DNA Research Reveals Uros People of Peru and Bolivia to Have Distinctive Genetic Ancestries

Have questions about the research? Ask Genographic Project Director Spencer Wells directly on Friday, September 13 during a live Twitter chat! To join follow Spencer Wells at @spwells and make sure to tweet your questions with #NatGeoLive. Be sure to follow @Genographic too!

Sections of the following text are taken from the official National Geographic press release.

Ancestry may date to Altiplano’s initial settlement

New genetic research led by the Genographic Project team shows a distinctive ancestry for the Uros populations of Peru and Bolivia that predates the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and may date back to the earliest settlement of the Altiplano of the central Andes some 3,700 years ago.

Despite the fact that the Uros today share many lineages with the surrounding Andean populations, they have maintained their own divergent genetic ancestry.

“The timing of human settlement in the Andean Altiplano is one of the great mysteries of our species’ worldwide odyssey — a vast, high-altitude plain that seems utterly inhospitable, yet it has apparently nurtured a complex culture for millennia,” said Spencer Wells, Genographic Project director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.

This significant new study reflects the importance of the Genographic team’s careful, patient work with the members of the indigenous communities living in this remote corner of the mountainous South American terrain, and sheds light on how our species has adapted to disparate ecosystems since its relatively recent exodus from an African homeland less than 70,000 years ago.”

Who are the Uros?

The Uros are a self-identified ethnic group, about 2,000 of whom live in Peru, many of them on artificial floating islands on Lake Titicaca. Another 2,600 individuals live beside lakes and rivers of Bolivia.

According to some anthropologists, the Uros are descendants of the first settlers of the Altiplano — the Andean plateau — yet their origin has been subjected to considerable academic debate. Those from Peru have long claimed to descend from the ancient Urus (Uruquilla speakers), using their differentiated ethnic identity to assert rights and prerogatives for their use of Titicaca’s natural resources.

The Uros have historically been the target of discrimination by the pre-Inca, Inca and the Spanish, and this continues today. Some people have alleged that the Uros disappeared a long time ago and that the new islanders have conjured up an ancient heritage in order to attract tourists and receive special recognition and rights.

Unveiling an ancient connection through DNA

Representatives of the Genographic Project, which uses advanced, multi-locus DNA analyses to help answer fundamental questions about human origins, collaborated with 388 indigenous people from Peru and Bolivia, including Peru’s Los Uros community and Bolivia’s Uru-Chipaya and Uru-Poopó communities, swabbing their cheeks to collect DNA samples.

Researchers then analyzed Y-chromosome and mitochondrial-DNA data to infer genetic relationships among the Uros and their neighboring populations. The project leaders compared the Uros’ haplotype (genetic lineages) profiles with those of eight Aymara-, nine Quechua- and two Arawak-speaking populations from the western region of South America.


To learn more about the Uros people and their genetic ancestry, check out The Genetic History of Indigenous Populations of the Peruvian and Bolivian Altiplano: The Legacy of the Uros

  • Herminio Flores, PhD

    I would be interested in the results of the comparison between the Uros and the Arawak populations. The Arawaks were the ancestors of the native Americans (the Tainos) of Puerto Rico and other native Americans of the Caribbean region. Could Spencer Wells answer this question?

  • Nelson Akpese

    The Origination of Man is not from Homo Sapiens or so or to be tested with DNA.
    Human Beings originated from GHOSTS as in the Bible or Biblical Days or Times when SONS OF GOD OR GODS CAME. After creation of Adam and Eve then Sons of gods or so came and born the rest to Generate. That is how generation come. But with present generation which is not in the Bible of Biblical times, you are Scientific so cannot do anything with gods or God or Jesus to go with you so you alone with your Ghosts or before genereate to Birth. So your Ghosts or before generate rather came to born some to generate you generation. They can still do it. Even for Biblical people they can do it witheir gods or so

  • Nelson Akpese

    It is not good or correct story.

  • Jerry Matney

    I am 1/16 or 1/32 Cherokee Indian per my paternal grandfather. Will this DNA study reveal my American Indian ancestry? If so, what degree of Indian blood?

  • Bob Bennett

    The buildings in the above photo appear to be crisp and new compared with the photos I took on La Isla de Uros some 30 years ago.

  • Nikkolo Shakur

    Nelson Akpese , I was trying to follow you, But I love God and a Study the bible.They can both be right.DNA does not lie.You would know this if you study more or for you a lot more.I study both science and religion.You are just going off of your faith BUT YOU MAKE NO SENESE……YOU DONT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT..THIS IS TRUE AND CORRECT AND WE ARE STILL LEARNING MORE….YOU PEOPLE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT IS WHY THEY DO RESEARCH TO ADVANCE…BUT SOME PEOPLE JUST DONT HAVE NO CLUE OF RELIGION OR SCIENCE….YOU SHOULD REALLY START ALL OVER ..YOUR CONFUSED

  • Lucy Benally

    Are there any Navajos, (Dine) participating in the research?
    I understand Navajos are fairly newcomers to the southwest.

  • Kaspar Schmidt

    it would be great if the article mentioned what Haplogroup Uros belong to since a vast majority of “Amerindians” belong to Haplogroup Q-M242 and R1b.

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