Reconstructing the Diversity and Genetic Legacies of Pre-Contact Communities in Puerto Rico Through Ancient DNA Analysis

Event Date: 

Friday, November 15, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Event Location: 

  • HSSB 2001A
Dr. Maria A. Nieves-Colón, Affiliated Researcher, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University
Integrative genomic studies reconstruct past events and investigate their biocultural implications by drawing upon both genetic and anthropological lines of evidence. As such, they are especially pertinent for studying the experiences of historically marginalized or misrepresented populations; such as those of the Caribbean. Indigenous peoples occupied the Caribbean for at least 5,000 years before European contact. But, due to the demographic shifts that occurred after colonization, the origin(s) of these ancient populations, and their genetic relationship to present-day islanders, are unclear. In this talk I will discuss how we used paleogenomics to trace ancient migrations to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and to examine the genetic relationship between pre-contact communities and present-day Puerto Ricans. I will outline our main findings and discuss their importance for understanding the pre-contact history of the Caribbean, as well as Indigenous Caribbean responses to European
colonization. In addition to its anthropological importance, documenting the genetic diversity of populations that contributed to present-day Caribbean ancestry is also relevant for guiding efforts to identify medically or functionally relevant genetic variation among present-day islanders, and for reducing the current underrepresentation of diverse populations in genomics.