In 1808 the Portuguese Crown declared “Just War” (Bellumiustum) against all Indian tribes that did not accept European laws (23). The fierce Botocudo were targeted in such wars and, in consequence, became virtually extinct by the end of the 19th century (24). Their importance for the history of the peopling of the Americas was revealed by studies reporting that the Botocudo had cranial features that consistently were described as intermediate between the polar Paleoamerican and Mongoloid morphologies (25, 26). Multivariate analyses of the cranial measures of different Amerindian and Paleoamerican groups from Brazil indeed concluded that the Botocudo Indians presented sufficient similarities with the Lagoa Santa Paleoamericans to be considered candidates to be their possible descendants (27).Possible explanations:
The first scenario, prehistoric, is related to the possibility of genetic continuity between the Paleoamericans from Lagoa Santa and Botocudo Indians (26, 27, 37), which indeed originally had motivated this study.
Another imaginable pre-Columbian scenario involves opportunities for more recent direct contact between Polynesia and South America before the European arrival. Such possibility of a direct movement from Oceania across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas was raised by Cann (43) on a discussion of the origin of the Amerindian B haplogroup. This finding prompted Bonatto et al. (44) to evaluate the likelihood of a Polynesian-Amerindian contact having occurred and conclude against it, although they could rule out neither minor contact events nor nonmaternal genetic exchange. New evidence from human and nonhuman material has become available since then. For example, there were archeological findings of Polynesian chicken bones in the Arauco Peninsula, in Chile (45) and evidence has been found in Easter Island of pre-Columbian presence of sweet potato and bottle gourd, both typical of South America (46, 47). Independent of the plausibility or implausibility of the pre-Columbian arrival of Polynesians to the South American Pacific coast, there still would remain the need to explain how these migrants crossed the Andes and ended up in Minas Gerais, Brazil. We feel that such a scenario is too unlikely to be seriously entertained.
The last scenario that we wish to assess is the possible arrival of Polynesian haplogroups to Brazil in modern times through the African slave trade from Madagascar, where 20% of the mtDNA lineages belong to the B4a1a1a haplogroup (29).
It may be of relevance that both Tianyuan (~40ka) and Boshan (~8ka) from China belong to mtDNA haplogroup B and that B belongs to the R (and N) clade of the mtDNA phylogeny, i.e., a different branch of Out-of-Africa than C (which belongs to M). I wager that interesting things were taking place in East Eurasia and the New World until fairly recent times, and hopefully ancient DNA will help us complete the picture.
PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1217905110
Identification of Polynesian mtDNA haplogroups in remains of Botocudo Amerindians from Brazil
Vanessa Faria Gonçalves et al.
There is a consensus that modern humans arrived in the Americas 15,000–20,000 y ago during the Late Pleistocene, most probably from northeast Asia through Beringia. However, there is still debate about the time of entry and number of migratory waves, including apparent inconsistencies between genetic and morphological data on Paleoamericans. Here we report the identification of mitochondrial sequences belonging to haplogroups characteristic of Polynesians in DNA extracted from ancient skulls of the now extinct Botocudo Indians from Brazil. The identification of these two Polynesian haplogroups was confirmed in independent replications in Brazil and Denmark, ensuring reliability of the data. Parallel analysis of 12 other Botocudo individuals yielded only the well-known Amerindian mtDNA haplogroup C1. Potential scenarios to try to help understand these results are presented and discussed. The findings of this study may be relevant for the understanding of the pre-Columbian and/or post-Columbian peopling of the Americas.