By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, in Washington DC
EUROPEANS 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. By studying the DNA in “power packs” of cells called mitochondria, scientists can compare populations to reveal evidence of ancient migrations, the American Association for the Advancement of Science was told. Such work reveals four major lineages in native Americans which can be traced to Siberia and north-east Asia, notably in Baikal and Altai-Sayan.
However, 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 the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. Dr Schurr said: “This is one of the intriguing findings that we have come across recently. 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 else.”
The find 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. Dr Schurr 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.”
The haplogroup X occurs most among Algonkian-speaking groups such as the Ojibwa, and has been detected in two pre-Colombian north American populations. Today, haplogroup X is found in between two and four per cent of European populations, and in the Middle East, he said, particularly in Israel.The complex 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.
Using comparisons 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. Their studies 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. He said: “This could be because they have been separated from their Asian sources for the longest period of time.”
A second group – including the Blackfoot, Iroquois, and other tribes from Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario, and Massachusetts – was descended from the Jomon, 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. Another 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.
He said: “Their craniofacial configuration allies them more closely to the living Chinese than to any other population in either hemisphere.”
I’d just like to comment that a group of haplotype X people were found in Kyrgztani Altains, although it’s the wrong type to be a parent of the native American type X, and it only arrived there a few thousand years ago with the Turkic peoples.
This shows the Canaries current, which sweeps off the North West coast of Africa and across the Atlantic. This journey has been done in a row boat in 43 days. It wouldn’t take complicated boats to make the journey, the current would have done most of the work. Recently, African illegal immigrants have been arriving at the Canary islands in large canoes, so it is possible to make long ocean voyages in them. There’s also the suggestion that Homo Erectus would have had to have been able to build boats to reach the island of Flores, so we’ve probably always had boats as modern humans.
Possible Evidence of Early Migrations to the Americas
One indication of possible American aboriginal settlement of South America came from cave paintings in Serra da Capivara National Park in Brazil. The paintings, which some archaeologists claim are older than the supposed date of arrival of the Siberian migrations to the area, are in a style not seen elsewhere in native American art. Researchers also point to both the physical traits of human remains found at the sites and tool-making technology as highly distinct from that associated with the Clovis culture.
The elaborate ritual costumes shown in the paintings exhibit similarity to those used by Australian Aborigines as well as those used by the Fuegians, the natives of Tierra del Fuego. According to some researchers, such as Walter Neves of the University of Sao Paulo, the Fuegians (who were reduced to only one woman as of 2004) may be descendants of intermixing between American Aborigines and American Indians, and therefore the last surviving remnants of the original settlers.
Monte Verde is an archaeological site in south-central Chile that pre-dates the earliest known Clovis culture site of Clovis, New Mexico, by 1000 years. One layer at Monte Verde is estimated to date to 12,500 years before present, making it one of the earliest inhabited sites in the Americas. At that time, the Bering Strait route was blocked by huge glaciers, suggesting that Monte Verde’s inhabitants arrived long prior to dates associated with the Clovis culture, or via a different route. Another layer at Monte Verde has been radiocarbon dated to 33,000 B.P., although some archaeologists have questioned the methodology used to determine the older date.
More solid evidence was found in the 1970s by anthropologist Anette Laming-Emperaire. In limestone caves of Lagoa Santa region in central Brazil, she unearthed the skeleton of a 20-year old, 1.50 m tall woman, later nicknamed “Luzia” (or “Lucia”). Laming-Emperaire died before she had a chance to study it. Some 20 years later, Walter Neves found the skull in the Quinta da Boa Vista National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, and found that its measurements were quite different from those of the later peoples descended from the Siberian migration(s), and more similar to those of Australian Aborigines, Melanesians, and Negritos. This find, dated between 10,500 and 9,500 BC, was greeted with much skepticism by the anthropological community. However, the find was eventually confirmed by remains of over 70 individuals with similar characteristics found in that same region. This matter   has been discussed at great length by Dewar (2001) These findings have been linked to the widespread Jigue legend  to suggest African San migrations to the New World.
Another boost to the theory came when anthropologist Rolando González-José of the University of Barcelona demonstrated that the remains of the Pericúes, a tribe that lived in Baja California Sur until the 18th century, were quantitatively more similar to the Lagoa Santa finds than to any other group tested, and both were closer to the Australian Aborigines and Melanesians than to Siberians. The “anomalous” appearance of the Pericúes had already been noted by European visitors to the area. In 1909 French ethnologist Paul Rivet first proposed a trans-Pacific origin of this population, although a more recent settlement of Pacific islanders (i.e. within the last few millenia) could not be considered a pre-Siberian migration.
The Fuegians of Tierra del Fuego at the extreme tip of South America are thought to be physically, culturally and linguistically distinct from other Native Americans. Some proponents of this theory suggest they may be the descendants of both the relative newcomers from Asia and American Aborigines. Both Tehuelches and Selk’nams practiced body painting in a way not unlike that of Australian aboriginals. In contrast to most other Amerindian peoples, Fuegians appeared to be taller than most Europeans (See: Patagon myth).
Kennewick Man, whose remains were found in Washington State, does not resemble today’s Amerindians. Researchers suggested South-East Asian, Polynesian, Ainu or European or Caucasoid-like ancestry based on skull studies. If confirmed, this would lend support to a theory that an important migration route lay along the North Pacific shoreline from Asia to America during a time when inland routes were blocked by ice. DNA analysis, which some Native American groups oppose, could help resolve this mystery, should there be enough left intact to extract from the bones.
Kennewick man, skull and reconstruction.
Natives of South America (below). This page of the book is from “The New Student’s Reference Work: Volume 1” by Chandler B. Beach, Frank Morton McMurry and others.
1Guatuso, 2 Talamanoan Woman ,3 Bolivian Indian, 4 Guaykuru, 5 Caraja, 6 Matako, 7 Brazilian Indian ,8 Guayaqui ,9 Araucanian ,(Chile) 10 Tierra del Fuegan,11 Patagonian, 12 Botocudo Woman.
Until now, native Americans were believed to have descended from Asian ancestors who arrived over a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska and then migrated across the whole of north and south America. The land bridge was formed 11,000 years ago during the ice age, when sea level dropped.
However, the new evidence shows that these people did not arrive in an empty wilderness. Stone tools and charcoal from the site in Brazil show evidence of human habitation as long ago as 50,000 years.
The site is at Serra Da Capivara in remote northeast Brazil. This area is now inhabited by the descendants of European settlers and African slaves who arrived just 500 years ago.
But cave paintings found here provided the first clue to the existence of a much older people.
Images of giant armadillos, which died out before the last ice age, show the artists who drew them lived before even the natives who greeted the Europeans.
These Asian people have facial features described as mongoloid. However, skulls dug from a depth equivalent to 9,000 to 12,000 years ago are very different.
Walter Neves, an archaeologist from the University of Sao Paolo, has taken extensive skull measurements from dozens of skulls, including the oldest, a young woman who has been named Lucia.
“The measurements show that Lucia was anything but mongoloid,” he says.
The next step was to reconstruct a face from Lucia’s skull. First, a CAT scan of the skull was done, to allow an accurate working model to be made.
Then a forensic artist, Richard Neave from the University of Manchester, UK, created a face for Lucia. The result was surprising: “It has all the features of a negroid face,” says Dr Neave.
The skull dimensions and facial features match most closely the native people of Australia and Melanesia. These people date back to about 60,000 years, and were themselves descended from the first humans, who left Africa about 100,000 years ago.
But how could the early Australians have travelled more than 13,500 kilometres (8,450 miles) at that time? The answer comes from more cave paintings, this time from the Kimberley, a region at the northern tip of Western Australia.
Here, Grahame Walsh, an expert on Australian rock art, found the oldest painting of a boat anywhere in the world. The style of the art means it is at least 17,000 years old, but it could be up to 50,000 years old.
And the crucial detail is the high prow of the boat. This would have been unnecessary for boats used in calm, inland waters. The design suggests it was used on the open ocean.
Archaeologists speculate that such an incredible sea voyage, from Australia to Brazil, would not have been undertaken knowingly but by accident.
Just three years ago, five African fishermen were caught in a storm and a few weeks later were washed up on the shores of South America. Two of the fishermen died, but three made it alive.
But if the first Americans had drifted from Australia, where are their descendants now? Again, the skulls suggest an answer.
The shape of the skulls changes between 9,000 and 7,000 years ago from being exclusively negroid to exclusively mongoloid. Combined with rock art evidence of increasing violence at this time, it appears that the mongoloid people from the north invaded and wiped out the original Americans.
The only evidence of any survivors comes from Terra del Fuego, the islands at the remotest southern tip of South America.
The pre-European Fuegeans, who lived stone age-style lives until this century, show hybrid skull features which could have resulted from intermarrying between mongoloid and negroid peoples. Their rituals and traditions also bear some resemblance to the ancient rock art in Brazil.
The identity of the first Americans is an emotive and controversial question. But the evidence from Brazil, and a handful of people who still live at the very tip of South America, suggests that the Americas have been home to a greater diversity of humans than previously thought – and for much longer.
So far the only group that doesn’t seem to make a traceable appearance are the Africans, although claims have been made regarding Negroid skulls being found in the Olmec area, there’s no DNA trace and every other anthropologist that had a look at the remains said they weren’t African. Given the cosmopolitan nature of ancient America, it would be a bit odd if they hadn’t made it over there at some point. Quite possibly, the ‘Australoid’ remains are part of a the very first population expansion out of Africa, straight across the Atlantic, as they would have looked a lot like modern Australoids. The remains found in the sites are extremely archaic in morphology. I’d love to know what mitochondrial DNA these people had, would they have been descended from ‘mitochondrial Eve’? Mungo man wasn’t.
The bones and DNA are pointing to a massacre of the first peoples by the current ‘first peoples’. It’s never a good sign when you only have the mitochondrial DNA of a people surviving.
Although, the. Great Lakes comet theory suggests that the older humans could have been at least partially wiped out by a comet impact about 13,000 years ago, clearing space for Newcomers up North