Tuesday, October 15, 2013

12,000 year old lineage of the first settlers in the Americas

About 30 human skeletons that have been dated to the second millennium BC have been discovered in the cave of La Grave, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, and could provide vital clues relating to the first settlers in the Americas according to archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Oldest genetic lineages

Based on osteometric studies, ancient DNA and radiocarbon tests that have been applied to the skeletal remains which began to be recovered in 2011 near the town of Tula, it is possible this area has signs of one of the oldest genetic lineages in the Americas, associated with the men who crossed into the continent around 12 thousand years ago.

The exploration and excavation of burial caves in Tamaulipas seeks to “better understand the origin, development, quality and lifestyle of ancient cultures who settled in the region,” said physical anthropologist Jesús Ernesto González Velasco who works at the INAH Centre, Tamaulipas.

The radiocarbon dates of the skeletal remains, place them between 1387-1195 BCE and 1313-914 BCE.

Previous DNA studies, conducted in the Paleo-DNA Laboratory of Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, from mummified samples found in Escondida or Enchanted Cave, identified an identical mitochondrial lineage (genetic profile).

The ancient DNA profile found in the sample of La Escondida indicates belonging to haplotype C (set of DNA variations), which is generally associated with various groups that settled early in the Americas.

Exploring cave archaeology

To explore the vast region of the Sierras Madre Oriental and Tamaulipas, where many prehistoric caves and cave art are still waiting to be discovered , an interdisciplinary team was formed with  specialists from the IIA, UNAM, University of Cordoba, Spain , and Tamaulipas INAH Centre.

Work began in 2009, in the cave of La Sepultura, located in the city of Tula and by 2010, archaeologists had uncovered the remains of at least three individuals, plus a well preserved  assemblage of mat fragments and wooden objects.

By October 2011 skeletal remains were recovered of between 26 and 30 individuals and the exciting discovery of further cavities, including the Cave of the Dead, in the Sierra de Naola, where they found more bones,pottery and lithics.

Scientists hope that this latest discovery will shed more light on the origin of Mexican prehistoric groups and their dispersion over time.

Past Horizons. 2013. “12,000 year old lineage of the first settlers in the Americas”. Past Horizons. Posted: September 9, 2013. Available online: http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/09/2013/12000-year-old-lineage-of-the-first-settlers-in-the-americas

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