DNA from an infant who died in Alaska some 11,500 years ago is giving scientists the best look yet at the genetics of the ancestors of today’s native peoples of the Americas.
Decoding the infant’s complete set of DNA let researchers estimate the timing of key events in the ancestral history of today’s Native Americans and indigenous peoples of Canada and Central and South America.
Experts said that while the new work doesn’t radically change the outlines of what scientists have thought, it provides more detail and better evidence than what was available before.
The infant girl was buried about 50 miles southeast of Fairbanks, and her remains are the earliest known in the far north of North America, said anthropologist Ben Potter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
By comparing the genetic details of the infant to those of genomes from other populations, the researchers were able to estimate the times of key events in the ancestral story of today’s indigenous Americans. For example, they calculated that the ancestors completed their split from Asians by about 25,000 years ago.
Ancestors of the Alaskan girl split away from this group about 20,000 years ago. So her DNA allows a direct glimpse of the ancient population that led to today’s native peoples, said Jennifer Raff of the University of Kansas, who didn’t participate in the study
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