Native American mtDNA prehistory in the American Southwest

Ripan S. Malhi, Holly M. Mortensen, Jason A. Eshleman, Brian M. Kemp, Joseph G. Lorenz, Frederika A. Kaestle, John R. Johnson, Clara Gorodezky, David Glenn Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the mtDNA diversity of the proposed descendants of the multiethnic Hohokam and Anasazi cultural traditions, as well as Uto-Aztecan and Southern-Athapaskan groups, to investigate hypothesized migrations associated with the Southwest region. The mtDNA haplogroups of 117 Native Americans from southwestern North America were determined. The hypervariable segment I (HVSI) portion of the control region of 53 of these individuals was sequenced, and the within-haplogroup diversity of 18 Native American populations from North, Central, and South America was analyzed. Within North America, populations in the West contain higher amounts of diversity than in other regions, probably due to a population expansion and high levels of gene flow among subpopulations in this region throughout prehistory. The distribution of haplogroups in the Southwest is structured more by archaeological tradition than by language. Yumans and Pimans exhibit substantially greater genetic diversity than the Jemez and Zuni, probably due to admixture and genetic isolation, respectively. We find no evidence of a movement of mtDNA lineages northward into the Southwest from Central Mexico, which, in combination with evidence from nuclear markers, suggests that the spread of Uto-Aztecan was facilitated by predominantly male migration. Southern Athapaskans probably experienced a bottleneck followed by extensive admixture during the migration to their current homeland in the Southwest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-124
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Admixture
  • Anasazi
  • Athapaskan
  • Haplotype
  • Hohokam
  • Migration
  • Uto-Aztecan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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