Ancient DNA Suggests That Native Americans Originate From China

Andrei Tapalaga

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Black Foot, Standing Bear, Big Eagle, Sioux. Three members of the Sioux tribe pose in Indian Village, 1898Boston Public Library/Unsplash

There have been previous studies that speculated on the origin of Ancient Native Americans. It is said that Native Americans came to America about 15,000 years ago, but their exact location from where they originated has always been foggy due to the lack of evidence. 

Some findings along with the ancient native American characteristics suggested that they originated somewhere in Asia. An ancient skull that has been found in 1989 in Red Deer Cave in the Yunnan province of China has offered a new clue to this puzzle. The radiocarbon analysis showed that the skull was about 14,000 years old and the DNA represented that this person had genetic ties to the Asian ancestors of Native Americans.

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Side view of an ancient skull found in Red Deer Cave, ChinaXueping Ji/NewsScientist

After many years of analysis, Bing Su at the Kunming Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences with the help of his colleagues has been able to establish specific information about this person, who they nicknamed Mengzi Ren. This person turned out to be a female, part of the Homo-sapiens species. 

The team has spent years trying to extract DNA from the skull that would be useful to sequence the DNA. Once the team got the right DNA sample, they compared it to samples from around the world during the same period of time. The closest match was found in Native Americas from samples that have been found on American soil. 

“It was a really exciting moment,” says Su. “It is difficult to find ancient DNA in such a sample. After three years of trying to extract DNA from around 100 spots on the cranium, we found ancient DNA that we could sequence.” (Quote by Bing Su)

In the process of trying to recreate the journey of how Native Americans got to America, certain historians predict that they traveled from China due to the lack of food and the possible increase in conflict due to the inflation of population at the time. Those who migrated used the Alaskan route as at the time the continents were connected by a thick sheet of ice. 

In a book entitled “Atlas of a Lost World” written by Craig Childs, he defines that ancient native Americans have always denied that they originated from somewhere else apart from America. This has become embedded within their culture and this historical misinformation has been passed down by each generation. The refusal of accepting different origins is quite common in ancient cultures. 

The authors point out that there is some evidence showing that human life was on American land between 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, meaning that the native Americans could have pushed out people that actually originated from America, however, this is only a theory as there is no hard evidence to prove it. 

In order to paint a better picture, there is a need for more data, meaning more fossils, and in this case the older the better. 

“Such data will not only help us paint a more complete picture of how our ancestors migrated but also contain important information about how humans change their physical appearance by adapting to local environments over time, such as the variations in skin color in response to changes in sunlight exposure,” (Quote by Bing Su)

Despite the belief of Native Americans, this evidence proves that they originate from China. This sort of data creates more questions rather than answers, such as who were those who actually originated from America 40,000 years ago?

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