Latest info/thinking on human migration to the Americas

I was discussing this with my 8 year old daughter today, and afterwards did some Googling. It appears the Bering land bridge was not the (only) route of settlement and there are even advocates of a European origin for the Clovis peoples.

This is all fascinating to me, but I’d like to find some kind of synthesis of recent thought, perhaps including genetic analysis, so I can convey some current ideas to my daughter (while emphasizing of course that this is a developing field of study).

So, can anyone help with a time-saving link, book, article, or summary of how we got to the Americas and when? I mean the aboriginal populations that arrived before sailing ships and firearms, obviously.

This probably refers to the Solutrean Hypothesis, which seems to be widely regarded as poorly supported by evidence, and pretty much incompatible with current DNA analysis.

No doubt you’ve seen it, but the Wiki article seems at least somewhat useful.

“1491” by Charles Mann is a very good read and covers this subject in considerable easy-to-understand detail.

Mann has his opinions which he is clear about. But he is a professional writer and makes compelling arguments with lots of references.

It isn’t the very latest research, but it covers the migration of h. sapiens to the Americas very well.

As to the specific question, there are several genetic markers in native americans that are found in native Siberians and not Europeans. Scams Razor, why postulate a difficult and dangerous answer when a simple and safe answer is well supported by the evidence?

Y-chromosome haplogroup Q is the most common type found among natives of the Americas but is also found in Siberia and is a significant minority lineage in Scandinavia. Since most haplogroups predate the land bridge, this doesn’t establish anything extremely profound except to provide evidence for existing theories of migration.

Interestingly enough, this may have meant that some of the Vikings that settled in Newfoundland a thousand years ago may have been more closely related on the paternal line to the natives that they encountered than they were to Celtic peoples (who are overwhelmingly haplogroup R).

Haplogroup research also, by the way, tears the Book of Mormon to shreds as it shows natives of the Americas to be far more closely related to Siberians (as science tells us) than they are to Middle Easterners.

The most popular model for the colonization of the Americas currently is that migrants used a coastal route rather than an inland one. Inland routes were blocked by ice-caps between about 30,000 and 11,500 years ago. The opening of anice-free corridor at the end of that period coincided nicely with the appearance of the Clovis culture, which was then thought to be the oldest in the Americas.

With the accumulation of convincing evidence of sites older than 11,500 years, while inland routes were blocked, it became apparent that another route must have been used. A maritime route that bypassed the glaciers by sea seems to be the most plausible one.

The Solutrean hypothesis relating Clovis to European stone tool cultures is not accepted by most archaeologists. For one thing, the cultures are separated by several thousand years. To my mind the biggest objection is the unlikeliness of keeping a stone tool tradition alive for the generations a crossing would have taken across the edge of an ice sheet where there were no rocks!

Thanks for the replies. I read and loved 1491, but what stuck with me more was the discussion of the cultures that arose after the migration–I’ll look back at it.

Among linguists specializing in the Americas, I assume there are still lumpers and splitters. Lumpers recognize three families: Na-Dene, Inuit, and Everything-Else (okay, they call the last one Amerindian). They postulate this represented three separate Bering migrations.

Splitters fail to recognize links among families like Hokan, Algonkian, Oto-Manguean, Chibchan, etc. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing a few of these splitters postulate more than three migration events, while the rest acknowledge there may have been just three (or fewer), but we can’t say anything based on languages, because 11,000 years was plenty of time for the attested families to differentiate beyond recognition.

The first group to reach the new world would have found wide-open opportunities - no hostile occupants, and animals too ignorant of humans to run away (at first). They would have thrived and spread. Subsequent migration waves would encounter existing groups that approached the carrying capacity of the land after a few hundred years. Unless they arrived with different or better technology (i.e. the Inuit had learned how to survive in an arctic environment) then it would be slow slogging making any progress displacing the existing people. or, if new areas opened up fast - the central open corridor could maybe provide a means to bypass the existing peoples and maybe get a head start on eastern North America. But unless we’re talking bows and arrows against spears, odds are an invading group wasn’t going anywhere fast.

The Center for the Study of the First Americans (at Texas A&M) has lots of information this interesting topic.

Last I heard, the Bering Land Bridge was not the only route, but our first immigrants did mostly come from what is now Siberia. (Some walked, some paddled.) Evidence of European origins are fairly doubtful.

Still, check out the site…

I thought ice sheets carried rocks with them. Isn’t that how Agassiz first figured out that we’d had long periods of glaciation?

The idea is that they migrated along the edge of sea ice in the North Atlantic. (I misspoke in calling it an ice sheet.) Obviously sea ice won’t have rocks in it, and they would have had to follow this across thousands of miles.

I see, thanks.

Another thing that’s a bit of a mystery with the “multiple waves” hypothesis is that Clovis remains are very clearly anatomically related to modern Native Americans (and there’s even been some DNA work done confirming this) but the handful of pre-Clovis skeletons that have been found are very different anatomically. The identity and ultimate fate of the people who came before the ice-free corridor isn’t really understood. There’s some speculation that they were more closely related to Polynesians and Australians, or the Ainu people of Japan.