DNA analysis of Ice Age boy ranks 7th on Discover magazine’s 2014 list


Image: Texas A&M University

The first genome sequencing of the Ice Age skeletal remains of a 1-year-old boy by a team of international researchers that include a Texas A&M professor — and has provided proof that the first human settlers in North America were from Asia and not Europe — has been named one of Discover magazine’s “Top 100 Stories for 2014.”

Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of First Americans at Texas A&M, was part of the team that proved the direct ancestors of modern Native Americans were from Asia and not Europe as previously believed.

The team was able to extract DNA from the boy’s bones – believed to be 12,600 years old and the oldest remains to be fully sequenced — and show that ancestors from Asia migrated to North America and gave rise to Clovis, the first widespread prehistoric culture representing direct descendants of the earliest people who arrived in the New World about 15,000 years ago.

The story was ranked No.7 in Discover’s Top 100 stories.  It marks the fourth time in the last five years that a Texas A&M research project has made the list.

In 1968, the skeletal remains of a Clovis child were found near a rock cliff in central Montana, along with more than 100 burial artifacts found with the boy such as spear points and antler tools (see photo above). The remains are 12,600 years old, the oldest such remains fully sequenced.

Several years ago, Waters contacted the group that owns the skeleton and asked for permission to perform genetic testing on the remains. The area where the remains were found is now known as the Anzick site, named after the family who own the land where the site is located.

It is the oldest known human burial from North America and it is the only Clovis-era burial site ever found.

In 2010, a news release about Texas A&M researchers examining the male pipefish that gives birth made the list, while in 2011 oceanography professor John Kessler and his work on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was included in the top 100 rankings.

Last year, the discovery of an enormous underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean that is named Tamu Massif after Texas A&M was ranked No.11 by the magazine.  All of the stories were written by Keith Randall, associate director of marketing and communications.

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News coverage: National Geographic