H made it into Europe substantially earlier (30,000 years ago), reduced population sizes resulting from the glacial maximum significantly reduced its diversity there, and thus its estimated age. While mutations occur in every generation, it requires at least hundreds—normally thousands—of years for these markers to become windows back into the past, signposts on the human tree.
It is a useful way to help bridge the anthropology of population genetics with the genealogy to which we are all accustomed. To do this, Genographic has brought together ten renowned scientists and their teams from all over the world to study questions vital to our understanding of human history. However, as additional data are collected and analyzed, more will be learned about the history of the men and women who first populated the Earth, and National Geographic will be updating the stories throughout the life of the five-year Genographic Project. Her children have reached every shore, settled every forest and crossed every mountain range.
The differences between this DNA and the CRS are highlighted, and these data allow researchers to reconstruct the migratory paths of genetic lineage.

It can be thought of as a spelling mistake: one of the "letters" in a sequence may change from a C to a T, or from an A to a G. Yet despite humans having been around for almost 30,000 years, Eve is exceptional because hers is the only lineage from that distant time to survive to the present day. A woman may not have children, or she may bear only sons (who do not pass her mtDNA to the next generation). It was around this same time that modern humans' intellectual capacity underwent what author Jared Diamond coined the Great Leap Forward. This means that, because all humans have a common female ancestor, "Eve," and because the genetic data shows that Africans are the oldest groups on the planet, we know our species originated there.
A letter in her DNA changed, and because many of her descendants have survived to the present, this change has become a window into the past. The children were successful, and their descendants ultimately broke away from the L2 clan, eventually separating into a new group called L3. Some lineages within L3 testify to a distinct expansion event in the mid-Holocene that headed south, and are predominant in many Bantu groups found all over Africa.
Excavations in Israel's Kebara Cave (Mount Carmel) have unearthed Neandertal skeletons as recent as 60,000 years old, indicating that there was both geographic and temporal overlap of these two hominids. Others went west across Anatolia (present-day Turkey) and north across the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia and southern Russia. The tapestry of genetic lines became quickly entangled, and geneticists are currently working to unravel the different stories of haplogroups N and R, since they are found in many of the same far-reaching places. While members of this group can also be found in the Indus Valley near the Pakistan-India border, their presence is considered the result of a subsequent migration eastward of individuals out of the Near East. Because of their close genetic and geographic proximity to other western Eurasian clusters, members of this group living in eastern Africa are the likely result of more recent migrations back into the continent. Some individuals moved across the Middle East into Central Asia and the Hindus Valley near western India. Better communication skills, weapons, and resourcefulness probably enabled them to outcompete Neandertals for scarce resources.
Their population sizes were drastically reduced, and much of the genetic diversity that had previously existed in Europe was lost. Because of the population growth that quickly followed this expansion, our haplogroup now dominates the European female landscape. Moving eastward the frequencies of H gradually decreases, clearly illustrating the migratory path these settlers followed as they left the Iberian Peninsula after the ice sheets had receded.
In Central and East Asia, however, its age is estimated at around 30,000 years old, meaning our lineage made it into those areas during some of the earlier migrations out of the Near East. Our initial results shown here are based upon the best information available today, but this is just the beginning. By working together with indigenous peoples around the globe, we are learning more about these ancient migrations. Helena's descendants can be found from the Alps in the South to the Scottish Highlands and the Norwegian fjords in the North, and as far east as the Urals and the Russian steppes. Substitution (transition): a nucleotide base mutation in which a pyrimidine base (C or T) is exchanged for another pyrimidine, or a purine base (A or G) is replaced with another purine. After one of these mutations occurs in a particular woman, she then passes it on to her daughters, and her daughters' daughters, and so on. She may fall victim to a catastrophic event such as a volcanic eruption, flood, or famine, all of which have plagued humans since the dawn of our species.
Many anthropologists believe that the emergence of language gave us a huge advantage over other early human species.
The descendants of this woman, characterized by this signpost mutation, went on to form their own group, called L2. For an African-American who is L2 -- the likely result of West Africans being brought to America during the slave trade -- it is difficult to say with certainty exactly where in Africa that lineage arose.
As the drought-ridden desert changed to savanna, the animals our ancestors hunted expanded their range and began moving through the newly emerging green corridor of grasslands.
One group of individuals headed west and is primarily restricted to Atlantic western Africa, including the islands of Cabo Verde. Some moved south, heading back into the African homeland from where their ancestors had recently departed.
Importantly, some descendants of HV had already broken off and formed their own group, haplogroup H, and continued the push into Western Europe. Haplogroup H is found at around 25 percent in Turkey and around 20 percent in the Caucasus Mountains.
Improved tools and weapons, the ability to plan ahead and cooperate with one another, and an increased capacity to exploit resources in ways we hadn't been able to earlier, all allowed modern humans to rapidly migrate to new territories, exploit new resources, and outcompete and replace other hominids, such as the Neandertals. Because the ancestor of L2 was herself a member of L1, we can say something about the emergence of these important groups: Eve begat L1, and L1 begat L2. Our nomadic ancestors followed the good weather and plentiful game northward across this Saharan Gateway, although the exact route they followed remains to be determined. All of these individuals had one thing in common: they shared a female ancestor from the N clan, a recent descendant of the migration out of Africa. Substitution (transversion): a base substitution in which a pyrimidine base (C or T) is exchanged for a purine base (A or G), or vice versa. Insertion: a mutation caused by the insertion of at least one extra nucleotide base in the DNA sequence.
Deletion: a mutation caused by the deletion of at least one extra nucleotide base from the DNA sequence.

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