I've long found the argument compelling that Native Americans originated in Asia, crossing the so-called 'Bering land bridge' from what is today Siberia to what is today Alaska, umpteen thousand years ago. However, there's long been a dispute among scientists and researchers about it.
Now, according to an article in the Daily Mail, that dispute may be over.
Altai in southern Siberia sits right at the centre of Russia. But the tiny, mountainous republic has a claim to fame unknown until now - Native Americans can trace their origins to the remote region.
DNA research revealed that genetic markers linking people living in the Russian republic of Altai, southern Siberia, with indigenous populations in North America.
. . .
'Altai is a key area because it's a place where people have been coming and going for thousands and thousands of years,' said Dr Theodore Schurr, from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
Among the people who may have emerged from the Altai region are the predecessors of the first Native Americans.
Roughly 20-25,000 years ago, these prehistoric humans carried their Asian genetic lineages up into the far reaches of Siberia and eventually across the then-exposed Bering land mass into the Americas.
'Our goal in working in this area was to better define what those founding lineages or sister lineages are to Native American populations,' Schurr said.
The region lies at the intersection of what is now Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.
Dr Schurr's team checked Altai DNA samples for markers in mitochondrial DNA which is always passed on by mothers, and Y chromosome DNA which sons inherit from their fathers.
Because of the large number of gene markers examined, the findings have a high degree of precision.
'At this level of resolution we can see the connections more clearly,' Schurr said.
Looking at the Y chromosome DNA, the researchers found a unique mutation shared by Native Americans and southern Altaians in the lineage known as Q.
Mitochondrial DNA is found in tiny rod-like 'powerplants' in cells that generate energy.
Both kinds of DNA showed links between Altaians and Native Americans.
In the Y chromosome DNA, the researchers found a unique mutation shared by Native Americans and people from southern Altai.
The findings are published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
Calculating how long the mutations they noted took to arise, Schurr's team estimated that the southern Altaian lineage diverged genetically from the Native American lineage 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, a timing scenario that aligns with the idea of people moving into the Americas from Siberia between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago.
There's more at the link.
I'll be interested to see how various Native American advocacy groups react to this news . . . not to mention the Mormon Church, which has a rather different theory about the origins of Native Americans! I daresay that right now, science appears to have trumped theology . . .