The debate over the peopling of the Americas gets more interesting by the day. Recently, DNA from a child found at the Anzick site, which dates to around 12,700 years ago, was analyzed, and it was discovered that his ancestors definitely came from Asia. Which is nothing new. For over fifty years, archaeologists have thought that the earliest Americans crossed the Bering Strait land bridge between 13,000 and 15,000 years ago and moved south across the Americas. That was the most widely held archaeological opinion when we wrote PEOPLE OF THE WOLF in 1988.
New DNA research, however, is adding significantly to this debate. Last year, for example, molecular geneticists showed that the Botocudo people in Brazil in the late 1800s were genetically similar to Polynesians. And evolutionary anthropologist, Walter Neves, has demonstrated convincingly that the 11,000 year old skull of a woman in Brazil, known at Luzia, resembles aboriginal Australians. To make this even more complicated, in November, paleontologists in Uruquay published their findings that humans hunted giant sloths there around 30,000 years ago.
There is so much convincing evidence now that humans inhabited the Americas long before anyone thought, that any archaeologist who holds to the “Clovis first” paradigm is not so quietly referred to by other archaeologists as a “troglodyte.”
Personally–as of today–we think there’s mounting evidence that humans may have been in North America as early as 40,000 years ago. Just as an interesting aside, around 37,000 years ago the maternal lines (mitochondrial DNA diversity) of Bison priscus in Beringia underwent a dramatic and sudden decline. There’s no good explanation for this decline. We’ve always wondered if Bison priscus didn’t meet up with the first human hunters, who were also crossing the land bridge.
For anyone who’s interested in a deeper understanding of this debate, there’s a fascinating synopsis of most of this information in PALEOAMERICAN ODYSSEY. Chapter 30 is called, “North America before Clovis: Variance in Temporal/Spatial Cultural Patterns, 27,000-13,000 cal yr. BP.