(ORDO NEWS) — Russian and foreign scientists found that the ancestors of modern North American Indians in the distant past lived near the shores of Lake Baikal. A study of the genomes of two dozen ancient inhabitants of Siberia led them to this conclusion. The study published the scientific journal Cell.
“So far, we have revealed the deepest ties between the first Indian tribes and the people who lived on the territory of Siberia during the Upper Paleolithic. We believe that our discoveries will allow historians to learn new details about how America was settled and how its peoples developed.” – said one of the authors of the work, a paleogenetist from the Institute for the Study of the History of Humanity of the Max Planck Society Yu He.
According to the anthropologists, people came to the circumpolar regions of Northern Eurasia from 17 to 24 thousand years ago, when the last era of glaciation ended. Over the next ten millennia, the ancestors of modern indigenous peoples of Siberia conquered the territory of two continents, Eurasia and North America, and formed dozens of unique cultures.
Until recently, historians have suggested that the ancestors of modern Indians migrated to North America from southern Siberia and Altai about 14-15 thousand years ago during a single wave of migration. Subsequent archaeological discoveries and the decoding of the DNA of some ancient Indians showed that in fact this was not so.
Now scientists believe that the ancestors of the Indians came to the territory of the New World as a result of at least three or even four waves of migration. All of them occurred at different times and started from different starting points. Such discoveries make both anthropologists and geneticists look for potential ancestors of modern Indians and their extinct “cousins” from the first waves of immigrants, studying the recently found remains of the ancient inhabitants of Siberia, Alaska and other regions.
Yu and his colleagues conducted one of the largest studies of this kind. They studied two dozen fragments of bones, teeth and other parts of the body of the ancient inhabitants of Siberia, found in the vicinity of Lake Baikal, in the south of Western Siberia, as well as in Chukotka and the Far East of Russia.
Baikal roots of the Indians
“These materials are stored in the osteological fund of the Research Institute and the Museum of Anthropology of Moscow State University. They were collected during the first excavations of academician Okladnikov in the late 1920s in the Verkhoyansk and Irkutsk counties of the Irkutsk province. Then these events were of particular interest and were regularly covered by the local press,” TASS explained Director of Research Institute and Museum of Anthropology, Moscow State University M.V. Lomonosov Alexander Buzlov. She added that now this material has become part of an international project that is devoted to the analysis of museum materials using molecular methods.
DNA fragments extracted from these remains helped paleogenetics and anthropologists, including specialists from Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov and the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the SB RAS in Novosibirsk, learn a lot about how and when Siberia was settled and once again prove that East Eurasia settled in several waves of migration.
The attention of scientists was attracted by the tooth of an ancient man, which Soviet archaeologists as early as 1962 found in the vicinity of the village of Ust-Kyakhta, which is located in the south of modern Buryatia. Its owner, according to current estimates of scientists, lived in the southern vicinity of Lake Baikal about 14 thousand years ago and was a contemporary of the first ancient Indians.
Scientists have found that in his DNA there were interspersed genomes of the so-called “ancient northern Eurasians” – the first inhabitants of Eastern Europe, Western Siberia and Pribaikalye of the Stone Age, as well as the northeastern peoples of Asia, whose descendants today live in the Far East and Chukotka. This came as a surprise to geneticists, who had expected North Eurasians to be completely replaced by East Asian peoples by then.
The most important result was that, according to Yu and his colleagues, similar fractions of the genomes of these two ancient groups of inhabitants of Eurasia are characteristic of both the ancient Indians and their modern descendants, who now live in the USA, Mexico and other countries of the New World. This makes the owner of the tooth from Ust-Kyakhta so far the oldest direct relative of the Indians known to mankind.
“Genetic studies have shown a similarity between the gene pool of the prehistoric population of Pribaikalye and the first immigrants to America. For anthropologists this is the expected result, however, thanks to the applied technologies, we were able to tell in detail the genetic history of the population of Pribaikalye, starting from the Upper Paleolithic to the Bronze Age,” Bozhilova summed up.
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