Study of ancient skulls suggest there may have been multiple migrations into the Americas

February 23, 2017 by Bob Yirka report
Paleoamerican skull from Burial 1, Lapa do Santo site, Brazil. Credit: Mauricio de Paiva

(Phys.org)—A trio of researchers affiliated with institutions in the U.S., Europe and South America has found evidence that suggests the native people of South America likely arrived from more than one place. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, André Strauss and Mark Hubbe describe how they applied imaging technology to skulls that have been unearthed in Brazil and what was revealed.

For many years, it was believed that a single wave of ancient immigrants made their way from Asia to North America and eventually to South America—the first people to exist in the New World. But that view has been challenged in more recent years. In this new effort, the researchers describe evidence they have found that suggests the first settlers of the New World may have come from more than one place.

To learn more about the ancestry of some of the earliest settlers to South America, the researchers used geometric morphometrics, a type of imaging technology that allows for creating 3-D images of an object, to examine found in Lagoa Santa, Brazil. Prior research had dated the skulls back 7,000 to 10,000 years, which places them near the time when scientists believe South America was first populated by humans. The researchers report that the skull shapes of the ancient people differed markedly from those of modern indigenous South Americans, suggesting they came from somewhere else.

Interestingly, Hubbe was part of another team that recently imaged skulls dug up in Mexico. That team found that 500 to 800-year-old skulls (which places them before the arrival of Europeans) from two of three distinct regions matched one another but not with the third—suggesting that the third came from elsewhere. They have published their findings in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Burial 34 from Lapa do Santo site, Brazil. Credit: Andre Strauss

To date, most in the field believe that at least one wave of immigrants came as Asian people made their way across the Bering Strait, which would have been frozen over for a time—it is not clear where other immigrants may have come from, but some have suggested Australia as a likely possibility.

Drone view of Lapa do Santo site, Brazil. Credit: Artur Magalhaes

Explore further: Skulls in ancient cemetery on Vanuatu suggest Polynesians as first settlers

More information: Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel et al. Evolutionary population history of early Paleoamerican cranial morphology, Science Advances (2017). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602289

Abstract
The nature and timing of the peopling of the Americas is a subject of intense debate. In particular, it is unclear whether high levels of between-group craniometric diversity in South America result from multiple migrations or from local diversification processes. Previous attempts to explain this diversity have largely focused on testing alternative dispersal or gene flow models, reaching conflicting or inconclusive results. Here, a novel analytical framework is applied to three-dimensional geometric morphometric data to partition the effects of population divergence from geographically mediated gene flow to understand the ancestry of the early South Americans in the context of global human history. The results show that Paleoamericans share a last common ancestor with contemporary Native American groups outside, rather than inside, the Americas. Therefore, and in accordance with some recent genomic studies, craniometric data suggest that the New World was populated by multiple waves of dispersion from northeast Asia throughout the late Pleistocene and early Holocene.

Press release

Related Stories

Sao Paulo scientists study skulls

December 14, 2005

A Brazilian study involving a large collection of South American skulls suggests at least two distinct groups of early humans colonized the Americas.

Alligator relatives slipped across ancient seaways

March 4, 2013

The uplift of the Isthmus of Panama 2.6 million years ago formed a land-bridge that has long thought to be the crucial step in the interchange of animals between the Americas, including armadillos and giant sloths moving ...

Recommended for you

Evolution of cooperation through longer memory

April 19, 2017

When we make a decision about whether or not to cooperate with someone, we usually base our decision on past experiences—how has this person behaved in the past?—and on future reciprocity—will they return the favor?—and ...

9 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rhugh1066
not rated yet Feb 23, 2017
It seems to me that there had to be at least two waves minimum, one via water down the west coast and one via land from Beringia. In truth I think it happened many times, akin to the way Vikings traveled again and again to western Europe.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (2) Feb 23, 2017
There were at least two Inca tribes of the three known tribes who had those huge elongated skulls, some with over twice the cranial capacity of modern human's. Those should be mentioned.

There was a time in pre-"modern" Incan times when the indigenous tribes of Peru had written language. By the time the Spaniards arrived, that art was lost to them, for some inexplicable reason. Just an interesting note.
JongDan
5 / 5 (3) Feb 23, 2017
There were at least two Inca tribes of the three known tribes who had those huge elongated skulls, some with over twice the cranial capacity of modern human's. Those should be mentioned.

There is no statistically significant difference in cranial capacity between artificially deformed skulls and normal skulls in Peruvian samples. doi:10.1002/ajpa.10286
alizapetar
not rated yet Feb 24, 2017
This is very nice i really appreciated your knowledge to write this.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Feb 24, 2017
There is no statistically significant difference in cranial capacity between artificially deformed skulls and normal skulls in Peruvian samples. doi:10.1002/ajpa.10286
-Except that alien brains are naturally denser than human brains.

What I find intriguing is this

"Bones Show Ancestral Links to Europe
Despite general resistence, representatives of tribes in the US recently gave their blessing for DNA analysis of the remains of a Stone Age child. Research conducted on the boy's genes indicate that Native Americans have European roots."

-where when how why?
richdiggins
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2017

"The characteristic fluting of the stone weapons serve as archeological evidence that the boy, who died some 12,600 years ago, came from the Clovis culture. It was one of the earliest New World groups, disappearing mysteriously a few centuries after the child's burial in present day Montana."

"Their findings go even further: More than 80 percent of all native peoples in the Americas -- from the Alaska's Aleuts to the Maya of Yucatan to the Aymaras along the Andes -- are descended from Montana boy's lineage."

Doesn't look like the Clovis culture actually disappeared, if 80% of native americans are their descendants.

http://www.spiege...675.html

https://phys.org/...ues.html

450BushmasterGuy
1 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2017
This is going to continue as more finds are inevitably made in the future. Don't forget that Africans could easily have made the trip across to Brazil on the eastern side of the continent. The people currently known as (so-called) Native Americans are in reality just the second-most recent invaders of the new world, there were many others much earlier.
Pediopal
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2017
Give it up will you.

DNA on Kennewick Man , Spirit Lake, Anznick Child and Naia all prove these ancient humans were ancestors of the contemporary Native Americans.

There were no waves of migrations. There was only one migration into North America (until the last 500 years or so) 24,000 years ago and the DNA proves it.

And Clovis is a type of knapped artifact it has nothing to do with people disappearing. No more than 8 track cassettes "disappearing" means modern Americans have "mysteriously vanished".

So go preach your racist and "alternative facts" some place else.
sascoflame
5 / 5 (1) Feb 27, 2017
The old morphology trick ain't gonna work anymore. There may have been one hundred migrations into the new world but the only way we will know is DNA.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.