One broad group of these Palaeoamericans — the Botocudo people, who lived in inland regions of southeastern Brazil — stands out, having skull shapes that were intermediate between those of other Palaeoamericans and a presumed ancestral population in eastern Asia.
Now, a genetic analysis sheds light on the possible heritage of the Botocudo. Pena and his colleagues studied short stretches of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in samples drilled from teeth in 14 Botocudo skulls kept in a museum collection in Rio de Janeiro. By analysing material from inside the teeth, the team minimized the possibility of contamination with DNA from the numerous people who have probably handled the skulls since they arrived at the museum in the late 1800s.
Story: Sid Perkins, Nature | Photo: Wikimedia Commons