MIGRATION THEORIES
THERE AND BACK AGAIN
BEGINNING OF HISTORY
 Skeletal evidence of what is believed to be the
first modern human, or homo sapien, was found in
Africa and is dated to 40,000 years ago.
 Oldest skeletal evidence, a female dubbed Eve of
Naharon, in the Americas is 13,600 years old.
 Oldest evidence of human settlement in the
Americas is hearth charcoal in Santa Rosa
California dating to 28 000 B.C. or 30 000 years
ago.
 This leads to the question how did humans come
to be in the Americas?
THEORIES
• There are a number of different theories as to how
humans came to be in the Americas. The following
are the ones we will examine:
• Land bridge
• Watercraft migration
• Pacific Coastal model
• Australian / Oceania model
• Atlantic Coastal model
• First Nations oral traditions
• Other
LAND BRIDGE
• Theory was first put forth by
Jose de Acosta in the late
1500s
• Beringia is the common term
for the land bridge between
Asia and North America. This
bridge would form and
disappear a number of times
over the last 100 000 years. At
the peaks of various ice ages
the ocean levels would drop
as much as 200 feet exposing
land between the two
continents possibly as much
as a 1 000 miles wide.
 The archaeological
record indicates the
migration routes
flowed west to east
across the land
bridge.
 Peoples then moved
south into North
America by following
unglaciated routes
along the pacific
coastline or an
Alberta corridor.
• Scientists believe that the people came for one of
two reasons:
• The first being food. The people would have either followed
herds of animals that were moving east or possibly
backtracking new animals that had arrived in Asia.
• The second possible reason for migration is conflict. In this
theory people were forced east as other groups moved into
their traditional lands.
• Support of this theory comes from DNA evidence
that suggests some First Nation and Asia groups at
one time shared the same DNA.
• One interesting wrinkle has been put forth to the
above evidence and that is that no one has proven
what direction the foot prints were going. This
means that the above DNA evidence could in fact
prove that First Nations people settled Asia.
• The problem with this theory is two fold.
• First there is evidence of human existence in North and
South America that does not fit this time line.
• Second there is very little physical evidence due to it either
being destroyed by glaciers or still buried in those same
glaciers.
WATER CRAFT THEORIES
PACIFIC COASTAL MODELS
• Theory proposes that people reached North
America following coastlines either by land or by
boat.
• Support for this is comes from the fact that
coastlines are extremely productive environments
with a wide range of plant and animal life.
• Theory helps to explain how humans could reach all
parts of the Americas by the time they did.
• Like in the Land Bridge Theory this theory is
supported by DNA evidence.
• Problem with this theory is that some scientists
believe that too much of the Alaska and B.C. coasts
were under ice to make this practical.
• Further there is little evidence to support this as any
landing sites that may have existed are now under
water.
COASTAL THEORIES
ORANGE SHOWS POSSIBLE MIGRATION USING THE PACIFIC COASTAL THEORY
BLACK SHOWS POSSIBLE MIGRATION USING OCEANIA THEORY
AUSTRALIAN / OCEANIA MODEL
• In this theory South America is populated from south
Asia through the “infinite island chains” of the
Pacific while North America was populated from
Siberia.
• These people would then be nearly exterminated
and/or absorbed by the northern Siberian
immigrants
 Support for this theory comes from the fact that
there is evidence of people being in Australia
40 000 years ago. Since Australia was NOT
attached to anything at that time it is assumed
they came by watercraft. If this is possible than it is
possible to have reached the Americas in the
same fashion.
 Further there are cultural similarities between the
original peoples of Australia and some in the
Americas.
 The problem is that there is little scientific support
for this theory and no DNA evidence supporting it.
ATLANTIC COASTAL MODEL /
SOLUTREAN
• This theory traces the origins of the first peoples, the
Clovis, to the Solutrean culture of Western Europe.
• The theory is that the Solutrean people living like the
Inuit may have worked their way along the southern
margins of the Atlantic sea ice to North America.
• DNA evidence is not conclusive in this case as the
only testing has been with specific groups such as
the Beothuk. However there has been NO match
found to date showing a connection between
Europeans and First Nations.
WATERCRAFT THEORIES
• One problem plagues ALL of the watercraft theories
and that is that global sea levels have risen 100
meters since the last glacial period. This has
submerged the ancient coastline and makes
finding signs of costal migration difficult.
MIGRATION THEORIES
FIRST NATIONS ORAL TRADITIONS
 Some First Nations believe that they have either
always lived here or at least have been here
longer than scientists currently believe.
 Cross-cultural studies of First Nations peoples are
conducted by anthropologists in an effort to
understand Native origins in Canada.
 Historians are aware of oral tradition and its
diversity throughout Canada. But they are unable
to agree on how oral traditions of First Nations
should be treated within historiography.
OTHER “THEORIES”
 Less common theories on the origins of First Nations in North
America include a wide range from the possible to the unlikely.
 Under the possible is travel from Africa by boat. This possibility
while never claimed as the primary migration has been shown
to be possible with the sailing of a traditional sea craft from
Morocco to North America. This would also allow for travel
between Egypt and Central America something that has been
argued given the existence of pyramids in both areas.
 Another theory is that the First Nations are in fact one of the lost
tribes of Israel. This theory is not commonly accepted but is held
by several religious groups.
 Finally there are the “New Age” theories that explorers or
survivors of Atlantis populated North America. This theory has
NOT been accepted by scientists and is only mentioned due to
its popularity in some books.
• In the end while HOW the First Nations came to be
in the Americas may be up for debate, there is no
dispute that they were here first and had
established thriving civilizations prior to European
arrival.