Ancient DNA Traces Genetic History of All Native Americans to One Founding Population

Ancient DNA Traces Genetic History of All Native Americans to One Founding Population
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DNA samples found in the remains of a child found in Alaska suggest that during the last ice age, there was a population of humans called Beringians. These ancient ancestors were the first to populate and cross the Beringia land bridge, which connected Alaska to Siberia, at least 11,500 years ago.

During the last ice age, when much of the Earth’s water was frozen in the ice caps, sea levels were much lower. Britain was not a island back then, being connected to continental Europe. And between North America and Asia, there was the Beringia land bridge, a huge swath of fertile land, which is thought to be inhabited by ice age humans. It has also been considered the main entry point for humans into the Americas.

This recent scientific discovery seems to confirm this hypothesis, tracing the ancient child’s DNA, and that of other Native American ancestors, to a single population of Beringians, who lived approximately 36,000 years ago. This population settled and traveled the land bridge, coming from Siberia, and is genetically distinct, having been quite isolated.

It is theorized that there were groups of humans crossing between Asia and North America in boats, even after the land bridge started to submerge once more once the ice started melting. However, there is very little archeological evidence to these theories.

There are other confusing elements to archeological sources, such as the fact that the oldest evidence of human populations in North America are a few thousands of years younger than the oldest evidence found in Central and South America. Until now, this would have suggested a different point of entry into the Americas, but geological evidence could not sustain such an idea.

This is why the recent genetic discovery is such an important milestone in shedding light on the mystery of the Americas being populated with humans. It suggests that Beringians crossed into North America thousands of years before the oldest archeological evidence we posses. Later, they were cut off from Asia, as the Bering land bridge was swallowed by the sea. But in the meanwhile, they would have had time to roam the newly accessed continent, and found populations much further south.


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