Genetic study of ancient teeth debunks theory that Native Americans originated in Japan

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The scientific community has long wondered how, when, and who first traveled to the Americas many years ago. The long-accepted theory, based on similarities in tools, was that the early inhabitants of Japan, known as the Jomon, arrived on the continent 15,000 years ago. However, a recent study is now contradicting this theory.

Richard Scott, lead study author and professor at the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University, examined the teeth of the Jomon and ancient Native Americans. He found little relationship in their teeth genetics. In fact, just seven percent of the samples showed any link to non-arctic Native Americans.

“These people (the Jomon) who lived in Japan 15,000 years ago are an unlikely source for Indigenous Americans. Neither skeletal biology nor genetics indicate a connection between Japan and the Americas. The most likely source of the Native American population appears to be Siberia,” says Prof. Scott in a media release.

Scott is a respected researcher in the field of ancient human teeth with over half a century of experience.

“We do not dispute the idea that ancient Native Americans arrived via the Northwest Pacific coast—only the theory that they originated with the Jomon people in Japan,” Scott adds.

Scott and his team found little overlap of maternal and paternal lineage, leading them to their conclusion. Along with their research, recent studies have found similar conclusions, finding footprints dating back to 23,000 years ago. This furthers Scott’s findings that the Jomon are not the most likely ancestors of the first Native Americans.

The findings in this study provide further reason for researchers to continue digging for clues into the first Native Americans. For now, scientists we are still unsure when and who first traveled to the North American continent.

The study is published in the journal PaleoAmerica.