Science & Technology

New group of ancient Siberians identified

Scientists named the group ‘Ancient North Siberians’ and described them as the ‘missing link’ in the Native American ancestry 

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Friday 07 June 2019
New group of ancient Siberians identified. Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Scientists have identified a previously unknown group of ancient people who lived in north eastern Siberia during the last Ice Age that lasted from about 126,000 to 11,700 years ago.

The team named the group ‘Ancient North Siberians’ and described their existence as the ‘missing link’ in the Native American ancestry, according to the University of Cambridge.

Modern-day humans inhabited northeastern Siberia for more than 40,000 years but their population history remains poorly understood. In the study published in the Nature, a team of scientists analysed 34 samples of human genomes found in ancient archaeological sites across northern Siberia and central Russia to investigate the late Pleistocene (often referred to as the Ice Age) population.

About 200,000-300,000 years ago, homo sapiens — the modern humans — evolved from their early hominid predecessors in Africa. They migrated out of Africa about 70,000-100,000 years ago to parts of Europe and Asia.

During the Last Glacial Maximum (about 26,500 to 19,000 years ago), hunter-gatherer populations made their way from Siberia to North America through a land bridge at what is now Bering Strait. It was submerged at the end of the last Ice Age (that lasted from about 126,000 to 11,700 years ago).

The people, known as the Ancient North Siberians, endured extreme conditions during the late Pleistocene (often referred to as the Ice Age) and survived by hunting woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and bison. 

They were ancestors both to the first humans who inhabited the Americas (the first Peoples) and to a subsequent Siberian group (the Ancient Palaeo-Siberians), the Nature reported.

They also possessed the mosaic genetic make-up of modern-day people inhabiting across northern Eurasia and the Americas: These ancient Palaeo-Siberians got 75 per cent their DNA from East Asians, while for the first people inthe Americas it was 63 per cent. The two groups are estimated to have diverged about 24,000 years ago, the researchers explained.

“These people were a significant part of human history, they diversified almost at the same time as the ancestors of modern-day Asians and Europeans and it’s likely that at one point they occupied large regions of the northern hemisphere,” Eske Willerslev from The Lundbeck Foundation Centre for GeoGenetics at University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said in a statement.

“They adapted to extreme environments very quickly, and were highly mobile,"added Martin Sikora, from the varsity.

The findings challenged the previous assumptions about the population history of northeastern Siberia and history of human migration, Sikora said.

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