Recently a new academic paper focused on Native American ancestry hit the news. Ripan Malhi’s molecular anthropology and ancient DNA lab at the University of Illinois, shown above, in Urbana, Illinois has successfully extracted DNA from remains of individuals whose bones were found in an ancient trash heap in British Columbia and has successfully matched the DNA with living people today, confirming of course that today’s people were related to these ancient people and are a part of the same base population that lived there 5000-6000 years ago and remains today.
Ripan’s paper, “Ancient DNA Analysis of Mid-Holocene Individuals from the Northwest Coast of North America Reveals Different Evolutionary Paths for Mitogenomes” discusses this in detail. If you’re not up to this level of detail, a nice article in LiveScience covers the discovery as well.
Ripan has successfully connected the dots between the fossilized remains and currently living members of several Native tribes local to the region where the bones were found.
As part of this study, three new mitochondrial haplogroups were discovered in the Native population. Two haplogroups, A2ag and A2ah are found alive and well today. However, another, D4h3a7 has only been found one other time, in remains found in a cave in Alaska, and may have gone extinct. It has not been found in living people to date, although a lot of people have yet to be tested.
The area where the remains were found is indigenous to the Tsimshian, Haida and Nisga’a tribes.
Today, local tribes are participating in additional research with Dr. Malhi in order to better understand their ancestry and to see if the genetic data supports their extensive oral history which suggests multiple migration waves from Asia into the Americas within the past 5000 years.
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