New DNA Discovery in Siberia Shows Evidence of Native American Migration Through Asia

By: Lauren Fokas | Last updated: Nov 01, 2023

A recent finding in Siberia of 500-year-old DNA is shedding new light on the migration of ancient peoples from Asia to the Americas. 

While researchers have always believed that people once migrated from Asia to the Americas, this new discovery has changed their theory from a one-time migration to the idea that for tens of thousands of years, ancient people were actually traveling back and forth. 

A Novel Migration Pattern

Researchers found three bodies they estimate died about 500 years ago by a riverside in the Kamchatka Peninsula in northeast Siberia. 

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When they examined the remains, the researchers found remains of Native American DNA. The assumption is now that ancestors of today’s Native American people traveled to Siberia from the Americas, possibly much more often than we originally presumed. 

How Did Native Americans Get to Siberia?

The Bering Sea lies between what is now Alaska and Russia. Extensive research has shown that about 20,000 years ago, lower sea levels would have left a land or ice bridge across the small sea, making it extremely easy for migrants to cross. 

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Though they assume that about 11,500 years ago, when the last ice age ended, the bridge would likely have sunk beneath the surface. However, the short 53 miles of water were certainly passable with a small boat. 

What Does this New Discovery Mean?

Previously, scientists believed that 5,000 years ago, ancient peoples from Asia traveled across the Bering Sea to settle in the Americas—first in Alaska and Canada, and eventually to the southern hemisphere. 

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But the new bodies uncovered in Siberia indicate that people had been traveling between the continents from 5,000 years all the way up until 1,500 years ago. Though we’re still not sure exactly how many times the “gene flow events occurred over the past 5,000 years.” 

Understanding Native American Origins

This new information is certainly provoking more questions than it’s answering. While researchers have always known that there are cultural connections between ancient residents of Asia and the Americas, there is now a concrete genetic link. 

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Qing-Peng Kong, an evolutionary geneticist from China explains, “The origins of several founder groups are still elusive or controversial. Next, we plan to collect and investigate more Eurasian lineages to obtain a more complete picture on the origin of Native Americans.”