Anthropologist group suggests first humans to the Americas arrived via the kelp highway

Anthropologist group suggests first humans to the Americas arrived via the kelp highway
Recent archaeological finds show that pre-Clovis people arrived in the Americas before 13,500 years ago, likely via a coastal route along the Pacific Coast. Higher sea levels make finding direct evidence difficult. Credit: (c) J. YOU AND N. CARY Science (2017). DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5473
(—A team of anthropologists from several institutions in the U.S. has offered a Perspective piece in the journal Science outlining current theories regarding the first humans to populate the Americas. In their paper, they scrap the conventional view that Clovis people making their way across a Bering land bridge were the first to arrive in the Americas—more recent evidence suggests others arrived far earlier, likely using boats to travel just offshore.

As the authors note, for most of the last century, the accepted theory of humans' first arrival was via the land bridge in what is now the Bering Strait—at the time, sea levels would have been much lower. Those early settlers, named the Clovis people, were theorized to have traveled down a central ice-free corridor into what is now the U.S. approximately 13,500 years ago. But, as the authors also note, since the late 1980s has shown that there were people living in parts of the Americas long before the time of the Clovis migration. Archaeological evidence of people living on islands off of Asia and on the North and South American coasts (some as far south as Chile) has been found going as far back as 14,000 to 18,000 years ago. Evidence has also been found of people living in the North American interior as far back as 16,000 years ago.

All this new evidence, the authors report, has caused most experts in the field to abandon the idea of the Clovis people as the first to arrive. Most now believe that the first people to arrive did so by boat rather than walking, and they did it by following the coasts, not through the interior. This would have been possible, the authors note, because of what has come to be known as the kelp highway—kelp forests growing just offshore. All that , it has been noted, would have provided a rich habitat for sea creatures upon which hearty travelers could feast.

The authors conclude by noting that too little research has been done offshore—the early travelers would have been residing mostly on land that is now covered by the sea due to higher worldwide ocean levels. If the scientific community truly wants to learn more about human migration to the Americas, they suggest, more work needs to be done offshore.

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New evidence -- Clovis people not first to populate North America

More information: Todd J. Braje et al. Finding the first Americans, Science (2017). DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5473

For much of the 20th century, most archaeologists believed humans first colonized the Americas ∼13,500 years ago via an overland route that crossed Beringia and followed a long and narrow, mostly ice-free corridor to the vast plains of central North America. There, Clovis people and their descendants hunted large game and spread rapidly through the New World. Twentieth-century discoveries of distinctive Clovis artifacts throughout North America, some associated with mammoth or mastodon kill sites, supported this "Clovis-first" model. North America's coastlines and their rich marine, estuarine, riverine, and terrestrial ecosystems were peripheral to the story of how and when the Americas were first settled by humans. Recent work along the Pacific coastlines of North and South America has revealed that these environments were settled early and continuously provided a rich diversity of subsistence options and technological resources for New World hunter-gatherers.

Journal information: Science

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Citation: Anthropologist group suggests first humans to the Americas arrived via the kelp highway (2017, November 3) retrieved 20 May 2019 from
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Nov 03, 2017
Imagine that, guys 20,000 years ago rafting the coast and setting up camps at the river mouths instead of fighting the tangle of the interior. Oops, that camp got submerged

Nov 04, 2017
This is such a no-brainer that it hurts my brain. And combine it with how vanishingly little archeological study has been done along the glacial-maximum-sea-coast. It is simply alarming that learned folks were able to reach some other conclusions.

Nov 04, 2017
Md, when did you offer funding (deep pockets!) adequate to purchase or develop the technology to explore offshore? Did the archeologists hurt your feelings by refusing your financial assistance?

Or, were you one of those complaining about such proposals to divert limited funds available for such 'Blue-Sky' research?

Even devoting major resources to this research, it will be tough to make any major discoveries. Patient, tedious methodology and careful sieving the muck will be the key.

Our ancestor's technology was based on wood and tree-bark, bone and sinew, and of course working stone.

Covered for centuries by rising ocean and estuary output. Campsites and wreckage will be difficult to separate from naturally occurring flotsam.

Perhaps if the mud covered and protected obvious charring? Such as burnt wood and cooked bones. Also covering shaped flint before erosion would smooth away tool marks?

Nov 04, 2017
And genome sequencing supports this new theory AFAIK in that Clovis remains did not show the whole allele flow. Though not having read the paper I do not know how the new synthesis go.

It is interesting to contemplate the parallels to Asia, where a coastal early route was instead thought to have been the main reason why people settled Australia so early but it is now known that migrations took the more difficult inland route as well.

@Mayday: If you read the paper, I am sure you will see why it was no no-brainer. One reason was earlier reliance on fossils, where genome sequencing support the Clovis age ice free corridor for buffalo mixing; *all* the data supported it AFAIK despite what you claim.

However the human migrations were able to jump ahead, which could be suspected - see above, but see also the problem with *that* "no-brainer" - but needs evidence.

Nov 04, 2017
Good rebuttal RR.
Maybe we could ask the Oak Island guys for a little input.
They've got a pretty good history on all that it takes to find little or nothing in a lot of muck...:-)

Nov 05, 2017
The oldest dated piece of human bone in the Americas, at least so far as I am aware, is nearly 16,000 years old and derives from the Tulare Lake Basin in California. Two younger dates, ca. 11,500 years were obtained on two other fragments of human bone. Since these are U-Th dates on fragment of human crania, but the material derived from a private collection, and the dates falsified with the Clovis-first hypothesis, the material went unremarked for two decades. They were only published in a small publication by a primarily avocational archaeological group working with a handful of professionals, and in the Federal Register in a notice of a NAGPRA action. Recently they were finally noted in compilation of papers regarding Californian prehistory in 2010. The chapter authors mistakenly list the dates as radiocarbon dates.

Nov 10, 2017
There were people here long before the Bering Strait based Clovis people. The Cactus Hill site in Virginia has artifacts dating back to 16,000 years and chips of charcoal that dates to 18,000 years ago. Some researchers believe the site could have been inhabited 20,000 years ago. It is believed that the people that inhabited the Cactus Hill site were relatives or descendants of the Solutreans based on the appearance and design of the artifacts there.

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