The First Americans

The kind of migration illustration that was in books showing the land bridge theory.

How did the first people arrive in the Americas? When I was in school the book showed some people in furs making their way out of the frozen tundra and across a land bridge from Siberia. The land bridge is gone, well, it is submerged. But those people made it over it at the end of the last ice age when the glaciers retreated and gave them a corridor to North America.

But were they the first? The Americas covers a lot of land. There’ is evidence in Chile of a human presence on that coast at least by 14-18,000 years ago. In Florida, researchers found evidence of a mastodon butchering site that’s about 14,550 years old.

But a new look at a theory from the 20th century that looks at archaeological and genetic evidence that the first humans to arrive in the Americas may have followed the north Pacific coast from Asia to North America. This path is being called the "kelp highway" and if this theory holds true those people traveled the route well before glaciers retreated and other people came over the land bridge.

About 16,000 years ago, if people were traveling south on the coastline they would have had a clear route at sea level. There would have been fish, shellfish and other resources. There was no dangerous ocean crossing to make.

The new look at this theory supposes that these earliest of Americans moved south into Central America.

The old land bridge theory has a few cracks. Studies of pollen, fossils and DNA that the Siberia ice route wouldn't have opened until about 12,600 years ago. Oh, the came, but they were not first.

There is more searching to be done for places they stopped along the kelp highway. Maybe those first people followed the coastline in skin boats. Maybe.

We know a lot. We keep finding out more. We have so much more to discover.

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