New Study Offers Clues to Swift Arctic Extinction

Joshua A. Krisch, New York Times, August 28, 2014

Seven hundred years ago, the Dorset people disappeared from the Arctic. The last of the Paleo-Eskimos, the Dorset had dominated eastern Canada and Greenland for centuries, hunting seal and walrus through holes in the ice and practicing shamanistic rituals with ornate carvings and masks.

Then, they promptly ceased to exist. Modern archaeologists have scoured troves of Arctic artifacts, searching for clues to the Dorset’s sudden extinction. Did they assimilate when the Thule, ancestors of the modern Inuit, advanced from the Bering Strait with dog sleds, harpoons and large skin boats? Or did they die out, victims of either an unfortunate epidemic or a violent prehistoric genocide?

Now, scientists have begun to chip away at this and other mysteries of the New World Arctic. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers analyzed 169 ancient DNA samples to study the origins and migration patterns of early Arctic cultures. The results point to a single, genetically distinct Paleo-Eskimo population that thrived in isolation for more than 4,000 years, only to vanish in a matter of decades.


To learn more about the Paleo-Eskimos and their sudden disappearance from the historical record, researchers collected DNA fragments from ancient human remains across Greenland, Canada and Siberia. Their results suggest that the Paleo-Eskimos remained genetically isolated for thousands of years, and that the Dorset culture did not vanish through assimilation. Modern Inuits, then, are descendants of the Thule and not directly related to the Paleo-Eskimos.

“This is surprising, because every time people meet each other we find evidence of sex between the people,” said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at the Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen and an author of the study. “But here we have a unique situation, where even though we know they must have been in touch with their neighbors, they chose to live in isolation.”

If it was not assimilation, what happened to the Dorset? The study suggests that Paleo-Eskimos arrived in the New World in a single migration, rather than in waves, as previously thought. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA, which allows researchers to pinpoint matrilineal ancestry, suggests rampant inbreeding among the isolated Dorset people, a factor that may have weakened their population and ultimately contributed to their demise.

“Certainly they survived for almost 5,000 years, so they weren’t completely destroyed by inbreeding,” Dr. Willerslev said. “But it causes a number of medical problems, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that had an effect on them.”

Another possibility, Dr. Disotell explained, is that the Dorset braved generations of harsh tundra conditions only to succumb to the effects of climate change. In the Arctic, even minor shifts in temperature can devastate marine life, cutting off vital food sources. The archaeological record, in fact, suggests that several such events had nearly wiped out the Paleo-Eskimos before.


Although the study effectively ruled out the theory that Dorset DNA lives on in the modern Inuit, the mystery of the last Paleo-Eskimos remains unsolved. {snip}


The current data, however, tells a fascinating story unto itself. An ancient culture managed to survive in one of the most extreme environments on Earth, an uninterrupted bloodline that spanned thousands of years, only to disappear without a trace.

“This might be a good lesson for us today,” Dr. Disotell said. “Long-term stability still means you can disappear. After 4,300 years, bam, you’re gone in decades.”

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  • MekongDelta69

    Leave it to the New York Slimes to mess up anything they write:

    Seven hundred years ago, the Dorset people disappeared from the Arctic.”

    “Or did they die out, victims of either an unfortunate epidemic or a violent prehistoric genocide?”

    So, to the New York Slimes, ‘700 years ago’ is ‘prehistoric’?!

    Good job…

    • Rhialto

      To Liberals, time before 1945-1955 is prehistoric: pre-Liberal = prehistoric.

      • Paleoconn

        Anything prior to their own birthdate was backward, embarrassingly patriarchal, racist, slaving, bigoted, etc.

        They’re about as science-oriented as the cowardly scientists that Nick Wade blasts in his letter to the toiletpaper of record, for misquoting him and for disingenusously denying the existence of race and racial differences.

    • Zimriel

      Since the Inuit didn’t keep written records, history in that part of the world was first kept by the Greenland Norse. So yeah… prehistorical.

      • 700 years ago is 1300, that’s hardly prehistoric anywhere; its 300 years after the Norse settled Greenland and after any contact with the “New World.”

        Though, Rhialto may have it right in his comment.

    • John R

      True. Poor writing. The correct term would be pre-modern.

  • TruthBeTold

    Another possibility, Dr. Disotell explained, is that the Dorset braved generations of harsh tundra conditions only to succumb to the effects of climate change. In the Arctic, even minor shifts in temperature can devastate marine life, cutting off vital food sources. The archaeological record, in fact, suggests that several such events had nearly wiped out the Paleo-Eskimos before.

    I believe these articles are written to plant the idea that man-made Global Warming is going to devastate mankind unless we act.

    The idea of MMGW is inserted into many articles today without any evidence to back-up claims.

    Or did they die out, victims of either an unfortunate epidemic or a violent prehistoric genocide?

    Genocide? We can rule that out. Every indigenous culture loves each other. Wars and hate only came into being with the White mans’ racist ideology.

  • JohnEngelman

    Inbreeding reduces genetic diversity and makes it more likely that environmental changes will lead to extinction. Miscegenation increases genetic diversity, and makes a population more flexible. Miscegenation between Neanderthals and modern humans enabled the Cro Magnons to settle and survive in Europe during the last ice age. The modern humans had recently left Africa, and were unsuited to a frigid climate.

    • Zimriel

      Straw man. Keeping the genome within the race isn’t “inbreeding”.

      Also an own-goal. The Neanderthals survived for hundreds of thousands of years without the “benefits” of alien DNA – because they were well-adapted to a Eurasian climate.

      • Jack Burton

        “Genetic tests have shown that the Chillingham white cattle of Northumberland are genetically uniform. But while inbreeding is usually disastrous, the 49-strong herd is a rare example of inbreeding removing harmful traits from a small population.”

        http://www.telegraph. co. uk /news/uknews/1318359/Cattle-herd-shows-the-benefits-of-inbreeding.html

      • The Neanderthals are genetically still within non-Africans, to the tune of 1 to 4%, but as purebloods, they are extinct.

    • Augustus3709

      There is a proper balance. Extreme inbreeding within immediate families does indeed cause birth defects, but extreme outbreeding and miscegenation with foreign races causes dangerous medical compatibility issues and robs the individual of a racial identity and culture.

      • Jack Burton

        There is no genetic benefit to miscegenation, especially with lower races, it’s called outbreeding depression. Mongrel progeny are on average halfway between both castes in abilities, and also regress to the mean of the lower race.

        Modern North American whites are sufficiently heterozygous already.

    • rowingfool

      “Inbreeding reduces genetic diversity”. True. And this is the essential mechanism operating in natural selection and hence evolutionary advance. Only if a population inbreeds can an adaptive gene find root and provide a benefit to its bearers. If a population were completely open, without borders, then any gene which conferred some adaptive advantage to local conditions would disperse and not effect any change in the local population, hence it would be extinguished. Evolution would grind to a halt. A population perfectly adapted to its environment would share all possible advantageous genes and would be nearly homogeneous.

      To believe that open borders and miscegenation necessarily confers benefits presupposes an entirely human-controlled climate and environment, one in which no special traits would be advantageous to specific local conditions. Thus, entertaining the notion of open breeding unwittingly presumes an entirely tame, equilibrated, domesticated universe–a distinctly modern world view.

      It may be that this will be the wave of the future, one in which every city is covered with a dome as in Buckminster Fuller’s view, a “spaceship Earth” purged of any wildness or challenging environmental conditions, one in which economic and political conditions are universally alike. But this is not evolution as we know it, a natural process in a natural environment of unique adaptations to specific conditions.

      • wildfirexx

        Well spoken rowingfool…I enjoyed your concept!
        Personally, I believe modern white Europeans were the last positive step in the evolution of mankind, and that we possibly inherited some of our noble traits…like broad features, pale skin, hair and eyes from interbreeding with whomever..? Neanderthal ? maybe.. or even the far-fetched theory of the chariots of the Gods, although no DNA has ever surfaced of Alien origin as we know it!
        Other races have evolved as well, but at a much slower pace.
        Obviously, environment plays an important role in evolution, but so does self domestication…which Europeans practised first!
        An old experiment in Russia, shows that dogs evolved from foxes through selective breeding by weeding out the aggression.

        • JohnEngelman

          The Russians bred a tame breed of foxes that behave and look like small dogs. Nevertheless, dogs were bred from wolves.

          • Jack Burton

            Which came from controlled inbreeding, you feel real stupid now don’t you.

          • JohnEngelman

            The Russian scientists began with a large number of foxes. Every generation they bred from the most tame foxes.

            This worked because the large number they began with had a lot of genetic diversity. Over time they selected those with the most genes that promoted tameness.

            Miscegenation increases genetic diversity. It gives a population flexibility, and enables it to respond quickly to changes in the environment.

          • M.

            But for miscegenation to take place, there needs to be a period of isolation so that races form in the first place.

            And as you said, when there’s a large number of people/animals, there’s usually enough genetic diversity to go around.

            As for humans today, I don’t see what kind of changes in the environment would require anything 200 million white people don’t have to adapt to it, and black and Indian Hispanics do.

          • Jack Burton

            It worked because they were breeding those with similar docile traits from one generation to the next, increasing the expression of recessive traits, inbreeding. Other recessive traits also expressed themselves, such as lighter pigmentation.

            Repeating the same nonsense over and over doesn’t make it any more meaningful, shut up.

    • Jack Burton

      No it doesn’t, moron. It’s far more complicated than that. Miscegenation is not a positive, it’s called outbreeding depression.

      There is no evidence that mixing with Neanderthals was necessary for the survival of archaic Europeans. In general mixing with lower species is obviously NOT a good thing and is dysgenic.

  • “But here we have a unique situation, where even though we know they must have been in touch with their neighbors, they chose to live in isolation.”

    If their neighbors were ebonics speaking aspiring rappers, no wonder they would prefer isolation. Unfortunately, the modern white has little opportunity to isolate himself from his “neighbors.”

  • Zimriel

    Some maps on Wikipedia are telling me that the skraelings whom the Vikings met were Innu or (more likely) Beothuk. It’s good to know that what the “Dorset” weren’t, like Inuit… but who *were* the Dorset? Wikipedia is no real help here.

    There’s this folk legend from the Inuit: “soon the kayaker sent out his spear in good earnest, and killed him on the spot…When winter came, it was a general belief that the Kavdlunait would come and avenge the death of their countrymen”. At a guess, the “Kavdlunait” are Dorset (and not Norse).

  • IKUredux

    This is just the NYT’s way of explaining what will happen to Whites. You know, we just “disappeared”.

  • Small groups are quite fragile. Big groups are unwieldy.

  • wildfirexx

    It would be interesting to know if the Dorset people had lighter skin color than the more current Inuit, which have a somewhat dark complexion, which may suggest environmental factors in long term genetic exposure. (4000 years)

  • gregCall

    Do all comment have to wait for approval, or just replies to JohnEngelman?

    • gregCall

      I guess I see the answer here lol.

  • KevinPhillipsBong

    They were eaten.

  • KevinPhillipsBong

    Little-known fact: the last Kinison man died on April 10, 1992.

  • Jack Burton

    The inbreeding argument doesn’t hold up considering we’re all from a supposed small group of “Mitochondrial Eves.”

  • MikeofAges

    I think the idea is, these were people who lived under conditions of prehistoric man. Recently, I got on a website where the topic was the origins of bigfoot as a postulated species. Even though I have live on the West Coast for decades and in the Northwest for the last seven years, I have never seen one. Maybe because there aren’t any. Others have told me they have encountered the odor associated with bigfoot or heard the howls.

    In any case, I wrote that my theory is, if bigfoot exists, the species is a type of human being representing a collection of unusual human characteristic such as massive body size, copious body hair and unusual skeletal characteristics, notably an articulated foot.

    One buffoon started to hector me over the use of the word “theory”. True, in formal science, “theory” mean a proven idea, or at least a fully developed idea accepted as highly plausible explanation for some phenomenon, such as the theory of evolution.

    An as yet unproven, but possibly plausible idea, then is called a hypothesis. But I think it is acceptable in ordinary discussion to use terms like “theory” or “prehistoric” loosely.

    As of right now, this guy’s comments are still at the top when I look at my “replies” page. If you or anybody else would reply to me, that would at least start to kick this guy down the list. Even if you disagree.

  • none of your business

    The Rothschild banking family is descended from just 5 brothers and their wives some of whom were first cousins. The family has extremely inbreed for 200 years, not just first cousin but numerous blood uncles and nieces. I don’t think they have gone so far as half sibling. They are going strong and are very successful.

    Animal breeding is a fascinating study. Hard to believe the changes farmers can do to domestic animals after a few generations of breeding.

    I agree that this is just another global warming hoax. Somewhere on the net is a picture of 2 Times magazine covers. One is 1977, “The Coming Ice Age” Another is recent, global warming. I remember a book around 1980 “Nuclear Winter” Idea was that nuclear bomb testing would set off another Ice Age and survivors would go back to an Eskimo lifestyle.
    That was just commie front propaganda to convince Americans to stop nuclear bomb testing while Russia and China continued bomb testing.