The paddlers


Beringia, the land from which the first inhabitants of North America are believed to have set sail/Yukon Geological Survey

Archeologists in Idaho appear to have put another nail in the coffin of the long-held but rapidly dying theory that the first humans to arrive in North America crossed the Bering Land Bridge connecting Asia and Alaska and kept hiking south.

Scientists working the Cooper’s Landing archeological site on Friday published a paper in Science reporting they had radiocarbon-dated projectile points there to sometime between 16,560 and 15,280 years before present.

That would make the artifacts the oldest to be accurately dated in North America, but more importantly, they precede the retreat of the Ice Age glaciers that for a time blocked travel south of the region now called Beringia. 

“Humans therefore arrived in the Americas before an inland ice-free corridor had opened, so a Pacific coastal route was the probable entry route,” wrote the team of scientists from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan. “The stemmed projectile points closely resemble those found in Upper Paleolithic Japan, also supporting the hypothesis of a coastal route.”

The thinking is the ancestors of the earliest inhabitants of what is now the Lower 48 U.S. states followed the Pacific coast south to the mouth of the Columbia River and then followed it upstream to where it swings north near the confluence with the Snake River. There they would have turned east to follow the Snake to the Salmon River, the so-called “River of No Return” draining central Idaho.

Cooper’s Landing is near the confluence of the Salmon and Rock Creek. The Nez Perce Indians believe it is the site of a long-gone village site called Nipe’che.

Shifting hypothesis

The idea that the first Americas arrived in the Americas in the same way Europeans later arrived – by boat – has been gaining momentum for decades.

A radio-carbon date for a dig at Monte Verde, Chile in 1979 put human occupation there at 14,000 years before present – 1,000 years before the Clovis culture with its unique projectile points showed up in North America.

For years, few wanted to believe the find.

“To have people living in Chile 14,000 years ago would have meant that people arrived in the Americas earlier than 13,000 years ago,” Kambiz Kamrani wrote at Anthropology in 2008. “Lots of people rejected the radiocarbon dating because it challenged the Clovis theory. It wasn’t until 1997 that archaeologists reviewed the evidence, visited the Monte Verde site, and approved of the date.”

That fueled a lot of discussion about how people got to Chile so long ago. Boats seemed the only possibility. The result was the coastal migration hypothesis which has only gathered steam since its inception.

Most archaeologists (now) think the first Americans arrived by boat,” Science headlined in 2017, but the story below noted the difficulty in finding evidence to support the theory.

“The evidence that might settle the question has been mostly out of reach,” observed reporter Lizzie Wade. “As the glaciers melted starting about 16,500 years ago, global sea level rose by about 120 meters, drowning many coasts and any settlements they held.”

The evidence has, however, been slowly increasing, and Cooper’s Landing adds a big piece to the puzzle.

Alaska’s role

Not that the 49th state has been cut out of the picture. Its role as an access point has simply changed from an upland point of contact to a marine jumping off point.

“….Most researchers today think the first inhabitants came by sea,” Wade wrote. “In this view, maritime explorers voyaged by boat out of Beringia – the ancient land now partially submerged under the waters of the Bering Strait – about 16,000 years ago and quickly moved down the Pacific coast, reaching Chile by at least 14,500 years ago.”

Humans appear to have been traveling by boat long before that. Cave paintings on the Indonesian Island of Sulawesi have been dated to 35,000 years before present.

“To reach Sulawesi, which has always been an island, they would have needed boats or rafts to cross a minimum of 60 miles of ocean,” Smithsonian magazine observed.

The oldest boat discovered to date goes back only about 10,000 years, but given that prehistoric boats were made of wood or skin it would take a unique set of circumstances for it to be preserved. But such is not impossible.

Who knows what could be hiding beneath the Bering Sea today in what was once Beringia.

As mapped by Jeffrey Bond with the Yukon Geological Survey in Canada, the region was 16,000 years ago a giant, Alaska-size oasis between glaciers to the south, east and west.

The Yukon Beringia Interpretative Center describes it as “home to a diverse, and yet unique, mix of strange and familiar animals. During the cold glacial times, icons like the woolly mammoth, steppe bison and scimitar cat roamed the treeless plains alongside caribou, muskox and grizzly bears. In still older times, where temperatures were similar to today, giant beavers, mastodons and camels browsed the interglacial forests.”

Though the wildlife would have supported human hunters, it is clear that then as now people moved south looking for warmer climates or maybe just some winter sun.














21 replies »

  1. Better question!
    Where did man come from in the first place?
    And all the other animals, insects, fish etc.?
    Earth itself is a MIRACLE!

  2. It’s hard to reconcile that we’ve know for many years that cultures were established in the high Siberian Arctic 35,000 ya, with the meager signs of North American occupation, south of the main icesheets. Recently, early occupation of northern Siberia has been pushed back to 45 kya, making the problem even worse.

    Coastal and riverine inhabitants of western Beringia would seemingly have had watercraft before they arrived, and indeed coastal people are expected to have gotten north, by water. So continuing the theme, why wouldn’t North American have been colonized, say within a few thousand years following Australia?

    One possibility that has occured to me, is that high-north adapted people could ‘camp on the kill’. Particularly large game would keep & feed the group for a long time. That is to say, *they did not pick out & develop & leave artifacts* in ‘traditional’ types of living-sites, because it made more sense in cold climates to ‘make-do’ with a rough camp next to any large kill, right where is came down.

    If such folks then migrated to temperate climates in North America, and continued camping temporarily at kill-sites, that would make it a lot tougher for us to find signs of them.

    The famous Manis Mastodon site on the Olympic Peninsula (Sequim) is one such ‘kill-camp’ suspect. The lead archaeologist stuck with this dig for a long time … in hopes to find better signs of humans, which he thought would be there.

  3. A major problem in finding evidence in Alaska nearshore environments has to do with glaciers melting. Obviously when these massive glaciers melted sea level rose. What sometimes is forgotten is that these massive glaciers weigh an enormous amount, so much so that when they melted the land bounced up, land is still rising as the glaciers continue to recede. So evidence of early man maybe hundreds of feet below the waves, but it might also be hundreds of feet above them as well.

    It is the conceit of man to think that the way things are is the way it has always been. Through science we know that our environment is ever changing, just because we’ve had a period wherein man has flourished with a relatively stable climate does not mean it shall always be this way.

    • Steve s. I suggest you research the Bible and carefully read it yourself over listening to talking heads and promulgating their false ideas . Being as everything in the Bible was translated , with pieces missing and written partially from memory it requires a discerning mind looking for the meaning and positive useful parts . The Bible can be twisted by anyone to make a trap for fools . it’s silly to listen to talking heads .you do the world a disservice when you show disdain for the Bible . It has the keys for peace on earth and the only guaranteed way for human and life’s survival. Read it carefully yourself and try to understand the meaning. You will find it’s parellel to much of what I imagine you aspire to . Part of The basic message of good in it from Jesus ,came from asiatic cultures if I remember correctly. It has many parallels with Buddhism . As to your idea that it was used to enslave the earth or various races that is just Victimism / scapegoat foolishness. Human nature is what caused enslavment . The current testament says nothing about taking slaves of any form. It clearly states treat others as you would be treated. Now the Old Testament is a different story. That’s more of a history book than something to aspire to . True Christianity is not that different from Buddhism. Remember The prophet John who ate honey and maybe plants in the desert for days on end ? Sounds a bit similar to vegetarians. Most people aspiring to be Christian are only on the outskirts of the attempt. Myself included. Now what you missed that was important in the Bible was god expects us to be stewards of the earth. Think Noah saving the animals and them going free afterwards. That’s different from dominion . I say we do need to be stewards as the Bible expected because our current position/ technology holds the potential for all life’s destruction or furtherance. If you have something valuable you must take good care of it .

      • This was meant to be at very bottom of the string of comments behind Steve s. Comment . Sorry for confusion.

    • Only if you’re a “Climate Alarmist” Jack. It makes it easy to forget about the other 4 billion years of “change”.

      • I was making a funny towards some folks who may or may not (depending on their own whims) literally view certain parts of a certain book written by a bunch of dudes that were told to do so by a certain ALL POWERFUL BEING… but you bag on whomever you’d like to! It’s free for all commie worker weekend – woot!

      • Steve I didn’t watch your link . How exactly did that book give dominion to white man ??? It wasn’t written for white man and wasn’t a history of white man . It was formed in the Middle East by a brown skinned group . Even the dominant rulers from Rome were a very mixed bunch . ( read history). Your statement had the feel of race / culture baiting or perhaps religion baiting ? Surely I’m mistaken?

      • Sorry Jack, I was saying my piece in jest. But, you are correct, let us celebrate the “workers” this weekend.

      • Opinion,

        In my experience the only people who see race in everything they see are racists, every single time they turn out to be racists to the core.

      • “To most blacks of southern Africa there are only three racial divisions​—blacks, whites and Asiatics, and they classify Arabs, Jews and other peoples of the Middle East, not as Asiatics, but as whites…”

        “In Africa many blacks put it this way: ‘The Bible is a white man’s book…
        They brought it to Africa and used it and their religion to tame us and rob our land.”

        “CHRISTIANITY was brought to us by adventurers and opportunists who gave us the Bible and took away everything.” This opinion by a radio announcer in Botswana expresses what many Africans believe

      • This is a case study in how an informative article devolves into southern African race relations. I wonder how many comments it will take to get to penguins being the reason Iceland has such a predominantly white population…

      • Jason,
        This idea that the bible gave “man” dominion over the Natural World is nothing new…
        Obviously since the printing press was invented by a white man and the king James version of the bible that was spread in the 17th century was from England….you can see that blacks in Africa were not responsible for this propaganda program in any way during the several hundred years that millions of copies of the bible were pumped out into circulation.

        “One school of thought in particular holds the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is responsible for fostering despotic ideas towards nature…
        This paper demonstrates that the Bible’s most persistent environmental message is that God confers human dominion over nature to righteous or faithful people, whereas God punishes transgressors with natural disasters. 
        Recent advances in studies of the Bible as literature reveal ways to interpret the theme of human dominion over nature, with the resulting evolution of that concept throughout the books of the Bible.”

      • Yes, Steve, I’m reasonably versed on the Bible and I get the “man being given dominion” reference. It’s the “WHITE men” part that I’m calling out. What liberals refer to as white men were not even a thing back then.

      • Jason,
        This is not a “liberal thing” as it is more an “educated thing”.
        You and others can argue the “white thing” till the cows come home, but those of us who have studied the old vs new testaments, the reprints and various translations can follow the stream of propaganda that was obviously exacerbated by the invention of the printing press (in Germany) and the King James version of the bible (from England) that make up the most widely read versions today.
        Like I quoted above…black Africans only distinguished between 3 races.
        In their documents it shows that THEY believed the bible was brought by WHITE man…not Black and not Asian.
        This is just documented history that many college students study throughout the world…not my personal hypothesis in any way.
        Believe what you wish, but know the majority of the world follows different religions from your own or no religion at all.

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