32000-year-old teeth bridge gap between Siberia and US

James Marshall
June 7, 2019

Professor Willerslev and his colleagues compiled 34 ancient genomes - an organism's DNA blueprint - from human remains ranging across Siberia and northern China from more than 30,000 to 600 years ago.

For at least the last century archaeologists and anthropologists have generally agreed that the first humans arrived in North America having struggled across the icy wastes of Beringia, a vast land mass that bridged the seas between Siberia and Alaska.

Now scientists say they might have found some answers to the conundrums.

The study, which was published in the specialist journal Nature on Wednesday, also brought further remarkable findings to light: 10,000-year-old human remains at another site in Siberia revealed a genetic relationship with the indigenous peoples of America. Published in Nature.com, the worldwide team in the first of the two new studies analyzed the "genetic structures of modern and past Paleo-Eskimos and their descendants, who were among the earliest people in North America ". The Yana Rhinoceros Horn Site near Yana River has yielded more than 2,500 artifacts. Indirect evidence of human populations in north-eastern Siberia goes back to more than 40,000 years ago.

Instead, it is now believed that the Native American ancestors came into contact with this group some 20,000 years ago and mixed to give rise to another group.

Study first author Dr Martin Sikora, of The Lundbeck Foundation Centre for GeoGenetics at Copenhagen Univeristy in Denmark, said: 'They adapted to extreme environments very quickly, and were highly mobile.

Scientists studying the unknown group of people may have unlocked the mysteries surrounding the ancient people who first migrated to America. "They were living as big game hunters of woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros", said Willerslev.

But, crucially, this population does not appear to be the direct ancestor of Native Americans.

Genetic evidence of a close kinship between ancient Siberians and indigenous Americans has been discovered after analysis of two boys' 32,000-year-old milk teeth.

"These people were a significant part of human history, they diversified nearly at the same time as the ancestors of modern-day Asians and Europeans and it's likely that at one point they occupied large regions of the northern hemisphere", Eske Willerslev, a professor at the University of Cambridge, said in a news release.

It's the first time close genetic associations to Native Americans have been found outside of the United States.

The team add that one possibility is that the mixing involving the East Asians occurred in southern Beringia - one of the areas that could have offered respite from harshening conditions at the time. The nearest match was a woman the team calls Kolyma1, who lived in northeastern Siberia some 9,800 years ago. "It is an important piece in the puzzle of understanding the ancestry of Native Americans as you can see the Kolyma signature in the Native Americans and Paleo-Siberians".

John Hoffecker from the University of Colorado Boulder, who was not involved in the study, welcomed the research, saying a striking feature of the study is that humans were faring well in north-eastern Siberia, even in very hard conditions, 30,000 years ago - with the genetic data from the teeth suggesting the males belonged to a population of about 500 people.

He continued: "That's a pretty healthy population".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER