Provocations Public Lecture Series - Out of Africa Arabia: how ancient human history gave us modern lifestyle diseases - Prof. Alan Cooper

EVENT STARTS: 10 Apr 2024 4:00 pm
EVENT ENDS: 10 Apr 2024 5:00 pm

Out of Africa Arabia: how ancient human history gave us modern lifestyle diseases

Date: Wednesday, 10 April

Time: 3.30 pm for a 4 pm start. The public lecture will be between 4 pm and 5 pm. Light refreshments will be available at the venue.

Venue: Charles Sturt University, Building 802, Room 1161, Major Innes Road, Port Macquarie

This lecture is free to attend.  It will also be live-streamed. To access this option, you can choose the live-stream ticket when registering for the event.


As modern Humans moved Out of Africa and around the world just 55,000 years ago, they were forced to rapidly adapt to multiple new environments. As a result, humans are a great model animal system to study rapid genetic adaptation to climate change. DNA from ancient human skeletons (dating back as far as 46,000 years) shows how and when we moved Out of Africa and around the world, and how the critical step was a major phase of genetic selection for cold. Surprisingly, this appears to have occurred during a long unknown period when we were trapped in the Arabian Peninsula. During this ‘Arabian Standstill’ from around 80-55,000 years ago, major networks of genes involved in the regulation of fat, nerves, and skin all changed. Related genes were also incorporated from Neandertals, who we interbred with just as we left Arabia. Surprisingly, many of these same genes are now associated with major modern diseases, from autism to obesity and cardiovascular disease, heralding a brand new field - evolutionary medicine.


Professor Alan Cooper is the Professor of Evolution and Environmental Change at Charles Sturt University, Albury. His multi-disciplinary research integrates genomics, climate and environmental change, bioinformatics and mathematics, archaeology, microbiology, palaeontology, and medical sciences and has resulted in over 35 papers in Nature and Science. He has been centrally involved in the field of ancient DNA since the earliest days, working with Svante Pääbo (Nobel Prize 2022) and Allan Wilson at UC Berkeley in 1989. He was the inaugural Professor of Ancient Biomolecules at the University of Oxford (2001), and an ARC Federation, Future, and Laureate Fellow at the University of Adelaide from 2005-2020, where he built the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. He has the South Australian Scientist of the Year (2016/2017), Eureka Prize (2017), and led the multiple-award winning Aboriginal Heritage Project to reconstruct pre-European Aboriginal Australia history using ancient DNA. More information is available at