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Ancient genomes document multiple waves of migration in Southeast Asian prehistory

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Science  06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 92-95
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3188

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Ancient migrations in Southeast Asia

The past movements and peopling of Southeast Asia have been poorly represented in ancient DNA studies (see the Perspective by Bellwood). Lipson et al. generated sequences from people inhabiting Southeast Asia from about 1700 to 4100 years ago. Screening of more than a hundred individuals from five sites yielded ancient DNA from 18 individuals. Comparisons with present-day populations suggest two waves of mixing between resident populations. The first mix was between local hunter-gatherers and incoming farmers associated with the Neolithic spreading from South China. A second event resulted in an additional pulse of genetic material from China to Southeast Asia associated with a Bronze Age migration. McColl et al. sequenced 26 ancient genomes from Southeast Asia and Japan spanning from the late Neolithic to the Iron Age. They found that present-day populations are the result of mixing among four ancient populations, including multiple waves of genetic material from more northern East Asian populations.

Science, this issue p. 92, p. 88; see also p. 31

Abstract

Southeast Asia is home to rich human genetic and linguistic diversity, but the details of past population movements in the region are not well known. Here, we report genome-wide ancient DNA data from 18 Southeast Asian individuals spanning from the Neolithic period through the Iron Age (4100 to 1700 years ago). Early farmers from Man Bac in Vietnam exhibit a mixture of East Asian (southern Chinese agriculturalist) and deeply diverged eastern Eurasian (hunter-gatherer) ancestry characteristic of Austroasiatic speakers, with similar ancestry as far south as Indonesia providing evidence for an expansive initial spread of Austroasiatic languages. By the Bronze Age, in a parallel pattern to Europe, sites in Vietnam and Myanmar show close connections to present-day majority groups, reflecting substantial additional influxes of migrants.

  • P.F. holds part-time positions as a research assistant at the Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic and at the Institute for Information Transmission Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

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