Movements of peoples

Zerohedge has some interesting maps of immigration patterns over the last century, showing the predominant country of origin of immigrants to each state in the U.S.  The overall trend is toward a massive influx from Mexico, which is hardly news, but there are lots of surprises tucked in there.  For instance, I never would have guessed that the largest flow of immigrants to New York State in 1910 would be from Russia.  It's also surprising to see what a worldwide melting pot was going on a century ago, and how little of that there is now.

Switching gears to much older immigration patterns, I've been tempted to buy the new book by Brian Sykes, "DNA USA."  I enjoyed "The Seven Daughters of Eve," which traced movements of peoples by examining their mitochondrial DNA.  The new book is getting lukewarm reviews, though, and sounds like it's got a bit of interesting DNA data patched together with a rambling travelogue.  So I'm hoping someone will publish a summary of the good stuff.  One good source is Amazon reviews, which yield the following interesting snippets:

Native Americans descended from a handful of matrilineal (mitochonddrial) clusters that arrived in the New World between about 16,000 and 20,000 years ago. Three of the clusters are genetically linked to Siberians who originated in Central Asia.  The fourth cluster is linked to a Polynesian strain that arrived in the Cook Island about 3,000 years ago, from Taiwan; it is absent among the Eskimos and concentrated in Central and South America.  A fifth cluster is found in North America, but not Alaska.  It appears not to have originated from Asia, but instead from Europe--not the 16th-century European wave but a population from 16,000 years ago.  How did they get here?  Presumably not overland, across Asia and then Beringia, or they'd show up in Alaska today, but it's hard to imagine an Atlantic crossing, either, not that early.  That cluster seems like a real wild card.


Anonymous said...

Without having maps to consult (and presently being too lazy to go find some), I speculate that the same climate that produced something akin to a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska would have shortened the sea passages between Europe and North America via a sort of island hopping along a northern route, giving good luck a greater opportunity to work to fruition.

And thanks for the point out on The Seven Daughters of Eve. I'd forgotten about that one.

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

Maybe so, but I've been interested in this issue forever, and have never heard any evidence of it. In the more recent past, you can imagine boats and short sailing trips, but -- 16,000 years ago?

It's very puzzling. Also, it's possible the reviewer got it all mixed up. I may have to break down and buy the book after all.

raven said...

IIRC, The Windover Bog people in FL were not linked to the normal Siberian origins of our native tribes, but to European DNA.

Texan99 said...

DNA studies are tricky. One approach is to examine current DNA and try to figure out when certain lines diverged, then figure out which ancient genetic groups of that same period they're mostly closely related to. Another approach is to find human remains of great antiquity and draw conclusions from the DNA that may be recovered from the remains. Early reports about the Windover Bog people (roughly 9,000-year-old remains) yielded European-ish DNA results. In fact, they were so European that their mitochondrial DNA didn't match anyone else in North America at all. But later studies suggested the samples might have been contaminated by the excavators' own DNA--a huge, persistent problem, especially in what amounts to underwater excavation--and later scientists concluded there was no analyzable DNA left in the remains. So who knows.

douglas said...

Follow the waters edge during a great ice age- feed from the sea, shelter on land?

Texan99 said...

Maybe--but I've never heard of any geological evidence that such a thing was plausible in that timeframe. In the NW, yes, in the NE no. Which isn't to say that it didn't happen, of course.

douglas said...

Once the ice receded from the North Atlantic, what evidence would be left?

Texan99 said...

I mean geological evidence of a suitable land bridge, or archeological evidence of boats at that very early stage. It's true we can't expect everything to leave a trace, and lack of evidence isn't proof of anything, but it does mean that postulating an Atlantic crossing means taking an almost evidence-free flyer. Could they all have walked over some temporary ice or something? I suppose, but even after ice melts geologists seem to have good tools for figuring out where and when it was there. Not 100% reliable tools, it's true.

Of course if there were widespead and irrefutable mitochondrial evidence of a very early European incursion into North America, that would mean we needed to turn our approach to how peoples migrate on its head--but this Florida evidence is a bit isolated and questionable. The mitochondrial evidence for people walking over the Bering Strait is overwhelming, even though it's still not clear exactly when they did it, or by what route. There are different theories for when the ice sheets might have parted and let people through, or how people might have hugged the coast in early watercraft. But that they got here in big numbers, and that they're genetically linked to Asians, is pretty incontrovertible.

Well, maybe we'll find that there was a reasonable land-hugging path for very early seacraft along the North Atlantic shore of arctic ice. But so far, it's kind of out there.

One fascinating thing is that it seems pretty clear that the Neolithic Revolution happened independently in the New World. The people who came over far predated the dawn of agriculture in the Old World. The author of 1491 claims that one of the earliest glimmers of agriculture in the New World was in South America, and involved the cultivation of cotton, which was used for fishing nets, rather than the cultivation of a direct food crop at all. The people in the highlands near the coast started trading with the fishermen: nets for fish.