Skip to comments.Study Sheds Light On Early Migration (Americas)
Posted on 12/13/2005 10:47:40 AM PST by blam
Study sheds light on early migration
Skulls raise questions on first Americans
By MIKE TONER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/13/05
A 10-year study of ancient human skulls from Brazil provides new evidence that two distinct populations of prehistoric people settled the Americas more than 12,000 years ago a finding that raises new questions about the identity and origins of the first Americans.
Brazilian researchers say physical features of the skulls excavated from several limestone caves near Lagoa Santa in central Brazil differ sharply from the ancestors of today's Native Americans, who are thought to have migrated from Siberia to North America at the end of the last Ice Age.
"These earliest South Americans tend to be more similar to present-day Australians, Melanesians and sub-Saharan Africans," Brazilian anthropologist Walter Neves reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Neves said the findings suggest a "complex scenario in regards to the influx of humans to the New World," but he skirted controversial new theories that the first people to reach the Americas came by boat from Asia, the South Pacific or perhaps even Europe, rather than crossing a land bridge spanning the Bering Strait, as most archaeologists believe.
"No transoceanic migration is necessary to explain our findings," he said.
Instead, he said the South American population might have come by the same route used by the ancestors of modern Native Americans.
The age of the Lagoa Santa skulls does not clearly establish which of the two populations entered the Americas first or when but Neves said it is plausible to think that the South American population arrived first and then moved, or was pushed southward by the Asian ancestors of present-day Native Americans, whose genetic makeup and linguistic patterns today are dominant in both continents' native peoples.
Some genetic studies comparing ancient remains and modern humans have suggested there might have been anywhere from one to four separate migrations of prehistoric peoples to the Americas.
Human skeletal remains older than 8,000 years are rare in the Americas, but isolated examples of skulls with seemingly "un-Asian" features have been found and reported in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Florida and California.
But the analysis by Neves, of the University of Sao Paulo's Laboratory of Human Evolution, and his colleague Mark Hubbe is the first to look comprehensively at a large number of remains from a single location.
Naturalists, amateurs and professional archaeologists have been digging up human remains in excavating the Lagoa Santa caves located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais since the 1840s. But because the remains were scattered among museums in London, Copenhagen and Rio de Janiero, no overall study of their physical characteristics was ever performed until Neves tracked them down.
Neves says individual skulls may vary widely, but in the aggregate, the 81 South American skulls show a clear pattern that differs markedly from the features of modern Native Americans.
He says today's Native Americans and their ancestors have narrow and long skulls, squarish jaws, and relatively high noses and eye sockets. The South American skulls tend to have short and wide skulls, jutting jaws, and relatively low noses and eye sockets.
Scientists use heads to ID early settlers
By ANNE MCILROY
Tuesday, December 13, 2005 Posted at 8:35 AM EST
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
The earliest human settlers in the Americas didn't look like modern North American native people or their ancestors, say scientists who have analyzed a large collection of ancient skulls from Brazil.
They had short, narrow faces and looked more like present-day aboriginal people in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and sub-Saharan Africans, Brazilian researcher Walter Neves says. Modern natives in North and South America tend to have high, broad faces, as did their ancestors.
Dr. Neves and his colleague Mark Hubbe analyzed 81 skulls from a cave in central Brazil and compared them with skulls from around the world. The Brazilian skulls, 7,500 to 11,000 years old, form the largest collection of early American remains in the world.
They are part of the mounting evidence that the ancestors of North American native peoples may not have been the first to settle here, and certainly were not the only arrivals. Many anthropologists and archeologists believe at least two ancient waves of human settlement came to North America and then South America.
That's very different from the more simple theory -- unchallenged for more than 50 years -- that the first North Americans came across the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska about 11,500 years ago.
Ancient North American skulls, reconstructed from fragments, looked the same as skulls from early inhabitants of northeast Asia and from present-day Indians. The early migrants became known as Clovis hunters after the site in New Mexico where the stone spearheads they left behind were found. Scientists believed they were the ancestors of North and South American native groups.
But in the late 1970s, archeologists began digging up evidence that the Clovis people were not the first to arrive. In 1977, University of Kentucky archeologist Tom Dillehay found a settlement preserved in peat in Chile that was 12,500 years old.
To get to Chile, the early settlers would have to have made a long trek from Alaska, which many experts believe would have taken thousands of years. So, a 12,500-year-old settlement in Chile meant that the first North Americans would have arrived long before there was any evidence of Clovis people.
Skulls found in North and South America added to the evidence of an earlier migration of a different population. The skulls were 8,000 to 11,000 years old, and didn't look like modern North American Indians or ancient North Asians.
A new theory started to evolve. The first North Americans, dubbed Paleoamericans by researchers, may have travelled across the Bering Straight about 14,000 or 15,000 years ago and picked their way along the coast of North America to South America, on foot or in boats. But so few of their skulls have been discovered that it has been hard for researchers to learn much about them.
The Brazilian skulls are so important in part because there are so many.
"It is a gold mine, to have such a big sample of early Americans," Dr. Neves says. It makes it harder to argue that the Paleoamericans didn't exist, he adds.
Some of the skulls were discovered 150 years ago, but accurately dated only recently, says Dr. Neves, whose findings are published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
No one knows what happened to the Paleoamericans, whether the better-armed Clovis hunters wiped them out, they survived in isolated pockets, or were absorbed into the Clovis population.
If the Clovis hunters and the Paleoamericans had sex together and produced offspring, that would mean that the Paleoamericans were in fact the ancestors of modern native people.
After the news conference, the bones were seized by "Native Americans" and quickly reburied in an undisclosed site...
But these guys took America from the guys that had lived in Barstow 135,000 ya.
This just has to kill the multi-cultural professors!!! You mean it was a Caucasian ("Similar to present day Australians")who was the 1st in the Americas?!?!??! (sarcasm)
More Darwinist nonsense.
Does this mean "native American" tribes may have to give up their casinos and claims to sovereignty?
Brazil and other countries south of the US do not have idiot laws like NAGRA, so, we'll be getting the 'truth' from the south.
Another blow for the Hebrew migration theorists (Mormons)
Which is an odd thing to say... Australians, Melanesians and sub-Saharan Africans don't have all that much in common.
Careful, we can't have that happening. Might get banned.
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By modern-day Australians, I assume they have in mind the aborigines, not the Crocodile Dundee types.
"You call THAT a clovis point?" (Pulls out much larger stone spearhead....) "Now THIS is a clovis point, mate!!!!
Professor Stephen Oppenheimer, in one of his books, says that the oldest (undisputed) Mongoloid skeleton ever found is only 10,000 years old. It looks like a fairly recent body style.
The oldest modern human skeleton found in Japan is that of a Jomon, 13,000 years old. The Jomon are the ancestors of the Ainu who are of the Kennewick Man variety. I believe the Ainu types were here at least 25,000 years ago and Oppenheimer's DNA studies seem to support this early entry.
What is the oldest human skull in North America which could pass for a direct ancestor of Hiawatha?"
I've read 6,000 years...and, I will admit that I can't recall if it was 6,000 years ago or 6,000BC. Either way, they're late comers.
BTW, I'm glad to see them using the term 'paleoAmericans' instead of 'paleoIndians'.
"And Spirit Cave Man doesn't look like the Siberians of today, either. From the shape of his skull, it's clear that he had a longer, narrower head, flatter cheekbones, and a more prominent chin than those typical of both northern Asians and Native Americans today. In fact, in recent analyses of some ten early American skulls, anthropologists have found just two individuals who could pass as kin of either contemporary northern Asians or Native Americans."
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