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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 )

By Alicia McDermott

Comments

Charles Bowles' comment is a near perfect example of some people wanting to believe something that agrees with their psychological needs versus those making sensible use of the often tedious method of eliminating the impossible and accepting what's left - improbable as it may be - as the truth, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes. Should negroid races have populated earliest America, then the Americas would be populated even today with a race of individuals with negroid characteristics. However, even a cursory look at living native-Americans and deceased native populations over millenia of early American history show all the characteristics of Asian-featured individuals, not negroid. Exceptions that are yet to be explained do pop up now and then, but that the Apache Geronimo in no way racially resembles Shaka the Zulu - other than being human, of course - cannot be reasonably answered by anyone who advocates beliefs like Mr. Bowles'. Additionally, one can only guess at what might have been the navigability of ice-age seas by humans in boats, yet Mr. Bowles claims absolute certainty about it. Lastly, Mr. Bowles' use of capitalization demonstrates a psychological urge to forcibly convert the heathen to his views on the subject. True-belief that does not admit even the possibility of error has caused much grief in this world, and especially when it undertakes a missionary zeal about it that allows no dissent. Such has no place in science whatsoever.

IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR BOAT TRAVEL FROM ASIA AND EUROPE 13,000 + YEARS AGO BECAUSE OF THE "ICE AGE” IN THE PACIFIC.  THE ONLY PASSAGE BY BOAT TO THE AMERICAS WOULD HAVE CAME FROM AFRICA THROUGH THE ATLANTIC.  ANCIENT AMERICANS SUCH AS NAIA AND LUZIA DEMONSTRATES WHO WERE THE ORIGINAL ARRIVALS TO THE AMERICAS.   ALSO, MORE THAN 17 GIANT NEGROID OLMEC STATUES CEMENTS THE DEAL IN MY BOOK, ALONG WITH THE OLMEC STATUE WHICH IS ON DISPLAY AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM IN TUXTECA, MEXICO, CARVED WITH A WOOLLY AFRO HAIRSTYLE AND GIVEN THE NAME "EL NEGRO" BY MEXICAN ANTHROPOLOGISTS/ARCHAEOLOGISTS..

Charles Bowles

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