DNA Evidence Sheds New Light About Where Native Americans Came From

A recent investigation has unearthed fresh evidence that sheds light on how Native Americans arrived in America thousands of years ago.
Credit: Alamy

The Native Americans arrived in America thousands of years ago and now DNA evidence has shed light on where they came from. 

Over the years many of us have wondered how this population of people originally landed in America before the European Colonisation of the Americas in 1492.

Now, new research may have finally given us the answers we were looking for.

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A study, which was published in the Cell Reports journal, has examined mitochondrial DNA and revealed evidence of two migrations between the Americas and China and Japan.

These migrations occurred during the last ice age and the subsequent melt period.

The researchers leading the study managed to trace a rare Native American founder lineage across continents and through various time periods.

They achieved this by analysing the mitochondrial DNA passed down through the female line.

By examining 100,000 present-day samples and 15,000 ancient samples, the team accomplished the identification of 216 individuals from contemporary times and 39 individuals from ancient times who possessed this shared lineage.

needle image
The study may have answered many people’s questions. Credit: Alamy

Using carbon dating and comparing mutations that arose along the journey, the researchers mapped the branches and paths of that lineage.

Yu-Chun Li, a molecular anthropologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has addressed the discovery in a statement – believing that the Asian ancestry of Native Americans is ‘more complicated than previously suggested’.

“In addition to previously described ancestral sources in Siberia, Australo-Melanesia, and Southeast Asia, we show that northern coastal China also contributed to the gene pool of Native Americans,” she says.

Native American
It is believed that coastal China contributed to a number of Native Americans. Credit: Alamy

The team believe that the first migration event – also known as a ‘radiation event’ – happened roughly 19,500 and 26,000 years ago when the cold conditions of northern coastal China were too much to support human inhabitation.

Researchers believe that the second migration happened between 19,000 and 11,500 years ago, as the world’s human population grew and they went off to explore the world for better climates and conditions.

Interestingly, the researchers speculate that both migrations reached the Americas via the Pacific coast.

This, interestingly, goes against the previously held notion that they travelled across the Bering Land Bridge, a stretch of land that extends from Russia to Canada and Alaska.

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The investigation of migration patterns and the comparison of arrowheads and spears pointed to the possibility that the Paleolithic people of China and Japan travelled along the northern Pacific Rim to reach America.

This research has led to suggestions that Native Americans were descendants of Japan’s Jōmon people.

However, a recent genetic study has challenged this hypothesis, indicating that the Native American-Jōmon connection is less likely.

Instead, the latest research proposes that the observed similarities may be attributed to a shared common lineage.

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Written by Ryan Wilks

Ryan is a former content editor at IGV who specialises in celebrity and entertainment news. He has a degree in Magazine Journalism and Production from the University of Gloucestershire. He previously worked as a social media editor for Reach PLC’s national brands including Daily Star, Daily Express, OK! and The Mirror.