For decades, scientists have assumed that Native Americans were related to the Jomon, an ancient people who settled in Japan around 15,000 years ago. Similarities between archaeological materials found on both sides of the Pacific Ocean indicated this possibility.
New genetic research on the teeth and a physical analysis of skeletal remains from both populations, however, show that this is an unlikely scenario, reports Harry Baker of Live Science. According to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal PaleoAmerica, these early Americans are closer to East Asians in Siberia than to the Jomons of Japan.
“The Jomons were not directly ancestral to Native Americans,” said lead author G. Richard Scott, professor of anthropology at the University of Reno, Nevada, and an expert in the study of human teeth. Live Science. “They [the Jomon] are more aligned with Southeast Asian and Pacific groups than with East Asian and Native American groups.
Originally, scientists based their belief on stone tools, including arrowheads, found in both communities. This similar archaeological record dating 15,000 years ago in Japan and North America was considered evidence of the relationship between the two populations.
However, this study offers strong evidence against this claim. The researchers looked at the skeletons of the two regions and checked the genetic data of the teeth to determine that the populations were biologically and genetically different, according to Brooks Hays of the UPI.
“We have found that human biology just doesn’t match archaeological theory,” Scott said in a statement.
For the study, the researchers examined thousands of teeth collected during archaeological excavations in America, Asia and the Pacific Islands. They took measurements and made comparisons, then used an algorithm designed to calculate the probabilities of origin of teeth based on morphological characteristics.
“It’s a program that was developed by a doctoral student in Portugal,” Scott told UPI.
Analysis showed a clear difference between the teeth of the Jomons and those of the earliest known inhabitants of North America, often referred to as First Peoples. However, scientists have found similarities between ancient Siberian populations and Native Americans.
“This is particularly clear in the distribution of maternal and paternal lineages, which do not overlap between early Jomons and American populations,” says study co-author Dennis O’Rourke, geneticist and professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas in a statement.
Scientists looked at the shape of teeth to find out where individuals came from. Based on genetic research, they know that dental morphological patterns are a reliable indicator of origin and lineage.
âA change in the environment does not trigger a change in tooth morphology,â Scott told UPI. “You can invent styles of similar artifacts, but you cannot invent your tooth shape.”
In the study, the researchers also pointed to a recent discovery in New Mexico, where fossilized human footprints have been dated to 23,000 years ago. In the statement, Scott describes this as “definitive proof” of people in North America before the Jomons settled in Japan.
The authors conclude that First Peoples likely crossed North America from Northeast Asia via Beringia – the Bering Strait region – thousands of years ago, when the two continents were connected by a land bridge.
âWe don’t dispute the idea that ancient Native Americans arrived via the Pacific Northwest, only the theory that they originated from the Jomon people in Japan,â Scott also said.