A study released recently by the American Journal of Human Genetics provides evidence that Native Americans share ancestry with indigenous Altaians.
The Altai region is at the intersection of what is now Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. One of the researchers on this study, Theodore Schurr, says the area is important because “it’s a place that people have been coming and going for thousands and thousands of years.”
The study says that sometime 20,000 to 25,000 years ago, prehistoric humans from the Altai region brought their Asian lineages up into Siberia and eventually crossed the Bering land mass into the Americas. Theories regarding the Bering Strait have been hotly debated though, as discussed in Bering Strait Into Controversy.
Schurr, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a press release that the goal “in working in this area was to better define what those founding lineages or sister lineages are to Native American populations.”
The research estimates that southern Altaian lineage diverged from Native American lineage 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, which coincides with people moving from Siberia into the Americas 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.
Schurr and his team plan to try to find links between genetic variations and adaptive physiological responses, which could inform research into experimental medicines.
Schurr said Siberians and Native American populations both “seem to be susceptible to Westernization of diet and moving away from traditional diets, but their responses in terms of blood pressure and fat metabolism and so forth actually differ.”