Mitochondrial DNA from pre-Columbian Ciboneys from Cuba and the prehistoric colonization of the Caribbean



To assess the genetic affinities of extinct Ciboneys (also called Guanajuatabeys) from Cuba, 47 pre-Columbian skeletal samples belonging to this group were analyzed using ancient DNA techniques. At the time of European contact, the center and east of Cuba were occupied by agriculturalist Taino groups, while the west was mainly inhabited by Ciboneys, hunter-gatherers who have traditionally been considered a relic population descending from the initial colonization of the Caribbean. The mtDNA hypervariable region I (HVR-I) and haplogroup-specific markers were amplified and sequenced in 15 specimens using overlapping fragments; amplification from second extractions from the same sample, independent replication in different laboratories, and cloning of some PCR products support the authenticity of the sequences. Three of the five major mtDNA Amerindian lineages (A, C, and D) are present in the sample analyzed, in frequencies of 0.07, 0.60, and 0.33, respectively. Different phylogenetic analyses seem to suggest that the Caribbean most likely was populated from South America, although the data are still inconclusive, and Central American influences cannot be discarded. Our hypothesis is that the colonization of the Caribbean mainly took place in successive migration movements that emanated from the same area in South America, around the Lower Orinoco Valley: the first wave consisted of hunter-gatherer groups (ancestors of the Ciboneys), a subsequent wave of agriculturalists (ancestors of the Tainos), and a latter one of nomadic Carib warriors. However, further genetic studies are needed to confirm this scenario. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.