Fossils offer new clues into Native American's 'journey' and how they survived the last Ice Age

Feb 27, 2014

Researchers have discovered how Native Americans may have survived the last Ice Age after splitting from their Asian relatives 25,000 years ago.

Academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the Universities of Colorado and Utah have analysed fossils which revealed that the ancestors of Native Americans may have set up home in a region between Siberia and Alaska which contained woody plants that they could use to make fires. The discovery breaks new ground as until now no-one had any idea of where the native Americans spent the next 10,000 years before they appeared in Alaska and the rest of the North America.

Professor Scott Elias, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway said: "This work fills in a 10,000-year missing link in the story of the peopling of the New World. "

The findings, which are published in the journal Science, reveal that the ancestors of Native Americans may have lived on the Bering Land Bridge, which is now under the waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas. The and some adjacent regions were not as dry as the rest of Beringia, and this central part of Beringia was covered in shrub tundra - the dominant vegetation in modern Arctic Alaska. It is dominated by dwarf willow and birch shrubs, mosses and lichens.

Professor Elias explained: "We believe that these ancestors survived on the shrub tundra of the Bering Land Bridge because this was the only region of the Arctic where any were growing. They needed the wood for fuel to make camp fires in this bitterly cold region of the world. They would have used dwarf shrub wood to get a small fire going, then placed large mammal bones on top of the fire, to ignite the fats inside the bones. Once burning, large leg bones of ice-age mammals would have burned for hours, keeping people alive through Arctic winter nights."

The academics made the discovery after analysing insect and plant fossils extracted from sediment cores taken from the ancient land bridge surface, which lies on the sea floor 50-60 metres below the water's surface.

Explore further: Study shows flowers powered the woolly mammoth

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study shows flowers powered the woolly mammoth

Feb 11, 2014

The Ice Age home of the woolly mammoth was carpeted in a sea of flowers that nourished the mega-beasts tens of thousands of years ago, according to new University of Alberta research.

DNA reveals new clues: Why did mammoths die out?

Feb 06, 2014

Why did mammoths and other large mammals of the tundra suddenly become extinct some 10,000 years ago? It's a question that has divided scientists over the years. Now researchers from Lund University in Sweden ...

Warming climate may cause arctic tundra to burn

Mar 05, 2008

Research from ancient sediment cores indicates that a warming climate could make the world’s arctic tundra far more susceptible to fires than previously thought. The findings, published this week in the online journal, ...

Recommended for you

Storm chasers take on supercell thunderstorms in Bangladesh

3 hours ago

This past April, Scott Olson touched down in Bangladesh to become the country's first known storm chaser. On the other side of the world, back in Oklahoma, Tim Vasquez and a team of meteorologists worked tirelessly to put ...

Slope on the ocean surface lowers the sea level in Europe

4 hours ago

Research at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) has discovered that a 'slope' on the ocean surface in the Strait of Gibraltar is lowering the sea level in Europe by 7cm. This research, published today in Geophysical Re ...

Climate models don't over-predict warming, study shows

7 hours ago

If you listen to climate change skeptics, Earth's surface hasn't warmed appreciably in the last 15 years, and any "record" set last year is just the result of the planet doing what the planet naturally does.

GPM sees nor'easter dump snow on New England

19 hours ago

At 5:05 p.m. EST Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, the Global Precipitation Measurement mission's Core Observatory flew over the Nor'easter that dumped snow on New England. This satellite image shows the rate of rainfall, with low amounts ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Maggnus
5 / 5 (2) Feb 27, 2014
25000 year ago - this would predate the Clovis culture, assuming my memory to be intact (shuddup Captain!). I wonder if they may help explain some of the older fossils found in SA and along the Western coast of NA?

I also wonder if this might be evidence of more than one wave of settlement in the Americas?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.