| 5 August 2011
Mystery of first North American settlers close to solution
A combined team from Washington State University and the University of British Columbia is currently in the process of excavating a settlement attributed to the Coast Salish people, located on Galiano Island in British Columbia, Canada. The mystery is not how they got there (they migrated across the Bering Straits) but why they changed from nomads to settlers, approximately 2,000 years ago.
The team leader, archaeologist Colin Grier from Washington State University, believes he is close to an answer. Elsewhere in the world, the transition from nomad to settler has been triggered by the advent of farming. This is not the case on Galiano Island as there was an abundance of 'easy' food, such as fish, clams, game and wild plants, so argicultural development was not pursued. The answer may lie in the growth of the population. As with modern society, as population grows so food production has to be more organised and more intense, so the population really needs to be static. Evidence has been found to support this theory, in the form of the variety of animal and fish remains found in the settlement.
There is also evidence of increased wealth as the settlement progressed, with personal jewellry and status markers, among other things. This was a fairly sunstantial settlement, with 6 main buildings, the largest of which could have housed up to 10 families.
The excavations have the support of the local Penelakut Indian tribe, who believe these early settlers were their ancestors.
Edited from VOA News (3 August 2011)
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