Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Are Native Americans and Europeans Related?

A 24,000-year-old arm bone indicates that Native Americans may be cousins to Eurasians. DNA samples along with current projects to map the DNA of Native Americans have made new discoveries. It was found that the Native Americans share about 18% to 38% with Eurasian and other genomes with East Asians. This may mean that Native Americans are really a mixing of genetics between Eurasians and East Asians that create a distinct identity. 

The scientists originally thought they contaminated the samples and put the tests on hold. A year later, they found the same results. They began to look around the American continent for other examples and came across the 9,000-year-old Paleo-Indian found in Washington. To their amazement this Native had features more European than East Asian. 

It was believed that earlier studies with Eurasian DNA were a result of mixtures with Europeans after settlement and colonization. Now it is possible that such DNA structures are actually deeper and can date back tens of thousands of years. If so, this would mean that Natives have been in the area for a long time and have developed their own ways of life independent of other societies. 

When people view all human life as common, using similar expressions, mannerisms, and processes but with different cultures the idea is no longer farfetched. Other studies that are mapping the mich-DNA are finding similarities in other large groups in other areas indicating that early human development was very interrelated. 

What does this really change for people? Mostly it is about perspective. We often view ourselves as very different but these are cultural differences. At a very deep level, we may all be interrelated and come from similar ancient backgrounds. Over the years, we have learned different ways of surviving within our environments and passed these methods through the generations to create culture.

Mass, et. al. (November 20th,2013). Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans.  doi:10.1038/nature12736   Journal

Other Reading: 

Video on the History of Native Americans

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