A long-vanished race of humans, whose descendants now survive only among certain indigenous peoples in Australasia and in the Amazon jungles, may have been the true, original Native Americans, according to new genetics research.
The clue to the existence of this mysterious “Population Y” has been found by boffins probing the genes of various native-American peoples. Amazingly, the researchers found that a couple of tribes in the Amazon jungle actually had quite a lot in common genetically with others in Australia, New Guinea and the Andaman Islands.
It’s well known, of course, that humanity spread from its original cradle in Africa out across Asia and thus south to Australasia and separately north – via the Bering Strait land bridge, then in existence – to North America.
The first emigrants across the Bering were the First Americans. What’s not totally clear is exactly when they arrived, how many of them there were, what other groups arrived at what point etc. Given that they were arriving via a travel route just south of the ice sheets which then covered a lot of the northern globe, it’s generally thought that they didn’t come in a continuous stream, but more probably in waves when conditions were favourable.
One widely-held theory has it that the First Americans arrived in one wave of fairly genetically similar people, and this theory fitted pretty well with the observed genetics of native-American people both North and South. But the Amazon-Australasia linkage has pretty much upset that applecart.
“We spent a really long time trying to make this result go away and it just got stronger,” says Professor David Reich of the Harvard Medical School.
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Unmentioned besides is a possible third group, the Solutrean Hypothesis, a theory based on archaeological evidence which proposes also some Trans-Atlantic settlement of the Americas.