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Thread: Old World Sources of the First New World Inhabitants: A Comparative Craniofacial View

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    Lightbulb Old World Sources of the First New World Inhabitants: A Comparative Craniofacial View

    By C. Loring Brace, A. Russell Nelson, Noriko Seguchi, Hiroaki Oe, Leslie Sering, Pan Qifeng, Li Yongyi, and Dashtseveg Tumen

    Abstract - Human craniofacial data were used to assess the similarities and differences between recent and prehistoric Old World samples, and between these samples and a similar representation of samples from the New World. The data were analyzed by the neighbor-joining clustering procedure, assisted by bootstrapping and by canonical discriminant analysis score plots. The first entrants to the Western Hemisphere of maybe 15,000 years ago gave rise to the continuing native inhabitants south of the U.S.-Canadian border.

    These show no close association with any known mainland Asian population. Instead they show ties to the Ainu of Hokkaido and their Jomon predecessors in prehistoric Japan and to the Polynesians of remote Oceania. All of these also have ties to the Pleistocene and recent inhabitants of Europe and may represent an extension from a Late Pleistocene continuum of people across the northern fringe of the Old World. With roots in both the northwest and the northeast, these people can be described as Eurasian. The route of entry to the New World was at the northwestern edge.

    In contrast, the Inuit (Eskimo), the Aleut, and the Na-Dene speakers who had penetrated as far as the American Southwest within the last 1,000 years show more similarities to the mainland populations of East Asia. Although both the earlier and later arrivals in the New World show a mixture of traits characteristic of the northern edge of Old World occupation and the Chinese core of mainland Asia, the proportion of the latter is greater for the more recent entrants.

    Introduction - The first Old World travelers to record their observations on the people they found living in the Western Hemisphere took it for granted that all humans ultimately descended from a single original pair as described in the Judaeo-Christian Bible. The exact location of that supposed initial Eden was not known, but it was generally assumed to have been somewhere in the Middle East of the Old World. Subsequently, thoughtful observers, such as Fray José de Acosta in the late sixteenth century and Thomas Jefferson in the eighteenth, realized that eastern Asia had to be considered the most probable immediate source when questions concerning the locus of New World human origins were raised (1).

    Some assumed that there was a link with wandering "Tartars" or the legendary "Ten Lost Tribes of Israel" (2), but, as faith waned in the Bible as a source of scientific information, the suggestion was proposed that human beings as well as the rest of animate nature were separately created in each of the geographic provinces of the world (3, 4). Charles Darwin then developed a non-Biblical explanation for the common origin for all living humans and made the case that the ultimate locus of human ancestry most probably was to be sought in Africa (5).

    The fact that there is no skin color cline from the Arctic to the Equator in the native inhabitants of the New World indicates that occupation of the western hemisphere is of too shallow a time depth to have produced such an adaptive gradient. Skin color, however, is so different from that found in sub-Saharan Africa that it clearly indicates long residence in the temperate rather than the tropical latitudes of the Old World. If the gradient in Australia is a product of some 60,000 years of occupation, then the picture north of the Equator had to have taken approximately three times as long in situ for selection to have produced the picture visible in the temperate zone (6). Genetic (7) and archaeological evidence (8) supports a northeast Asian source for the first human inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. Some interpretations have suggested that the distribution of linguistically identifiable groups in the New World may have been the result of separate prehistoric population movements into the Western Hemisphere (9, 10).

    From the sparse archaeological evidence and complementary molecular genetic data from living populations, an initial date of ca. 15,000 years can be postulated (11). Questions concerning the initial human settlement of the New World have involved such matters as the initial date of entry, route of access, whether there was a single or several dissimilar waves of people, and how these are genetically related both to living American Indian groups as well as to Asian and Pacific populations and possibly to other Old World peoples (12-14). Issues of geology, archaeology, and legal ownership are all involved.(...)


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