Washington: In a new study, researchers have mapped the genome of the only Clovis human skeleton to revive the scientific debate about the colonization of the Americas.
The Clovis lived in America about 13,000 years ago where they hunted mammoth, mastodons and giant bison with big spears. They were not the first humans in America, but they represent the first humans with a wide expansion on the North American continent - until the culture mysteriously disappeared only a few hundred years after its origin.
Who the Clovis people were and which present day humans they are related to has been discussed intensely and the issue has a key role in the discussion about how the Americas were peopled.
Today there exists only one human skeleton found in association with Clovis tools and at the same time it is among the oldest human skeletons in the Americas. It is a small boy between 1 and 1.5 years of age - found in a 12,600 old burial site, called the Anzick Site, in Wilsall, Montana, USA.
Roughly estimated some 80 percent of all present-day Native American populations on the two American continents are direct descendants of the Clovis boy`s family. The remaining 20 percent are more closely related with the Clovis family than any other people on Earth, says Lundbeck Professor Eske Willerslev from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.
Behind the results are a group of international researchers led by Professor Eske Willerslev from Centre of Excellence in GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum at University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
This discovery is almost like finding the `missing link` to the common ancestor of the Native Americans. The Clovis boy`s family is the direct ancestor to roughly estimated 80 percent of all present day Native Americans. Although the Clovis culture disappeared, its people still are living today.
Interestingly, the teams found that Native American ancestors coming in from Siberia split into two groups. One group is ancestors to the Native Americans presently living in Canada and the other one - which is represented by the Clovis boy - is the ancestor to virtually all Native Americans in South America and Mexico.
The US is still a white spot on the map when it comes to genome-wide data from Native Americans. The team members hope to be able to accessing such data in the future to understand the full picture.
The study validates the concept of continuity in the history of Native Americans, and suggests that modern Native Americans are direct descendants of the first people occupying this land, says Rasmus Nielsen, a co-author on the study and a Professor at UC Berkeley, who developed the method used for determining that many modern native Americans are direct descendants of the Clovis boy`s family.
Who were the first immigrants is the question that still remains unanswered. But the results eliminate all other theories about the origins of the first people in America.
The study has been published in the scientific journal Nature.