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A DNA study unravels the mystery of how humans came to the paradise islands of the Caribbean


A photograph provided by #Menno #Hoogland / #University of #Leiden, of #Taíno ceramic vessels from the eastern #Dominican #Republic, around AD 1400. C. (#Menno #Hoogland / #Leiden #University via The #New #York #Times)

#When #Juan #Aviles went to school in #Puerto #Rico, the teachers taught him that the original inhabitants of the island, the tainos, disappeared shortly after #Spain colonized it. The teachers stated that the violence, disease and forced labor wiped them out, destroying their culture and language, and that the colonizers they repopulated the island with slaves, including indigenous #Central #Americans, #South #Americans and #Africans.

#However, at home, #Avilés heard another story. #His grandmother told him they were descendants of #Taino ancestors and that some of the words they used also came from the #Taíno language.

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“But, you know, my grandmother had to drop out of school in second grade, so at first i didn’t trust her”#Said #Aviles, who is now a doctor in #Goldsboro, #North #Carolina.

#Avilés, who studied genetics in graduate school, has begun using this area of ​​study to help #Caribbean people connect with their genealogical history, and recent field research has led him to recognize that her grandmother had a point.

#For example, a study published #Wednesday in the journal #Nature, shows that, on average, about 14 percent of the ancestry of #Puerto #Rican people dates back to the #Taínos. #In #Cuba, is approximately the four percent, while in the #Dominican #Republic it is rather six percent.

These results, and similar ones based on DNA samples found in ancient #Caribbean skeletons, are providing a more detailed picture of the region. #For example, they show that the #Caribbean islands were populated in two different waves and that the human population of the islands was also smaller than previously believed. #However, the inhabitants of the islands before colonial contact they were not completely extinct; millions of people living today inherited their DNA, along with traces of their traditions and languages.

#Before the advent of genetic studies of the #Caribbean, archaeologists provided most of the clues about the origins of the people of the region. #Apparently, the earliest human inhabitants of the #Caribbean lived primarily as hunter-gatherers, hunting in the islands and fishing in the sea, while taking care of small gardens.

#Archaeologists have discovered some burials of those ancient towns. #In the early 2000s, geneticists managed to extract some traces of DNA preserved in their bones. #Significant advances in recent years have made it possible to extract entire genomes of ancient skeletons.

“We went from having no complete genome two years ago to more than 200 at present, ”he said #Maria #Nieves-Columbus, a genetic anthropologist at the #University of #Minnesota who was not involved in the new study.

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The genes of the oldest #Caribbean inhabitants known so far link them with the first populations that settled in #Central and #South #America.

“Of course, it is a population of native indigenous people, but it is a deep lineage very characteristic ”, he assured #David #Reich, study author and geneticist at #Harvard #University #School of #Medicine.

#However, it is not yet clear from what specific place on the continent those first native #Indians embarked in canoes to reach the #Caribbean islands.

“I don’t think we are as close as we thought to an answer”, said #Nieves-Colon, author of another large-scale genetic study in #July.

A photograph provided by the Sapienza Archaeoanthropological Mission of a sharpened stone ax from an archaeological site at El Francés in Samaná, Dominican Republic.  (Sapienza Archaeoanthropological Mission via The New York Times)
A photograph provided by the #Sapienza #Archaeoanthropological #Mission of a sharpened stone ax from an archaeological site at #El #Francés in #Samaná, #Dominican #Republic. (#Sapienza #Archaeoanthropological #Mission via The #New #York #Times)

#Part of the problem is that scientists still have not found DNA in the #Caribbean that is more than 3000 years old. “There are many things that we cannot see because we do not have ancient DNA,” #Nieves-Colón said.

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#According to archaeological records, about 2500 years there was a drastic change in the cultural life of the #Caribbean. #People began to live in larger settlements, where they mainly grew crops such as corn and sweet potato. Their pottery became more sophisticated and elaborate. #For archaeologists, the change marks the end of what they call the #Archaic #Era and the beginning of an #Age of #Ceramics.

#Nieves-Colón and other researchers have found that the DNA of the #Caribbean islanders also changed at the same time. The skeletons of the #Ceramic #Age largely shared a new genetic signature. Their DNA relates them to small tribes that even today live in #Colombia and #Venezuela.

#It is possible that migrants from the #Caribbean coast of #South #America carried the #Languages that were still spoken when #Columbus arrived 2000 years later. #We don’t know much about these languages, although some words have survived. #For example, the word hurricane comes from hurakan, the #Taíno word that designates the god of storms.

These words bear a striking resemblance to those of a #South #American language family called #Arawak languages. The DNA of the #Caribbeans of the #Pottery #Age is more like that of the living #Arawak speakers.

#In the record of the #Age of #Pottery, it becomes difficult to find people with a lot of archaic ancestry. #Apparently they survived in some places, like western #Cuba, until they disappeared about a thousand years ago. #People with ancestors from the #Pottery #Age came to dominate the #Caribbean, with almost no crossbreeding between the two groups.

#For example, in the course of the #Ceramic #Age, every few centuries emerged new and amazing ceramic styles. #Researchers have long assumed that these changes reflect the arrival of new groups of people on the islands. #However, ancient DNA does not support that idea. There is a genetic continuity through those drastic cultural changes. #Apparently, the same group of people in the #Caribbean went through a series of great social changes that archaeologists have not yet explained.

Excavation of the Juan Dolio archaeological site in Punta Rucia, Dominican Republic.  Sapienza Arqueo-Antropológica Mission Credit
#Excavation of the #Juan #Dolio archaeological site in #Punta #Rucia, #Dominican #Republic. #Sapienza #Arqueo-Antropológica #Mission #Credit

#Reich and his fellow geneticists also discovered lfamily ages spanning the entire #Caribbean during the #Ceramic #Age. They discovered nineteen pairs of people on different islands who shared identical DNA segments, a sign that they were fairly close relatives. #In one case, they found long-distance cousins ​​from the #Bahamas and #Puerto #Rico, separated by more than 1,300 kilometers.

#That finding goes against influential theories of archeology.

“The original idea was that people start in one place, establish a colony in another, and then just cut all ties with where they came from,” he said. #William #Keegan, an archaeologist at the #Florida #Museum of #Natural #History and co-author of the new research, “But genetic evidence suggests that these ties were maintained over a long period”.

#In other words, instead of being made up of isolated communities, the #Caribbean was a well-laden long-distance network that people regularly canoed across. “#Water is like a highway,” #Nieves-Colón said.

#Genetic variations also allowed #Reich and his colleagues calculate the size of #Caribbean society prior to contact with #Europe. The brother of #Christopher #Columbus, #Bartolomé, sent letters to #Spain mentioning a figure of millions. DNA suggests it was a exaggeration: genetic variations imply that the total population was reduced to tens of thousands.

#Colonization produced a great impact on the #Caribbean world and greatly changed their genetic profile, but still the population of the #Pottery #Age managed to pass on your genes to future generations. #Now, with a population of about 44 million people, it is likely that the #Caribbean contains more #Taino DNA than in 1491.

“#Now we have this evidence to show that we are not extinct, we just mix and continue to exist,” concluded #Avilés.

© The #New #York #Times 2020

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#Scenes from #Gallup, the city hardest hit by the coronavirus in the #United #States

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https://www.infobae.com/america/the-new-york-times/2020/12/30/un-estudio-de-adn-devela-el-misterio-de-como-los-humanos-llegaron-a-las-paradisiacas-islas-del-caribe/

#DNA #study #unravels #mystery #humans #paradise #islands ##Caribbean

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