Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Peopling the Americas

A stop on the Kelp Highway?

Smithsonian Magazine for January offers "The Fertile Shore," which starts with archaeologists from the University of Victoria working along the green shores of British Columbia's Inland Passage, which increasingly "had to be" part of the passageway the first human inhabitants of the Americas worked their way into the continent. 

But as it goes on, the story focusses on just how fiendishly difficult it is to draw firm conclusions on these questions, as archaeological finds and DNA analyses keep producing more data in search of a comprehensive narrative.

The story explores how  modern sea levels have risen hundreds of metres since the last glacial maximum, but the land freed from ice has sprung back just as fast, so that there are water's-edge sites today that were water's edge sites "then."  It gets into the "Kelp Highway," the "Beringian Standstill Hypothesis," the Hakai Institute, gene flow analysis, beetle fossils, and the Yana River finds in western Siberia.  Complicated stuff.  But it gets more and more persuasive, that as the ice melted, the ancestors of the First Nations were there  --were here -- as the grass began to grow and the rivers began to run.

Image: from Smithsonian Magazine
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