T H E R E A N D B A C K A G A I N
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?
• 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
• • 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.
• • • 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 O R A N G E S H O W S P O S S I B L E M I G R A T I O N U S I N G T H E P A C I F I C C O A S T A L T H E O R Y B L A C K S H O W S P O S S I B L E M I G R A T I O N U S I N G O C E A N I A T H E O R Y
• • 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.
• • 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.
• 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.
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.
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.