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DNA Analysis Reveals Origins of Native Americans

Native American
Mitochondrial DNA analysis reveals the surprising origins of Native Americans. Credit: UIC Library Digital Collections / Flickr  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientists have conducted a recent study on mitochondrial DNA, uncovering compelling evidence of multiple migrations that took place between the Americas, China, and Japan during the last Ice Age and the subsequent period of ice melt.

In this study, the team focused on tracing a rare lineage found among Native Americans. They specifically examined mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down exclusively through females.

By analyzing a large number of samples—100,000 from present-day individuals and 15,000 from ancient sources—the researchers successfully identified 216 individuals from the present and 39 individuals from the past who shared this lineage.

To further understand its development and movement, they used carbon dating and compared the mutations accumulated over time.

A statement from Yu-Chun Li, a molecular anthropologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and one of the authors of the study, reveals that the Asian heritage of Native Americans is more intricate than previously believed.

Li’s research explains that in addition to the ancestral sources already known – Siberia, Australo-Melanesia, and Southeast Asia – northern coastal China has also made contributions to the genetic makeup of Native Americans.

Ancient humans traveled along the Pacific coast to the Americas

The first event took place between 26,000 and 19,500 years ago when the frigid conditions in northern coastal China made it inhospitable for human habitation, according to the study.

The second event happened between 19,000 and 11,500 years ago, a time when the global human population was expanding and exploring under more favorable climate conditions.

The team suggests that these ancient humans made their way to the Americas by traveling along the Pacific coast rather than using the Bering Land Bridge. This land bridge, which existed during the last Ice Age, connected Siberia and Alaska.

It had long been hypothesized that early humans crossed this bridge to reach the Americas, but the team’s findings challenge this notion.

Through careful analysis of the migration patterns across the continent and by comparing the craftsmanship of arrowheads and spears, the team believes that the Paleolithic peoples of China and Japan moved along the northern rim of the Pacific Ocean.

Eventually, they arrived at the northwest coast of North America. This discovery raises intriguing possibilities about the historic connections between these regions.

Some scholars have even suggested that Native Americans might be descendants of the Jōmon people of Japan due to these connections. However, a recent genetic study casts doubt on this theory, indicating that it is unlikely.

Instead, the new study suggests that the similarities observed between these groups may be attributed to a shared lineage, pointing to a common ancestry rather than a direct genetic connection.

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