Just Because It's Trending Doesn't Mean It's True
Hoax Alert

Fake News: Scientists Did NOT Discover DNA Proving Original Native Americans Were White

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Wed, 30 Oct 2019 09:15:51 Z)

Did scientists discover DNA proving the original Native Americans were white? No, that's not true: a Guardian article about some real scientific research was rewritten and edited to make it look like it was about discovering white ancestry of modern Native Americans. In reality the study the article was based on didn't even mention Europeans or white people.

The story recently went viral via an article (archived here) published by Protothema somewhere in 2018 under the title "Scientists discover DNA proving original Native Americans were White". It opened:

A new discovery of ancient DNA may overturn the idea that the Native Americans were the first to have populated the American continent. Instead, according to rawstreetjournal.com, a new group known as the ancient Beringians, who are more closely related to modern white Europeans has been discovered by researchers. Genetic analysis of a baby girl who died at the end of the last ice age shows she belonged to this previously unknown ancient group of Beringians.

A baby girl who lived and died in what is now Alaska, at the end of the last ice age belonged to a previously unknown group of ancient people who branched off from the ancestors of modern Europeans, according to DNA recovered from her bones.

The child, a mere six weeks old when she died, was found in a burial pit next to the remains of a stillborn baby, perhaps a first cousin, during excavations of an 11,500-year-old residential camp in Tanana River Valley in Central Alaska. The remains were discovered in 2013, but a full genetic analysis has not been possible until now.

Screenshot of http://en.protothema.gr/scientists-discover-dna-proving-original-native-americans-were-white/

The article claimed to be sourced on an earlier (mostly identical) article from the - now defunct - website Raw Street Journal:

Scientists Discover DNA Proving Original Native Americans were White

Scientists have discovered the oldest fossilized DNA remains in Alaska proving that the first Native Americans came from Europe across the land bridge in the last Ice Age and modern Native Americans are direct descendants of these ancient white Europeans

That story opened:

San Francisco, CA - A new discovery of ancient DNA may overturn the idea that the Native Americans were the first to have populated the American continent. Instead, a new group known as the ancient Beringians, who are more closely related to modern white Europeans has been discovered by researchers. Genetic analysis of a baby girl who died at the end of the last ice age shows she belonged to this previously unknown ancient group of Beringians.

A baby girl who lived and died in what is now Alaska, at the end of the last ice age belonged to a previously unknown group of ancient people who branched off from the ancestors of modern Europeans, according to DNA recovered from her bones.

The child, a mere six weeks old when she died, was found in a burial pit next to the remains of a stillborn baby, perhaps a first cousin, during excavations of an 11,500-year-old residential camp in Tanana River Valley in Central Alaska. The remains were discovered in 2013, but a full genetic analysis has not been possible until now.

Researchers tried to recover ancient DNA from both of the infants but succeeded only in the case of the larger individual. They had expected her genetic material to resemble modern northern or southern lineages of Native Americans, but found instead that she had a distinct genetic makeup that made her a member of a separate population.

Compare the highlighted bits to this original article published by The Guardian in 2018 from which several paragraphs were lifted and edited:

Surprise as DNA reveals new group of Native Americans: the ancient Beringians

A baby girl who lived and died in what is now Alaska at the end of the last ice age belonged to a previously unknown group of ancient Native Americans, according to DNA recovered from her bones.

This is the original:

Genetic analysis of a baby girl who died at the end of the last ice age shows she belonged to a previously unknown ancient group of Native Americans

A baby girl who lived and died in what is now Alaska at the end of the last ice age belonged to a previously unknown group of ancient Native Americans, according to DNA recovered from her bones.

The child, a mere six weeks old when she died, was found in a burial pit next to the remains of a stillborn baby, perhaps a first cousin, during excavations of an 11,500-year-old residential camp in Tanana River Valley in Central Alaska. The remains were discovered in 2013, but a full genetic analysis has not been possible until now.

Researchers tried to recover ancient DNA from both of the infants but succeeded only in the case of the larger individual. They had expected her genetic material to resemble modern northern or southern lineages of Native Americans, but found instead that she had a distinct genetic makeup that made her a member of a separate population.

As you can see all the reference to Europeans or whites were added by the Raw Street Journal. The words "white" or "European do not even appear in the original text. The falsified article even invents new geographic migrations and changes the genetic history discovered by the researchers, compare this paragraph from the false story:

The newly-discovered group, named "ancient Beringians," appears to have split off from the Europeans around 20,000 years ago and made their way to North America via Alaska, when a frozen land bridge made the crossing from Europe and Asia into North America possible. The ancient Beringians then pushed south as the ice caps melted and mixed with other Native American populations, which is why many Native Americans today also exhibit physical characteristics more commonly associated with whites.

Here is the original:

The newly-discovered group, named "ancient Beringians", appears to have split off from the founding population of Native Americans about 20,000 years ago. While the ancestors of other Native Americans pushed south into the continent as the ice caps thawed, the ancient Beringians remained in the north until they eventually died out.

The Guardian does mention a land bridge but it is the context of migration or ancestors from Asia, not Europe:

During the last ice age, so much water was locked up in the ice caps that a land bridge reached from Asia to North America across what is now the Bering Strait. Willerslev believes the ancestors of Native Americans travelled to the continent in a single wave of migration more than 20,000 years ago. Those who settled in the north became the isolated ancient Beringians, he said, while those who moved south, around or through the ice sheets, split into the north and south Native Americans about 15,700 years ago.

But there is another possibility. Ben Potter, an archaeologist on the team from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, suspects that the Beringians split from the ancestors of other Native Americans in Asia before both groups made their way across the land bridge to North America in separate migrations. "The support for this scenario is pretty strong," he said. "We have no evidence of people in the Beringia region 20,000 years ago."

We also checked the study the article from The Guardian was based on. It also doesn't mention "white" or "European":

Terminal Pleistocene Alaskan genome reveals first founding population of Native Americans

It seems someone just edited a Guardian article here to peddle some strange racial theory online, perhaps to make money from advertising clicks coming from people who don't know better. Don't be fooled by junk articles like this.

About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

About Lead Stories

Lead Stories uses the Trendolizer™ engine to detect the most trending stories from known fake news, satire and prank websites and tries to debunk them as fast as possible. Read more about how we work and how we select stories to check here.

Spotted a hoax that you think we should investigate? Have a tip? Want to send us a correction? Contact us!

You can also follow us here:

Most read

Recent

Like or Follow us to get the latest!

NEW! Subscribe to our YouTube channel: