What happened to the native Caribbeans? Ancient DNA could solve mystery

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The Bahamas weren’t settled until 1,500 years ago. The people who settled there are known as the Lucayan Taino, and they and the other Taino communities of the Caribbean were the natives who met the first Spanish colonists in 1492. At the time, the Taino were thriving.

That didn’t last long; by the mid-16th century, smallpox and slavery had driven the Taino to the brink of extinction.

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[I]t has never been clear how directly genetically related modern Caribbean residents are to their vanished ancestors. But the story, it turns out, is more complicated than simple extinction, and new DNA evidence helps fill in some of the gaps. Archaeologists found three relatively complete skeletons in Preacher’s Cave, a site on the northern end of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.

[T]he vanished people of the Caribbean didn’t actually disappear without a trace. Modern inhabitants of the Caribbean islands mostly have a mixture of African and European ancestry, but some have a little indigenous DNA as well.

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Little knowledge of the Taino culture is left, but genes can record a history of social interaction that can at least help map out large-scale interactions. And it’s possible that DNA can also help us better understand the eventual extinction of the Taino.

Read full, original post: Ancient DNA sheds light on what happened to the Taino, the native Caribbeans

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