In a major breakthrough, a new study has found that the ancient human DNA is unfolding the mysteries about the first group of people in the Arctic region of the Americas, saying they have not left any genetic descendants in the New World as earlier thought.
These people were called the Paleo-Eskimos and they were not associated to the Native Americans.
North American Arctic was the region which is currently known as Alaska, Canada and Greenland.
Paleo-Eskimos of the North American Arctic have always been a big mystery for the researchers. They were initially believed as the genetic predecessors of the Inuit. But the new study based on DNA evidence indicates no relationship between the two groups. The researchers also said that the Paleo-Eskimo group was also not related with the Native Americans, despite their first presence in the North America.
According to the researchers, the first people’s group in the New World Arctic has likely lived in near-isolation habitat for over 4,000 years before dying out 700 years ago.
They remained in isolation as their mindset shunned them from adopting new ideas.
The researchers further said that their ultimate death still remains a big mystery but they probably died out somewhere around the time of arrival of the technologically superior Inuit.
Talking about the DNA evidences, Professor Eske Willerslev said, “Our genetic studies show that, in reality, the Paleo-Eskimos — representing one single group — were the first people in the Arctic, and they survived without outside contact for over 4,000 years.”
Willerslev is professor at Lundbeck Foundation from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum in the University of Copenhagen.
The researchers studied the bones, hair and teeth samples from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia. The genomes of modern-day peoples including and Native Americans and the Inuits were also sequenced. both the data were further compared and the findings suggested that the Paleo-Eskimos were the first settlers of the North American Arctic.
According to the study, the DNA samples also suggested that there were very few women in the Paleo-Eskimos group. Hence, it was concluded that inbreeding was most probably a regular occurrence.
“I think it’s a very remarkable incidence of cultural stability and continuity. And I don’t think you can find any modern example in the last 4,000 or 5,000 years quite like this,” said William Fitzhugh, director of the Arctic study center at the National Museum of Natural History in Smithsonian.
The findings of the study have been published in the August 29 issue of the journal Science.