Link to US Indian Origins Russian Geneticist Claims Best Match Yet of Native American and Siberian DNA

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A leading Russian geneticist claims he has taken a giant step toward identifying the precise origin of native Americans, based on his genetic studies of the Tuvan people in Siberia.

Ilya Zakharov, deputy director of Moscow's Vavilov Institute of General Genetics, says an expedition he led last year proved a DNA link between American Indians and the Ak-Dovurak region 2,100 miles southeast of Moscow.

The idea of a Siberian connection is not new. But Dr. Zakharov says he has nailed it down. "This is a big breakthrough," he told the Monitor. "We had examined a lot of populations before - and by pure chance the results proved it was the Tuvans." He says he believes DNA matches in two neighboring regions may be even greater. Tuva today is one of Russia's poorest and most mysterious regions, with ancient cultural traditions that include shamanism. The area, bridging Siberia's huge Taiga Forest and the steppes, or plains, lies north of Mongolia. The Tuvans are mainly Turkic-speaking nomadic pastoralists who herd camels, yaks, sheep, goats, and reindeer. Tuva formed part of the Chinese empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Scientists have long established that some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago people of some Asian roots migrated across the ice sheets of Siberia's Bering Strait to Alaska, probably in pursuit of animals such as woolly mammoths. Some recent reports have pointed to genetic links between indigenous peoples of the Pacific Rim and Siberians. Best DNA matches yet Previously geneticists speculated that America's first inhabitants, numbering perhaps no more than 5,000 people, originally came from Northern China or Mongolia. But Zakharov says his team was able to greatly narrow the focus with hair samples taken from about 430 Tuvans. …