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Molecular Anthropology


Using the tools of molecular genetics, DNA sequences can be compared among groups to test hypotheses about the evolutionary relatedness of organisms, and about the time that has elapsed since divergence. Molecular anthropology has made major contributions to understanding the migration and mixture patterns of human groups. It has also provided significant new insights into the rise and spread of modern humans and their relation to earlier human groups. As more data becomes available and better models are devised for their interpretation, the results are likely to become less provisional and more certain.

Richard Robinson


Avise, John C. Molecular Markers, Natural History, and Evolution. New York: Chapman and Hall, 1994.

Hammer, M. F., et al. "Jewish and Middle Eastern Non-Jewish Populations Share aCommon Pool of Y Chromosome Biallelic Haplotypes." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97, no. 12 (2000): 6769-6774.

Marks, Jonathan. What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes.Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.

Relethford, John H. Genetics and the Search for Human Origins. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001.

Vigilant, L., et al. "African Populations and the Evolution of Human MitochondrialDNA." Science 253 (1991): 1503-1507

Internet Resource

Y Chromosome Links. <http://john.hynes.net/y.html>.

Analysis of Y chromosome microsatellite sequences was used to show that Thomas Jefferson was an ancestor of some of the male descendants of Sally Hemings, a slave owned by Jefferson.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 3Molecular Anthropology - Tracing Human Origins Through Genetic Data, Advantages Of Dna Comparisons, Caveats About Sequence Comparisons, Types Of Dna Comparisons