Paleoamerican Odyssey

By Kelly E. Graf; Caroline V. Ketron et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Three-Stage Colonization Model for the Peopling of the Americas

Connie J. Mulligan1 and Andrew Kitchen2

ABSTRACT

We have proposed a three-stage colonization model for the Americas that integrates genetic data with
existing archaeological, geological, and paleoecological data. Our results support a recent, rapid expansion
into the Americas (~16kya) that was preceded by a long period of population stability and genetic diversi-
fication in greater Beringia and occurred after divergence from an ancestral Asian population approximately
40kya. Two areas of discussion have recently emerged with respect to the genetic data. 1) How does choice
of a mitochondrial substitution rate influence estimates for an entry date to the Americas and occupation
time of greater Beringia, and which rate is correct? In general, high substitution rates support a post-LGM
entry to the Americas and a shorter occupation of Beringia compared with low substitution rates. 2) What
is the relationship of founder population size and subsequent levels of migration between Asia and the
Americas, and what is the correct balance between the two? In general, large founder population/low rates
of migration and small founder population/high rates of migration are comparable in terms of the resultant
Native American genetic diversity. Our results, in combination with constraints provided by archaeological,
geological and climatological data, support a high substitution rate and large founder population/low rate
of migration.

KEYWORDS: Genetic variation, Migration, Colonization, Americas


Introduction

The peopling of the Americas is the most recent major human settlement of a previously uninhabited landmass. This complex migration and colonization process has been intensely studied across many fields including genetics, archaeology, geology, and paleoecology to name just a few. We believe it is important to integrate the many available datasets in order to determine areas of consensus across fields and critical differences between them that may reveal important details about the peopling event or structural issues associated with the scientific process. In 2008, we proposed a three-stage colonization model for the peopling of the Americas that integrates genetic data with archaeological, geological, and paleoecological data (Kitchen et al. 2008; Mulligan et al. 2008). Our results support a recent, rapid expansion into the Americas ~16 thousand years ago (kya), preceded by a long period of population stability and genetic diversification in greater Beringia that occurred after divergence from an ancestral Asian population approximately 40kya (Figure 1).

In this paper, we review the areas of general consensus about the peopling of the Americas, with a focus on genetic data and analysis, and explore areas of more contentious debate while seeking to illuminate some of the reasons for differences in results and conclusions. Generally, there is strong support in the genetics literature for a single migration of humans that diverged from an ancestral East Asian population approximately 30–40kya and entered the Americas around

1 Department of Anthropology, PO Box 103610, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610

2 Department of Anthropology, 114 MacBride Hall, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242

Corresponding author e-mail:1 cmulligan@ufl.edu

-171-

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