Rewriting History: Scientists Find Oldest Connection Between Native Americans and Siberia

With the help of human population genetics, ancient pathogen genomics, and isotope analysis, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have established a connection between people inhabiting Siberia, and the Americas. Researchers have found the oldest connection to date, essentially helping rewrite the history and origins of human populations in America.

The study, published in the journal ‘Cell,’ also demonstrates human flow, and consequently connectivity, across Eurasia between 3000 BC and 1200 BC during the Early Bronze Age. Contemporary humans have existed near Lake Baikal since the Upper Paleolithic and have left a rich archaeological record for us to discover.

The analysis of the ancient genomes of the region has allowed experts to discovered various genetic losses and mixing events, showing that the shift from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age was aided by human versatility and complex cultural intercommunications.

Despite this, the nature and timing of these intercommunications and events remain lesser-known and will require a deeper look into the very roots of certain historical events and interactions.

The new study reports the discovery of 19 newly sequenced ancient human genomes from a region encompassing Lake Baikal. With a total volume of 23,615.39 km3 (5,670 cu mi) of freshwater, Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake on the surface of the planet. Estimates suggest it contains as much as twenty-three percent of the world’s fresh surface water and consequently has more water than the North American Lakes combined. Curiously, it is also considered the deepest and oldest lake; experts believe it formed 30 million years ago.

The study helps paint a clearer picture of the very origins of the native American people, illuminating not only the past of Lake Baikal’s region but its deeply rooted connection with the “first people” in the Americas, and how people migrated from one region to the other.

Although previous studies had already hinted at a connection between the people of Siberia and the Americas, the genetic study of a 14,000-year-old individual offers the oldest evidence of such, shedding light onto many important details of the two populations.

The discovery was made after scientists analyzed a fragmented tooth that was excavated back in 1962 at an archaeological site called Ust-Kyahta-3.

Using state-of-the-art genetic sequencing techniques in molecular biology, the researchers uncovered conclusive evidence that the person who lived in southern Siberia, along with an individual from the Mesolithic who lived in northeast Siberia, shares the same genetic mix of ancestors from ancient Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) and Northeast Asian (NEA) ancestry found in Native Americans.

This discovery tells us that the ancestry, which would later give origin to the native Americans in North, Central, and South America, was much more widespread than previously thought. Further evidence points to the fact that this population experienced frequent genetic contact with populations from Northeast Asia.

“The Upper Paleolithic genome will provide a legacy to study human genetic history in the future,” explained Cosimo Posth, a senior author of the paper.

Researchers say that further genetic testing from Upper Paleolithic Siberian societies is needed to resolve when and where the ancestral gene pool of Native Americans came together.


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