The absence in South American aboriginals of an Asian-specific marker, a 9-bp deletion between the genes for the second subunit of cytochrome oxidase II and lysine transfer RNA in region V, has been interpreted as a bottlenecking effect at the Isthmus of Panama during the peopling of the Americas. We screened mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) for this 9-bp tandem repeat and for polymorphisms in specific regions of the mtDNA in 2 ancient and 31 contemporary samples from South American aboriginals. We found additional (mtDNA) diversity in South American aboriginals in three ways. First, an Asian-specific marker not previously reported in South American aboriginals was identified by a sequencing analysis in both the contemporary Andean and Amazonian aboriginal peoples. Second, two new haplotypes so far unique to South American aboriginals were found. Additionally, we show that South American aboriginals fall into discrete populations. These results suggest that the prehistoric colonization of South America is the outcome of multiple migrations; the data do not support a bottlenecking effect at the Isthmus of Panama.