Favorite Things Redux: Beringian DNA

Map of gene-flow in and out of Beringia, from 25,000 years ago to present

Scientists have long believed that the first humans made it to the Americas by crossing from now-Russia to now-Alaska. When and how they did it–by boat or by foot–remain matters of contentious debate. Did people move quickly through Alaska and into the rest of North America, or did they hover–as the “Bering standstill” hypothesis suggests–in Beringia (or the Aleutian Islands) for thousands of years?

Archaeologists working at the Upward Sun River site (approximately in the middle of Alaska) recently uncovered the burials of three children: a cremated three year old, and beneath it, a 6-12 week old infant and a 30 week, possibly premature or stillborn fetus. The three year old has been dubbed “Upward Sun River Mouth Child,” and the 6 week old “Sun-Rise Girl Child.” Since these aren’t really names, I’m going to dub them Sunny (3 yrs old), Rosy (6 weeks), and Hope (fetus).

They died around 11,500 years ago, making them the oldest burials so far from northern North America. Rosy and Hope were probably girls; cremation rendered Sunny’s gender a mystery. Rosy and Hope were covered in red ocher and buried together, accompanied by four decorated antler rods, two dart points and two stone axes. (Here’s an illustration of their burial.) The site where the children were buried was abandoned soon after Sunny’s death–perhaps their parents were too sad to stay, or perhaps the location was just too harsh.

Rosy and Hope were well enough preserved to yield DNA.

Surprisingly, they weren’t sisters. Rosy’s mother’s mtDNA hailed from haplogroup C1b, which is found only in the Americas (though its ancestral clade, haplogroup C, is found throughout Siberia.) Hope’s mtDNA is from haplogroup B2, which is also only found in the Americas. Oddly, B2’s parent clade, (B), isn’t common in Siberia–it’s much more common in places like Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines, and Saipan. It’s not entirely absent from Siberia, but it got to Alaska without leaving a larger trail remains a mystery.

Since they are found in the Americans but not Asia, we know these lineages most likely evolved over here; the main questions are when and where. If the Bering Standstill hypothesis is correct and the Indians spent 10-20,000 years stranded in Beringia, they would have had plenty of time to evolve new lineages while still in Alaska. By contrast, if they crossed relatively quickly and then dispersed, these new lineages would have had much less time to emerge, and we would expect them to show up as people moved south.

Source: Ancient Beringians: A Discovery Changing Early Native American Hisotry

Or there could have been multiple migration waves, with different haplogroups arriving in different waves. (There were multiple migration waves, but the others occurred well after Sunny and the others were buried.)

In fact, there are five mtDNA lineages found only in the Americas (A2, B2, C1, D1, and X2a.) With Hope and Rosy, we have now identified all five mtDNA lineages in North American burials over 8,000 years old, lending support to the Beringian Standstill hypothesis.

But were the Upward Sun River children’s families ancestral to today’s Native Americans? Not quite.

It looks like Sunny’s tribe split off from the rest of the Beringians (or perhaps the others split off from them) around 22-18,000 years ago. Most of the others headed south, while Sunny’s people stayed in Alaska and disappeared (perhaps because all of their children died.) So Sunny’s tribe was less “grandparent” to today’s Indians and more “great aunt and uncle,” but they still hailed from the same, even older ancestors who first set out from Siberia.

I have previously favored the Aleutian or at least a much more rapid Beringian route, but it looks like I was wrong. I find the idea of the Bering Standstill difficult to believe, but that may just be my own biases. Perhaps people really did get stuck there for thousands of years, waiting for the ice to clear. What amazing people they must have been to survive for so long in so harsh an environment.

6 thoughts on “Favorite Things Redux: Beringian DNA

  1. Europeans were here first. I believe they were wiped out by a comet strike that ended the last ice age and sunk Atlantis which was the mid-Atlantic ridge. I know this sounds silly but there’s a LOT of evidence for this.


    There’s way more than this. I can’t find the link but there’s a guy who found spear heads and elephant(Mastodon) off the eastern coast of North America that measure, I think, 40,000 years old. The points are of a type only made by people in Europe by Cro-Mags and a spear head flint has been found off the coast, I think in the same area, where the flint came from France. I believe they came on skin frame boats. Still used in North Atlantic as they are great for rough weather being very light, flexible and strong.

    This video is about the comet strike. It’s very persuasive. I know it’s long but I bet you will not regret watching it. Also since you;re kids are White, I think???, maybe it would counter some of the anti-White brain washing they are pelted with. I also recommend any videos by these two with the caveat that they also believe some stuff I think is silly which they provide no evidence for. I have no idea why they believe the silly stuff. They smoke dope and do psychedelics so… maybe that’s it. (Adding you might want to pre-view these before showing to kids). I think the one I have below sticks to comet stuff. The comet stuff they provide a lot of evidence for.

    Maybe I should add more context. Graham Hancock has written a lot of books about out of place artifacts and, I think the Hollywood term is “sexed up” the evidence a bit in some cases(not that it has anything to do with sex). Randall Carlson it much more like the Victorian gentlemen that comes upon and idea and studies it like most of the scientist did in the 18th and 19th century.

    Other points I don’t have links at the moment. I’ll look later. The spear points were, I think, two hundred miles off the coast where there was land before the ice age ended.

    There was a tribe when Whites got to America in Kentucky????, or somewhere that were Whites(lumbee indians). Heather Locklear is a descendant. No one knows where they came from. There’s a bunch of Whites 7,000 old found in the US.


    They’re saying their not Whites but if you look around you can find different. One look at their skulls tells you “European” Look at their preserved woven fabrics, very NICE! Arrgh. I can’t find a link with the really attractive textiles I saw at one time.


    • When all is said and done, I think the population history of the Americas will have some surprises, but the timing is off for Europeans to get there first. The Indo-European expansion only happened around 6,000 years ago, and before that was the Anatolian expansion… If we go back far enough to predate the Indians, we’d be talking about a group that is only part of the modern European genepool. Plus, modern European appearnces (pale skin, eyes, and hair,) are also relatively recent–recent enough IIRC that these early settlers wouldn’t look like modern Europeans.

      That doesn’t mean you can’t have the occasional random tribe of white people. If the Vikings and some Irish monks could make the journey, then it’s not too incredible to think of a boatload of people getting lost and making it. I remember the case of a couple of Japanese fishermen who accidentally got blown across the Pacific and ended up in Washington State. But another possibility is just that someone came across a tribe that a few white people had joined (maybe they were trying to escape from the law back east) or that had kidnapped a few kids (that was a regular thing.)

      *Pokes Wikipedia* Interesting, it looks like the “Lumbee” formed from a composite of legit Native Americans and Scotch-Irish or Borderers looking to avoid paying taxes. (They’re from North Carolina.) Still, based on the legal restrictions/segregation North Carolina placed on them in the 1800s, it’s clear that the North Carolina gov’t regarded them as “colored,” not white.

      Interesting links, thanks.


    • Mastadon and Spear 22,000 years old.
      “In 1970, the Cinmar, a scallop trawler out of Virginia hauled up a mastodon tusk from Chesapeake Bay. Along with the tusk, another unusual object was discovered. It was an ancient stone blade, a very sharp, finely-shaped weapon. Eventually the blade and jaw were stowed away in a museum on Gwynn’s Island, Virginia. It wasn’t until 2010 before anyone recognized the actual significance of this curious, ancient stone blade.

      Carbon dating proved the mastodon bone was 22,000 years old.”


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