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The Early Population of the New World: Foreign Travelers
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By Myranda Grecinger
Much is known regarding the history and culture of the ancestors of people in North America and more is constantly being discovered, what is not certain is where they came from. There are a variety of theories to choose from but many are conflicting or lacking in solid evidence. Understanding the origins of any culture is extremely important to explore in order to gain a better understanding of the modern version of the culture, thus especially when discussing Native Americans it is important to search for the truth in who the first settlers to the Americas were, how they got here and what may have lead them to where they are today. A careful examination of the evidence will likely lead to a solid consensus among professionals despite the current debates on the matter, more than likely, the first settlers to contenental America were a diverse group with mixed origins who traveled to and settled here for a wide variety of reasons coming from several different distant lands.
According to Paul A. Colinvaux, the Bering Land Bridge is the formal name given to an ancient strip of land that once formed a connection between modern day Alaska and Russia. It is believed by many scholars to be the best explanation of the early population of North America. This land strip is said to have been exposed during glaciations due to the loss of water from the Earth's oceans enabling travel across the already shallow Bering Sea. Colinvaux goes on to explain that this so called "land bridge" would have been, even at its' lowest point, free and clear of glacial ice, making it not only useful and well conditioned for travel, but surely, highly appealing to humans and animals of the time. This information in and of itself make for a good argument for early population of the Americas.
The Bering Land Bridge is believed to have been hundreds of miles wide, Colinvaux describes it as having been more of a continuation of the two continents than a span between them. Animals both large and small would have crossed the area with ease and due to the lack of ice, forage would have been plentiful in comparisson with some other areas at the time. Prehistoric humans tended to be nomadic, traveling to areas where food was plentiful and migrating along with game herds. Where the animals went, there so did man go. Where vegitation was prevelant, there could man eat. Thus, it is not only sensible, but probable that man would have crossed this land mass when it emerged and continued making use of it for travel as long as it was accessible for the purposes of pursuing food.
Pollen and fossil samples taken from the area where the Bering Land Bridge was once visibleshow that flora and fauna from all over the world were present in the area at one time, this fact alone provides strong evidence for the idea that perhaps most if not all land masses were connected in some way around the same period. If all land masses or a least most were somehow connected then it would only stand to reason that human beings from all over the world, Africa, Asia and Europe had access to the Americas for some time. While long distance travel certainly would not have been easy at the time by any means, there is little evidence to disprove its occurrence. With much of the world's oceans at lower than normal levels due to glacial activity and much of the land exposed that would otherwise besubmerged and much of the land covered in ice that would otherwise have been exposed, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that early man would have begun to trade his regular routine in favor of one that was better suited to his current environment even if that required traveling further distances. Of course this new way of living would cease to exist and the populations would be stranded on the continents they occupied when the glaciers began to melt.
The article entitled “The Environment of the Bering Land Bridge” by Paul A. Colinvaux explains how early man may have arrived here. It gives a strong argument for why humans may have come to the Americas. Unfortunately, Colinvaux's article fails to answer two extremely importantquestions though they were not the focus of his article, his article was focused on the Bering Land Bridge itself rather than its' anthropological implications. Colinvaux never discusses the question of who the ancient travelers of the Bering Land Bridge were or from where they originated. To answer the question of origin, biological and forensic evidence is required, some of which can be found in an article by Walter A. Neves, Rolando Gonzáalez-José , Mark Hubbe, Renato Kipnis, Astolfo G. M. Araujo and Oldemar Blasi entitled “Early Holocene Human Skeletal Remains from Cerca Grande, Lagoa Santa, Central Brazil, and the Origins of the First Americans”.
In the article “Early Holocene Human Skeletal Remains from Cerca Grande, Lagoa Santa, Central Brazil, and the Origins of the First Americans” the authors explain that the remains of early South Americans found in remote caves and stone dwellings may be the key to unlocking the origins of human population in the Americas. The remains bare a striking resemblance to Australians and Africans, not to mention people of early Asian and European decent. This discovery was made on the basis of cranial morphing as well as results from the testing of bone and collagen samples from multiple burial sites. Their findings lead them to believe that the Bering Land Bridge theory for arrival in the new world is the most likely scenario being that it would provide the means for diverse groups of people with a wide array of origins to enter the same area around the same time and blend culture and blood.
While certainly no one has all the answers and much of human history has been lost to us forever or remains to be discovered, these two articles when combined paint a fairly convincing picture. The evidence is exceptionally strong towards an argument for Native American man being a direct result of the effects on human activity from the emergence and disappearance of the Bering Land Bridge. The existence of ancient people who descended from groups currently oceans apart once seemed more than improbable, but now there is not just evidence, but solid proof in the form of human remains that have been tested scientifically. The idea that all land forms were once connected would once have been viewed as pure and simple “hogwash”, but not only is it now known to be true, but it is proven to have been true during a time when human culture was already prevalent on the Earth. Clearly there are still more questions to be answered, but one thing is for sure, people have been coming to the Americas, not just for centuries, but for thousands of years with the hope of prosperity and a better life and so called “pure races” have been just as mixed as everyone else fro the beginning. These articles make clear several points;
1) The Bering Land Bridge and other lost land masses provided the means for multiple groups of people from all over the world to come to the Americas.
2) The disappearance of the land masses enabled them to settle here along with the flora and fauna they came in search of.
3) In sharing the land different ancient cultures and groups did intermingle and procreate outside of their individual original groups.
Neves, Walter A. and Gonzáalez-José, Rolando and Hubbe, Mark and Kipnis, Renato and Araujo, Astolfo G. and Blasi, Oldemar (Dec., 2004)“Early Holocene Human Skeletal Remains from Cerca Grande, Lagoa Santa, Central Brazil, and the Origins of the First Americans”World Archaeology , Vol. 36, No. 4, Debates in World Archaeology , pp. 479-501
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4128282
Colinvaux, Paul A. (Summer, 1964) “The Environment of the Bering Land Bridge” Ecological Monographs , Vol. 34, No. 3 , pp. 297-329
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1948504