Where and when did our Native American population come from?  Was there one major migration from Asia, or several flows of people to the Americas?  What does the new evidence suggest?  These and related questions will be addressed by Stephen Zegura, an emeritus professor of anthropology, in a free lecture on “The Peopling of America: Old Wine in New Bottles and an Exciting New Vintage” at the Arizona Senior Academy on Wednesday afternoon.  (October 31) at 3:30 pm.

Zegura has been a professor at the University of Arizona since 1972.  After receiving his bachelor’s degree in anthropology at Stanford and his master’s and Ph.D. in human biology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison campus, Zegura taught for one year at New York University before joining the UA faculty.

Widely published in anthropology, biology and genetics journals, Zegura has studied Native American cultures and their origins for most of his professional career.  In 1986 he co-authored a seminal article in the journal Current Anthropology with the Stanford linguist Joseph Greenberg and the physical anthropologist Christy Turner from Arizona State University arguing that there were three ancient waves of migration to the Americas, not just one as some believed.

Prior to this article, many anthropologists traced the origins of the Native American population from the Clovis (NM) Culture, which flourished about 13,000 years ago and was assumed to originate from the initial migration from Asia to the Americas.   While many anthropologists initially agreed with the three-wave hypothesis, during the 1990s there was a reemergence of the notion that perhaps there was just one major migration.  However, new genetic evidence now supports the idea of at least three separate streams of Asian migrants entering the Americas.

The July 2012 issue of the journal Nature presented the most comprehensive study on the genetic makeup of the descendents of early Native Americans and those from Siberia.  Also, two important archeological sites, one in Texas at Buttermilk Creek (over 15,000 years old) and the other at Paisley Cave in Oregon (at least 14,000  years old), strongly suggest that pre-historic Native American populations were present before the Clovis Culture.

Drawing from  multiple disciplines, including linguistic anthropology, genetics, and archeology, Zegura will discuss how and when migrations occurred from Asia to the Americas.

“Actually, there was gene flow in both directions, as some Native Americans returned to Asia,” stated  Zegura.  “However, most migration was from Asia to the Americas.  In addition, substantial post-1492 interbreeding took place between Native American populations and both European and African immigrants.”

Wednesday’s talk will take place at 3:30 pm in the Arizona Senior Academy Building, which is located in Academy Village, an active-adult community just off Old Spanish Trail, six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East.

Submitted by Jed Kee, Academy Village Volunteer




Native American Origins: Oct. 2012
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