Native Americans and Russians share the same language: Dialects reveal how ancestors migrated 13,000 years ago
-Study used a technique called linguistic phylogeny to analyse languages
- Researchers found a link between the current Na-Dene languages of North America and the Yeniseian languages of Central Siberia
- Around 40 languages were found to have diffused across Asia and the U.S.
- The findings also reveal that migration may not have been a one-way trip
- This diffusion of languages suggests some people returned home, taking their dialects with them
- In 2012, DNA research found genetic markers that linked people living in the Russian republic of Altai, southern Siberia, with indigenous populations in North America.
Scientists believe that during an ice age between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago, inhabitants of Siberia crossed a stretch of land known as the Bering Land Bridge into North America.
This stretch of land is now buried under the waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas.
By studying mutations in the languages of these two regions, scientists found a lineage shift approximately 13,000 and 14,000 years ago - when the inhabitants are thought to have made this journey across the ice.
However, because of the wide spread of languages, and the fact links still remain in Siberia, the researchers suggest some of these migrants returned home.
To investigate this further, scientists used a technique originally created to investigate evolutionary relationships between biological species, called phylogenetic analysis.
This involves creating a tree that represents relationships of common ancestry based on shared traits.
The researchers used a linguistic version of this phylogeny to discover around 40 languages that had diffused across North America and Asia.
They began by coding a linguistic data set from each of the languages and establishing relationships between this data.
They then applied these links to the known migration patterns from Asia to North America.
The findings highlight an early dispersal of Na-Dene along the North American coast with a Yeniseian back migration through Siberia.
Study co-author Dr Mark Sicoli said: 'We found substantial support for the out-of-Beringia dispersal adding to a growing body of evidence for an ancestral population in Beringia before the land bridge was inundated by rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age.'
He added that although they cannot conclusively determine the migration pattern just from these results - and stated the study does not necessarily contradict the popular tale of hunters entering the New World through Beringia - it, at the very least, indicates migration may not have been a one-way trip.
'This work also helps demonstrate the usefulness of evolutionary modeling with linguistic trees for investigating these types of questions,' concluded Dr Sicoli.
WHERE DID THE 'FIRST AMERICANS' COME FROM?
The people we know as Native Americans arrived at the continent in three separate great migrations.
Most Native Americans are descended from a small group of migrants that crossed a 'land bridge' between Asia and America during the ice ages 15,000 years ago.
These migrants, known as the 'First Americans', populated most of North and South America.
By studying variations in Native American DNA sequences, a team of scientists recently found that while most of the Native American populations arose from the first migration, two subsequent migrations also made important genetic contributions.
The second and third migrations have left an impact only in Arctic populations that speak Eskimo-Aleut languages and in the Canadian Chipewyan who speak a Na-Dene language.
Eskimos show the most differences, with just 50 per cent of their DNA coming from the 'First Americans'.