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24,000 year old boy from Lake Baikal is 'scientific sensation'

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28 October 2013


Geneticist Connie Mulligan of the University of Florida called the findings 'jaw-dropping'. DNA from this ancient Siberian skeleton offers clues to the first Americans. Picture: The State Hermitage museum, St. Petersburg 

New DNA findings, if confirmed, have stunning implications for our understanding of both pre-historic Siberians - and native Americans. They would suggest that, contrary to previous understanding, some indigenous populations are - in fact - European or West Asiatic in origin. 

The Danish-US research was carried out on the bones of a Siberian boy whose remains were found near the village of Mal'ta close to Lake Baikal in the 1920s in a grave adorned with flint tools, pendants, a bead necklace and a sprinkling of ochre. The remains are held in the world famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and analysis of a bone in one of his arms represents 'the oldest complete genome of a modern human sequenced to date', according to Science magazine.

'His DNA shows close ties to those of today's Native Americans. Yet he apparently descended not from East Asians, but from people who had lived in Europe or western Asia,' said ancient DNA expert Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen. 'The finding suggests that about a third of the ancestry of today's Native Americans can be traced to 'western Eurasia'.'

The research may help explain why 'European ancestry previously detected in modern Native Americans do not come solely from mixing with European colonists, as most scientists had assumed, but have much deeper roots', said the report.

It may also raise a similar question about the 'European look' of some ancient Siberians - for example in the tattooed permafrost princess Ukok found in a burial chamber in the Altai Mountains, whose remains date from around 2,500 years ago. 

Princess Ukok tattooes

'Princess' Ukok's shoulder, tattoo of fantastic animal, and a drawing of it made by Siberian scientists. Picture and drawing:  Elena Shumakova, Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Science 

Russian scientists reconstructed her to show what many were surprised to be a European face, unrelated to the modern day Altai tribes. The finding is confirmed by DNA analysis which showed her to be Pazyryk in origin. Her group was part of the Samoyedic family, with elements of the Iranian-Caucasian substratum'.

The four year old boy was found near the Belaya River close to the village of Mal'ta which is famed for the discovery of ancient art, some of it showing close links to European discoveries of the same period. Willerslev and co-author Kelly Graf of Texas A&M University 'used a variety of statistical methods to compare the genome with that of living populations. 

'They found that a portion of the boy's genome is shared only by today's Native Americans and no other groups, showing a close relationship. 

'Yet the child's Y chromosome belongs to a genetic group called Y haplogroup R, and its mitochondrial DNA to a haplogroup U. Today, those haplogroups are found almost exclusively in people living in Europe and regions of Asia west of the Altai Mountains, which are near the borders of Russia, China, and Mongolia.'

Until now it has been widely believed that Native Americans were linked to Eastern Siberian tribes, having crossed Beringia, a vast Ice Age land bridge. 

The magazine report stated: 'One expected relationship was missing from the picture - the boy's genome showed no connection to modern East Asians. 

'DNA studies of living people strongly suggest that East Asians - perhaps Siberians, Chinese, or Japanese - make up the major part of Native American ancestors. So how could the boy be related to living Native Americans, but not to East Asians?'

Malta boy, map of Beringia

The Mal'ta boy was related to people who later migrated across Beringia to the Americas. Picture: G.Grullon/Science

Willerslev and his team propose that earlier than 24,000 years ago 'the ancestors of Native Americans and the ancestors of today's East Asians split into distinct groups. 

'The Mal'ta child represents a population of Native American ancestors who moved into Siberia, probably from Europe or west Asia. Then, sometime after the Mal'ta boy died, this population mixed with East Asians. The new, admixed population eventually made its way to the Americas.'

The timing is uncertain but 'the deep roots in Europe or west Asia could help explain features of some Paleoamerican skeletons and of Native American DNA today'. Some of the traces of Eurasian genetic signatures in modern Native Americans do not come from colonial times when incoming Europeans mixed with the indigenous population.

'Some of them are ancient,' said Willerslev. Geneticist Connie Mulligan of the University of Florida called the findings 'jaw-dropping'. 

Yet perhaps the findings - the full details of which are due to be published soon in Nature journal - are not so surprising. Famed Russian archeologist Mikhail Gerasimov found art work at Mal'ta which show a close resemblance to European female figurines of the Upper Paleolithic period. The similarities extend to tools and dwelling structures. 

Comments (14)

Perhaps the anthropogenesis of modern humans was in the Americas and these people crossed over the Beringian the opposite way.
10/11/2020 09:42
Most Asians are mongliod, in which it is a recent condition. It has nothing to do with race...neoteny is more of the exact term. You can see it through the animal kingdom as well (French bull Dog).
There were non indo european genes and influence in Europe long before, and Yamnaya proves they were non indo European; always invading from the east...Hyksos, hittites,cimmerians,Scythian, Turks, Huns. That is why Europeans are hybrids. Recessive genes do not make you a race....meaning you can have green,blue, or red, blond, eyes or hair, and still be non indo european. The true indo Europeans are probably Gypsies in which they can have recessive genes too. In other words Europeans have non indo european genes, hence they are relationship with Turk, uralic, and other. Isn’t the word Europe a non european word....also method of farming, pantheon, and horse cultural. Oh by the way, where did the camel and horse came from....
Brandon Contreras , Ca, San diego
09/10/2020 22:15
most of the people black and blond all over the world have eyes just like Asian people!!! ...and it always called my attention...why they come with eyes just like Asian? ...making sense now some look like between the peoples ...just in another color of skin!!!
Regina Quigley, United States
19/06/2020 14:39
So in other words, Europeans are really a bunch of Siberians with a Native American-Like genetic component. Europeans are hybrids, becaise Europe isnt really its own separate continent, but is part of ASIA.
Normandie Kent, Santa Barbara, CA.
20/02/2018 00:26
DNA evidence is the objective predictor of origin but circumstantial evidences like necklace design as their customs and culture could help to correlate ancient history. Expecting some more evidences to come.
Gehanath Baral, Kathmandu, Nepal
13/01/2017 07:15
An airplane looking figure in 4year boy neckless...Let's call themselves scientists and with smart looks on our faces declare that we know everything about our history and we evolved from monkeys...But wait a minute !! It's sooooo scary to apprehend that our history might've been something totally different from our limited knowledge...
Natalie, Dubai
21/12/2016 15:37
The most interesting in this story about a little BOY berried with a diadem on his head with neckless including the figure suspiciously looking...Suspiciously looking like an airplane...24,000 years ago. The most amazing that the scientists try to figure out the genome of this boy but not why he has that figure in his neckless as a centerpiece.......
Natalie, Dubai
21/12/2016 12:46
not a good sight
sedfrgjhkjlk;l, usa
17/11/2016 18:59
Why do archaeologists use the term Euroasia so loosely to suggest anything found in Far East/Siberia has a link to English/French/German European?

Can this boy with "European" DNA be an Uyghur/Iranian/Afhan????
Sibernet, Vladisvostok
17/01/2016 22:15
Very cool story.. I was watching a tv program about looking for Sodom. But I only watched the part about the baikla lake...on the tv it said that the russian military sent down like 6 divers to explore and they were attacked by a silverish humanoid type ofbeing.. I am interested in learning more about that incident-- if anyone knows anything about it please email me... riggs4sharon (@) gmail dot com....... :-D
samantha ives, washington state, USA
04/03/2015 09:42
I am U5a1 and am excited by your findings. Hope to find how they relate to me. Thank you for this research.

mary lou cullen, longmont, Colorado, usa
23/10/2014 23:54
This link between Mal'ta and the US and Europe was predicted exactly 1 year ago in the book 400,000 years of Stone Age Science. The second part of the prediction is the same DNA will be found in the bone uncovered on Santa Rosa Island.
Enigmatic Lines, Scotland
22/11/2013 11:30
This is interesting to me because I just received refined DNA results from Ancestry.com and I came up as 97% Western European, and 3% Native American. I just assumed there may have been some kind colonial lovin' going on, but maybe not!
Erin, Spokane, Washington, USA
29/10/2013 20:12
A most interesting story. Look up the web for "Kennewick man" and you'll have the exact parallel on the other side of the Bering Straights
Wergosum, Beijing, China
29/10/2013 06:06

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