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Home / Science / DNA of world’s oldest natural mummy unlocks secrets of Ice Age tribes in the Americas

DNA of world’s oldest natural mummy unlocks secrets of Ice Age tribes in the Americas

Skulls and other human remains from P.W. The Lund collection of Lagoa Santa, Brazil, preserved in the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Credit: Museum of Natural History of Denmark

A legal battle over a 1

0,600-year-old skeleton – called "Spirit Cave Mummy" – ended after advanced DNA sequencing discovered it was related to a Native American tribe.

The revelation was published in Science today as part of a large international study that genetically analyzed the DNA of a series of ancient and controversial ancient remains in North and South America including Spirit Cave, the Lovelock skeletons, remains of Lagoa Santa, an Inca mummy and the oldest remains of the Chilean Patagonia. The study also examined the oldest human remains of Trail Creek Cave in Alaska, a 9,000-year-old baby tooth from a young girl.

Scientists sequenced 15 ancient genomes from Alaska to Patagonia and were able to track the movements of the early humans who spread through the Americas at "staggering" speeds during the Ice Age, and also how they interacted with each other over the following millennia.

The team of academics not only discovered that it remains the Cave of the Spirit, the world's oldest natural mummy – it was an American native but they were able to reject a long-standing theory that a group called Paleoamericans existed in North America before the Native Americans.

Revolutionary research has also uncovered evidence of a staggering australasian genetic signal in 10.400 years old old Lagoa Santa remains from Brazil revealing a previously unknown group of early South Americans, but the Australasian link left no genetic trace in North America. It was described by one of the scientists as "extraordinary proof of an extraordinary chapter in human history".

Professor Eske Willerslev, who held positions at both St John's College, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Copenhagen, and led the study, said: "Spirit Cave and Lagoa Santa were very controversial because they were identified as the so-called "Paleo-Americans" based on craniometry: it was determined that the shape of their skulls was different from the current Native Americans Cave and Lagoa Santa were actually genetically closer to the natives contemporary Americans than any other ancient or contemporary group sequenced until today. "

The remains of Lagoa Santa were recovered by the Danish explorer Peter W. Lund in the nineteenth century and his work led to this" paleoamerican hypothesis " based on the cranial morphology that theorized the famous group of skeletons could not be Native Americans. But this new study denies this theory and the results were launched under embargo by Professor Willerslev with representatives of the Brazilian National Museum in Rio Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

He added: "Watching the bumps and the shapes of a head does not let you it helps to understand the true genetic genealogy of a population – we have shown that you can have people who look very different but are closely related. "

The scientific and cultural significance of the Cave of the Spirit remains, which were found in 1940 in a small rocky alcove in the Gran Basin desert, was not properly understood for 50 years. The preserved remains of men in their forties were initially thought to be between 1500 and 2000 years, but in the 1990s the new tests on fabrics and hair dated back to the skeleton at 10,600 years.

The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, a group of Native Americans based in Nevada near Spirit Cave, supported cultural affiliation with the skeleton and required immediate repatriation of the remains under the protection and repatriation of the natives Americans.

The request was refused because the offspring was disputed, the tribe the federal government and the lawsuit opposed tribal leaders against anthropologists, claiming that the remains provided valuable information about the first inhabitants of North America and should continue to be exposed in a museum.

The stalemate continued for 20 years until the tribe accepted that Professor Willerslev could perform the sequencing of the genome on DNA extracted from the Cave of the Spirit for the first time.

Professor Willerslev He said, "I assured the tribe that my group would not do DNA testing unless they gave permission and agreed that if Spirit Cave were genetically a Native American the mummy would be repatriated to the tribe. . "

The team carefully extracted The DNA from the petrus bone from the inside of the skull shows that the skeleton was an ancestor of the current Native Americans. Spirit Cave was returned to the tribe in 2016 and at the beginning of the year there was an official burial ceremony that Professor Willerslev attended and details were just released.

The geneticist explained: "What became very clear to me was that it was deeply emotional and deeply cultural event: the tribe has real feelings for the Spirit Cave, which as European can be difficult to understand, but for us it would be like burying our mother, father, sister or brother.

everyone imagines what it would be like if our father or mother were put on an exhibition and had the same feeling for Spirit Cave.It was a privilege to work with them. "[19659019] The DNA of the world's oldest natural mummy unlocks the secrets of the Ice Age tribes in the Americas “/>

Professor Eske Willerslev with Donna and Joey, two members of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe. Credit: Linus Mørk, Magus Film

The tribe was kept informed throughout the two year project, and two members visited the Copenhagen laboratory to meet the scientists and were present when all the DNA was taken.

A statement from the Paiute-Shoshone tribe of Fallon said: "The tribe has had a lot of experience with members of the scientific community, mostly negative, but there are a handful of scientists who seemed to understand the perspective of the tribe and Eske Willerslev was one of them.

took the time to familiarize himself with the tribe, kept us well informed about the process and was available to answer our questions.The new study confirms what we have always known from our oral tradition and other evidence: that the man taken from his last resting place in Spirit Cave is our ancestor of the Native Americans. "

The genome of the skeleton of the Cave of the Spirit has a broader meaning because it not only solved the dispute legal and cultural between the tribe and the government, but also helped to reveal how the ancient humans moved and settled through the Americas, the scientists were gr to follow the movement of populations from Alaska to the extreme south of Patagonia. often separated from each other and risked traveling in small pockets of isolated groups.

Dr. David Meltzer, of the Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, said: "A surprising thing about the analysis of Spirit Cave and Lagoa Santa is their close genetic resemblance that implies their ancestral population traveled across the continent at speed. This is something we suspected because of archaeological discoveries, but it is fascinating to have it confirmed by genetics.These findings imply that early peoples were highly skilled in moving swiftly through a completely unknown and empty landscape.They had an entire continent for themselves. and they traveled at great distances at breathtaking speed. "

The study also revealed surprising traces of Australian ancestry in ancient South American Native Americans, but no Australasian genetic links were found in North American Native Americans.

Dr. Victor Moreno-Mayar, of the Center for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen and first author of the study, said: "We discovered that the Australasian signal was absent in the Native Americans before the Cave of the Spirit and the division of the population of Lagoa Santa which means that the carriers of this genetic signal were already present in South America when the Native Americans reached the region, or the Australasian groups arrived later that this signal has not been previously documented in North America implies that a precedent the group that possessed it had disappeared or that a group arriving next had passed through North America without leaving any genetic trace. "

Peter de Barros Damgaard, of the Center for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, explained why scientists remain perplexed but optimistic about the Australian ancestry signal in South America. He explained: "If we hypothesize that the migratory route that led this Australian lineage to South America passed through North America, the genetic signal arrived as a structured population and went directly to South America where they subsequently mingled with new entrants, or later they came in. At present we can not decide which of these could be corrected, leaving us in the face of extraordinary evidence of an extraordinary chapter in human history! But we will solve this enigma. "

The history of the population during the millennia that followed The initial settlement was much more complex than previously thought. The population of the Americas had been simplified as a series of divisions of the population from north to south with little or no interaction between the groups after their establishment.

The new genomic analysis presented in the study showed that about 8,000 years ago Native Americans were moving again, but this time from Mesoamerica to North and South America.

found traces of this movement in the genomes of all the indigenous populations of South America for which genomic data are available.

Dr. Moreno-Mayar added: "The oldest genomes of our study not only taught us the first inhabitants of South America, but also served as a basis for identifying a second flow of genetic ancestors, which came from Mesoamerica in the last millennia and which is not evident from him an archaeological record: these Mesoamerican populations mingled with the descendants of the first South Americans and gave rise to many contemporary groups in the region ".

Explore further:
The direct genetic evidence of the founding population reveals the history of the early Native Americans

Further information:
J.V. Moreno-Mayar el al., "First Human Leakage Within the Americas", Science (2018). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126 / science.aav2621

Journal reference:

Provided by:
University of Cambridge

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