Comparison between Cooper's Ferry projectile points (A, C, F, G, H) and projectile points from the Kamishiritaki 2 site. Scientists believe that the human settlement of America did not pass through Japan. Credit: Richard Scott et al. / PaleoAmerica, 2021

New Study Challenges Mainstream Theory on the Origin Of Native American Populations

Paleoanthropologists decided to compare the structure of the teeth of the ancient inhabitants of America and Japan of the Jomon period.

Paleoanthropologists studied the morphology of the teeth of the Ainu people and the inhabitants of Japan of the Jomon period and refuted the hypothesis that the settlement of America included the population living in the territory of the Japanese archipelago. This old assumption was based on the similarity of stone tools discovered in different sites.

In addition, scientists summarized the results of paleogenetic studies and came to the conclusion that some links between the Jomon population and the modern population of North America are observed only among modern inhabitants of the Arctic. 


The settlement of America: Scientists debunk old theories

Theories about the settlement of America

Discussion continues among scholars about the time and routes of America’s settlement. For a long time, the first inhabitants of this part of the world were associated with the Clovis archaeological culture, which spread in North and Central America about 13.5-10.8 thousand years ago. However, further research has revealed ample evidence of the human presence in this region in earlier times.

Migration waves

Today it is assumed that the settlement of America took place in several waves, the first of which was about 30 thousand years ago, the second – during the last glacial maximum, and the third – during the Greenland interglacial.

16,000-year-old site

Excavations in West Idaho in the Columbia River Basin have allowed archaeologists to discover an ancient site, the first people on which appeared about 16 thousand years ago. Scientists managed to find here animal bones and stone tools – double-sided hand choppers, blades, stone flakes, which significantly differed from the Clovis culture.

Similar artifacts in Asia

However, similar artifacts have previously been found in Northeast Asia, including the Japanese island of Hokkaido, and date back to the early Jomon period. This gave rise to the hypothesis that the native population of America may be related to the ancient inhabitants of Japan.

Comparison between Jomon and Native American teeth. Credit: G. Richard Scott
Comparison between Jomon and Native American teeth. Credit: G. Richard Scott

Teeth comparison

Richard Scott of the University of Nevada in Reno, together with scientists from Spain, Russia, and the United States, conducted a study on the history of the settlement of America. For this, paleoanthropologists decided to compare the structure of the teeth of the ancient inhabitants of America and Japan of the Jomon period using the rASUDAS program. According to scientists, the morphological features of the crown and root of the tooth may be the key to clarifying the evolutionary history of mankind.

Similarities

In their research, the scientists used a database collected over several decades of work by the American anthropologist Christie Turner. The study of the characteristics of 21 teeth of the Ainu and the inhabitants of Japan of the Jomon period showed their similarities in a number of characteristics, distinguishing them from all other populations of Asia, the Pacific region, and America.

The Settlement of America: Results

Scientists have found significant differences in dental morphology between the ancient population of the Japanese archipelago and the indigenous population of the New World, which, in their opinion, indicates the absence of family ties between the populations. The greatest similarity between the Ainu and the population of the Jomon period was found in the Australo-Melanesian sample.

Diagram showing the time of divergence of the genetic lines of various populations of Eurasia and Native Americans. The red line denotes the genome of an ancient inhabitant of Japan of the Jomon period. Credit: Richard Scott et al. / PaleoAmerica, 2021
Diagram showing the time of divergence of the genetic lines of various populations of Eurasia and Native Americans. The red line denotes the genome of an ancient inhabitant of Japan of the Jomon period. Credit: Richard Scott et al. / PaleoAmerica, 2021

DNA research

The researchers also analyzed works on the paleogenetics of the ancient populations of Japan and America. Published mitochondrial DNA sequences from a population of the Jomon period, mostly from Hokkaido, indicate that maternal lineages from Ancient Japan are not found among modern or ancient Native Americans. The most common mitochondrial haplogroup N9b is present today in some Siberian populations and is extremely rare in East or Southeast Asia. This evidence is enough to refute the theory about the settlement of America.

Conclusions

Scientists noted that the less common haplogroup D4 is limited to the Arctic populations of North America and Chukotka. Only the rare D4h3a haplogroup remotely links some Native Americans to the Jomon period population. Few studies of complete nuclear genomes also point to a 95 percent probability discrepancy between the Native American and ancient Japanese populations about 36,400 to 26,800 years ago.


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Sources:

Baker, H. (2021, October 13). Analysis of ancient teeth questions theory that Native Americans originated from Japan. LiveScience.
McDonald, L. (n.d.). Anthropologists debunk popular theory that Native Americans originated from Japan. University of Nevada.
ScienceDaily. (2021, October 13). Popular theory of Native American origins debunked by genetics and Skeletal Biology.
Scott, G. R. (n.d.). Peopling the Americas: Not “out of Japan”. Taylor & Francis.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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