The Oldest DNA in North America

…Belongs to a member of the Blackfeet Tribe. A recent headline in the Great Falls Tribune news site reads “The Oldest DNA in North America.” A genetics test, done by CRI Genetics, traces a Montana man’s family history back fifty-five generations to ancient humans that crossed the Bering Land Bridge 17,000 years ago.

According to the genetics company, Alvin Crawford, from the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana, has the oldest traceable DNA in the company’s history. The company theorizes that Crawford’s ancestors traveled from Asia down to South America and then migrated back to the north. 

Alvin Crawford (now deceased) was 83% Native American with 73% being Blackfoot Indian. He belonged to the mtDNA Haplogroup B2, which is very common in the southwestern U.S., but has now been found to tie back to the earliest ancestral DNA in North America (re the Upper Sun River site in Alaska). Small percentages of European, East Asian, and South Asian were also present in Mr. Crawford’s DNA.

WHEN DID HUMANS FIRST ARRIVE

IN NORTH AMERICA

It is widely accepted that the earliest settlers crossed from what is now Russia into Alaska via an ancient land bridge spanning the Bering Strait which was submerged at the end of the last Ice Age.

Below is a possible timeline based on genetic studies (although some researchers argue that humans arrived about 40,000 years ago):

  • About 35,000 years ago – a single “founding” ancestral Native American group migrates away from East Asia/Russia.
  • About 25,000 years ago – this founding group crossed over to the North American continent – as a single wave – via an ancient land bridge which spanned the Bering Sea (later submerged at the end of the last Ice Age.)
  • About 20,000 years ago – this first contingent split into two groups: the Ancient Beringians, and a second group for the ancestors of all other Native Americans.
  • Between 17,000 and 14,000 years ago – Native Americans then branched into two groups – a “Northern branch” and a “Southern” branch.
  • About 6,000 years ago – The Ancient Beringians were slowly absorbed into the Northern Native American population.

Migration map from DailyMail UK

Source – Chart provided by Daily Mail UK (beware of multiple pop-ups) here.

Fossil and DNA studies:

In 2010 scientists mapped the entire genome of an early ancient human after analyzing a 4,000-year-old hairball found frozen in Greenland soil. Since then sequencing has been done for over 2000 other ancient human DNA (worldwide), some of which date as far back as 430,000 years ago (found in Spain). Reported in Nature Magazine.

Findings at the Upper Sun River Archaeological Site, Alaska

In 2014 ancient DNA was recovered from two infant skeletons found at Upper Sun River archaeological site in coastal Alaska (Tanana River basin). The two infants, who died about 11,500 years ago, are the earliest remains found in North America (pre-dating the Clovis culture in New Mexico). See full report at the Ancient Origins site.

They are also the source of the first ancient DNA discovered in “Beringia”— the ancient region of the Bering Sea Land Bridge. Until now, no archaeological evidence of human settlements had ever been found in the Beringian land bridge. It is speculated that most of the ancient sites are underwater.

The presence of the B2 Haplogroup in one of the skeletons allowed geneticists to discard the theory of multiple waves of migration from Siberia in favor of one wave of ancient people migrating over the Bering Strait land bridge.

The so-called “Beringian standstill model”, which theorizes that all Native Americans are descendants of those early people who made their way from Siberia to Beringia via the massive land bridge approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago. They may have stayed and thrived in that northern location that was mostly tundra and shrubs for up to 10,000 years until a warming trend melted glaciers and raised sea levels, submerging their territory. Blocked by glaciers from going east, they moved quickly south into the Americas at least 15,000 years ago.

In Jan 2017, in a separate excavation, a 24,000-year-old horse jaw bone found in a cave in Alaska had the marks of stone tools, suggesting it was hunted by humans.

Discovery at the Heiltsik “First Nations” village, British Columbia, Canada

In April 2017 archaeologists uncovered artifacts dating back to the last Ice Age at the settlement found on Triquet Island 310 miles northwest of Victoria, Canada. The village is estimated to be three times as old as the Great Pyramid at Giza.

According to an analysis of charcoal recovered from a hearth about eight feet below the surface, it is believed that the site has been inhabited for about 14,000 years, a fact that makes it one of the most ancient First Nations settlements unearthed. The site also yielded spears (atlatl) and tools for creating fires and fishing hooks. See full report at the Ancient Origins website.

 

My own personal DNA test was not so revealing. It simply noted Native American DNA.  At some point in the future, I hope to see finer detail such as “Choctaw”…or who knows, even Ancient Beringian or Transient Beringian!!!

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***YAHOKE, ikana! Thank you, friends. Much GRATITUDE for spending time on a Choctaw Journey with me.***

 

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