The first sequences of the The complete genome of the ancient inhabitants of the Latin American country provided a genetic snapshot of the indigenous populations of the region before they were eliminated by the European conquerors.
An international team of anthropologists has sequenced for the first time the complete genome of the ancient inhabitants of Uruguay, providing a genetic snapshot of the indigenous populations of the region before they were decimated by a series of European military campaigns.
The research, led by scientists from Emory University (USA) and the University of the Republic (Uruguay), revealed that the indigenous people of the ancient Uruguay exhibit an ancestry that had not previously been detected in South America . “This contributes to the idea that South America was a place where multi-regional diversity existed, rather than the monolithic idea of a single Native American race across all of North and South America,” John Lindo, co-author of the study, recently published in the journal PNAS Nexus.
The analyzes were based on two ADN samples collected at an archaeological site in Rocha, in the east of the Latin American country: one of a man dating back 800 years and another of a woman dating back 1,500 years, both long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus to America in 1492.
The results showed a surprising connection with ancient inhabitants of Panama – the land bridge that connects North and South America– and with those in the east of Brasil, but not with modern Amazonians. Thus, these findings support the theory advanced by some archaeologists that there were separate migrations in South America, including one that resulted in the Amazonian populations and one that resulted in the East Coast populations, the team explained.
“Through these first sequences of the complete genome of the indigenous people of the region before the arrival of the Europeans, we were able to reconstruct at least a small part of its genetic prehistory,” Lindo said. According to the scientists, present-day Uruguayans could be genetically linked to populations that existed in the region before the arrival of European settlers.
Now, the team hopes to use advanced ADN sequencing techniques to create, in collaboration with indigenous communities and local archaeologists, a free portal in line with a growing number of ancient ADN references from the Americas, to help people better explore and understand their ancestry.
- Archaeological evidence of human settlement in the area now known as Uruguay, located on the Atlantic coast of southern Brazil, dates back more than 10,000 years. European settlers first made contact with the indigenous peoples of the region in the early 16th century. During the 19th century, a series of military campaigns were launched to exterminate the indigenous peoples of the region, were launched to exterminate native peoples, culminating in the so-called Salsipuedes Massacre in 1831, which targeted an ethnic group called charrúa. At the time, the term charrúa was widely applied to the remains of various hunter-gatherer groups in Uruguayan territory, the researchers explained.