Trinity College Dublin: Ancient DNA rewrites early Japanese history – modern day populations have tripartite genetic origin

Twelve newly sequenced ancient Japanese genomes show that modern day populations do indeed show the genetic signatures of early indigenous Jomon hunter-gatherer-fishers and immigrant Yayoi farmers – but also add a third genetic component that is linked to the Kofun peoples, whose culture spread in Japan between the 3rd and 7th centuries.

The eye-opening research has just been published in leading international journal Science Advances .

Rapid cultural transformations
The Japanese archipelago has been occupied by humans for at least 38,000 years but Japan underwent rapid transformations only in the last 3,000 years, first from foraging to wet-rice farming, and then to a technologically advanced imperial state.

The previous, long-standing hypothesis suggested that mainland Japanese populations derive dual-ancestry from the indigenous Jomon hunter-gatherer-fishers, who inhabited the Japanese archipelago from around 16,000 to 3,000 years ago, and later Yayoi farmers, who migrated from the Asian continent and lived in Japan from around 900 BC to 300 AD.

But the 12 newly sequenced ancient Japanese genomes – which came from the bones of people living in pre- and post-farming periods – also identify a later influx of East Asian ancestry during the imperial Kofun period, which lasted from around 300 to 700 AD and which saw the emergence of political centralisation in Japan.