LEEDS, England, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- European researchers say genetic studies suggest the first humans leaving the Horn of African to the rest of the world first settled in Arabia.
Scientists at the University of Leeds in Britain and the University of Porto in Portugal say their findings provide insight into the earliest stages of modern human migration.
"A major unanswered question regarding the dispersal of modern humans around the world concerns the geographical site of the first steps out of Africa," Luisa Pereira from the University of Porto said.
"One popular model predicts that the early stages of the dispersal took place across the Red Sea to southern Arabia, but direct genetic evidence has been thin on the ground."
The researchers analyzed three of the earliest non-African maternal lineages, branches associated with the time period when modern humans first successfully moved out of Africa, a Leeds release said Thursday.
DNA analysis of the female line of descent is useful for comparing relatedness between different populations.
Comparing complete genomes from Arabia and the Near East with a database of hundreds more samples from Europe, the researchers found evidence for an ancient ancestry within Arabia.
"The timing and pattern of the migration of early modern humans has been a source of much debate and research," Leeds researcher Martin Richards said.