Anthropology Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Faculty News

Ancient Humans May Have Gone to North America Then Turned Around

Newsweek – Ancient Native American populations may have “back-migrated” into northeastern Asia, findings from a study published in the journal Current Biology indicate.

The paper sheds light on the history of human migration between Asia and North America and how ancient peoples in the region mixed.

There is a consensus among scientists that the Americas were first settled by people who traveled from Asia, although a number of questions remain about how exactly this process occurred.

“I would say we—archaeologists and geneticists—are in relative agreement about major elements of the peopling of the Americas, but differ drastically on some of the details,” Ben Potter, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who was not involved in the Current Biology paper, told Newsweek.

The consensus is that the First Americans (FAM) emerged in Asia around 25,000 years ago, mixed with Ancient North Eurasians—probably somewhere in southern Siberia—and then expanded into the Americas via Beringia (the land bridge that once existed between northeast Asia and Alaska) using interior or coastal routes, or both, sometime after 16,000 years ago.

“There are some archaeological sites that predate this, like White Sands, but they remain contentious and are controversial,” Potter said.

In the Current Biology paper, the authors analyzed ancient genomes from newly reported human remains found across three regions in North Asia—namely Altai-Sayan, Russian Far East, and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Their analysis revealed, among other findings, gene flow from people moving from North America to North Asia over the past 5,000 years, they said.

David Meltzer, a researcher in the Department of Anthropology at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, who was also not involved in the study, told Newsweek the team’s result about a possible “back-migration” from North America to Asia was “not surprising.” READ MORE