Even the simplest organisms are too complex to have spontaneously arisen fully formed, yet precursors to first life must have emerged ab initio from their environment. A watershed event was the appearance of the first entity capable of evolution: the Initial Darwinian Ancestor. Here, we suggest that nucleopeptide reciprocal replicators could have carried out this important role and contend that this is the simplest way to explain extant replication systems in a mathematically consistent way. We propose short nucleic acid templates on which amino-acylated adapters assembled. Spatial localization drives peptide ligation from activated precursors to generate phosphodiester-bond-catalytic peptides. Comprising autocatalytic protein and nucleic acid sequences, this dynamical system links and unifies several previous hypotheses and provides a plausible model for the emergence of DNA and the operational code.