We know that a group of early humans crossed the Bering land bridge from Siberia over to the North American continent about 23,000 years ago, but scientists have always assumed that this group spread out across North America before venturing farther South.
Now, it seems that at least two groups of travelers made the perilous journey — leading researchers to state, for the first time, that another “ghost population” managed to cross the Bering bridge and venture down to Central and South America, without leaving any traces of their passing along the way.
A new report published in the online academic journal Nature states that researchers have found DNA evidence linking two Amazonian tribes, the Surui and the Karitiana, to current populations in Papua New Guinea and Aboriginal Australian tribes. This newly discovered genome means that the Surui and the Karitiana are more closely related to populations across the Pacific than to Native Americans in the north.
According to Fox News, lead author and researcher Pontus Skoglund of the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School stated that his team made the “unexpected discovery by using statistical methods that test whether a set of populations are equally related to a set of other populations.”
The team expected to find that Amazonian tribes have more in common with descendants of Native American tribes, which would have confirmed that there was just one major voyage of early humans across the Bering bridge.
This new “ghost population,” which appears to have no direct descendants on any continent, is now being called “Population Y” — a term derived from the word “Ypykuera,” which means “ancestor” in the ancient language of the Surui and Karitiana people.
Scientists often refer to “ghost populations” to reference villages or cultures that vanished without explanation; early U.S. history dating back before the Revolutionary War even boasts of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, which vanished into thin air after shipments of supplies from England were delayed for three years.
Similar to the multiple journeys that early American colonists made, scientists now believe that there was a period of mass migration from Siberia over to the Americas, but that several groups made individual journeys and settled in different locations.
There are no confirmed dates when each of these migrations likely occurred, nor do researchers know why each group decided to make the journey.