SCIENTISTS have discovered staggering evidence confirming humans lived in the Americas 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Genetic analysis of DNA belonging to a prehistoric Alaskan child suggests the region was home to people crossing from Asia almost 25,000 years ago.
Professor Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Cambridge who co-authored the study documenting the findings, said: “It represents the oldest linage of Native Americans so far discovered.”
He added: “It’s the fact that this population is older than all other known Native American groups that makes it very important in addressing how the Americas were first populated.”
These settlers have been labelled the Ancient Beringians, and the only information known about them comes from the DNA of this individual child.
The little girl, known as “Xach’itee’aanenh T’eede Gaay”, or sunrise girl-child, lived 11,500 years ago at a site known as Upward Sun River in Alaska.
She was buried 50 miles southeast of Fairbanks and her remains are the earliest known in the far north of America.
Her remains were discovered in 2013 alongside a foetus. The children are believed to be related and were found in a circular pit, suggesting a ritual burial took place.
The discovery confirms that the first Americans were descended from Asian people who reached the New World via Beringia, a now-submerged land bridge that once connected Asia to Alaska.
These groups followed the shorelines of Beringia and the Pacific Coast as they spread into the Americas at least 15,000 years ago.
It is suggested that they lived in isolation for thousands of years, either in Beringia or Asia, before entering the Americas.
During this time, they developed unique genetic signatures similar to those found in Native Americans today, and suggests Ancient Beringians and the ancestors of other Native Americans all descend from a single founding population.
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