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America’s only Clovis skeleton genome offers clues to Native American ancestry

Posted February 13, 2014
America's only Clovis skeleton genome offers clues to Native American ancestry
A large (approx. 255mm x 122mm) tabular core/ late-interval biface made of brown chert along with the beveled end of an osseous rod. Credit: Sarah L. Anzick
Nearly 13,000 years ago, a baby boy died in what is Montana today.

Mourners stained his tiny body with red ochre and entombed him with artefacts that had likely been in his family for generations.

After lying undisturbed for millennia, the infant’s body was dug up by accident at a construction site in 1968—the oldest skeleton ever found in the Americas.

Now, scientists say the remains have helped them settle a long-standing debate about the lineage of indigenous Americans, and shed light on the settlement of the last continent to be populated by modern humans.

After decoding the child’s genome, an international team of experts said they can confirm that modern Native Americans are direct descendents of the first people to have settled the continent from Asia some 15,000 years ago, and not migrants from Europe.

“The genetic data… confirms that the ancestors of this boy originated from Asia,” said Michael Waters of the Texas-based Center for the Study of the First Americans, who co-authored the report in the journal Nature.

The child’s family, in turn, were “directly ancestral to present-day Native Americans”.

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