Preserved Stories Blog


Modern genetics has revolutionized the story anthropologists tell about how humans spread out across the Earth: Oct. 3, 2017 Atlantic article

A tweet from Dr Adam Rutherford‏ – that is, @AdamRutherford – reads:

Here’s an extract from the new US chapter, on the Americas, dodgy DNA tests, and scientific racism, in @TheAtlantic

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The Oct. 3, 2017 Atlantic article, referenced in the tweet, is entitled: “A New History of the First Peoples in the Americas: The miracle of modern genetics has revolutionized the story anthropologists tell about how humans spread out across the Earth.”

The Atlantic article is adapted from Rutherford’s upcoming book, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes.

The opening paragraphs read:

Europeans arriving in the New World met people all the way from the frozen north to the frozen south. All had rich and mature cultures and established languages. The Skraeling were probably a people we now call Thule, who were the ancestors of the Inuit in Greenland and Canada and the Iñupiat in Alaska. The Taíno were a people spread across multiple chiefdoms around the Caribbean and Florida. Based on cultural and language similarities, we think that they had probably separated from earlier populations from South American lands, now Guyana and Trinidad. The Spanish brought no women with them in 1492, and raped the Taíno women, resulting in the first generation of “mestizo”—mixed ancestry people.

Immediately upon arrival, European alleles began to flow, admixed into the indigenous population, and that process has continued ever since: European DNA is found today throughout the Americas, no matter how remote or isolated a tribe might appear to be. But before Columbus, these continents were already populated. The indigenous people hadn’t always been there, nor had they originated there, as some of their traditions state, but they had occupied these American lands for at least 20,000 years.

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An additional excerpt reads:

Today, the emerging theory is that the people up in the Bluefish Caves some 24,000 years ago were the founders, and that they represent a culture that was isolated for thousands of years up in the cold north, incubating a population that would eventually seed everywhere else. This idea has become known as Beringian Standstill. Those founders had split from known populations in Siberian Asia some 40,000 years ago, come across Beringia, and stayed put until around 16,000 years ago.

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Still another apt excerpt reads:

We sometimes forget that though the data should be pure and straightforward, science is done by people, who are never either.

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