What is Indigenous Americas-Panama & Costa Rica DNA Ethnicity on Ancestry?

In this article we will be looking more closely at the Indigenous Americas Panama & Costa Rica DNA region. We will look at where it is and who the indigenous people of that region were. So to find out more about your DNA ancestors of this region read on.

History of Humans in the Americas

The Land Bridge:

Although there is no exact date for when humans first arrived in the Americas there are several prevailing theories. The most common one of course being the land bridge theory. During the last ice age between 19,000 – 8700 BC, sea levels were 100 feet below the modern-day levels. This was due to vast quantities of water being frozen in glacier form.

During that last ice age, the Bering sea as we know it today was actually a land bridge reaching all the way to Siberia. It is thought that around 14,000 years ago stone age hunters and gatherers followed game across this land bridge and became the first humans to settle within the Americas.

It is also believed that gradually these settlers then headed deeper into the Americas, traveling south in small groups. Due to the ongoing effects of the ice age these groups remained small because conditions were not conducive with large settlements or nomadic tribes.

Today's Indigenous peoples likely descend from a now-vanished ancient group known as the Paleo-Siberians. In DNA testing Indigenous Americas DNA has little in common with modern-day Siberians but in 2019 a 10,000 year old skeleton found in Siberia did show notable similarities to modern-day Native peoples in the Americas.

Traveling by Sea:

There exist several theories whereby early indigenous people of the Americas may have interacted and bred with oceanic explorers prior to the arrival of Columbus. In DNA tests taken of inhabitants of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), these people showed small sections of Native American DNA.

Easter Island is over 2000 miles away from the closest contact with the Americas which would be the coast of Chile. The DNA suggests that these Easter Islanders had a Native American Ancestor from around 1280 – 1495 A.D. It is therefore likely these seafaring Polynesians made the trip to the Americas and some may have stayed.

Recent archaeological evidence also indicates that Vikings were present in the United States around the 11th century A.D. It is reasonable to assume there would be a possibility that some may have settled and assimilated into local tribes.

Indigenous Americas Panama & Costa Rica Region

The Indigenous Americas Panama and Costa Rica region as the name suggests covers the small Central American region in which the countries of Panama and Costa Rica can be found. Costa Rica is the northernmost part of this region and the DNA associated with it also extends north into southern Nicaragua.

Panama as a country is not completely inside the DNA region unlike Costa Rica. The southeastern part of Panama does not exhibit quite the same concentrations of this indigenous DNA as the rest of the country. In fact the southeastern part of Panama is not included in any of the Indigenous Americas regions.

Indigenous Panama History

Around 3 million years ago what we know as Panama today was under the ocean. It was around that time that the land bridge we see today started from connecting North and South America. It essentially then became a highway for flora and fauna to cross over introducing previously unknown species to the respective once separate continents.

When humans arrived in North America they gradually made their way south and would have passed through Panama on the way to South America. Some will have stayed in the region and indications are that these peoples may have been among the first to develop pottery in the Americas.

Digs in Central Panama show indications of settled cultures dating back to 2500 – 1700 BC and these early peoples may have been the forebears of the later Chibchan, Chocoan and Cueva peoples who widely settled the region before Europeans arrived.

The Spanish

It was in 1501 that Rodrigo de Bastidas sailed from Venezuela in search of gold and began exploration of what is today Panama. A year later Columbus himself visited the region and established the first albeit short-lived European settlement in the region.

As the Spanish started to arrive in greater numbers the indigenous peoples of Panama took to the forests but not before European diseases for which they had no immunity decimated a huge portion of their population.

Indigenous History of Costa Rica

Like Panama, Costa Rica was a crossing point between North and South America so many of the indigenous peoples who arrived in South America would have done so via that region. Archaeological evidence indicates human presence between 10,000 – 7,000 years BC in the Turrialba Valley.

Evidence shows tools and arrowheads connected to the Clovis peoples and the peoples of South America indicating that two major cultures may have coexisted in the region at one time. There is evidence of basic farming in the area dating back 5,000 years and also pottery from the same time frame.

The Spanish

The arrival of the Spanish in the region known as Costa Rica very quickly depleted the local indigenous population. As with other indigenous groups European diseases made a huge impact but also the native population was largely assimilated into the Spanish.

In modern day Costa Rica only a few mountain tribes are left who hold on to some of the early traditions. These are the Bribri and the Boruca. They make their mountain homes near the border with Panama which likely means they have distant connections to the indigenous peoples of that nation.

How Did You Inherit Indigenous Americas Panama & Costa Rica Region DNA?

It is important to note that due to the small number of original humans that likely crossed the land bridge and thousands of years of isolation, Indigenous DNA is very distinct. Over thousands of years it has changed enough however to pinpoint populations with common DNA such as the Indigenous Americas Panama & Costa Rica region.

As mentioned many individuals from South and Central America may have some Indigenous DNA based on intermarriage between early Spanish settlers and the local native groups such as the Chibchan, Chocoan and Cueva peoples.

Depending on how high your percentage of Indigenous Americas Panama & Costa Rica DNA is, its origins can vary. If you have a high percentage you may have a recent ancestor who was almost 100% Indigenous. Often if this is the case you would likely have some idea of who this was.

In the case of lower percentages of Native DNA, it might be an indication of a more distant unknown indigenous ancestor. In order to discover this connection, you may have to do some deep research to try and pinpoint at what point that DNA entered your family tree.

Final Thoughts

The areas we know as Panama and Costa Rica today were underwater millions of years ago but as the ocean receded and it became a land bridge between North and South America it became a highway for plants, animals and eventually humans to cross between the two continents.

The Indigenous peoples who first settled the Panama and Costa Rica DNA region started to dabble in the first pottery found in the Americas and also made use of agriculture to develop their society and culture.

This region's native peoples were decimated by the arrival of the Spanish and those who survived mainly became part of the developing Spanish culture of the region. This is reflected in the high density of their DNA found in their modern day descendants in the region and beyond.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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