SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2000
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, in Washington DC
colonised America up to 30,000 years ago, perhaps by crossing
the Atlantic, according to a genetic analysis of native Americans
that sheds light on their origins.
the DNA in power packs of cells called mitochondria,
scientist can compare populations to reveal evidnece of ancient
migrations, the American Association for the Advancement of
Science was told.
shows four main lineages in native Americans which can be traced
to Siberia and north-east Asia, notably in Baikal and Altai-Sayan.
a fifth more minor founding lineage, called haplogroup
X, can be traced to Europe, and is found in North American populations,
said Dr Theodore Schurr of Southwest Foundation for Biomedical
Research in San Antonio, Texas.
is one of the intriguing findings that we have come across recently,
said Dr Schurr. These data imply that haplogroup X was
present in the New World long before Europeans first arrived
in the New World, before Columbus or the Vikings or anybody
has led to some speculation that ancient people crossed the
Atlantic from the Old World, because evidence of the group has
not so far been found in Asia, though he stressed that not all
central Asian groups had been analysed.
said: Haplogroup X was brought to the New World by an
ancient Eurasian population in a migratory event distinct from
those bringing the other four lineages to the Americas.
X occurs most among Algonkian speaking groups such as
the Ojibwa, and has been detected in two pre-Colombian north
Today,haplogroup is found in between two and four per cent of
European populations, and in the Middle East, he said, particularly
origins of the first Americans has also been highlighted by
an analysis of thousands of skulls from around the world.
A team of
anthropologists from the University of Michigan found that the
study confirmed the complex origins of native Americans that
have been suggested by recent archeological and genetic studies.
of thousands of ancient and modern skulls, collected over a
period of 20 years and containing new data from Mongolia that
became accessible just last summer, Prof Loring Brace showed
how the native inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere fit into
several different groups based on craniofacial patterns.
show that descendants of the first humans to enter the New World,
including natives of Mexico, Peru, and the southern United States,
have no obvious ties to any Asian groups. This could be
because they have been separated from their Asian sources for
the longest period of time. he said.
group included the Blackfoot, Iroquois and other tribes
from Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario, and Massachuesetts
was descended from the Jomon, of the prehistoric people of Japan.
The Inuit appear to be a later branch from that same Jomon trunk.
Tribal groups who lived down the eastern seaboard into Florida
share this origin, according to Prof Brace.
group, originating in China and including the Athabascan-speaking
people of the Yukon drainage of Alaska and north-west Canada,
spread as far south as Arizona and northern Mexico. Their
craniofacial configuration allies them more closely to the living
Chinese than to any other population in either hemisphere,