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The Peopling of the New World: Alternative Hypotheses

Updated on July 3, 2011

Since the Era of Exploration, the peopling of the New World has received endless scrutiny. Albeit a general consensus on the Asiatic origins of all Native Americans, the exact manner in which these populations arrived on the shores of North America remains avidly debated. Certainly, the “Ice-Free Corridor” hypothesis, which posits that colonizing groups gained admittance into Alaska via the Bering Strait, maintains perhaps the most accepted scenario for the peopling of the Americas, yet several alternative routes have received increasing consideration by scholars over the past several decades.

The first of these unconventional theories maintains that migratory populations approached the New World along the coast of Siberia, traveling along the southern shoreline of the land bridge and completing their journey by following the Pacific Northwest Coast. While some of the migration would have been completed on foot, the majority of this theory suggests the utilization of boats. Considering that open-water boats were in regular use in Southeast Asian water as early as 60,000 B.P., it is very likely that watercrafts would have aided in the colonizing of America over 30,000 years later.

A second alternative, termed as the “big-game-hunter” scenario, proposes the dual use of coastal and interior routes by multiple waves of nomads in search of big-game animals. Despite the plausibility of this hypothesis, it is tainted by the endemic bias of Pleistocene man as a dependent and simple creature, whereas recent archaeological evidence has suggested a highly adaptive population capable of fiber-woven basketry, fishing technologies, and food preservation strategies. These innovations would have thereby negated any need to pursue large game across such an expansive distance.

The final, lesser-known hypothesis has recently been revived by North American scholars and considers the Atlantic as a possible migratory course. This trans-oceanic crossing would have originated on the edge of southwestern Europe and deposited the roving nomads far below the originally suggested Alaskan entryway. The greatest substantiation for such a scenario is elicited by the proposed “Solutrean Connection”, which reveals striking similarities between Upper-Paleolithic European tool technology and the New World Clovis culture.

The question of exactly how the first peopling of America occurred may never be adequately answered. In truth, the only concrete evidence that any hypothetical migration ever occurred is human presence, and nothing more.

Copyright Lilith Eden 2011. All Rights Reserved 

Adovasio, J.M., Pedler, David. "The Peopling of North America." North American Archaeology. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2008. pp. 30-56


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    • Lilith Eden profile image

      Lilith Eden 6 years ago from Memphis, TN


      While I mentioned it before, I just wanted to say thank you once more for supporting the hub and passing it on. It is appreciated.


    • Roger Baillargeon profile image

      Roger Baillargeon 6 years ago from Quebec, Canada

      Hi Lilith...

      I think your hub ( The Peopling of the New World: Alternative Hypotheses) can be helpful to the community and it is my pleasure to post the link on my Hubpage.

      Regards, Roger B.

    • rafken profile image

      rafken 6 years ago from The worlds my oyster

      Lilith - Look at "Pyramids of Ice in Antarctica" I think you will enjoy it.

    • Lilith Eden profile image

      Lilith Eden 6 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Certainly, let me know and I will be sure to add a link in this hub to your article as a continuation of sorts.

      And thank you for the kind welcome!


    • rafken profile image

      rafken 6 years ago from The worlds my oyster

      Good and interesting hub. I have one more possible theory that I am working on to put in a hub of my own. I'll let you know when I publish but I still have to look up a couple of more things. Welcome to hubs, glad to have you aboard. Up and Useful, thanks.