Message #60
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 

Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 22:11:07
Subject: North America Occupied From South To North?

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From: Jeanette A. McKenna

Re: first americans 40k yrs bp

Very interesting that the linguists are now prepared to
argue for earlier dates for North America. I have been of
the opinion that there is too much emphasis on the "land
bridge" from Asia to North America and less emphasis on the
"water bridge". We all know that the South Pacific was
populated by individuals that "island hopped" from eastern
Asia. These people were accomplished seafarers who managed
to cover thousands of miles of open ocean. In the cases of
North and South America, dates from California channel island
sites are indicating earlier occupation of the islands and ...
during the Ice Age(s), the sea level was lower and many more
islands were likely present. It makes sense to me that the
early Americans/ Asians followed the coast lines and/or sea
migrations from the areas east of Asia/south of Alaska and
continued right down the western coast fo the Americas,
eventually settling in South America and establishing the vast
sites now buried in the jungles. The occupation of North
America was likely from south to north ... with those of the
South America and Meso-American areas migrating in-land and up
the the North American areas as the Ice Age limits receded.
This possibility may help explain some of the linguistic
boundaries identified in the Southwest and other areas of
California (Uto-Aztecan?). Why would seafarers suddenly become
nomadic land roamers durnig the height of the Ice Age(s)? The
land bridge theory does seem very plausible with the new data
being compiled. Maybe I'm way-off ... but I do try to keep my
mind busy with prehistory while I persue historic archaeology.
My best to all in the Phoenix Basin.

Jeanette A. McKenna 
Whittier, CA

 First Americans may have arrived 40,000 years ago
 By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
 PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Linguistic and physical evidence is
 mounting to show that the first Americans migrated from Asia not
 10,000 or 20,000 years ago but as many as 40,000 years ago,
 experts said Monday.
 The first people to make the trek across what is now the
 Bering Strait from Asia into Alaska may have arrived even before
 the last Ice Age covered North America with glaciers, they said.
 The discovery of a site apparently 12,500 years old in Monte
 Verde, Chile, has thrown the archeological world into an uproar.
 The site itself is 1,300 years older than the oldest known
 previous site -- and it is 10,000 miles away from the onetime
 land bridge between Asia and Alaska.
 Unless the settlers went dashing straight down to Chile,
 they must have been on the continent for tens of thousands of
 years, researchers told the annual meeting of the American
 Association for the Advancement of Science.
 Johanna Nichols, a language expert at the University of
 California at Berkeley, said computer models could show how long
 it would take people to physically move from Alaska to Monte
 ``That's about 8,000 miles once one crossed the ice sheet,''
 she said. ``It would have taken about 2,000 years to travel on a
 beeline at a good clip.''
 That would put the first settlers at 14,500 years ago at the
 very latest.
 Geological experts point out that heavy glaciers covered
 much of the continent at that time, so in fact the trek must
 have taken place much earlier.
 Some of the most compelling evidence is linguistic, said
 Nichols. Native North American languages are so different that
 they must have evolved over tens of thousands of years.
 ``The linguistic population of the New World is 40,000 years
 old or something like that,'' Nichols said.
 ``There are 130 to 150 different (language) families in
 Native American languages today,'' Nichols told a news
 conference. An example of a language family is Indo-European,
 which includes languages as far apart as English, Russian and
 It takes such a family about 6,000 years to evolve. ``So
 there are something like 140 of these 6,000-year-old different
 units existing among Native Americans,'' Nichols said.
 ``The large number of distinct language families
 historically attested in the Americas ... is far more than could
 have descended from one ancestor in 14,500 years.''
 Even if people had migrated into the Americas constantly
 over time, without any interruptions by glaciers, it would have
 taken 30,000 years for that many groups to develop, she
 There was probably a second influx, she added. There is a
 narrow strip of different language families along the west coast
 of the Americas which matches patterns found only in other
 Pacific Rim countries.
 ``They are 12,000 years old, but certainly not 40,000,'' she
 Rob Bonnichsen of Oregon State University said his team
 might eventually be able to answer the question of how old the
 first Americans are with physical measurements.
 They have found naturally shed human and animal hair at
 ancient sites and have been able to tease DNA out of it. They
 have also used new carbon-dating methods on the animal hair, and
 it seems to work.
 ``We can extract and amplify DNA from an individual hair,''
 he said. ``We can DNA analyze and carbon-date the same hair.''
 His team has already tried the method on a 9,500-year-old
 hair from a mountain sheep -- they want to perfect the methods
 before they try it on a precious human sample.
 Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington
 D.C. said he thought more and more evidence would come out about
 very early Americans. Scientists who had sites they thought were
 older than 10,000 years had been afraid to come forward for fear
 of being criticized, he said.
 ``Now a number of sites are coming to light,'' he said. ``I
 would predict that in the next year there would be even more.''