Prehistoric mitochondrial DNA of domesticate animals supports a 13th century exodus from the northern US southwest.
Published Web Locationhttp://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0178882
The 13th century Puebloan depopulation of the Four Corners region of the US Southwest is an iconic episode in world prehistory. Studies of its causes, as well as its consequences, have a bearing not only on archaeological method and theory, but also social responses to climate change, the sociology of social movements, and contemporary patterns of cultural diversity. Previous research has debated the demographic scale, destinations, and impacts of Four Corners migrants. Much of this uncertainty stems from the substantial differences in material culture between the Four Corners vs. hypothesized destination areas. Comparable biological evidence has been difficult to obtain due to the complete departure of farmers from the Four Corners in the 13th century CE and restrictions on sampling human remains. As an alternative, patterns of genetic variation among domesticated species were used to address the role of migration in this collapse. We collected mitochondrial haplotypic data from dog (Canis lupus familiaris) and turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) remains from archaeological sites in the most densely-populated portion of the Four Corners region, and the most commonly proposed destination area for that population under migration scenarios. Results are consistent with a large-scale migration of humans, accompanied by their domestic turkeys, during the 13th century CE. These results support scenarios that suggest contemporary Pueblo peoples of the Northern Rio Grande are biological and cultural descendants of Four Corners populations.