Luzia woman

Luzia woman is an 11,500-year-old funny-looking skeleton found in a cave in Brazil. According to Wiki, “Her facial features include a narrow, oval cranium, projecting face and pronounced chin, strikingly dissimilar to most Native Americans and their indigenous Siberian forebears. Anthropologists have variously described Luzia’s features as resembling those of Negroids, Indigenous Australians, Melanesians and the Negritos of Southeast Asia. Walter Neves, an anthropologist at the University of São Paulo, suggests that Luzia’s features most strongly resemble those of Australian Aboriginal peoples.

There are a large number (81) of similar skeletons at this site, ranging from around 11,500 to 7,000 years old.

from the PNAS article: “The results obtained from all multivariate analyses confirm a close morphological affinity between SouthAmerican Paleoindians and extant Australo-Melanesians groups, supporting the hypothesis that two distinct biological populations could have colonized the New World in the Pleistocene/Holocene transition.”

This is right in the area where we find the pseudo-Andamanese, Australo-Melanesian genetic signal.

If those skeletons really do look like Australo-Melanesians, it’s not because they carry a 2% admixture. They would have to be mostly Australo-Melanesian. Which means that they got there first.

Since there are so many skeletons of this kind, there should a fair chance that at least one will have useable DNA, particularly since we’re getting better aDNA recovery.

I wonder if this isn’t already underway.

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68 Responses to Luzia woman

  1. Bob says:

    Luzia woman; Missippi man
    We get together every time we can
    The Rio Das Velhas can’t keep us apart
    There’s too much love in the Missippi heart
    Too much love in this Luzia heart

  2. JerryC says:

    DNA recovery would be politically difficult, no? Or is that not so much of an issue in Brazil?

    • Yudi says:

      I don’t think it’s an issue anywhere except the US. Even Canada has provided more genetic samples.

    • moscanarius says:

      Politically, not that difficult. Racial activist groups are more focused on blacks in Brazil, and not so invested in the “First Nations” mythology. That said, the burocracy to get access to what the government calls “National Genetic Patrimony/Heritage” is a pain. Getting the permit to sample those skeletons would definitely be troublesome, but mostly not due to specific opposition to the project.

  3. biz says:

    Again, how did they freaking get there?

    There are only three possibilities, all of which strain credulity:

    1) Across the Pacific, like the later Polynesians. But where is their trace on the Pacific Islands? And that’s a lot of sophisticated sailing for people whose cousins in the Andaman Islands can’t get to another Island you can see on the horizon.

    2) All the way up and down the Pacific coast via the kelp forest. All of that would be some distance out to sea now.

    3) Across Siberia and down via an ice-free corridor like Beringians were long assumed to have done. But where are their traces in Siberia and especially North America?

    It seems like #2 is the least bad option.

    • ziel says:

      Would it have been conceivable that a band could have floated (rafted) down from say the lower reaches of Tazmania or New Zealand, skirted along the Antarctic ice shelf harvesting fresh water, and ended up at Tierra del Fuego, and then from there migrate up the east coast to the warmer climes of Amazonia?

    • GAY_WEED_DAD_69 says:

      Regarding #1, the sea level was lower in those days. There were probably a bunch more little islands in the Pacific, which would have made it a bit easier to get around.

      • GAY_WEED_DAD_69 says:

        If they left remains, they’re underwater now, or if the island is still around, possibly destroyed by tsunami inundation.

        • biz says:

          But presumably they would have also stopped on the presently-existing Islands, which would have been even bigger and juicier back then. Where are their remains there? And why did they die out there?

          • GAY_WEED_DAD_69 says:

            Possibly they only lived near the coast and didn’t go up into the mountains often. But yes, that is a problem for the theory.

        • Rodep says:

          Picture this: they sail a third of the way across the Pacific, to a nice, cozy atoll to settle. The Ice Age is ending, so soon sea levels begin to rise. In panic, they sail east. Landfall or Bust. They find a new, cozier island home. Sea levels continue to rise. They sail east again. Repeat process until they land in Peru. All intermediary islands are, necessarily, underwater, and with them, any possible falsifying evidence.


      • Jim says:

        Probably not that many more. There are two underwater summits west of Central America that come to within 378 feet and 66 feet of the present surface but I don’t think many others are know of which would be in the range of variation of sea level which I think would not be much more than 400 feet.

    • pyrrhus says:

      The “transported by aliens” theory has gained currency in certain quarters…

    • moscanarius says:

      I’m not very confident, but here’s a possibility:

      Maybe they crossed throught Beringia before the Clovis-like people did. Perhaps not much before, just early enough to avoid getting stuck in Beringia when the glaciation maximum arrived around 26000ya.

      It seems that this Andamanese-like population was much more widespread back in the stone age, before it was pushed around by other Asian groups, often with minimal intermixing (IIRC, Andamanese-like DNA is rare even in populations that are currently living close to them). Maybe they were once living in Northeastern Asia and already being pushed to the edges of the continent by the ancestors of current Amerindians. They managed to cross earlier, while their chasers took longer and got trapped in Beringia. After that, the Andamese disappeared from Asia due to colder weather and war with modern asian populations, while survived in America with a low populational density. Then the climate got warmer, and the evils of Gog and Magog were unleashed upon them.

    • DD'eDeN says:

      As I’ve stated elsewhere, bark-canoes (later log dugouts canoes) were invented in Papua (from Sago palm processing), logically some went north along coastal Asia following the coastal current. Beringia BLOCKED the north-south arctic cold currents (like those we currently have), so the Kuroshio-California warm currents (North Pacific swirling gyre) propelled Luzia et al’s ancestors eastwardly along Beringia’s southern coast onward to Alaska, California, Honduras to the equator where they met the northward Antarctic current and stopped. The next immigrants were Beringian landlubbers who started earlier but arrived later, who begot the AmerIndians & Na Dene etc.

      • gcochran9 says:

        ” bark-canoes (later log dugouts canoes) were invented in Papua (from Sago palm processing),” – You know no such thing.

        • DD'eDeN says:

          My claim apparently passes genetic, architectural, linguistic, technological, migratory-least-cost-most-efficient voyage, testing as far as I can see. The original adze, the original flour pancake-flatbread, the oldest non-coracle boat, the “kelp highway” (not initially used by the Beringian landlubbers with their old-school wicker & yakskin kudru/ buffalo bull-boat coracles cf. Tibet & N. Dakota Mandan (between the 2 glacial massifs)). The evidence is there, my interpretation is logical, though of course “speculative” at this time.

      • caradoc says:

        There is a Papuan admixture edge in the Philippine negritos and evidence of very early Melanesian vegeculture there, so soemeone was going north out of Sahul. But there are no traces of Australoid-ish populations in North America or northern Asia, to link into this. The most northward evidence I could find is a photograph of a tzotzil, originally from, who resembled the Olmec stone heads on the one hand and Luzia on the other. The Pericues were racial outliers, but OTOH not very Andamanese-like.

    • another fred says:

      Not just the kelp forest, but following migratory prey such as seals or walruses along the margins of the ice in summer.

    • Rodep says:

      The DNA in question is found in Brazil, so it seems more likely that they came from eastwards, unless they traveled all the way to Brazil without settling any of the lands behind them. I guess you could conceive of a scenario in which they entered North America but were driven south by advancing glaciers, but it seems far-fetched. You’d think they’d settle all of South America after being booted from the North. But if landfall had been in Brazil, it makes more sense that they would bum around there for so long.

      IIRC, the Andamanese/Negritos/etc. were a separate migration out of Africa from the modern inhabitants of Asia, and were outcompeted by the newcomers. Could the ancient Brazillians have been a similar group of African emigrants, which travelled West instead of East? Africa -> Brazil is the route New World monkeys took when they colonized the Americas, so we have precedent.

      Is the existing genetic evidence able to tell us when the split between these guys and the Andamanese happened? It would narrow down possibilities to know whether it was before or after the Andamanese left Africa.

      • DD'eDeN says:

        The NW monkeys & NW cavies most likely were in estivation (torpor) on their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean 23ma, perhaps in hollows within a single storm-toppled rainforest tree.

      • TWS says:

        They came down the now submerged coast and avoided the interiors big critters and freezing weather until South America. Then spread inward from there.

    • DataExplorer says:

      Just because these people were related to Andamanese, and looked similar mean they werent a little more intelligent and advanced. Also we are dealing with time scales of millennia. It could have been a gradual journey that lasted 3000 years, without any specific generation having traveled that far.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Connect the dots,. We know where they came from and we know where they ended up. It is incredible that they made it across the Pacific Ocean, but they did. Probably the simplest explanation is the right one. I would guess number 1. The Polynesians were incredible sailors and populated the many islands in the Pacific. But this was much earlier. I don’t think we will ever know how they made this journey, but they did. Making the trip straight across seems far more likely to me than taking a roundabout trip where they could have stopped at multiple places but didn’t. Westerly winds, a very very well stock piled raft or rafts, and lots of luck, is my best guess. There was a lot of boating activity back where they came from. Obviously it was a death sentence for damn near every boat or raft blown out into that huge expanse but not for a few, apparently.

      It is important to note the number of skeletons found that have the features of Luzia, 81. One oddball skeleton and you can make the mistake made with Kennewick Man. But when you fine 81, that is pretty convincing.

      • caradoc says:

        There is also the continuity down to the Aimore or botocudos of southern Brazil. this wasn’t just some ancient, stone age thing… you can even join the dots to the macro-Gean languages in the area.

      • caradoc says:

        Had the andaman-oids hit Pacific islands there would have been 1) archaeological traces such as evdence of burning, and 2) some kind of ecological impact on native faunas. But there wasn’t either.

        • bbartlog says:

          Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. How hard have we looked for some of these things? That they never reached Hawaii, and never had the kind of wide-ranging colonization effort that the Polynesians did, seems clear – but even leaving aside the possibility of now-sunken islands and margins, I’m skeptical of the claim that our archaeology on all of these islands has been so thorough that we can declare with certainty that no pre-Polynesian population existed anywhere.

          • gcochran9 says:

            Almost every little island had its own flightless birds, in particular flightless rails. When people show up, they go extinct. Happened in the Azores, too.

            Those extinctions all seem to be recent.

          • caradoc says:

            There has been lots of discussion in the past about the earliest human settlements of Hawaiian Islands, Aoteoroa etc…to account for certain archaeological/cultural traits, oral traditions about earlier inhabitants or peopling etc. So its not an untouched question, but it was pretty much a fruitless enquiry.

      • Take a look at a globe, and measure the shortest great circle route from, say, northern Japan.

  4. Yudi says:

    I thought one of these aDNA teams tested morphologically unusual skulls and came up with nothing. Where did those skulls come from, and how are they different from Luzia woman and Co.?

  5. JRM says:

    The dataset has twenty-five different cranial measurements, but the authors did not compute cranial volume. Oh the disappointment…

  6. Jerome says:

    If you lose your money, pray to God you don’t lose your mind.
    And if you Luzia woman, please don’t fool with mine.

  7. Rosenmops says:

    Wait . . . why are they assuming her gender? Gender is just a social construct. Race too!

  8. moscanarius says:

    Walter Neves seems to be more focused on physical anthropology, and he does not list any projects related to aDNA extraction in his online curriculum (

    There are two younger guys, Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel ( and André Strauss, who made the news recently by supporting the two-wave model of immigration to America, but again based on morphological analysis. They said that “DNA from these ancient people is not available”. I don’t know if this means they tried to obtain it and failed or if it is still to be tried.

  9. Zimriel says:

    I have posted (link on my name) a response to this. First of all, that there is no Melanesian (I call it, “Sundalike”) population in Mesoamerica, a notorious linguistic residual-zone, tells me that no Sundalikes ever made it there. So the Pacific Rim route is out. They had to have got to Brasil by sea.

    I think that early Melanesians / Aboriginals were more primitive than Polynesians but more advanced than later Tasmanians and Sentinelese. They were able to cross the Sunda Strait and other bodies of water, but lacked good navigation.

    This also neatly explains why the Polynesians did not find Sundalikes in Easter Island or Hawaii or Fiji etc. If the Sundalikes went straight from the Solomon Islands and just kept pointing to sunrise, it is unlikely they would have hit one of those scattered islands by chance.

    I’m constraining their exit from Melanesia / Micronesia at 10000 BC and giving them five thousand years at peace in Amazonia, until the other South American Americans figured out how to live in the jungle too.

    • Zimriel says:

      I should self-correct: trans-Sunda, or Sahul-like. I got a little confused there.

    • dearieme says:

      But what sort of madmen points his canoe (and wife, and children) in one direction and batters on in hopes of bumping into a continent? Does he have a sail? If not how is he to beat the westward flowing current at his latitude?

      • Ursiform says:

        Maybe he believed the world was smaller and he could sail to Europe …

      • Zimriel says:

        Villagers who lose a war to kuru-infected cannibal zombies, that’s who. We’re talking Melanesia here.

      • caradoc says:

        Could it have been an accidental voyage with a smallcommunity on board? And ppl should remember the bottle gourds couldn’t survive the northern route into the New World.

  10. Thomas says:

    Evidence seems to be there were andamanese people in the americas. They are old, had a lot of time to get there. Only via beringia, certianly they did not sea-travel. Hunter-gatherer people may easily travel 20 miles a day, makes 2 years from south asia (admittedly including winter) to get to nice climates. Stopped where they were genetically and possibly culturally programmed to go, to tropical environments. Where is the riddle?

    • DataExplorer says:

      We dont know anything about these people except that they were distantly related to Austronesians. Yet a lot of people here are suggesting that they couldn’t possibly have done x,y, and z. How can we know what they were capable of?

    • biz says:

      They didn’t have a map and they didn’t know South was tropical.

      Hunter-gatherer people stay in an area if the hunting and gathering is good, and until it isn’t, and then they move on. It should have taken thousands of years to make that journey.

  11. j says:

    How did they Melanesians arrive to Brazil? Jared Diamond reported that these people can speak fifteen different languages, and are intelligent as anyone and much more in a jungle situation. May be we have to accept that we are below their cognitive level and shall never understand their ways.

    It is just a theory, valid till some other theory knocks it out.

  12. Why Such An Old Cite...? says:

    Greg, Mark Hubbe (author of your link) republished on this just last year, as you would well know from a mere cursory search, so why go back to your 2005 cite?:

    “Multidimensional scaling (MDS) plots of the craniometric distance matrices (Fig. 2) confirm the divergent cranial shape affinities of the Lagoa Santa Paleoamericans relative to other New World populations. In the case of the entire cranium (Fig. 2A), the Paleoamericans lie halfway between a cluster of populations from Africa, Australia, and the Andaman Islands and a cluster comprising New World and East Asian populations. Paleoamericans share affinity with Inuit populations on the second axis. A similar pattern is observed for the cranial vault (Fig. 2B).

    For the basicranium (Fig. 2C), the affinity between Paleoamericans and Inuit populations is most obvious with a clear separation from other New World and Asian populations on the first dimension. The affinity patterns for the face (Fig. 2D) are somewhat different, whereby the Paleoamericans are distinct from all New World and Asian populations on the second dimension.

    So about halfway between tropical pops and Mongoloid pops in a very general axis…. but with a special affinity to the Inuit as well…

    And so…

    The best-fit model consistently suggested by the cranium, vault, and basicranium data sets is one where Lagoa Santa Paleoamericans and New World populations share a MRCA in northeast Asia with a population that later gave rise to the populations that colonized the American arctic and Greenland. Moreover, the face data set suggests a more ancient common ancestral link between Paleoamericans and the ancestors of all East Asians and New World populations. This is not inconsistent with the results from the vault and basicranium but does suggest that Paleoamerican facial shape is more generalized and plesiomorphic than vault or basicranial shape.

    Their conclusion is, well…

    “Our results are also in accordance with the recent genomic link found between Amazonian populations and Australasians (35, 37). Skoglund et al. (35) suggest than an ancient Native American lineage, named “Population Y,” could have resulted from a highly substructured ancestral northeast Asian population that shared strong genetic affinities with the ancestors of modern Australasians. There is mounting genetic and morphological evidence for at least two major waves of dispersal into Asia from Africa, with Australomelanesians representing modern descendants of the earlier migration (52, 53). There is also genomic evidence that northeast Asia was continually occupied throughout the Last Glacial Maximum (~21 thousand years ago) (33). These spatiotemporal dynamics would have provided ample opportunity for population substructure to emerge within Siberia and Beringia and thus provide several distinct sources of Native American ancestry from the same geographic location through time. “

    (When the guy who authored the source of your original craniometric claim that the Lagoa Santa populations are very close to Australo-Melanesians retires it, perhaps it’s time for you to update yourself?)

  13. crew says:

    Strange that Wikipedia removed this facial reconstruction from their version of that page:

    I notice that Wikipedia also doesn’t let photos through for Infobox criminal templates. I wonder why.

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