Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/05/18/new-discovery-confirms-native-american-views-their-ancestry-154927
For the past 15 years the question of whether modern American Indians were descended from the ancient people who lived in North and South America more than 10,000 years ago has been the subject of a contentious and bruising scientific debate. This debate has had profound legal implications, since under the current laws in the United States, the custody and control of human remains is dependent on whether or not there is a relationship to a modern Indian tribe.
Naia, believed to have been a young girl of 15 or 16, apparently fell to her death in the sinkhole sometime between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago. About 10,000 years ago, as the Ice Ages came to an end and melting glaciers raised sea levels around the world, the cave system was flooded. Her remains, now 130 feet below sea level, were preserved. Under Mexican law her skeleton could not be disturbed, even for scientific study, but the cave systems are a popular tourist dive location and divers had been found digging around her, prompting the government and scientists to recover her.
Girl’s 12,000-year-old skeleton may solve a mystery
A paper published Thursday online in the journal Science argues that the discrepancy in appearance between the Paleoamericans and later Native Americans is most likely the result of recent, and relatively rapid, human evolution — and not the result of subsequent migrations of people into the Americas.
Tests on mitochondrial DNA taken from Naia show that she had a genetic marker common today across the Americas, one that scientists say evolved in a prehistoric population that had been isolated for thousands of years in Beringia, the land mass between Alaska and Siberia that formed a bridge between the continents during the Ice Ages.
Adding to the mystery is that the Paleoamericans, such as Naia, didn’t look like later Native Americans. Naia had a small, projecting face, with narrow cheekbones, wide-set eyes and a prominent forehead. Native Americans of later millennia tended to have broader, longer, flatter faces, and rounder skulls, said James Chatters, an independent researcher based in Washington state and the lead author of the paper.
The distinct morphology of the Paleoamericans is most famously found in the “Kennewick Man,” a 9,000-year-old skeleton discovered two decades ago along the Columbia River in Washington state. Facial reconstruction resulted in someone who looked a bit like the actor Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “X-Men”). Scientists theorized that he could have been related to populations in East Asia that spread along the coast and eventually colonized Polynesia. Under that scenario, more recent Native Americans could be descended from a separate migratory population.
DNA Analysis Shows That Native American Genealogy Is One of the Most Unique in the World
The importance of such efforts cannot be overstated. The threads of these ancient cultures – having existed here for tens of thousands of years prior to the arrival of the ‘pioneers’ – no matter how tenuous they may currently be, must be preserved, strengthened and woven back into a quilt that tells the unique story of not only their past, but of their bright future as well.
The study follows up on earlier research that found a unique variant of a genetic marker in the DNA of modern descendants of Native Americans. “While earlier studies have already supported this conclusion, what’s different about our work is that it provides the first solid data that simply cannot be reconciled with multiple ancestral populations,” said Kari Britt Schroeder of the University of California, one of the authors of the study.
As a result of the previous research, the so-called “9-repeat allele” (or variant) was found in all of the 41 Native American and Asian (from the western side of the Bering Strait) populations that were sampled. At the same time, the allele was absent in all 54 of the Eurasian, African and Oceanian groups that were also sampled in the study.The researchers supposed that the distribution of the allele was due to the fact that all these ethnic groups (modern Native Americans, Greenlanders and western Beringians) derived from a common founder population, which had been isolated from the rest of the Asian continent thousands of years prior to their migration to the Americas.
“Our work provides strong evidence that, in general, Native Americans are more closely related to each other than to any other existing Asian populations, except those that live at the very edge of the Bering Strait,” concluded Schroeder. (Source)
The results of the study were published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.