Beware of TV “science” documentaries about Native American DNA!
Whether intentionally or out of naivety, contemporary journalists are manipulating the information that the public sees on supposedly scientific TV documentaries and reads in printed “science news” articles. This is an increasing problem, when the subject of Native American origins is the focus of the program or article. Anthropology in the United States has become politicized in same disgusting manner that our national decision-making process has devolved into competing football teams with news media being viewed as propaganda to support a particular team. Viewers have to be very observant to discern the propaganda from the facts. The People of One Fire is going to provide you several of those facts . . . at least as they stand on this particular day.
Your friendly neighborhood Keeper of the Creek Wind Clan and Uchee Water Clan has a mandatory homework assignment for you. It will be entertaining and won’t cost you a penny. You can downstream it from the PBS-NOVA website: http://www.pbs.org/video/first-face-of-america-m6dgpn/ . Ostensibly, the program is about the fascinating discovery of a 12,000 year-old skeleton at the bottom of a flooded cavern in Yucatan, Mexico. That part of the program is apparently factual. However, then the program jumped into the subject of “the origins of indigenous Americans” and presented to the public a re-painted version of the old Siberia-Alaska land bridge theory, but called it a fact. As usual, this is a case of “our side’s got to win” approach to anthropology rather than following the evidence, wherever it takes you.
Generalizing from insufficient information
While in graduate school at Georgia State University, I took a very heavy course load in statistics and computer modeling. My thesis was a predictive model of Atlanta’s growth patterns, past and future. My professors viewed it as a doctoral level product and so the document is still at the Georgia State library. At the time, such an education was considered “Frontierland,” but in the 21st century, has turned out to be foundation of much of our technology – especially robotics, urban planning, etc. All those virtual reality images of Native American communities that I have churned out since 2003 are computer models. What I didn’t anticipate was that after 2001 in Georgia, one would have to have 666 (extreme leftwing) or 999 (extreme rightwing) branded on one’s forehead and be a paid member of the winning football team in order to get any architecture or planning work, whatsoever. So folks . . . you’re stuck with me charting a brave new world in Native American Studies.
The science of statistics enables one to see through the caca de toro, which is now endemic in American anthropology. Between 2012 and 2017, I was paid to examine the archaeological work in EVERY county of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and Coastal South Carolina. Folks, there are huge gaps in what we know about the Southeast’s past. Archaeologists repeatedly take a statistically insignificant sample of what’s out there and project it into ironclad facts. They know virtually nothing about the Uchee’s, Chickasaw’s and Creek’s cultural heritage and so will often badly misinterpret the meaning of a few artifacts or a single archaeological dig.
Worst still, the contemporary class of archaeologists have almost completely forgotten much of the work done in the mid-and-late 20th century by world class archaeologists such as Robert Wauchope, Arthur Kelly, Antonio Waring and Joseph Caldwell. Many of the sites that these men identified, but didn’t have time to study, have been destroyed since then because no one in a position to protect them, knew that they existed.
To be succinct . . . one cannot take one skeleton in one cave in Yucatan and then interpolate 100,000 years of human history with it.
Basic DNA facts that you should know
- Humans with Southeast Asian or proto-Polynesian skeletons, were living at the Monte Verde Site near the coast of Chile over 14,000 years ago. In recent years, archaeologists have found extensive evidence that Mesoamerica and South America were populated by peoples in boats following the coast lines and living off of seafood . . . including a large intake of seaweed.
- The oldest Clovis points and the oldest currently known pre-Clovis tools/points have been found on the Savannah River at the Topper Site. The greatest concentration of Clovis Points are found in the Cumberland and Duck River Valleys of central Tennessee. The Clovis Points in South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee predate any known human camp sites in Alaska.
- Dr. Ray Burden, a recently retired professor from the University of Tennessee, is heading up our Uchee DNA Study. The POOF Uchees have their own Facebook site, too. So far Uchee’s have been found to carry Panoan (Peru), Sami, Finnish, Scandinavian, Pre-Gaelic Irish/Scottish, Basque and Maori DNA. I told him that I had a less precise genetics test about 13 years ago and was puzzled that I was shown to be part Polynesian. Guess that is how the lab interpreted the Maori DNA, which is actually from the Togha-re, who also settled in the Southeast. The Panoan DNA comes from the Apalache Creeks, who often intermarried with the Uchee.
- There are no DNA test markers for the majority of Sami tribes. Until recently, all genetics labs in the world were using a Sami test marker obtained from a handful of blond-haired, blue-eyed Southern Sami in a urban center, whose ancestors have been mixing with Scandinavians for 2,500 years. However, more precise DNA testing being carried out by the worlds top DNA lab at the University of Copenhagen have determined that most Scandinavian Swedes – north of the province of Skana – carry up to 38% Siberian DNA.
- There are NO DNA test markers for any of the Southeastern indigenous tribes, present or past. The current generation of geneticists are not even aware that the Muskogeans have the same blood type (virtually 100% O+ primitive) as Mesoamericans and peoples in Peru. They certainly are not aware that the Uchee came from northwestern Europe and that many tribes in the Southeast represent a mixing of Uchee DNA with AmerIndian DNA. Very few anthropologists are even aware that Arawaks occupied a significant area of the Lower Southeast at the time of the Spanish Conquest.
- There are NO DNA test markers for any of the Midwestern or Northeastern tribes, present or past. The DNA samples of anyone with Native American ancestry are compared to DNA test markers taken from Algonquian skeletons in northern Quebec to determine their Native American ancestry.
- There are only DNA test markers for a few major indigenous ethnic groups in Mexico. INAH is now trying to develop DNA test markers for the smaller tribes, but are hampered because, just as in the case of the Southeast, about 98% of the Pre-Hispanic population of Mexico was killed off in a few decades by catastrophic plagues. One plague alone in the mid-1500s killed 85% of the indigenous peoples of central Mexico.
As part of their comprehensive DNA study, Mexican scientists have determined that there were Australoids living in Oaxaca State and Polynesians living in the Valley of Mexico prior to the arrival of any American Indians. Polynesians definitely occupied Baja California and the Los Angeles-San Diego region of Gringo California until made extinct in the mid-1800s by immigrant Gringos. They have also found an ancient Southeast Asian skeleton in the Yucatan Peninsula. This woman looked very much like the famous Georgia Creek mikko, Tamachichi . . . who had a Maya name. Semitic or Phoenician DNA is also showing up in the DNA of some branches of the Mayas in Campeche State. So far, it has not been determined whether the mixing occurred before or after the Spanish Conquest.
- The Choctaw, Chickasaw and several branches of the Creeks are descended from the very tall Toltec tribes of eastern Mexico. The Aztecs and European diseases virtually exterminated these peoples. Mexican anthropologists are just now trying to obtain DNA test markers for Toltec peoples.
- Peruvian scientists have obtained DNA test markers for most existing indigenous ethnic groups, but several major ethnic groups were almost completely wiped out by smallpox and other European diseases. Just recently, Peruvian geneticists have determined that the blue eyes, which appear in some indigenous Peruvian peoples ARE NOT from being raped by Spanish Conquistadors, but rather these people carry some the same genes carried by Scandinavians.
- There are no DNA test markers for most of the tribes in South America. DNA test markers for major groups of people, living east of the Andes, such as the Panoans, Arawaks, Tupi and Guarani are based on a few samples, which may not reflect the DNA of other branches of these large, dispersed ethnic groups.
What this PBS documentary didn’t tell you
The skeleton of a teenage girl at the bottom of a water-filled cave was actually discovered in 2007, not recently, as the TV program makes you think. The skeleton was tampered with by looters until being removed by underwater archaeologists several years later.
The program stated that the skeleton carried a genotype only found in the Americas, so her ancestors obviously evolved in Alaska. That is not really the whole story. First of all, there are no DNA test markers for most indigenous groups in the Americas. Secondly, THE COMBINATION of genes that make up the known indigenous American DNA markers first appeared in northwestern Russia, not too far from Finland. They are NOT found in Siberia, but all current maps show the ancestors of Native Americans traversing 7,000 miles across Russia and Siberia to reach Alaska, when the closest route by far would be across southern Scandinavia and the edge of the Arctic ice cap. Anthropologists have no explanation why there are no peoples in eastern Siberia, closely related to indigenous Americans, other than the Inuit.
The westward route would have been much shorter, rich with sea life for food and much warmer. Remember, even today Siberia regularly drops down to -75 degrees F. in the winter, while the Gulf Stream keeps the Faeroe Islands at a temperature range about the same as typical of coastal Virginia in the winter. If the Australoids settled Australia by 55,000 BC, the proto-Americans could easily have island hopped across the North Atlantic 25,000 years later.
If modern Native Americans arrived first on the Atlantic Coast, it would explain why the Clovis Culture first appeared on the Lower Savannah River then spread north and westward to the rest of North America. It makes no sense for humans to have spread southward from Alaska, when the largest Ice Age populations were in Central Tennessee, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Savannah River Basin, eastern North Carolina and northern Florida!
This skeleton had many serious injuries, including seriously broken bones that had healed prior to her premature death. She also carried a baby when she was too young for her pelvis to expand correctly at delivery. There were periods in her short life, when she had inadequate nutrition. The only interpretation stated by the archaeologists interviewed was that she had been repeatedly brutalized by a gang of males, wanting to have sex with her. Oh really? From the time of the Neanderthals onward, there are numerous examples of females of all ages being buried with great care and honor . . . and not having multiple injuries. There are many other explanations.
What immediately came to my mind was that she was a member of a small band of humans, who were under attack from a larger group from another ethnic group. Therefore, her skeleton was not typical of the inhabitants of Yucatan, Perhaps she was a war captive and committed suicide. She may have been tossed into the 100 feet deep pit by her captors. Whatever the case, the archaeologists’ speculations should not have been presented by the program as facts.
The last part of the NOVA program focused on recent archaeological discoveries in southwestern Alaska. For at least 20,000 years during the last Ice Age, there was a vast region of grassland and tundra connection Siberia and Alaska. Most of Alaska WAS NOT covered in an Ice Cap.
A few Ice Age skeletons and camp sites have been unearthed by Alaskan archaeologists. NO Clovis points have been found in Alaska. The stone tools and points, associated with these handful of camp sites are very crude compared to Clovis, Folsom and Dalton points found in the United States and Mexico, but identical to what was made in Siberia at the time. One of the baby skeletons was analyzed to obtain a DNA profile. The researchers discovered that she’d lived around 11,500 years ago, but that her genetic code matched neither of the two Native American populations known to exist during that time. The TV program seems to tell you the opposite. They gleefully announced that Ice Age peoples in Alaska carried all the DNA also found in Native Americans, but folks . . . than is not how DNA profiles work. The girl’s DNA was typical of Siberia, not farther south in North America.
The program announcer then stated that no Native American DNA had been found outside the Americas. He then told us as a fact that all the Native American DNA in the United States had been traced to the peoples, who camped out in southwestern Alaska. One of the lines on the map went from Alaska to the heart of Creek Country. Only trouble is that NO DNA markers exist for Southeastern tribes and the origins of the Muskogean tribes were in Mexico, Peru, the Caribbean Basin, South America and Northwestern Europe.
The program then focused on a 9,000 year-old camp site in Alaska and stated that these people later moved south and created the Clovis Culture. Say what? The Clovis Culture and come and gone in the Southeast before this camp site in Alaska was ever occupied.
The program closed with a mixed-blood Native American archaeologist announcing that we now know that all the peoples, whose DNA would create Native Americans, camped together and intermarried in Alaska then spread out to populate all the Americas.
Oh really? There were Austialoids living in southwestern Mexico and the interior of Brazil, plus Polynesians living in the Valley of Mexico before this Alaska campsite was even occupied.
Making an ant hill out of a single ant
The entire body of speculative facts, presented by this program were based on three skeletons . . . a teenage girl in Yucatan, a baby boy in Montana and a baby girl in Alaska. With genetics in such a state of flux and so much of the world not thoroughly surveyed by archaeologists, it is completely unscientific and statistically unsound to make broad interpolations and rigid statements of facts as these superficially scientific TV programs are doing these days.
The landscape of eastern North America is very different today than 12,000 years ago. The edge of the ocean was 100 miles east of where it is today in South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida. Incalculable volumes of mud and organic debris washed into the Appalachian Valleys of the Southeast, when the permafrost caps of mountains thawed. Throughout Eastern North America, major rivers have deposited deep covers of alluvial soil. The surface of Etowah Mounds National Historic Landmark is at least 15 feet higher than it was in 1886. Long ridges on the east side of the Mississippi were created by winds blowing off the Great Plains. A debris ridge that is still as much as 85 feet tall, was left on the Georgia Coast by a tsunami around 539 AD. That same asteroid or comet erased most of the barrier islands on the coast of Florida.
The impetus, however, seems to be coming from the archaeology profession itself. There is a profound tendency among Gringo archaeologists, which I did not see in Mexico or Scandinavia, to think that the only way to get the adulation they desire is to present speculations as ironclad facts. This automatically puts them into cliques that eternally battle each other to prove whose right. When new information appears that discredits their speculations, they rise angrily to protect their obsolete perspective. And thus, the situation quickly degenerates into a confrontation of swollen egos rather than a thirst for new knowledge.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
- Movie . . . Sami Blood . . . plus an introduction to the Sami People - August 17, 2019
- Videos . . . the Mi’kmaq People of Nova Scotia - August 15, 2019
- The First Creek Confederacy did not include the Muskogees! - August 14, 2019
- Ten feet tall Easter Lilies - August 14, 2019
- How I got to know Mexico - August 13, 2019