Native Americans traveling by boat

By Land or Sea? The Heated Debate on the Peopling of the Americas Continues…

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Researchers should always be ready for the next big discovery, they never know where it may come from. Having an open mind and questioning peculiar finds is what sets things in motion. Take for example the increasingly common perspective that the first people in the Americas came by boat. For one researcher, it all started with a bathroom break and an unlikely discovery on Cedros Island in Mexico.

According to the magazine Science, Matthew Des Lauriers was a graduate student at the University of California in 2004 when he came across some stone tools and shells that didn’t fit in with the other artifacts scattered about the landscape of the mountainous island believed to have been inhabited for the past 1500 years. Scooping up some shells and charcoal, he sent a sample of the out of place items for radiocarbon dating – and it came back with an unexpected date - from 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.

Matthew Des Lauriers turns a beach cobble into a stone tool like one used by people who lived on Cedros Island nearly 13,000 years ago

Matthew Des Lauriers turns a beach cobble into a stone tool like one used by people who lived on Cedros Island nearly 13,000 years ago. ( Lizzie Wade )

While it used to be common thought that the first travelers into the Americas crossed over the Bering Strait on foot, more and more studies are questioning that idea. The emerging view now suggests that ancient maritime travelers set out from Beringia about 16,000 years ago, and within just 1500 years their followers had ended up all the way down the Pacific coast to modern day Chile.

Although the discoveries Des Lauriers and others have made in the recent past show that people were already settled along the coast soon after the (mostly) agreed upon date for the first peopling of the Americas, they are not believed to have provided enough proof for the trip beginning by boat –critics, such as David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University, say it simply suggests boats were used after crossing the land bridge.

The Beringia Land Bridge. Did the earliest people entering the Americas trek this or pass by it in their boats?

The Beringia Land Bridge. Did the earliest people entering the Americas trek this or pass by it in their boats? ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

Where could that cold, hard proof (possibly) be found? Along the Alaskan and Canadian coast. As David Meltzer has said , "All eyes are on the coast." So now researchers are searching for evidence along, and under, the waters at ‘the gateway to the Americas.’

The belief in big game hunters and Clovis-first that were so prominent are now falling by the wayside as recent discoveries and improved dating techniques show time and again that the old picture doesn’t quite fit with the new information.

For example, a recent analysis of human skulls provides evidence that the Americas were not just populated by one wave of migration – in fact, researchers have said that it took several migrations of ancient Asians and possibly Australian or Polynesian people to populate the Americas thousands of years ago.

Even more surprising, research presented in April 2017 about an Ice Age site in San Diego, California proposes people were already in the Americas 130,000 years ago . The evidence for that extreme date comes from a trove of ancient bones that were apparently modified by early humans.

If that’s not enough, other researchers are continually pressing that the whole Bering Strait, people spreading down from North America belief is just not right. They sometimes present evidence in the form of unconventional dates for sites and artifacts or surprising inscriptions to support the belief that it may not have started up north.

Others say that the mainstream theory of how the Americas were populated is downright biologically unviable .

Rock paintings at Pedra Furada, Brazil.

Rock paintings at Pedra Furada, Brazil. ( CC BY SA 4.0 ) Many alternative researchers have looked to South America for the peopling of the Americas. Could it be true?

There are obviously still many missing pieces to this puzzle. The story of the first people in the Americas is always transforming and little by little we seem to be getting closer to the real story. While some ideas are certainly more controversial than others, that doesn’t mean researchers should take the easy route…our prehistoric ancestors almost certainly did not.

Top image: Native Americans traveling by boat ( public domain )

Comments

I think that it is reasonable to speculate that the peoples in the Americas arrived by SEVERAL different methods, from MANY different areas, and at SIMILAR and VARIOUS points in time. People think that because it was thousands of years ago, that people were not as intelligent and couldn't have possibly done this or that. Sorry for you, but I think we are dumber today. If I take away all the technology and support you have from "modern' society, I'm sure you'd be dead within a year. The pioneers of the ancient past would have looked at most of us a being simple minded button pushers, monotonously going through the motions of life so we can finally pointlessly die. Charles, when you try to proclaim there is only one truth about the ancient past, even denying the possibility of undiscovered information, then you look like a blind sheep trying to get other blind sheep to follow you. No one knows with certainty the exact manner in which people came to these continents, because IT WAS TOO LONG AGO. We can only make informed GUESSES based on evidence. Still guesses.

Plus, it is a pretty common held digital belief/practice/etiquette that capitalization in text infers either emphasis or shouting. When you use ALL caps in your text, the majority of people will understand that to be shouting. I'm sorry. Just a reality.

UNREASONABLE THINKER, IT IS QUITE REASONABLE TO THINK THAT PEOPLE ARRIVED IN AMERICA AT DIFFERENT TIMES FROM DIFFERENT PLACES.  MY POINT IS THAT THE MOST EARLIEST TIMES SUCH AS 13,000+ YEARS AGO PROVES WITHOUT A  DOUBT THAT NO ONE ARRIVED IN THE AMERICAS FROM EITHER EUROPE OR ASIA BECAUSE OF THE ICE AGE GLAZIERS, ICE SHEETS ETC THAT CLOGGED THE PACIFIC, AND THAT THE ONLY VIABLE ROUTE WOULD HAVE BEEN FROM AFRICA BY WAY OF THE ATLANTIC, WHICH HAS “GULF CURRENTS’ THAT LEADS DIRECTLY FROM AFRICA INTO BRAZIL IN SOUTH AMERICA..  MOVING RIGHT ALONG, ALL OF THE EARLIEST SKELETAL REMAINS HAS BEEN PROVEN TO BE THOSE OF NEGROID PEOPLE AND NOT ASIAN MONGOLOID, SUCH AS ‘LUZIA” AND “NAIA” ACCORDING TO WORLD RENOWN SCIENTISTS SUCH AS DR. WALTER NIEVES AND MANY OTHERS.   ALSO, THERE ARE NO DOUBT OLMEC NEGROID FACIAL STATUES AND OTHER ARTIFACTS HOUSED ON DISPLAY IN MEXICO TO PROVE THOSE MANY FACTS ETC.  AS FAR AS “CAPS” INDICATE SHOUTING, WELL AGAIN, THAT IS YOUR ASSUMPTION, AS WELL AS YOUR WHITE BUDDY’S, BUT I DON’T AGREE WITH YOUR OPINION IN THAT MATTER.   I NEVER SHOUT ON A COMPUTER, INSTEAD, I TYPE IN CAPS IF I DESIRE, BECAUSE THIS IS MY COMPUTER, AND I TYPE IN CAPS IF I CHOOSE TO DO SO.    I RELY ON FACTS, AND NOT ‘FICTION” AND FAIRY TALES.  LATER 

Charles Bowles

Mr. Bowles, you continue to assert things that no one can know for certain at this time. What currents existed during the ice-age? Given the prevailing cold on the planet, it is perhaps reasonable to assume the warm currents that exist today did not exist during that time. The mighty Gulf Stream of today, for example, is a warm current. Whence the warmth when so much of the earth was covered in ice? Did the Atlantic Current even exist at the time? Both serve to warm Europe today. Additionally, your referenced NAIA was determined to have Asiatic DNA, not African. Here is an article about her: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dna-12000-year-old-skeleton... As for LUZIA my research shows her to be hard to classify and she does show some negroid characteristics, but she is but one example and as such cannot prove your assertion as to Africans being the first to populate America. Many people believe what they want to believe and no amount of facts will dispel their certainty. You seem to fall into that category. Unlike you I am a skeptic and very open minded about most things. That includes the possibility that peoples from perhaps Africa or Australia or from places presently unknowable were first to populate the Americas. At the moment certainty of that does not exist except in the minds of those who fervently wish it to be so.

ARGYRASPIDE,  NONE OF THE ANCIENT BLACK PEOPLE WITH 100% NEGROID PHENOTYPE ARE HARD TO DEFINE, NEITHER ARE THE ANCIENT OLMEC’S IN MESOAMERICA..    DNA DOES NOT DEFINE RACE, AND YES THERE WERE ANCIENT BLACK ASIANS ACCORDING TO CHINESE SCIENTISTS WHO REPORTS THAT 2/3 OF THE SKELETAL REMAINS DUG UP IN SOUTHERN CHINA ARE THOSE OF NEGROID PEOPLE.  IT HAS NEEN REPORTED THAT THE FIRST TWO CHINESE DYNASTY’S WHICH WERE THE SHIA AND SHANG WERE UNDOUBTEDLY OF NEGROID RACIAL ANCESTRY, SO GO ARGUE WITH THE CHINESE SCIENTISTS.    ALSO, YOU CAN ARGUE WITH THE MEXICAN ANTHROPOLOGISTS/ARCHAEOLOGISTS WHO NAMED THE OLMEC SCULPTURE ON DISPLAY IN THE NATIONAL MUSEUM IN TUXTECA, MEXICO “EL NEGRO” BECAUSE OF ITS CARVED NEGROID PHENOTYPE, AS WELL AS WOOLLY AFRO HAIR.  TO ARGUE ABOUT THESE FACTS SHOWS ME THAT THESE FACTS ARE BEING DISCARDED IN YOUR MENTAL CONCEPTION…..LATER

Charles Bowles

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