All  
Native Americans traveling by boat

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

Print

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 )

By Alicia McDermott

Comments

I think the least likely option is that they all came entirely by either land or sea, more likely they used both routes.

DEBRA YOUNG,  WELL I HAVE NEVER TRIED TO PLACE AFRICANS EVERYWHERE, SINCE IT WAS THE AFRICANS WHO EXPLORED THE WHOLE WORLD AND PLACED THEMSELVES IN MANY LOCATIONS OF THE EARTH.   AFRICANS WERE THE FIRST PEOPLE ON EARTH TO BUILD CIVILIZATIONS NOT ONLY IN THE AMERICAS, BUT ALSO IN ASIAN, EUROPEAN, PACIFIC ISLANDS, AS WELL AS AUSTRALIA…...I ASSUME THAT YOU HAVE HEARD OF THE ORIGINAL BLACK ABORIGINES IN AUSTRALIA, BLACK ATE’S IN THE PHILIPPINES, BLACK MANI’S IN THAILAND, BLACK ORIGINAL PEOPLE OF MELANESIAN ISLANDS SUCH AS PAPUA NEW GUINEA, AS WELL AS THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE OF THE ANDAMAN/NICOBAR ISLANDS, THE BLACK ORANG ASLI OF MALAYSIA ETC…...ALSO, THE MOTHER CULTURE OF MEXICO WAS FOUNDED BY THE ANCIENT BLACK OLMEC’S.  ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD DENY THESE FACTS, OR SHOULD I BE MORE SPECIFIC AND SAY  ANTI-BLACK RACIST WHO LIKE DISCREDITING BLACK PEOPLE FOR ALL OF THEIR EARTHLY CONTRIBUTIONS TO HUMANKIND..PLEASE GROW YOUR INTELLIGENCE AND ACCEPT THE TRUTH, BECAUSE IT WILL NOT POISON YOU…...

Charles Bowles

Mr. Bowles, went di people like you feel the need to try and place Africans everywhere. I,as white and Native American take offence to this. Myself and other family members have done DNA tests from different labs and one shows trace Asian ancestry, (0.01 %), none show any African ancestry.

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

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.

Pages

Next article