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Doctoral Dissertation Improvement: Mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome diversity among prehistoric Native Americans from the Ohio and Illinois Valleys

This study will help document the prehistory of Native American populations that lived in the Ohio River Valley by characterizing genetic relationships among the Archaic population of Indian Knoll, responsible for leaving large shell middens, like those found throughout the eastern United States, in Ohio County, Kentucky between 6000 and 4500 years ago, two Adena populations that built earth burial mounds in Boone and Montgomery counties, Kentucky between 2500 and 1800 years ago, and a Hopewell population that lived in Calhoun County, Illinois between 2100 and 1600 years ago. Although the archaeological traditions of these populations have been well described, little is known about their relationships with each other or to modern populations living in eastern North America during historic times. Were the populations who built Adena burial mounds in different counties of western Kentucky related to each other? Were the Hopewell populations of Ohio and Illinois, both of whom developed similar elaborate burial practices and artistic traditions, genetically related to each other? Were the Adena populations genetically related to the Hopewell populations who succeeded them in some areas of the Ohio Valley or, alternatively, were either more closely related to other adjacent populations of eastern North America? Were the Adena and/or Hopewell populations genetically related to the Archaic populations that preceded them or the Late Woodland Mississippian populations (or, in fact, living populations) that succeeded them in eastern North America? Archaeological, ethnohistorical and historical linguistic evidence has been cited in favor of various hypotheses proposing either invasions of populations into this region from adjacent regions or, alternatively, genetic continuity in the region during the last 6000 years, but no consensus has emerged.<br/> Recent technological advances have made it possible to extract and study small quantities of DNA from prehistoric human remains and thus directly investigate genetic relationships among ancient and modern populations. DNA will be extracted from skeletal remains from four different prehistoric cemetery sites and both mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome traits known to be highly polymorphic in Native American populations will identified using restriction analysis and nucleotide sequencing. Genetic comparisons among these samples, published data on other prehistoric populations of eastern North America and modern populations will be made using sophisticated multivariate phylogenetic methods and computer programs. Populations to be compared in addition to those cited above include those from Glacial Kame and Red Ochre sites in the Lower Great Lakes region, other Hopewell populations in different geographic locations, later Mississippian populations that replaced populations throughout eastern North America during Late Woodland times. These comparisons will determine whether or not cultural traditions that were shared among groups that lived in different geographic areas represents admixture or, alternatively, cultural diffusion and whether or not the succession of populations in the Ohio Valley represents a continuous genetic continuity or, alternative, the replacement of indigenous populations by invading immigrants. The combination of genetic evidence with evidence from genetic, archaeological, ethnohistorical and historical linguistic research will allow more reliable inferences to be made about the prehistory of the Ohio Valley.

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