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No. 131: SEP-OCT 2000

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Will mtDNA Trump C14 and Projectile Points?

Do not imagine for a minute that the Clovis Police are successfully suppressing all radical notions in archeology. Revolutionaries are everywhere. Not the least of these are studying the mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) of Native American peoples and comparing it with the mtDNAs of Asians and Europeans. The geographical distribution of mtDNA haplogroups can trace out the migratory routes of early humans in the New World and, in addition, provide rough times-of-arrival. Some of this mtDNA evidence will undoubtedly attract the attention of the Clovis Police. But do these law enforcers -- mostly archeologists -- dare to challenge genetic data? Can mtDNA lie?

There are in the cells of North American Native Americans mitochondria that seem to divide these peoples into four major "haplogroups." These four groups can be readily traced back to Siberia and northeast Asia. No trouble from the Clovis Police here!

But there is also a "haplogroup-X" that does not fit the Clovis paradigm. In North America, haplogroup-X is found frequently among the Algonkian-speaking tribes, such as the Ojibwa. This same haplogroup occurs in Europe and the Middle East, especially Israel. It is notably absent in Asia. Furthermore, the data suggest that haplogroup-X was resident in North America thousands of years before the Vikings and Columbus made landfall.

(Schurr, Theodore G.; "Mitochondrial DNA and the Peopling of the New World," American Scientist, 88:246, 2000.)

Comment. The European mtDNA could have been injected into North America by the Solutreans or other early Atlantic crossers. But it could also have diffused across Asia and thence across the Bering Strait. This route would be consistent with the recent discoveries of Caucasoid mummies in Asia and Kennewick Man. We wish we knew which haplogroup includes the blue-eyed, light-skinned Mandan Indians?

From Science Frontiers #131, SEP-OCT 2000. � 2000 William R. Corliss

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