First Americans Were Australians June 2002 - Unknown Country - Whitley Strieber

Drowned land holds clue to first Americans

February 7, 2000 - Science News

Combining the skills of the late Jacques Cousteau and Louis Leakey, two Canadian researchers have gone off the deep end to address one of the biggest questions in anthropology: How did people first make their way to the Americas? Using sophisticated underwater techniques, the scientists have mapped out a now-flooded route that could have provided an entry point into the New World during the last ice age.

"What they're doing is very pioneering. It's a beautiful bit of science," comments archaeologist E. James Dixon of the Denver Museum of Natural History.

The Canadian research adds weight to the idea that maritime Asians migrated down the coast of North America instead of hoofing it overland, as anthropologists have traditionally believed.

Daryl W. Fedje of Parks Canada in Victoria, British Columbia, and Heiner Josenhans of the Geological Survey of Canada in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, carried out the new study off the coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands, just south of Alaska. The researchers used high-resolution sonar to complete a detailed bathymetric map of the underwater landscape.

The chart, published in the February Geology, shows a drowned world of former river valleys, flood plains, and ancient lakes that would have been above sea level at the end of the last glacial epoch, more than 10,000 years ago. During the ice age, so much of the world's water was locked up in continental glaciers that the height of the oceans dropped by 120 meters. The narrow seas separating Siberia and Alaska dried up, forming a temporary land bridge between the two continents.

Using the new map, Fedje and Josenhans went out to collect samples from the coastal seafloor. They found a pine tree stump and other woody debris that date to 12,200 years ago, according to the carbon-14 method. This is the earliest direct evidence that forests had returned to the formerly ice-covered area. Other sites yielded shells from edible shellfish dating almost to the same time.

Such clues show how the coastline, which was frozen until about 14,000 years ago, was growing more hospitable. "At this time, 12,000 years ago, it would have been a suitable place for people to live and be moving across," says Fedje.

The researchers also found a stone tool at a location now 53 m below sea level. They have dated this site to 10,000 years ago, making the tool one of the earliest human artifacts along the northwest coast of North America.

The new evidence goes against the long-held assumptions of anthropologists who theorized that the first human immigrants must have been hunters following mammoths and other large game via an inland route to the North American Great Plains. Once people passed over the land bridge to Alaska about 12,000 years ago, according to the older theory, they trekked through a narrow corridor between two remaining giant ice sheets, one covering northeast North America and the other blanketing the Rocky Mountains and their northern extension.

Recently, however, archaeologists have discovered evidence of people reaching South America by 12,500 years ago, well before the ice-free inland corridor would have been passable.

"People are looking increasingly toward the coast as an alternative option for getting to the lower 48 states and other portions of the New World," says archaeologist David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "That's why this kind of [mapping] work is interesting and important, because it's helping to show us when such routes would have been open, viable, and possibly traversable."

Meltzer notes, however, that coastal migrants must have arrived well before the time of the forests documented by Fedje and Josenhans, in order to spread all the way to the southern end of South America by 12,500 years ago. Regarding the evidence of human migration, he says, "the further we push it back, the happier I'll be."

Ancient Bones May Rewrite Theory Of Earliest Americans

CNN - June 10, 1999 - Santa Barbara, Ca.

The bones of an early American woman found off the coast of California may rewrite the history books on how the earliest visitors arrived in North America.

The three bones were discovered 40 years ago on the Channel Islands, on a ridge called Arlington, just off the California coastline. Now, technological advances are offering new clues into just how far back in history the bones may reach.

Using radiocarbon dating to analyze the bone protein at the molecular level, scientists at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History say they've dated the remains at 13,000 years old.

If that's accurate, the bones precede by several hundred years the oldest previously known remains, discovered in Montana and the Midwest.

"This woman probably belonged to a band of people that were not necessarily hunting mammoths, but were living along the coasts, hunting, fishing, gathering shellfish," says John Johnson, the museum's curator of anthropology.

The bones were found 40 years ago on an island off the coast of California

The fact that the woman was found on an island indicates the earliest Paleo-Indians had watercraft necessary to cross the Santa Barbara Channel

If that's so, the find offers an alternate theory to the long-held belief that the first visitors to North America came from Asia and walked from Siberia to Alaska across a land bridge, now covered by the Bering Straight.

But exactly where the woman came from may forever remain a mystery. "We can't tell what genetic background this woman had, because there's no DNA present," Johnson says.

The newly-established age of the so-called Arlington Springs Woman lends credence to the coastal migration theory that ancient peoples first entered North America by boat down the Pacific Coast from Alaska, according to a museum statement.

San Rosa Woman May be the Oldest Woman in the Americas

LA Times - April 13, 1999

Bones of a woman found on California's Channel Islands might be among the oldest human remains found so far in North America, and they could support theories that the first Americans came by sea rather than over a land bridge, scientists say. The bones of the so-called Arlington Springs woman are probably 13,000 years old. That would make her slightly older than the oldest known skeletons in North America, which were found in Montana, Idaho and Texas, and about 2,000 years older than New Mexico's "Folsom Man."

"'Bottom line is, she may be the earliest inhabitant of North America we have discovered. It's a find of national significance,' said John Johnson, curator of anthropology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, which is part of a team researching the woman's bones."

"The remains--two thigh bones--were discovered at Arlington Springs on Santa Rosa Island 40 years ago and kept at the Santa Barbara museum. Recently researchers at the museum and Channel Islands National Park conducted DNA and radiocarbon tests that were unavailable when the bones were first found."

"One test produced an estimate that the bones are 11,000 years old (about the same as Folsom Man--J.T.), and a second gives an age of about 13,000 years, the Times said."