Research Article

Ancient DNA indicates human population shifts and admixture in northern and southern China

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Science  17 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6501, pp. 282-288
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba0909

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A genetic history of China

The history of human movements into and within China has been difficult to determine solely from archaeological investigations or genetic studies of contemporary peoples. Yang et al. sequenced DNA from 26 individuals from 9500 to 300 years ago from locations within China. Analyses of these individuals, along with previously sequenced ancient individuals and present-day genomes representing global populations, show a split between ancient humans in northern and southern China. Neolithic northern Chinese individuals are closest to modern-day East Asians, whereas ancient individuals from southern China are most closely related to modern-day Southeast Asians and show an affinity to modern-day Austronesian populations. These results indicate that there was a southward movement and admixture of peoples during the Neolithic that gave rise to modern-day populations in East Asia.

Science this issue p. 282


Human genetic history in East Asia is poorly understood. To clarify population relationships, we obtained genome-wide data from 26 ancient individuals from northern and southern East Asia spanning 9500 to 300 years ago. Genetic differentiation in this region was higher in the past than the present, which reflects a major episode of admixture involving northern East Asian ancestry spreading across southern East Asia after the Neolithic, thereby transforming the genetic ancestry of southern China. Mainland southern East Asian and Taiwan Strait island samples from the Neolithic show clear connections with modern and ancient individuals with Austronesian-related ancestry, which supports an origin in southern China for proto-Austronesians. Connections among Neolithic coastal groups from Siberia and Japan to Vietnam indicate that migration and gene flow played an important role in the prehistory of coastal Asia.

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