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The Missouri Miner

Missouri S&T's Student Newspaper
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EST. 1915

Bold New Clues to the Past

Neal Kisor

For all the innovative, advanced, and so-called knowledgeable skills and practices that humans achieve one thing remains murky and dull: our own past. What we know of our past, the concrete evidence and facts, only really encompasses the past 40,000 years. From that there is even less textual evidence, or things we can fully comprehend. The truth is, our past as humans is a mystery as writing and record keeping are relatively new inventions in the grand timeline of history. However, new discoveries this week may play a hand in helping us understand our convoluted past just a bit more.

One of these discoveries happened right here in the United States. Archeologists have been discovering DNA evidence of early migrants in America. In eastern Alaska 11,500 year old DNA evidence was discovered. In western Alaska 9,000 year old DNA evidence was discovered Thursday. Curiously enough, an 11,000 year old skeleton was discovered in a cave in Nevada. Further south, 10,400 year old remains were found in Brazil. So what does this mean? Well, this recent boom in discovery of Western Hemisphere DNA has made many things a bit more clear.

One of the most interesting being that the migration of indigenous Americans happened very rapidly. Scientists are beginning to say that the expansion into the Americas, from as far north as Alaska to as far south as Brazil, may have only taken a few centuries. This explosive expansion is intriguing for many archaeologists. Furthermore, the evidence suggests the groups of which these ancient people were associated with. Scientists are beginning to discover that there were large amounts of unique groups who all attempted to make the migratory trek down America. However, many did not make it. But those who did, those who were able to conquer the harshness of early America, they are strikingly similar in DNA to the Native Americans of today. Scientists compared the DNA of the 11,000 year old skeleton in Nevada’s Spirit Cave to the DNA of a 600 year old skeleton in Nevada’s Lovelock Cave. What they found is that the genome of these two people were closely related. Compare this to ancient remains of people in the Andes. These people were around 5,000 years apart in age. But when scientists analyzed the DNA they found that these mountain people were closely linked, and were even similar to the population of the mountains today.

Another big mystery, some of the ancient people of the Amazon share DNA that is similar to the DNA found in the people of Australia and New Guinea. How could this be? American migrants came from what is now Siberia. Is it possible that a second group of people entered the continent before these people? Could they have traveled by sea somehow and made landfall in South America? These are exciting questions that archaeologists are attempting to solve with the help of DNA, and each day we get closer to an answer.


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