You were probably told in school about how the first people reached North America over ten thousand years ago. This has been the prevailing theory since the s. There is DNA evidence to support that people did in fact cross the Beringa and may even have lived on it for thousands of years, following herds and making their way little by little. They hunted large game such as mammoths and bison down into the North American continent, spreading out from there. But did the first Americans really come this way?
Why Did Humans Migrate to the Americas?
East Asian Studies Notes: Siberian Origins of North America
A few weeks ago, scientists announced an intriguing finding about the ancestors of today's Native Americans. In reconstructing the ancient Beringian environment, the researchers provided a new clue that could help explain this discrepancy. Such an ecosystem, the authors argue, would have been an ideal place for humans to live. Now, more evidence for the idea comes from a seemingly unlikely source: languages still spoken in Asia and North America today.
Settlement of the Americas
The first settlement of the Americas began when Paleolithic hunter-gatherers first entered North America from the North Asian Mammoth steppe via the Beringia land bridge , which had formed between northeastern Siberia and western Alaska due to the lowering of sea level during the Last Glacial Maximum. These populations expanded south of the Laurentide Ice Sheet and rapidly throughout both North and South America , by 14, years ago. The peopling of the Americas is a long-standing open question, and while advances in archaeology , Pleistocene geology , physical anthropology , and DNA analysis have shed progressively more light on the subject, significant questions remain unresolved. The prevalent migration models outline different time frames for the Asian migration from the Bering Straits and subsequent dispersal of the founding population throughout the continent.
The Americas were the last well, second-to-last if you count Antarctica continents to be inhabited by early humans. Archaeologists estimate that people entered North America by crossing over the Bering Strait, which back then was a wide swath of land, about 15, years ago. In other words, people got here by walking a very long distance. Our image of this major migration is fanciful. When I teach about the peopling of the Americas, I show a slide of people purposefully trekking in a straight line on a tundra from Siberia to Alaska , as if there was some destination on the other side and the only way to get there was to follow the leader, one behind the other.