A genetic history of the pre-contact Caribbean
Daniel M. Fernandes,
Kendra A Sirak,
Brendan J Culleton,
Kellie Sara Duffett Carlson,
Ann Marie Lawson,
Kadir T Özdogan,
Carlos Arredondo Antúnez,
Ercilio Vento Canosa,
Francesco La Pastina,
Marcio Veloz Maggiolo,
Clenis Tavarez Maria,
Carlos Garcia Sivoli,
Douglas J. Kennett,
William F Keegan,
Posted 01 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.01.126730
Posted 01 Jun 2020
Humans settled the Caribbean ~6,000 years ago, with intensified agriculture and ceramic use marking a shift from the Archaic Age to the Ceramic Age ~2,500 years ago. To shed new light on the history of Caribbean people, we report genome-wide data from 184 individuals predating European contact from The Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Curaçao, and northwestern Venezuela. A largely homogeneous ceramic-using population most likely originating in northeastern South America and related to present-day Arawak-speaking groups moved throughout the Caribbean at least 1,800 years ago, spreading ancestry that is still detected in parts of the region today. These people eventually almost entirely replaced Archaic-related lineages in Hispaniola but not in northwestern Cuba, where unadmixed Archaic-related ancestry persisted into the last millennium. We document high mobility and inter-island connectivity throughout the Ceramic Age as reflected in relatives buried ~75 kilometers apart in Hispaniola and low genetic differentiation across many Caribbean islands, albeit with subtle population structure distinguishing the Bahamian islands we studied from the rest of the Caribbean and from each other, and long-term population continuity in southeastern coastal Hispaniola differentiating this region from the rest of the island. Ceramic-associated people avoided close kin unions despite limited mate pools reflecting low effective population sizes (2Ne=1000-2000) even at sites on the large Caribbean islands. While census population sizes can be an order of magnitude larger than effective population sizes, pan-Caribbean population size estimates of hundreds of thousands are likely too large. Transitions in pottery styles show no evidence of being driven by waves of migration of new people from mainland South America; instead, they more likely reflect the spread of ideas and people within an interconnected Caribbean world. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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