I need to post this since I propagated the original Der Spiegle story here. This debunks the “European” linkage headlined in the story. All of the genes are Asian / Siberian in origin. H/T to Freetoken who pointed out the shoddy reporting back then in the comments.
It appears that the usual Solutrean Hypothesis / Solutrean Truther crowd at work, and underneath it all if you dig deep enough are lots of white supremacists who want to be able to designate the americas as a white homeland; because the Solutrean hypothesis posits that the original human settlers of the Americas were European instead of Asian. Any article linking American Native ancestry to Europe instead of Asia will draw them like flies and gain lots of hits, which is one reason some journalists propagate the long debunked pseudo-science hypothesis.
Unfortunately, the majority of media reports about the Clovis child’s genome chose to give undue weight to the Solutrean hypothesis and/or his “European origins”. I saw two major types of this reporting. The first, like this Reuters article presented the debate as if there were equal weight to both sides, an example of false equivalency that we see quite often in science coverage of controversial topics (and which I explicitly tried to warn reporters against when I was being interviewed on the subject). The second, like this article in der Spiegal “Montana Boy: Bones Show Ancestral Links to Europe”, emphasized the Anzick-1′s genetic affinities with the recently published genome from the ancient Siberian “Mal’ta child” (Raghavan et al. 2013) as evidence of European ancestry. (They specifically suggest that he may have German ancestry). That they chose to do so is puzzling. Shared ancestry between an ancient Native American and an ancient Siberian individual from the Lake Baikal region is a totally unsurprising result and fits within our consensus models for the peopling of the Americas. But Spiegal’s interpretation of this as a “European” connection to Native Americans is inaccurate. The Mal’ta individual shows shared ancestry with a broad distribution of Eurasian populations, not just modern Europeans. Furthermore, the Mal’ta child lived 24,000 years ago, and the genetic landscape of that time period was almost certainly unlike the genetic landscape of today. To say that the Mal’ta child was “European” is to inappropriately apply a modern description of genetic variation backwards to a time when genetic diversity patterns in Europe likely were very different: by that logic, it would be just as accurate to say that modern Europeans are “Siberian”!
Emphasizing the “European connections” to the ancient Native American genome seems at first glance to be a particularly bizarre approach, because the genome showed absolutely nothing new in this context; it fit all expectations for what Clovis genetic diversity should look like if the standard migration model from Siberia to the Americas (via Beringia) was correct. So why did they choose to report it this way?
More: Problematic Science Journalism: Native American Ancestry and the Solutrean Hypothesis « Violent Metaphors
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