Ancient genomics is recasting the story of the Americas’ first residents

Nov 9, 2018

By Ewen Callaway

Ancient genomics is finally beginning to tell the history of the Americas — and it’s looking messy.

An analysis of genomes from dozens of ancient inhabitants of North and South America, who lived as long ago as 11,000 years — one of the largest troves of ancient DNA from the region studied so far — suggest that the populations moved fast and frequently. The findings were published on 8 November in Cell1 and Science2.

The studies suggest that North America was widely populated over a few hundred years, and South America within one or two thousand years by related groups. Later migrations on and between the continents connected populations living as distantly as California and the Andes.

“These early populations are really blasting across the continent,” says David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, who co-led the Science study.

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