US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Paleogenetics received the first full-fledged evidence that the ancestors of the Polynesians and Indians of South America were in contact with each other. Scientists have found that for the first time this happened about 800 years ago on the territory of the Marquesas Islands. The study description was published by the scientific journal Nature.
“In the genomes of the inhabitants of several Polynesian islands at once, we found fragments of Native American DNA identical in origin. This suggests that the Polynesians inherited these segments of the genome after a single contact with people from the New World. Our calculations show that this happened around 1200, in the time when the Polynesians settled on these (Marquesas, approx. TASS) islands, “said one of the authors of the study, paleogenetics from Stanford University (USA) Alexander Ioannidis.
For a long time, scientists believed that the ancestors of the Indians moved to America from southern Siberia and Altai about 14-15 thousand years ago during a single wave of migration. Most of the famous archaeological sites in North and South America speak in favor of this.
On the other hand, even half a century ago, the Norwegian traveler Thor Heyerdahl suggested that the Indians of South America could be culturally and genetically related to the inhabitants of Oceania and Polynesia. This is also supported by the analysis of the gene pool of modern Indians from the southern regions of the New World, which contains interspersed Polynesian DNA, as well as the appearance and genome of the so-called Kennevic man, one of the first inhabitants of America.
Studying the genomes of modern inhabitants of French Polynesia and the inhabitants of Easter Island, Ioannidis and his colleagues found out where and how such contacts occurred.
Genetic History of Polynesia
In total, scientists deciphered and compared among themselves about 800 genomes of Polynesians and Indians who live on the territory of seventeen Pacific islands and archipelagos, as well as in 15 coastal regions of South America.
As it turned out, in the genome of the Polynesians there really were sites that they inherited from South American ancestors. By comparing the length of the segments of the “Indian” DNA and the sets of small mutations in it, Ioannidis and his colleagues found out when these mutations appeared in the genomes of the Polynesians and followed how they spread throughout the population.
It turned out that the longest fragments of the Indian genome with a similar set of mutations were found among the inhabitants of the Northern and Southern Marquesas Islands. Such coincidences indicate that their ancestors were the first to meet with people from the New World. This happened, as the calculations of scientists show, in about 1150-1200.
Subsequently, carriers of these genes spread throughout Polynesia, moving south and southeast towards Easter Island. They entered there much later, in 1380. This coincides with the era of the construction of the famous idols of the island – the Moai.
The source of all these “Native American” genes, as shown by DNA analysis of modern South American residents, was the people who lived on the west coast of Colombia before the Europeans got there. Paleogenetics suggest that these people reached the Marquesas Islands before the Polynesians. The unusually early time of their contacts speaks in favor of this.
On the other hand, scientists do not exclude that the ancient Indians and Polynesians could meet in another way. For example, the latter could reach the shores of South America, and then return back to Polynesia with a large group of Indians or descendants from mixed marriages. Whether it is true or not, scientists plan to check during the following genetic “excavations”.
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