So it turns out the Eve in the Bible did indeed exist, and she is indeed the mother of modern humanity. Scientists have given her the boring name of "mitochondrial Eve," after the type of DNA that led to her discovery.
A new study out of Rice University in Houston pegs her lifetime at about 200,000 years ago -- at roughly the same time modern humans are believed to have emerged.
The results are based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA. Found in the energy-producing centers of cells, mitochondrial DNA is only passed down the maternal line, and amazingly it can be traced back to one woman, this mitochondrial Eve.
The study is quick to point out that Eve may not have been the first modern woman ever. It just means her descendants are the only ones who survived.
"There is always some other female that predated mitochondrial Eve, whose DNA didn't make it up to modernity," said Marek Kimmel, a professor of statistics at Rice. "So the age of the mitochondrial Eve is always less than the age of the true, first female modern human."
For the past three years, Kimmel and a Polish researcher have been analyzing different DNA models, and they all pointed to Eve living 200,000 years ago.
"We actually show if one uses different models, one comes up with a very similar estimate, so this makes the estimate more robust," Kimmel said.
The research was published in June in the journal Theoretical Population Biology.