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Topics on the Page

New Research on Human Migration
First Humans in North America
The Clovis Theory
Pacific Coast Migration Model
Polynesian Explorations
  • The Polynesian Triangle
Confronting Eurocentrism in Ancient American History

rotating gif.gifFor more, see Grade 7.1 and Grade 7.2

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.40.38 AM.png.Atlas of Human Journey provides an interactive world map with video segments on the spread of humans from 200,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE from "The Genographic Project" and National Geographic.

New Research on Human Migration

Most archaeologists generally agree humans populated the Americas around 14,500 years ago.
  • However, evidence of humans in Monte Verde, Chile 15,000 years
    • Evidence of humans in Florida, 14,500 years ago

New research questions the Land Bridge Theory, see Theories about the Bering Strait from the Burke Museum. This research includes the idea that people came to the Americas by boat from Asia.

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 12.35.47 PM.pngSee Ancient Americans Tag Bundle for more resources

Graphic Displaying the Land Bridge from 21,000 BC to today
Graphic Displaying the Land Bridge from 21,000 BC to today

First Humans in North America

The Land Bridge theory proposes that people migrated from Siberia to Alaska across a land bridge that spanned the current day Bering Strait. The first people to populate the Americas were believed to have migrated across the Bering Land Bridge while tracking large game animal herds. Most textbooks cite this theory.

Paisley Caves, above Summer lake plain, Oregon
Paisley Caves, above Summer lake plain, Oregon

  • Evidence from the 1990s shows human habitation in Monte Verde, Chile, dating back to 14,500 years ago - a millennium older and much further south than what was previously thought to be the first people in the Americas. How they got there is open to debate.

  • Findings from Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania, Page-Ladsen flake tools in Florida, and coprolites from Paisley Cave in Oregon suggest people were in these locations some 14,500 BP.

  • Another claim for human settlement in the Americas is the Topper Site in South Carolina, dating back to about 15,000 BP

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.pngHuman Numbers Through Time shows the growth of world population from the Common Era Year 0 to the present.
Multimedia.pngClick here for a video from the Smithsonian "Across Atlantic Ice."

Clovis Theory

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Clovis Spear Points, from Phys.org, 2017

The Clovis First Theory Is Put to Rest at Paisley Caves, July 2012.

Out of Asia from the University of Cambridge (2014) discusses the sequencing of the genome of the earliest complete skeleton found in North America, strongly indicating that the Clovis culture originated in Asia.

Debunking the Clovis First Theory from the New York Times (2014) addresses the possibility that people arrived in Brazil as early as 22,000 years ago, about 10,000 years earlier than the Clovis culture.

Dennis Stanford discusses Clovis culture

Pacific Coast Migration

Prehistoric Highway into the Americas

First Humans Entered the Americas Along the Coast, Not Through the Ice

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Polynesian Explorations

Polynesian Seafarers Discovered America Long Before Europeans, Says DNA Study
This article expounds upon evidence and argumentation developed in a study of sweet potato crops in South America and Polynesia. The study argues that since sweet potatoes are indigenous to the Andes Mountains, the only way Polynesians could have gotten seedlings to grow on various Polynesian islands was by "discovering" the Americas and bringing sweet potato back to Polynesia. In addition, supposed trade routes between Polynesia and South America predate any European contact.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 3.55.03 PM.pngConfronting Eurocentrism and the Whitewashing of History in Ancient American History

(Al Jazeera - The Legacy of Columbus Day)

While the voyages of Columbus come much later in the context of "the peopling of Americas" it feels important to include this as the thread at the end of this conversation. Much of the skepticism around some of the theories of early American migration and settlement reflects the broader trends of eurocentrism in the telling of this history. Some people are skeptical of the theories that early African and Polynesian peoples came to the Americas before Europeans because of the underlying racism and eurocentrism that feeds the narratives that construct much of the mainstream ideas of "ancient history". It is important to think about the stories and myths we tell ourselves, like Columbus Day, that came later but are still incredibly relevant to bringing in a critical lens to the ways in which we conceive this kind of history. It is important to not just recite the facts, but also challenge the underlying assumptions and cultural beliefs that privilege certain facts and certain versions of this historical framework.

(Study Casts Doubts on Polynesian Theory of Contact before Europeans)

Narratives like this reflect some of the problematic trends touched on in the paragraph above. The author is dismissive that people in sea-faring canoes could have made a "pre-Columbian" voyage to South America and beat the Europeans to it. The entire narrative, despite this being on a timeline way before Columbus still gets framed around one Italian genocidal explorer as being the major turning point in this history. These early Polynesian contacts are "pre-Columbian" because they are not seen as majorly important in the same way by the established narrative of a European "discovery" of a "New World". One can clearly see the ways in which this centers the story back upon the supposed genius of Europe, making the story about Europe and all its marvels even when there is strong evidence that other societies were interacting with the so-called "Americas" way before any Europeans ever came into contact. The author of this article is dismissive and overtly biased in the version of the story he prefers. This piece is just case in point of the need to be skeptical of who is telling the story rather than only narrowing in on the what of the story. The status quo is self reinforcing and is in many ways casting skepticism on essential new understandings that would help us reconstruct a more accurate and wholesome idea of world history.