Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Earliest human migration via the Far North?

Migration to New World may have come through High Arctic
Vancouver Sun: 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 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 today's aboriginal people in North and South America arrived in the Western Hemisphere.

The most glaring of these 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 crossed from Siberia to Alaska via the Bering Land Bridge at the end of the ice age some 13,000 years ago.

The new theory may also 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... 'Movement to the interior of the continent via the MacKenzie River drainage,' the authors assert, 'is plausible.'
Image source here.