Humans Came Close to Extinction, Study Says


An extensive genetic study by researchers at Stanford University suggests that human beings nearly became extinct about 70,000 years ago, apparently because of a drought. The population may have dropped to as low as 2,000 individuals.

Researcher Spencer Wells calls the finding "truly an epic drama, written in our DNA." Human beings emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago with "mitochondrial Eve," the mother of all humanity, and spread to other places 60,000 years ago.

Little has been known about the intervening 140,000 years, but the new study suggests that severe environmental conditions between 135,000 and 90,000 years ago forced people into tiny, isolated groups. The worldwide human population today is 6.6 billion.