Mérida, Yucatán — Maya from the Yucatán Peninsula have a genetic affinity with a Siberian boy known as El Niño de Mal’ta, who lived 25,000 years ago and 6,000 miles away.
The claim comes from research recently published by the National Institute of Genomic Medicine and Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Health Sciences and Nutrition.
For the study, a complete genome study of 12 individuals from indigenous populations, including inhabitants of the Yucatán Peninsula, was conducted to analyze the likelihood of a genetic affinity for El Niño de Mal’ta.
The work involved more than 30 researchers to broaden knowledge about the demographic history of the Mexican population, which in turn will help identify genetic factors in diseases.
The complete genome sequence of 12 people from six different ethnic groups and regions of the country was analyzed. From the north: Tarahumara and Tepehuan; from the center and south: Nahuas, Totonacs and Zapotecs, and Maya from the Yucatán Peninsula.
The scientific work called “Demographic history and biologically relevant genetic variation of native Mexicans inferred from the sequencing of the complete genome” was published in the journal Nature Communication.
Earlier, the Mal’ta boy’s DNA was found to match with Western Europeans, showing that during the last Ice Age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously thought. Though none of the Mal’ta boy’s skin or hair survives, his genes suggest he would have had brown hair, brown eyes and freckled skin.
His DNA is also a match with about 25 percent of living Native Americans.
The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. But they may actually be a mix between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.
Sources: Sipse, New York Times