Reassessing the Arrival of Humans in the Americas

American Association for the Advancement of Science—Archaeological and genetic evidence now suggests that humans arrived on the American continent around 15,000 years ago, according to a Review by Michael Waters of the latest research on the topic. There have been hints that the Americas were peopled before the traditional date of 13,000 years ago, but Waters notes that more rigorous analysis and dating at known sites in Alaska, the eastern United States and South America, plus the discovery of new sites, are “providing evidence of early occupation that cannot be dismissed.” The last decade of genomic research has also bolstered the case for early occupation, as it has been used to untangle the east Asian and northern Eurasian origins of the first Americans and to clarify the relationship of modern-day populations to founder populations in Beringia about 15,000 years ago. The new analyses suggest that regional archaeological cultures were established by at least 13,000 years ago in North America, about 12,900 years ago in South America, and that a western coastal route for migration might have been available as early as 16,000 years ago.

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Excavations at the 15,000-year-old Debra L. Friedkin site in 2016. Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University

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15,000-year-old Stemmed Point in place at Friedkin site, Texas. Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University

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Underwater excavations at the 14,600-year-old Page-Ladson site. Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University

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14,550-year-old knife from the Page-Ladson site, Florida. Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University

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Distribution and ages of the oldest sites in the Americas. Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University

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Article Source: AAAS news release. This research appears in the 12 July 2019 issue of Science. Science is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

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