A team of researchers led by Danish professor Eske Willerslev shows that the ancestors of the North American Indians who came from Asia were the first people in America, and that they were of neither European nor African descent. It also shows that immigration to North America took place approximately 1,000 years earlier than assumed. These findings call for a revision of our understanding of the early immigration route to the American continent.

Willerslev, of the University of Copenhagen, and colleagues recently conducted DNA tests on samples of fossilized human feces found in deep caves in the Oregon desert and came to a conclusion sure to cause debate - the oldest of the droppings have been carbon-dated to be approximately 14,340 years old. Willerslev’s feces samples clearly contain two main genetic types of Asian origin that are unique to present-day North American Indians.

The American continent was the last of the world’s continents to be populated. There are many contradictory and more or less well-founded scientific theories on when this occurred and from where the first immigrants came.

These theories span from immigration via the icy Atlantic Ocean to Thor Heyerdahl’s papyrus boat expeditions from Africa to America but the most accepted theory is based on findings of stone tools from the Clovis culture in soil layers dating back to approximately 13,000 BC.

According to that theory, people from Siberia migrated, perhaps in search of mammoth, across the land bridge that once connected Siberia and North America. From there, they continued south and spread out across the American continent. The migration passed through a corridor that opened up approximately 14,000 years ago in the giant glacier that covered the American continent.

These new findings call that immigration theory into question.

“Our findings show that there were people south of the ice cap several hundred years before the ice-free corridor developed. The first humans either had to walk or sail along the American west coast to get around the ice cap,” explains Eske Willerslev, and concludes, “That is, unless they arrived so long before the last ice age that the land passage wasn’t yet blocked by ice.”