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Earliest African DNA Reveals Population Shifts Over 50,000 Years Ago

Six human remains of African foragers who lived about 18,000 to 5,000 years ago are the source of the earliest DNA dataset from the continent to date. DNA samples from these remains have now been analyzed in an interdisciplinary study that revealed about 50,000 years ago, people from different regions of the continent moved and settled in other areas and developed social networks over longer distances to trade, communicate and mate.

New Source of Ancient Human DNA Uncovers South American History

Lice nits found on the hair of ancient mummies can now be used to extract human host DNA for genomic analyses, reported researchers. The team isolated DNA from cells trapped in the cement that female lice secrete to attach their eggs to hair. Such hair nits are common in mummies and offer a nondestructive method of studying ancient genomes. Using 2,000-year-old nits, the team showed that the Argentinian mummies represented a population that migrated from Amazonia to Argentina.

Ancient Genomes and Proteomes Help Uncover Unexpected Origins and Cultural Connections

An international team of researchers from Jilin University, the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Seoul National University of Korea, and Harvard University have sequenced genomes of thirteen of the earliest known Tarim Basin mummies, dating to circa 2,100 to 1,700 BCE, and five individuals dating to circa 3,000 to 2,800 BCE, from the neighboring Dzungarian Basin. This is the first genome-scale study of prehistoric populations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The genomic study reveals that the Tarim Basin mummies were genetically isolated since their genomes showed no admixture with other Holocene groups, although neighboring Dzungarian Basin mummies showed genetic mixing. However, proteomic analyses of their dental calculus reveal they were aware of neighboring cultures, cuisines, and technologies.

Ancient Human Genomes Reveal Peopling of the Americas

Genomic analysis of ancient remains help to shed light on the identity and behavior of past peoples leading to deeper insights into the population and cultural history of the Americas. These studies show that the indigenous peopling and population history of the Americas which began in the late Pleistocene and continued into the Holocene era, was far more complex than was previously thought. Returning the ancient remains to indigenous tribal populations identified to be their ancestors through DNA sequencing analyses, has built trust and respect between scientists and tribal communities.