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TOP NEWS Ancient native boy's genome reignites debate over first Americans
Wed, Feb 12 13:08 PM EST

By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - For more than 20 years anthropologists have debated whether the first Americans arrived in the New World by walking over a land bridge across the Bering Strait, as millions of schoolchildren have been taught, or by sea from southwest Europe, perhaps in animal-skin kayaks. A new analysis challenges the out-of-Europe hypothesis, which has figured in a political debate over the rights of present-day Native American tribes. Scientists announced on Wednesday that they had, for the first time, determined the full genome sequence of an ancient American, a toddler who lived some 12,600 years ago and was buried in western Montana. His DNA, they report, links today's Native Americans to ancient migrants from easternmost Asia. The study, published in the journal Nature, "is the final shovelful of dirt" on the European hypothesis, said anthropological geneticist Jennifer Raff of the University of Texas, co-author of a commentary on it in Nature. The idea that the first Americans arrived millennia earlier than long thought and from someplace other than Beringia - which spans easternmost Russia and western Alaska - has poisoned relationships between many Native Americans and anthropologists. Some tribes fear that the theory that the continent's first arrivals originated in Europe might cast doubt on their origin stories and claims to ancient remains on ancestral lands. Despite the new study, other experts say the debate over whether the first Americans arrived from Beringia or southwestern Europe, where a culture called the Solutrean thrived from 21,000 to 17,000 years ago, is far from settled.

there is genetic evidence that only the Solutrean hypothesis explains. "The genetic data from Anzick confirms that the ancestors of this boy originated in Asia. That suggests that the antler artifacts "were very special heirlooms handed down over generations. The DNA shows that the child belonged to a group that is a direct ancestor to as many as 80 percent of the Native Americans tribes alive today. a co-author of the Nature study." ELK ANTLERS The partial skeleton of the 1-year-old boy. The genetic analysis found that the boy is less closely related to northern Native Americans than to central and southern Native Americans such as the Maya of Central America and the Karitiana of Brazil. The origins and descendants of the Clovis people have remained uncertain. ." Waters said. "In fact. he said: "It's almost like he is a missing link" between the first arrivals and today's tribes.headed for the interior of North America. is that humans reached eastern Beringia from Siberia 26.000 years ago. but the boy's genome offers clues. receding glaciers allowed them to cross the Bering Strait. The most likely scenario. the scientists say. a leading expert on using DNA to track ancient migrations. reaching Monte Verde in Chile by 14. who led the study. The distinctive stone tools show that the boy was a member of the Clovis culture. said anthropologist Michael Waters of Texas A&M University's Center for the Study of the First Americans. while others ."They haven't produced evidence to refute the Solutrean hypothesis. That can best be explained.000 years ago.including the ancestors of Anzick-1 .000 years ago. was discovered when a front-end loader hit it while scooping out fill in 1968. By 17.000 to 18.600 to 13. Why they were buried with the boy remains unknown." said geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer of Oxford University. The grave and its environs contained 125 artifacts including stone spear points and elk antlers centuries older than the bones. if he belonged to a population that is directly ancestral to the South American tribes. said Texas's Raff.600 years ago." said Eske Willerslev of the Natural History Museum of Denmark. called Anzick-1. one of the oldest in North America and dating to around 12. Some migrated down the Pacific coast.

and strongly resemble Solutrean artifacts. and is found in many Native Americans has been traced to western Eurasia but is absent from east Eurasia. "They've been reliably dated to 20. "In agreement with previous archaeological and genetic studies. For the variant." the scientists wrote. where Beringia was before the sea covered it.000 years ago. called X2a." said anthropologist Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution. a proponent of the out-of-Europe model. "We definitely have some stuff here in the east of the United States that is older than anything they have in the west. One variant of DNA that is inherited only from a mother. (Reporting by Sharon Begley. to have such a high frequency in Native Americans "it must have got across the Atlantic somehow. called mitochondrial DNA. The new study "completely ignored this evidence." The scientists hope the Anzick boy has yielded all his secrets: He will be reburied by early summer. Editing by Michele Gershberg and Douglas Royalty) Email Article Next Article in Top News Home Search | Quotes | Videos | Currency | Slideshows | Top News | Oddly Enough | Business | Entertainment | Sports | Deals | Hot Stocks | Technology | Politics | More Categories Go back to desktop site ." Not all experts are convinced." too early for migrants from Beringia to have made the trek. Genetic analysis is also keeping the out-of-Europe idea alive." he said. and only the Solutrean hypothesis explains it. Oppenheimer explained. he said. our genome analysis refutes the possibility that Clovis originated via a European migration to the Americas.Today's Native Americans are "direct descendants of the people who made and used Clovis tools and buried this child.

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