Using Ancient mtDNA to Reconstruct the Population History of Northeastern North America

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008 Sep;137(1):14-29. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20835.


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was extracted and analyzed from the skeletal remains of 44 individuals, representing four prehistoric populations, and compared to that from two other prehistoric and several contemporary Native American populations to investigate biological relationships and demographic history in northeastern North America. The mtDNA haplogroup frequencies of ancient human remains from the Morse (Red Ocher tradition, 2,700 BP) and Orendorf (Mississippian tradition, 800 BP) sites from the Central Illinois River Valley, and the Great Western Park (Western Basin tradition, 800 BP) and Glacial Kame (2,900 BP) populations from southwestern Ontario, change over time while maintaining a regional continuity between localities. Haplotype patterns suggest that some ancestors of present day Native Americans in northeastern North America have been in that region for at least 3,000 years but have experienced extensive gene flow throughout time, resulting, at least in part, from a demic expansion of ancestors of modern Algonquian-speaking people. However, genetic drift has also been a significant force, and together with a major population crash after European contact, has altered haplogroup frequencies and caused the loss of many haplotypes.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data
  • Emigration and Immigration / trends
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Drift*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Haplotypes*
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / genetics*
  • North America
  • Paleontology


  • DNA, Mitochondrial