Remains point to discovey of ancient people

Researchers have identified an ancient population.
Researchers have identified an ancient population.
Illustration by Eric S. Carlson in collaboration with Ben A. Potter.
The remains of a 6-week-old infant who lived 11,500 years ago in Alaska’s interior have revealed a previously unknown people believed to be the founding population of Native Americans.

     This group has been dubbed "Ancient Beringians," according to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Researchers had expected to match the infant's genetic profile with other northern Native American people -- but that didn’t happen.
     The DNA analysis of the infant, along with the remains of another infant discovered at the Upward Sun River site near the Tanana River in central Alaska, uncovered “a distinct Ancient Beringian population,” according to a study published in the journal Nature on Jan. 3.
         The infant was named “Xach’itee’aanenh T’eede Gaay” (sunrise girl-child) by the local indigenous community, a university news release explained. In 2013 Researchers found the remains of another infant who also lived about 11,500 years ago. They believe the two were closely related.
          The Ancient Beringian people and ancestors of other Native Americans descended from a single population that split from East Asians 35,000 year ago, the study explains. From there, two scenarios are in play for the process of populating the New World:
  • Two distinct groups of people crossed over the Beringian land bridge prior to 15,700 years ago.
  • One group of people crossed over the land bridge and then split into two groups: Ancient Beringians and other Native Americans. This second group moved south of the ice sheets 15,700 years ago.
     Ben Potter, one of the lead authors of the study and a professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has worked at the Upward Sun River site for a decade.
     The research is: “Terminal Pleistocene Alaskan genome reveals first founding population of Native Americans,” by J. Víctor Moreno-Mayar,  Ben A. Potter, et al. Published in NatureJan. 3.


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