The genocide of Native Americans is considered by many to be the worst of any in history—outstripping the later Jewish and Roma Holocaust by as much as an order of magnitude. Now a study of the maternal genes of skeletal and mummified remains of 92 South Americans dating from 8,600 to 500 years ago shows that all those lineages were wiped out. No living person descended from any the individuals tested is known to be living today.
It is unknown how many people lived in the Americas when Columbus and the other conquistadors arrived. Estimates range from 1 million to 100 million. One middling estimate puts the North American number alone at about 12 million people, who were reduced to 237,000 by 1900.
Of the 84 genetic lineages among the 92 South American remains, not one lineage survived contact with Europeans, a new study says.
“When Europeans arrived, some of those populations were wiped out completely,” Bastien Llamas, an author of the study who is a geneticist with the University of Adelaide, told Science .