10,000 years ago there were no "Southeast Asians"

By Razib Khan | July 24, 2010 3:34 pm

Mexico Ancient WomanMexico: Ancient woman suggests diverse migration:

A scientific reconstruction of one of the oldest sets of human remains found in the Americas appears to support theories that the first people who came to the hemisphere migrated from a broader area than once thought, researchers say.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History on Thursday released photos of the reconstructed image of a woman who probably lived on Mexico’s Caribbean coast 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. She peeks out of the picture as a short, spry-looking woman with slightly graying hair.

Anthropologists had long believed humans migrated to the Americas in a relatively short period from a limited area in northeast Asia across a temporary land corridor that opened across the Bering Strait during an ice age.

But government archaeologist Alejandro Terrazas says the picture has now become more complicated, because the reconstruction more resembles people from southeastern Asian areas like Indonesia.

I think this gets at the fallacy:

But Gillespie cautioned against comparing a reconstructed face from 10,000 years ago to modern populations in places like Indonesia, which have also probably changed over 10 millennia.

“You have to find skeletons of the same time period in Asia, or use genetic reconstructions, to make a strong connection, and cannot rely on modern populations,” she wrote. “Do we have any empirical data on what Southeast Asian women looked like … 10,000 years ago?”

A few years ago some scholars asserted that Kennewick Man resembled “South Asians.” I’m open to the possibility of a more complex peopling of the Americas, but until we get ancient DNA (something that is very difficult in the USA), it seems rather strange to make assessments of phylogenetic descent based on phenotypic similarities between one ancient specimen and modern populations.

Image Credit: AP Photo/ Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History

MORE ABOUT: Anthropology

Comments (8)

  1. Reminds me a bit of Cliff Curtis, the Maori actor who plays characters of a wide assortment of backgrounds, many of which have nothing to do with New Zealand.

  2. syon

    Strangely enough, what with the PC mantra that race does not exist, many people seem to subscribe to a static theory of phenotypical variation, with the various racial times existing in their modern form for millennia.

  3. Tom Bri

    I’d like to know why they dressed her in an old burlap bag. Do they really think people dressed that way?

  4. The realities of ancient human populations was driven by motivations quite recognizable to people today.


  5. pconroy


    That’s exactly what I immediately though when I saw Kennewick Man too.

    It seems to me – and I’m just speculating here – that East Asians were more similar to Indians in appearance till at least about 10,000 years ago. The earliest settlers of the Americas would seem to me to have an Indian/Australoid appearance, and not a Mongoloid appearance.

    A migration by boat pre 10,000 yo may have made it to the Americas, and migrated Southwards. Later a more typically Mongoloid type – which may have evolved in Beringia – spread to North East Asia and into the Americas by land.

  6. There are some new theories I have heard recently about early transits via boat along Atlantic Ocean ice flows near the glacier line. There are also new theories of Phoenician, transits to the American continents all of which were posited on a History Channel program about America in 10,000 BC.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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