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In the Past

The field of paleogenomics has allow researchers to glimpse backward in time to see how human populations have changed or moved over time, the New York Times Magazine reports. But it also wonders whether some studies are overlooking archaeologists' point of view.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of genomic studies drawing on ancient DNA that have changed the view of prehistory in Europe and Asia to something that more resembled the board game Risk to the TV show Game of Thrones, with a combination of population replacement and admixture occurring, the Times magazine says. But when researchers led by Harvard Medical School's David Reich turned their studies to Oceania, particularly Vanuatu, others in the field were less convinced about their finding that the first settlers there were of unmixed Asian descent and were later replaced by Papuans, the Times magazine says. It points out that various reviewers had issues with the manuscript, though Nature overrode their concerns and published it.

Instead, some archaeologists worried that paleogenomics was falling into old traps that had previously ensnared their field and that they are "making similarly grand claims on the basis of a small number of samples," according to the Times magazine.