10 Mysterious Human Populations

Mysterious populations challenge our notions of the world. Some remain shrouded in the shadows of time; others are enigmatic because of their isolation or unique origin stories. The more we learn, the more complex the story of man becomes.

10. Population Y

The Americas were the final frontier for human expansion. Most believe they were populated 15,000 years ago in one wave via the Bering land bridge. However, recent findings suggest a different story. Geneticists recently discovered DNA that closely resembles that of modern-day Australian Aboriginals and indigenous Papua New Guineans in the most unlikely of places: Amazonia. Experts have named this new founding group “Population Y.”

These colonizers did not arrive via boat. They came in a separate wave across the Bering Strait. Their unique genetic signatures were similar but not identical to modern Austronesians—suggesting Population Y intermingled with an ancient Asian lineage before crossing.

In 2003, Brazilian scientists were shocked to discover Polynesian DNA in the bones of the extinct Botocudo tribe. However, the Botocudo anomalies are different from the recently discovered ones. The populating of the Americas was far more interesting and diverse than previously imagined.

9. Ramapough Mountain People

30 miles outside New York City, in New Jersey’s Appalachians, exists a mysterious population known as the Ramapough Mountain People. Some describe them as inbred gypsies. Others insist they are albinos sired by a circus sideshow performer. As late as 2015, people still claimed the “Jackson Whites” were an inbred lot of renegade Indians, escaped slaves, Hessian mercenaries, and West Indian prostitutes. The reality is they are the Ramapough Lenape Indians.

Many Ramapough Lenape share surnames like De Groot, De Freiss, Van der Donk, and Mann. Composed of Afro-Dutch runaway slaves and the Lenape Indians, some took their names of their masters. Others adopted the names of prominent New Yorkers to hide their ancestry. They face discrimination from all sides because they do not meet Native American stereotypes. In 1993, Donald Trump claimed “they don’t look like Indians to me.” The Ramapough Lenape even had trouble being accepted by other natives.

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