PerspectiveEvolution

The search for ancient DNA heads east

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Science  06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 31-32
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8662

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Summary

Anthropologists and prehistorians have debated the origins of the peoples of Southeast Asia for more than a century, often without consensus over the relative importance of successive migrations from external sources versus indigenous continuity through time. The analysis of ancient whole-genome DNA from archaeological skeletons brings a new view to this debate (1, 2). On pages 88 and 92 of this issue, McColl et al. (3) and Lipson et al. (4), respectively, use genomic DNA sequencing data from 43 ancient Southeast Asian skeletons excavated by archaeologists to explain how the region was peopled during the past 10,000 years. Both teams show that human migration was highly significant, especially the migration of mid-Holocene Neolithic farming populations, ∼5000 to 4000 years ago, from southern China into both mainland and island Southeast Asia.