| 1 August 2003
Doubts resurface over Siberian land bridge migration
Radiocarbon dating has helped determine that a Siberian archaeological site long held to be the crossing-over point for the Bering Straits land bridge to North America is actually much younger than previously thought. The Ushki settlement, once a community of hunters near Ushki Lake in northeastern Russia, is now believed to be about 13,000 years old—4,000 years younger than originally surmised and now of the same time period as the Clovis site, an ancient community in New Mexico. These new findings cast strong doubts on the idea that people could have migrated between the two sites in such a short time span.
"This was the last site out there in Siberia that could have been an ancestor for the Clovis", said Michael Waters, co-author of this research, which appeared recently in the journal Science. "We have to think bigger now and start thinking outside the box."
The Bering Straits land bridge is a strip of land believed to have linked Asia and North America 10,000 to 18,000 years ago due to a period of glaciation when Arctic ices contained much of the oceans' waters, causing the sea levels to be about 400 feet lower than they are today.
"The new age assessment may indicate that archaeologists continue to search in the wrong direction for an answer to Clovis origins", said Anthony Boldurian, a University of Pittsburgh anthropologist who supports a relatively new idea that the first Americans may have arrived 20,000 years ago from Europe using boats to cross Atlantic ice floes.
Other archaeologists believe that early humans from the Japanese archipelago followed marine food sources such as whales across the Pacific Ocean to North America, while still others contend that given the nomadic characteristics of the first Northern Americans, traversing the continent in a seemingly difficult short period of 1,000 years is not impossible.
"We are talking about tiny numbers of people, highly mobile, who would have traversed thousands of square miles as part of their hunting round within surprisingly few generations", said Brian Fagan, an emeritus professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Along with other recent research (see Archaeo News No. 29, "Late Date Set for Americans"), there new findings continues to be a shake-up of long-held theories concerning the Bering Strait migration.
"It's one of those things where we don't have all the answers right now and that’s what makes it so exciting", Waters said. "I think we're in the threshold in the next 20 years of basically rewriting North American history."
Source: SFGate.com (25 July 2003)
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