Did Europeans arrive in the Americas prior to the Vikings?

More than 15,000 years ago the first people came to the Americas, walking across the Bering Strait on a land bridge from Siberia, or maybe sailing east along the coast. These people spread down and through North, Central and South America, with early civilizations like the Clovis people taking root. As the theory goes, early Americans originated from a small group of people that made it over from Asia. But when researchers dig into the genes of some Native American people, unexpected genes, genes with a European heritage, jump out.

The common assumption is that these genes were picked up, mixed into the gene pool from European colonialists. But new preliminary research, reported on by Science Magazine, tells a different story. Some early Americans came not from Asia, it seems, but by way of Europe.

From the Smithsonian: “From the complete nuclear genome of a Siberian boy who died 24,000 years ago—the oldest complete genome of a modern human sequenced to date. His DNA shows close ties to those of today’s Native Americans. Yet he apparently descended not from East Asians, but from people who had lived in Europe or western Asia. The finding suggests that about a third of the ancestry of today’s Native Americans can be traced to “western Eurasia,” with the other two-thirds coming from eastern Asia.

When viewing photos of East Coast Native Americans, I had always wondered why their appearance varied so much from those of the natives on the West Coast. A couple of these photos from the Algonquin tribe follow:

There is evidence that Europeans traveled to the Americas as far back as 15,000 years ago. One theory is that they traveled by small boats along the edge of the ice in the North Atlantic.