by Livia Gershon/Smithsonianmag.com
The ancestors of modern Japanese populations hailed from three distinct groups that arrived on the island during three different periods, a new DNA analysis finds.
Previous research had identified two ancestor groups: hunter-gatherers who lived in Japan 15,000 years ago (and possibly much earlier) and farmers who migrated from East Asia starting around 900 B.C.E., reports Harry Baker for Live Science. The new findings, published in the journal Science Advances, show that a third group arrived during the Kofun period (around 300 to 700 C.E.), confirming a theory that some researchers had already raised.
“Archaeological evidence has long suggested three stages of migration, but the last one has largely been ignored,” Mikael Adolphson, a historian at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells Live Science. “This new finding confirms what many of us knew, but it is good that we now get evidence also from the medical field.”
Evidence suggests that humans lived in Japan as early as 38,000 years ago. While little is known about these individuals, they may have been the ancestors of hunter-gatherers who created pottery during the Jōmon period, which spanned 13,000 to 300 B.C.E.