Skip to comments.Scientists turn migration theory on its head
Posted on 02/26/2010 10:41:37 AM PST by Palter
U.S. anthropologists hypothesize that ancestors of aboriginal people in South and North America followed High Arctic route
Two U.S. scientists have published a radical new theory about when, where and how humans migrated to the New World, arguing that the peopling of the Americas may have begun via Canada's High Arctic islands and the Northwest Passage -- much farther north and at least 10,000 years earlier than generally believed.
The hypothesis -- described as "speculative" but "plausible" by the researchers themselves -- appears in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology, which features a special series of new studies tracing humanity's proliferation out of Africa and around the world beginning about 70,000 years ago.
The idea of an ancient Arctic migration as early as 25,000 years ago, proposed by University of Utah anthropologists Dennis O'Rourke and Jennifer Raff, would address several major gaps in prevailing theories about how the distant ancestors of to-day's aboriginal people in North and South America arrived in the Western Hemisphere.
The most glaring of those gaps is the anomalous existence of a 14,500-year-old archeological site in Chile, near the southern extreme of the Americas, that clearly predates the time when East Asian hunters are thought to have first crossed from Siberia to Alaska via the Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last ice age some 13,000 years ago.
The new theory also may have implications for a lingering Canadian archeological mystery. For decades, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has stood largely alone in defending its view that the Yukon's Bluefish Caves hold evidence of a human presence in the Americas -- tool flakes and butchered mammoth bones -- going back about 20,000 years.
The Utah scientists, pointing to genetic affinities between certain central Asian populations and New World aboriginal groups, suggest an Arctic coastal migration may have begun from river outlets in present-day north-central Russia.
Using skin boats and hunting along glacier-free refuges while the last ice age was still underway, the prehistoric travellers could have moved quickly along the northern Siberian coast to northern Alaska, Canada's Arctic Islands and beyond to eastern and southern parts of the Americas, they say.
"Movement to the interior of the continent via the Mackenzie River drainage," the authors assert, "is plausible."
And suspected gaps among Arctic glaciers means "open coastal areas for continued movement eastward would have provided access to the open water of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait and a coastal route along the eastern seaboard of North America," the study states.
O'Rourke Told Canwest News Service the theory doesn't exclude existing models, but offers a new way of thinking about the movements of the earliest North Americans that deserves to be considered and "to be tested in rigorous ways."
In recent years, the routes and timing of New World migration have been among the most contentious issues in science.
The Siberia-to-Alaska pathway for early hunter-gatherers, followed by a southward migration down a mid-continental "ice-free corridor" in present-day Northwest Territories and Alberta, is widely accepted and backed up by numerous archeological findings.
But a growing number of scientists, troubled by the age of the Chilean site and other wrinkles in the conventional migration story, have recently touted the likelihood of an earlier migration by seafaring people along the Pacific Coast.
However, purported coastal archeological sites that could yield traces of humans from 16,000 years ago or earlier are underwater today. Canadians scientists and others are probing potential sites in British Columbia and Alaska, but evidence remains extremely sketchy.
Equally puzzling is the fact that eastern North America has generated far more artifacts from the continent's first-known civilization, the Clovis people, than archeological sites in the West, where more relics would be expected.
Finally, DNA studies of current aboriginal populations -- which can provide evidence of the geographic origins and migration patterns of ancient ancestors -- have been at odds with the conventional migration models.
"As neither archeological nor genetic data have yet been able to unequivocally resolve many of the long-standing questions regarding American colonization, the generation of new models and hypotheses to which new and more powerful analyses may be applied is essential," O'Rourke and Raff state in their paper.
In an interview, O'Rourke said the possibility of a very early northern migration is supported by recent research in Russia. In January 2004, a team of Russian scientists reported the remains of a 30,000-year-old human settlement near the Arctic Ocean outlet of Siberia's Yana River, the most convincing evidence ever found for such an early, northerly human presence near the Bering gateway to the New World.
David Morrison, the Canadian Museum of Civilization's director of archeology and an expert in Canada's prehistoric Arctic peoples, applauded the U.S. researchers for floating a fairly "wild" theory because "that's how science advances."
But he said "count me skeptical" about the hypothesis, citing the "unspeakably harsh" conditions that the ancient Asians would have encountered in Canada's Arctic before the full retreat of the glaciers.
"It was," says Morrison, "a terrible environment."
While he still thinks the Bluefish Caves predate the migration times in prevailing theories, he says such remote history is still only dimly understood pending the development of more comprehensive and credible scenarios.
"Going back 30,000 years requires you to speculate," he says, "because we really don't have much of an idea what was going on."
But he added that Bluefish "has got to tie into the solution somehow."
An awful lot of science is just speculation and guesswork. There's nothing really wrong with that, but if someone says, "That doesn't really make that much sense", they are apt to be shouted down "You moron! It's settled science! The evidence is overwhelming! What? You think some man in the sky did it???"
Much of so-called science is just pushing a belief system based on little evidence.
I enjoyed reading your interesting comments in an earlier thread about this.
That leads them to such conclusions as the one about Canada's climate being too harsh for the earliest colonists from the Old World.
Actually, those folks were already adapted to life in the high latitudes ~ not at all like modern humans who are more generally adapted to life in the mid-latitudes, or the Equator.
People who could handle 50 below zero weather in Siberia could certainly deal with the same weather in Canada, or other North American habitats. Provided there were sufficient animals around, they could live quite well!
Once they moved South, offspring who were less cold adapted would have a chance at survival and would eventually become more common ~ maybe even outnumbering those who were cold adapted.
At the same time I suppose non-cold adapted people with boats could probably make it from Sundaland to California in just a few years ~ more or less ~ but I really wonder about that leg from Northern Japan to Vancouver.
I had a little handbook of American Indian sign language and was visiting the Smithsonian's Museum of American History when they had an exhibition of Shang Dynasty characters on display.
I found my sign language handbook told me what the Shang Dynasty characters were saying.
Obviously Chinese people had some connection to the first folks into America with a full fledged sign language ~ and that's the Na Dene ~ but given the Na Dene presence here BEFORE the Shang characters were invented, that meant that these guys were actually going back and forth from Central China to North America.
Eventually some Chinese anthropoligist will discover signs of American visitors in China several thousand years back.
The oldest mountains on this planet are right here in America. Wouldn't be surprised if this is the *cradle*.
Keep looking, fellas.
The oldest mountains on the planet exist right here in the US.
Native Americans say they’ve been here forever.
Wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this were the *cradle*.
Thanks Palter....the peopling of the Americas may have begun via Canada's High Arctic islands and the Northwest Passage -- much farther north and at least 10,000 years earlier than generally believed.To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
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· The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
They are lying. There were people in this land before them.
You edit funny. /grin
I don’t know if it’s the scientists themselves, or how it gets reported to schmucks like me in the sources I see, but it’s always seemed kinda FUBARish to assume a one time event from a single path or source for the original populating of the Americas.
I also tend to heavily doubt that our current “indigs” are descended from the originals.
So at least we have some reason to believe the Chippewa, Iroquois and Cherokee may be descended from the "originals".
We can trace back the Na Dene (Navajo, Apache, Aztec) to the very same Yakuts who provided the ancestry to the Japanese royal house and the Daimyo (these are the non-Jomon invaders from the mid 6th century).
More recent work ties the Yakuts, also known as the Sakha, to the tribe by the same name that conquered much of India around 300 BC (from Nepal). Buddha was a Sakha.
Because we now have DNA analysis available, and super computers to assist in translating ancient documents, we know tremendous amount of information about the Yakuts we didn't know just 2 years ago.
Amazing. Archeologists came to the New World before the hunters and were doing archeological digs in Chile 14,500 years ago? Sometimes we seriously underestimate the ancients.
Thanks, I’m bookmarking this very interesting thread. Now to find a good book on Bluefish Caves.
And once that belief system is accepted it is used as fact to support other belief systems.
Sorry. By “Originals” I meant the very first wave of people to the Americas.
Don’t most indig tribes in the Americas have story/legend/myth about peoples that were here before them? If they do, some of that could be from conquest and replacement by members of the same colonization wave that had separated long enough prior that they didn’t know the common source, but some of it also could be conquest and replacement of totally different sourced peoples.
There were no people before them that anybody knew about.
At the same time there's a MtDNA gene sequence (on the maternal side) that links the Sa'ami and Berbers, and quite amazingly the Yakut. There are some other minor bridges and links from these same groups to other far-flung groups.
Look at the Yakut connection closely. This is the founding population for virtually all American Indians, all Eskimos, the ethnic group in Siberia that invaded and conquered Korea and Japan in the 6th century AD, and India in the 3rd/2nd century BC (see my earlier notes on Buddha's family).
Which means two things ~ the maternal line of the first Europeans to leave the Western European Refugia along the border of modern Spain and France really got around ~ and also that the emigration of people from Asia AFTER the 10th millenium was a far more important contributor to modern American Indian populations than emigrations before that time, or after the 6th millenium.
Always remember, genes flow where they will oblivious to culture.
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