Migrants from Asia came to North America about 16,500 years ago, but a new geographic discovery could rewrite history books about how they made the epic journey.
Scientists from the United States and Italy suggest that there was a changing archipelago stretching nearly 900 miles in the Bering Sea that served as a “stepping stone” for seafarers.
The new study points to the last Ice Age, when sea levels dropped dramatically, and revealed the large chain of islands that served as a resting place for the ancient settlers who made the long journey in paddled skin boats.
The team named the scattered islands “Bering Transitory Archipelago,” which they believe existed 30,000 years ago and may have been the first Americans.
This discovery would otherwise invalidate the long-held theory that most migrants from Asia traveled along the Bering Strait Land Bridge.
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Scientists from the United States and Italy suggest that there was a changing archipelago stretching nearly 900 miles in the Bering Sea that served as a “stepping stone” for seafarers. The team named the scattered islands “Bering Transitory Archipelago,” which they believe existed 30,000 years ago and may have been the first Americans
How, when and where the first Americans might have crossed has been described as “one of the greatest mysteries of our time”.
The riddle was believed to have been solved and pointed to the Bering Strait, but the new study by the University of Kansas (KU) in collaboration with universities in Bologna and Urbino, Italy re-opens the case.
The team proposed a stepping stone hypothesis that was developed after finding a massive formation hiding beneath the surface. This emerges from the study published in Comptes Rendus.
Jerome Dobson, Professor Emeritus of Geography at KU, said: “We have digitally discovered a geographic feature of considerable size that has never been properly documented in the scientific literature.”
The new study points to the last Ice Age, when sea levels plummeted dramatically, and revealed the great chain of islands that served as rest stops for ancient settlers who made the long journey in paddled skin boats. However, the island chain is now submerged
‘We called it the Bering Transitory Archipelago; it existed from about 30,000 years ago to 8,000 years ago.
“When we saw it, we immediately thought, ‘Wow, maybe the first Americans came across like this. “Indeed, everything we’ve tested seems to confirm this – it appears to be true. ‘
The study says there were closely spaced islands in the Gulf of Alaska that stretched as far as Middleton Island, which is about 80 miles southwest of Cordova.
There was then a gap of about 200 km that had to be traveled along today’s coast, next to two islands close to each other and then another gap of 200 km with a distance along the current coast to Yakutat Bay. ‘reads the study.
The researchers suggest that the skin boat passengers could manage 24 to 36 hours between pickups.
When the islands were above the surface, the paddlers had to move between 5.6 and 8.3 km / h to cross each gap, the study says.
And that’s why, according to researchers, a trip from Middleton Island to Yakutat Bay would have been feasible.
The results also answer another puzzle – Bering’s stallion hypothesis.
This was found when mitochondrial DNA showed migrants were isolated for up to 15,000 years on their way from Asia to North America.
How, when and where the first Americans might have crossed has been described as “one of the greatest mysteries of our time”. The riddle was believed to have been solved and pointed to the Bering Strait, but the new study suggests they came by sea
This also comes into play with Native American DNA, which is very different from Asian DNA, which has clear evidence of genetic drift on such a scale that it only occurred over long periods of time in near complete isolation from the source Asian population can be.
“The Bering Transitory Archipelago, however, provides a suitable retreat with internal connectivity and external isolation,” the researchers said in a statement.
Dobson said people who crossed the Bering Sea likely didn’t have sails, but might have experience paddling skin boats like the kayaks and umiaks that Inuit use today.
“You’ve probably traveled in small groups,” he said, “either from Asia or from islands off the coast of Asia. It is known that some seafarers existed on northern Japanese islands 27,000 years ago. They were likely maritime people – they not only lived on islands but actually practiced maritime culture, economics, and travel. ‘
When did people arrive in North America?
It is generally accepted that the earliest settlers came to Alaska from what is now Russia via an old land bridge over the Bering Strait that was submerged at the end of the last Ice Age.
Questions such as whether there was one or more founding groups when they arrived and what happened next have been the subject of much debate.
The earliest evidence of human settlers on the continent dates back to around 14,000 years ago. The remains of an ancient village were found in April 2017 as “older than Egyptian pyramids”.
Artifacts uncovered at the Triquet Island settlement, 500 km northwest of Victoria, Canada, include tools for making fire, fishhooks and spears from the Ice Age.
Other research has found that humans reached North America 24,000 to 40,000 years ago.
A 24,000-year-old horse jawbone found in a cave in Alaska in January 2017 had the marks of stone tools, suggesting it was hunted by humans.