31,000-Year-Old Teeth DNA Reveals Ancient Siberians

07 Juin, 2019, 22:23 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Ancient Siberia was home to previously unknown humans, say scientists

"These people were a significant part of human history, they diversified nearly at the same time as the ancestors of modern day Asians and Europeans and it's likely that at one point they occupied large regions of the northern hemisphere", study author Eske Willerslev of St John's College, University of Cambridge said in a statement.

Researchers reached this conclusion after analyzing the DNA of a 10,000-year-old male fossil near the Kolyma River in Siberia.

For the new study, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, researchers analyzed DNA samples from 34 individuals recovered from Russia's Yana Rhinoceros Horn Site, an archaeological site in northeastern Siberia.

John Hoffecker from the University of Colorado Boulder, who was not involved in the study, welcomed the research, saying a striking feature of the study is that humans were faring well in north-eastern Siberia, even in very hard conditions, 30,000 years ago - with the genetic data from the teeth suggesting the males belonged to a population of about 500 people. They survived by hunting woolly mammoths, as well as woolly rhinoceroses and bison. The nearest match was a woman the team calls Kolyma1, who lived in northeastern Siberia some 9,800 years ago. We were interested in understanding who those early peoples were, and how they related to contemporary Siberians. The DNA was found to be mixture of Ancient North Siberian lineages and East Asian "and similar to that seen in Native American populations - a much closer match than any others found outside of North America".

The two studies also shed light on other elements of ancient human migrations.

"We document at least three major population turnovers in the region, with the earlier peoples showing very different ancestry to the peoples inhabiting the region today".

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Alla Mashezerskaya maps the artefacts in the area where two 31,000-year-old milk teeth were found. Laurent Excoffier, of the University of Bern, Switzerland, said in a press release that the Ancient North Siberians were "more closely related to Europeans than Asians and seem to have migrated all the way from Western Eurasia soon after the divergence between Europeans and Asians".

Meltzer wrote, "It doesn't change the fact that there's no direct historical descent in terms of the artifacts, but it does tell us that there was this population floating around in far northern Russian Federation 31,000 years ago whose descendants contributed a bit of DNA to Native Americans".

"[Ancestors of] Native Americans are not the first people in north-eastern Siberia as most people, if not everybody thought", Willerslev told Nicola Davis at The Guardian. Scientists say the discovery could help unpick longstanding mysteries about the ancestors of native North Americans. However, the majority of their DNA was attributed to another group, which the team have dubbed the Ancient Paleo-Siberians.

"The remains are genetically very close to the ancestors of Paleo-Siberian speakers and close to the ancestors of Native Americans", said Willerslev, director of the Lundbeck Foundation Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen.

In research, it is generally accepted that humans came to America for the first time by crossing the Bering Strait from Siberia to Alaska, using a land bridge that existed before the last ice age ended.

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