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Keywords:

  • genetics;
  • linguistics;
  • admixture;
  • demographic expansion;
  • agriculture

ABSTRACT

A recent study of mitochondrial DNA variation in Native American populations from the American Southwest detected signatures of a population expansion of subhaplogroup B2a, dated to 2,105 years before present (99.5% confidence interval, 1,273–3,773 YBP), following the introduction and intensification of maize agriculture in the region. Only one Yuman group and no Athapaskan speakers were analyzed in previous studies. Here we report mtDNA haplogroup and hypervariable region (HVR I, and II) sequence data from 263 extant Yuman speakers, representing the major branches of the Yuman language family, in addition to the Western Apache (Athapaskan) to further investigate the demographic context and geographic extent of this expansion. Data presented indicate that the expansion of B2a is only slightly older [2,410 YBP (99.5% CI: 1,458–4,320 YBP)] than previously estimated and not significantly. Despite large confidence intervals there are implications for the origin and expansion of the Yuman language family. Cultural transformations due to the inundation and draining of Lake Cahuilla may explain in part the frequencies of this lineage among the Kumeyaay and other Yuman and Takic groups in Southern California. This may have been the result of group fissions and fusions followed by migration and interaction that included expanded trade networks and intermarriage among Yuman speakers. In addition, a series of in-situ genetic bottlenecks is proposed to have occurred among the Western Apache leading to increasing homogeneity within haplogroup A, culminating in an admixture event with the Yavapai. Am J Phys Anthropol 150:618–631, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.