Two children's milk teeth buried deep in a remote archaeological site in north eastern Siberia have revealed a previously unknown group of people lived there during the last Ice Age.
The finding was part of a wider study which also discovered 10,000 year-old human remains in another site in Siberia are genetically related to Native Americans -- the first time such close genetic links have been discovered outside of the US.
The international team of scientists, led by Professor Eske Willerslev who holds positions at St John's College, University of Cambridge, and is director of The Lundbeck Foundation Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, have named the new people group the 'Ancient North Siberians' and described their existence as 'a significant part of human history'.
The DNA was recovered from the only human remains discovered from the era -- two tiny milk teeth -- that were found in a large archaeological site found in Russia near the Yana River. The site, known as Yana Rhinoceros Horn Site (RHS), was found in 2001 and features more than 2,500 artefacts of animal bones and ivory along with stone tools and evidence of human habitation. (Read more here.)
Northeastern Siberia has been inhabited by humans for more than 40,000 years but its deep population history remains poorly understood. Here we investigate the late Pleistocene population history of northeastern Siberia through analyses of 34 newly recovered ancient genomes that date to between 31,000 and 600 years ago. We document complex population dynamics during this period, including at least three major migration events: an initial peopling by a previously unknown Palaeolithic population of ‘Ancient North Siberians’ who are distantly related to early West Eurasian hunter-gatherers; the arrival of East Asian-related peoples, which gave rise to ‘Ancient Palaeo-Siberians’ who are closely related to contemporary communities from far-northeastern Siberia (such as the Koryaks), as well as Native Americans; and a Holocene migration of other East Asian-related peoples, who we name ‘Neo-Siberians’, and from whom many contemporary Siberians are descended. Each of these population expansions largely replaced the earlier inhabitants, and ultimately generated the mosaic genetic make-up of contemporary peoples who inhabit a vast area across northern Eurasia and the Americas. (From here.)
Some Ancient North Siberians journeyed onto the Bering land bridge that connected Asia to North America around 30,000 years ago. Mating with East Asians who had also moved to the land bridge produced a genetically distinct population, dubbed Ancient Palaeo-Siberians by the researchers. As the climate became milder after 20,000 years ago, some of the Ancient Palaeo-Siberian population returned to northeastern Siberia, replacing the Yana crowd.
Other Ancient Palaeo-Siberians trekked from the land bridge into North America, the researchers say. Some of this group’s descendants returned to Siberia by sea between 11,000 and 4,000 years ago, after rising waters had submerged the bridge. Many Siberians today have descended from that population, referred to as Neo-Siberians by the scientists.
A nearly 10,000-year-old Siberian man’s DNA enabled the researchers to identify genetic links between Ancient Palaeo-Siberians and present-day native communities in both modern Siberia and North America. (From here.)