First Native Americans Arrived in Two Separate Migrations
An international group of genetic researchers from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation in Salt Lake City, Utah working with scientists from the University of Pavia in Italy have released a study that questions the traditional view of how the Americas were originally inhabited.
The conventional view holds that an ice bridge between Asia and Alaska formed during the last major ice age some 15,000 to 17,000 years ago. This ice bridge then served as a conduit for migration from Asia into North America. Traditionally, it was thought groups from a single population crossed over into Alaska and then eventually (over hundreds of years) spread to the far reaches of North and South America.
The colonization of the Americas from a single population implies the original migrants would have shared a single culture, a single language family and similar technology. However, Native American cultures exhibit a diversity of cultures, languages and technologies that can not be explained by the theory of one population inhabiting all of the Americas.
Scientists studying maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA from living Native Americans were able to identify the initial colonization of the Americas most likely occurred by two unrelated populations from Asia. According to Professor Antonio Torroni, head of the University of Pavia group “Our genetic study reveals a scenario in which more than one language family could have arrived in the Americas with the earliest Paleo-Indians.”.
According to the new theory, one population crossed from Asia into Alaska along the ice bridge and then followed the Pacific coastline. This population colonized the west coast of North America and eventually arrived at the southern tip of South America. A second unrelated population crossed from Asia into Alaska at about the same time, but then headed east of the Rocky Mountains and travelled between two massive ice sheets through Alberta. This population eventually settled in the Great Plains and Great Lakes region of North America.
This study raises many questions in the debate on how the Americas were originally inhabited. The presence of at least two distinct genetic populations in the Americas suggests the possibility further research may unveil findings of other populations or sub-groups. For example, the Na-Dene and the Eskimo-Aleuts of northern North America have already been identified as genetically different from other Native Americans. This is interesting news for anyone with Native American ancestry.