|Peter Wilhelm Lund (1801-1880)|
Danish National Library (public domain)
The skeletons were shipped to Copenhagen and examined there by several distinguished anthropologists (Lund never returned to Denmark). The consensus that arose was that "Lagoa Santa Man" was unrelated to present-day Native Americans.
|Springer 2017: ISBN 978-3-319-57465-3|
Comparisons have been drawn between the features of the Lagoa Santa skulls and those of Australasian peoples such as Andaman Islanders. What can genomics tell us? A first set of clues hinted at an early wave of migrants designated "Population Y" who left a genetic signature that is strongest in some isolated Brazilian communities (see my review of David Reich).
|Skull from Sumidouro Cave excavated by Peter Lund|
It seems the Lagoa Santa remains are just as perplexing to Willerslev as they were to Lund and for a similar reason: they do not neatly fit into the scheme of things.
The Willerslev paper is really worth reading. It builds on earlier work to confirm that Native Americans (other than Inuits) derived from a group that split from East Asians and resided in Beringia (Ancient Beringians). As they advanced into the Americas at the end of the Ice Age there was an early split into Northern (NNA) and Southern Native Americans (SNA). The SNA dispersed rapidly south of the remaining ice some 14,000 years ago. In a later phase there was admixture from a population in Mesoamerica that migrated both north and south. Another paper on ancient DNA from the Reich group also found evidence for rapid expansion into South America (here), but did not have Lagoa Santa in the data set.