Ancient infant's DNA reveals how East Asians first entered America

Alaskan infant's remains
Alaskan infant's remains YouTube screen grab/ University of Alaska Fairbanks

A group of researchers led by Ben Potter from the University of Alaska has unraveled the complicated story of how humans spread throughout America. The researchers made use of an ancient infant's DNA to understand how ancient people first entered the American continent. According to the study, it was people from East Asia who initially reached America, and it happened tens of thousand years ago. The study report is now published in the Nature journal.

How people reached the Americas?

Now, Russia and Alaska are separated by the waters of the Bering Strait. But thousands of years ago, it was not the case and the sea levels were much lower. At that time, the gap of Bering Strait was bridged by continuous land, hundreds of miles wide, and it was called Beringia. Even though it was a harsh world filled with woodlands, people walked across it, thus populating Americas.

"No one can deny that this makes our picture of the history of Native Americans more complex and more accurate than ever before," said Ben Potter.

Ben Potter's new finding is now receiving positive responses from all nooks of the globe. David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School called this work as a crucial first step which will help us to know how the early migrants reached Americas and later diversified.

DNA holds the clue

The infant's grave was discovered in 2013 at an archeological site in Alaska's Tanana River Valley. Studies suggest that this site was occupied even before 13,000 years. The infant lived in this area around 11,500 years ago. Recently, scientists have given her the name Xach'itee'aaneh T'eede Gaay (Sunrise Girl Child).

Even though it was pretty difficult to find DNA in ancient bones, Xach'itee'aaneh T'eede Gaay's DNA was well preserved in deep sediments which helped the scientists to decode it.

Initial analysis of the girl's DNA revealed that she was born into a previously unknown population of pioneers who have first inhabited North America. Now, the researchers have found that East Asian people first reached the Americas thousands of years ago.