First Americans 2

By Karen Phillips. 12/06
The First Americans:
Who, What, When, Where, How, Why?
Who were the first Americans?
When did the first Americans start arriving?
Where did they come from?
Where did they first enter the Americas?
How did they travel to the Americas?
Why did they come to a new land?
What was daily life like for these First Americans?
The Very First Americans Who Were They?
► The Americas were the last
continents on earth to be occupied
by man.
► Before man arrived, large animals
roamed and ruled the land.
► Short-faced bears ran as fast as
horses and were twice the size of
today’s grizzly bears.
► 3500 pound ground sloths, 20
feet long and standing over 6 feet
tall roamed the land.
More Wild Animals
► Teratorns birds weighed 30 pounds, had
10 foot wing spans, but stalked their prey on
the ground
► Three-toed horses, that disappeared before
Columbus arrived, galloped across the
► Saber-toothed tigers with 10” canines were
dangerous meateaters.
► Mastodons and Mammoths
► Camels, antelope, bighorn sheep, lions,
deer, moose, fox, otters, and bison.
The Ancient World:
Ice Sheets
► About 125,000 years
ago, the earth’s last ice
sheets formed and lasted
until 12,000 years ago.
► Geologists know that
during this age, ice
sheets covered more
than 30% of the earth,
including much of North
America and Europe.
Lower Ocean Levels = Land Bridges
► Because so much of the
world’s water was frozen in
ice sheets, ocean levels were
200-500 feet lower than they
are today.
► The lower sea levels
exposed land that today is
ocean floor. Back then,
these exposed lands existed
as land bridges.
What Route Did the First
Explorers Take to Travel Here?
Beringia is the name that scientists
call the land bridge that existed
between Asia and North America.
 Beringia was a land
bridge thousands of
mil es wide.
 Paleoclimatologists
believe that the
weather in Beringia
was much milder
than the weather in
the area is today.
 Beringia supported
wildlife and plants.
• The tools, to the left, were found
near Alaska. They are made of
bird bone, whale bone, and walrus
• Some of the tools are tiny needles
that were used to make waterproof
• They show that humans had
adapted to the northern climate.
• Archaeologist Rick Knecht says
these Aleutian tools show us only a
“glimpse of who these people
were. All we have are these little
piles of stones and bones. It’s like
trying to tell something about our
culture by looking at steak knives.”
The Enigma of the First Americans
Geoarchaeologist C. Vance Haynes believes the first people who
entered the Americas were “explorers . . . Probably young [people]
who were really bent on [seeing what was] over the next hill.”
The Beringia Land Bridge theory was long considered the most
probable theory, but two problems with the theory arose:
1. How did the explorers travel thousands of miles over the relatively
barren ice sheets. Some scientists argue that there was an area
free of ice, a corridor, through which humans could have walked.
2. Evidence from an archeological site in Monte Verde, Chile indicate
that humans were living in South America at an earlier date than the
North American artifacts indicate people were living here.
(Michael Parfit and Photographer Kenneth Garrett. National Geographic, [Accessed 10/29/06.
Coastal Route Theory
• Recent evidence suggests that the coast of
the Americas would have been habitable,
livable. In a cave in Alaska, archeologists
found the bones of a 10,400 year old man
and tools nearby.
The bones prove that the man ate a marine
diet, fish and sea plants, proving that by
10,000 years ago, people lived along the
Ancient travelers could have traveled from
Asia, along the coast of the Americas down
to South America. The evidence would have
been destroyed when the ice sheets melted
and the ocean levels rose.
European Maritime Theory
 Scientists have recently found similarities
between the spear points found at certain
American sites and the spear points made by the
Solutreans, an ancient European culture.
 These similar spear points suggest that ancient
man might have traveled across the Atlantic.
 The Solutreans might have traveled by boat, or
the Atlantic might have been frozen, and the
Solutreans could have walked.
Everyday Life for the First
American Hunter Gatherers
•Humans developed farming about 8,000 years ago.
• Before man learned how to grow plants and take care of
crops that would grow well in the same place year after year,
people would hunt small and large animals, birds, and fish,
and they would gather plants, berries, and roots that were
edible, fit to be eaten.
•We call these people “hunter gatherers.”
•Hunter gatherers didn’t live in permanent homes or villages.
Instead they would move from place to place hunting and
gathering food. (“Hunter-Gatherers,” Microsoft Encarta, 2001).
National Geographic.
La Brea Tar Pits. “Return to the Ice Age: La Brea Exploration Guide. [Accessed
Beringia. [Accessed: October 29, 2006. http:///]
Moyle, Peter and Mary A. Orland. “A History of Wildlife in North America.” [Accessed