The genome of an indigenous woman from the Caribbean gives clues about the population that Columbus found

The genome of an indigenous woman from the Caribbean gives clues about the population that Columbus found

The colonization associated with the landing of Columbus in Caribbean territories it resulted in a great conflict of civilizations. The majority indigenous group was represented by the Taínos, which inhabited the islands that today include the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico) and the northern Lesser Antilles.

Despite the fact that they were completely extinct peoples, there is hope that identify the genesis of these populations using approaches ranging from archeology, linguistics, to genetics.

A multi-tooth analysis found on the island of Eleuthera (Bahamas), carried out with radiocarbon methods 14, have shown that belonged to a woman of the Taíno ethnic group, which lived between the 8th and 10th centuries, five hundred years before the arrival of the discoverer.

The researchers have succeeded in sequencing its entire genome and publish the finding in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“It is certainly a new scientific milestone in the field of ancient DNA, made possible thanks to new technological tools in the field of large-scale genomics and new computational advances ", declares the professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Antonio Salas Ellacuriaga, which is part of the team that studied the teeth.

The native populations were disappearing in a short space of time, culturally and biologically assimilated. But nevertheless, its DNA still survives today in Puerto Rico.

"Between 10 and 15% of the DNA of its current inhabitants is Native American and the rest a mosaic of European and African origin", explains Salas Ellacuriaga and adds: "extracting DNA from poorly preserved bone remains is tremendously complex. Without the new massive sequencing technologies it would have been impossible to obtain results from this type of archaeological remains ”.

A story written in your DNA

At genome obtained there are signs that indicate a very ancestral extreme population reduction, coinciding with the arrival of the first settlers of the American continent through the Bering Strait.

"The study does not show the existence of a strong inbreeding or signs of isolation in the genome of the Taino woman, so the data suggest that the effective size of this community was reasonably large, greater than 1,600 reproductive individuals," he explains the geneticist.

This size is even greater than that of some populations that inhabit the American continent today, such as the Karitiana and the Surui. This fact is very striking, if we consider that the Eleuthera island It has an area of ​​only 518 square kilometers and it is difficult to imagine how such a large community could coexist in such a small space.

The answer could be "in the great mobility of these communities and the existence of pan-regional networks beyond their places of birth and residence ”, points out Salas Ellacuriaga. These networks could favor the exchange of knowledge, but also of genes and also would be compatible with existing archaeological finds.

By last, the genome of the identified woman it is similar to that of the populations of southern America, populations that speak the languages ​​known as Arawak (or Arawakan). As the geneticist himself points out, "it is interesting to remember that from these languages ​​we have inherited words such as sweet potato, chieftain, cannibal, corn or shark, among others."

“It is always exciting to take another step in understanding the history of human populations. In this case, it is as if the DNA wanted to remind us that we still have many outstanding debts with all these peoples, ”concludes Salas Ellacuriaga.

Via SINC Agency

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