Courtesy world-mysteries.com

Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 5: The Theory Comes Crashing Down

Alex Ewen
7/11/14

In Part 4 of our exclusive series we looked at how the Bering Strait Theory by the 1920s had become a rigid dogma that no scientist who valued their career would dare to challenge.

RELATED: Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 4: The Indisputable Facts in the Artifacts

For most of the 20th century, new discoveries of American Indian origins that cast doubt on the Bering Strait Theory were either dismissed or ignored. But as the technology of science marched on, the cracks grew deeper and deeper.

An unintended consequence of the atmospheric testing of atomic weapons during the Cold War was that by the 1960s it had doubled the amount of radioactive carbon 14 in the environment, and this “bomb pulse” was showing up on the instruments that were used for radiocarbon dating. This led scientists to suspect that the amount of carbon 14 that is found in the environment might not have always been constant, possibly leading to wrong dates.

By the mid-1980s, dendrochronologists, those that study and date tree-rings, had manage to piece together–by matching the tree-rings of long-living species such as the bristlecone pine with those of ancient trees–an unbroken string of tree-rings over 7,000 years old. Since dendochronology can give extremely accurate dates, often to the year, matching the two dating systems found exactly that, that the amount of C14 fluctuated and that many radiocarbon dates had to be adjusted.

For Clovis First advocates, this presented a real problem, for the new calibrated radiocarbon dates pushed back the Clovis culture almost 2,000 years. It meant that the oldest reliably dated Clovis site, in Aubrey, Texas, which was radiocarbon dated at 11,590 years ago, was now approximately 13,490 years old. The Paleoindians would have had to race through the Ice-free Corridor to get to Texas in time.

But the new radiocarbon dates would give even more bad news. Geologists, also recalibrating their radiocarbon data, began to refine their estimates for when the massive ice sheets began to melt, and found them adjusting their dates between 500 and 2,000 years earlier. The Ice-free Corridor was now certainly impassable 13,000 years ago and possibly as late as 12,000 years ago. This meant that there was no way the Paleoindians could have walked over from Asia–or if they had, they would have had to done so 20,000 years earlier, a non-starter for the theory’s advocates. A central thesis of the Bering Strait Theory was now toppled, for if the Clovis culture was indeed the first peoples in the Americas, they had to have come by boat.

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HontasF's picture
HontasF
Submitted by HontasF on
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss a northern coastal / semi marine route. The first, fastest wave of migration OoA was via the coast. They crossed from the Red sea to Australia in as little as 10-20 thousand years. By the time those peoples decedents reached places like Japan and father north, they had been navigating in sight of land for thousands of years. They had been surviving cold conditions for thousands of years. Indigenous people on both sides of the Bering strait will even mention that they have had continuous contact by water craft for as long as anyone remembers. During winter they could walk it. These days people can and do ride snow machines on the ice between the Russian and American sides. Here is a video about the people who live just on the Russian side of the Strait. In it they display some of their sea faring ability. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdeQz6TTBQ8 The science certainly supports arguing about the date. My question is why do so many dispute the fact that migration via that route (and others) would be needed, at some point in the distant past?

tresojos's picture
tresojos
Submitted by tresojos on
A fascinating series. Thank you! Part of the problem in trying to figure out the past is that we as humans only live, at most, about a hundred years and usually less. We have a hard time imagining several hundred, much less thousands, millions, or billions of years. We like our stories simple and straightforward, without all kinds of possible ramifications and subtleties. So it's no surprise that "researchers" come up with limited or pat answers. I have always doubted the Bering-Strait-only theory, partly because it assumes that people must have walked across. The boat, however, is probably the most ancient form of transportation besides walking - no one knows when the first boat took to water. Also, many white Americans assume the Western hemisphere could not have been discovered except once or twice in the past - after all, Columbus didn't find it until relatively recently. How could "civilization" not know about it for so long? Even George W. Bush talked about "how the oceans protected us" (apparently up until 9/11). It's nonsense of course. With a boat, oceans are huge highways to all kinds of places. The currents are conveyor belts of even those floating things that fall into them accidentally!

wayneborean's picture
wayneborean
Submitted by wayneborean on
Then there's the issue of Mega-Fauna extinction, which was driven by the last ice age <a href="http://www.heritagedaily.com/2014/02/a-smoking-gun-on-the-ice-age-megafauna-extinctions/102003">click here</a>. Since the date for Mega-Fauna extinction is before the date where there was a clear path, it is obvious that following those herds wasn't the driver for colonization of the Americas. Wayne

Kalani Mondoy
Kalani Mondoy
Submitted by Kalani Mondoy on
We already knew before scientists proved connections between Polynesia and the Americas from our oral traditions about hte interaction to those from the far off foreign lands of the rising of the sun, Kahikiku. So yes there was interaction, and there was an exchange of technology. Nothing much else was said because our stories talk about returning to our lands. I'm not sure where this was going with the Polynesian connection. Seemed to be more like, "ok, so they mentioned this and...." and that was it. No conclusion whatsoever. So it said how these people were trying to dismiss the coastal routes all because " it would undercut the contention that “primitive people” could not cross the oceans, and that walking across the Bering Strait was the only possible way that Paleoindians could have come to the Americas. It even mentioned a few recent articles including, " Identification of Polynesian mtDNA Haplogroups in Remains of Botocudo Amerindians from Brazil" and how they've settled the debate for everyone except for those Bering Strait advocates. I don't know about the other papers that they've quoted in the article but this particular one about the Botocudo Amerindians seem to have resulted via the slave trade as indicated in that paper, which in reality, are the results of reading B4a1a1, the Polynesian motif which we all know has many subgroups including B4a1a1a2/B4a1a1b. But wish they were much clearer in their article.

brianbigel's picture
brianbigel
Submitted by brianbigel on
I personally think it's been multiple incursions over the millennia. It's the only thing that makes sense. I kind of wish they had a couple of the even older South American sites in the article but they aren't there. I'm thinking now I'm on to another idea for a novel.

indianmedicine's picture
indianmedicine
Submitted by indianmedicine on
I am impressed with the White Paper Study, and clearly demonstrates that the "bring Strait Theory" is NOT absolute..................................................................... .................................................................................................................................... I am also impressed with the Talking Points" of the Contributors, as they demonstrate deliberate thought on the Question.................................................. .................................................................................................................................... Looking at the California Coastal Tribes of the San Diego Area, you can observe the polynesian influence on their Dress,Customs, and Day to Day necessities as to Hand Tools, Hunting, Fishing etc.............................................. .................................................................................................................................... This certainly lends credibility to Coastal Migration Theory, and with the alleged recorded history of European Sailors coming in contact with Island Sailors 3K from their Homeland, this also lends credibility to the Coastal Migration Theories................................................................................................... ................................................................................................................................... HontasF, very informative contribution to the Discussion & Dialogue - Thank You............................................................................................................................. ................................................................................................................................... tresojos, Good Talking Points raised, - Thank You ............................................. ................................................................................................................................... wayneborean, Good "Offer of Proof" with the Scientific evidence presented. - Thank You................................................................................................................. ................................................................................................................................... Kalani Mondoy, Good Point on the DNA Groupings "Offer of Proof", Thank You for adding to the dialog on the Question................................................................ ................................................................................................................................... Who am I to make these accolades to the Contributors?................................... ................................................................................................................................... Just a simple Reader with a Brain that appreciates well thought conversation with Deductive Reasoning...................................................................................... ...................................................................................................................................

Charlie Bader
Charlie Bader
Submitted by Charlie Bader on
I would agree with HontasF in that a coastal/semi marine method of migration would have been a viable route. If the Bering Straights had been covered with a glacier, then there certainly would have been seasonal sea ice at the margin. Alaskan Natives have traversed this ice for as long as we have known on their seal hunting expeditions. For a nomadic tribe, it is not out of the question to traverse such a distance, especially if they had light watercraft at their disposal. The Aleuts perfected lightweight small craft long ago. Today's version with modern space-age materials (geoesic Aerolite) is not that much lighter than what the Aleuts used. These kayaks/bidarkas could have easily been towed across the sea ice for crossing open stretches of water. If the glaciers had in fact covered the Bering Straight, then seasonal sea ice certainly would have reached as far south as the Aleutians as it comes close even today with our warm temperatures. The likely route then shifts from the Bering Straights to the Aleutians with the largest hop of a mere 208 miles between Attu and Ostrov Mednyy. Additionally, Thor Heyerdahl illustrated that was possible to traverse the Pacific using nothing more than a sailing raft with daggerboard steering. My guess is that with thousands of years to explore and no Internet to distract, both routes were frequently traveled. We so often discredit ancient peoples, thinking that modern humans are the only ones with any technological capability.

Micheal Claxton
Micheal Claxton
Submitted by Micheal Claxton on
There is a movement to deny the obvious and that is Native connections to Asia and the Pacific. And reorient us to Europe. It is an attempt to hijack the reality of our thousands of years of interaction and shared use of these lands which are NOT separate worlds. Yes my grandfather did look "Chinese" (what ever that is supposed to mean) and so did and does most pureblood native peoples.

Micheal Claxton
Micheal Claxton
Submitted by Micheal Claxton on
http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AlaskaScienceForum/article/language-link-between-central-siberia-and-alaska

haslip-viera's picture
haslip-viera
Submitted by haslip-viera on
Alec Ewen’s claim that the “Bering Strait Theory…Comes Crashing Down” is totally without merit. The Bering Strait migration model has always been one of several competing scenarios for the migration of the first people into the Americas and it continues to be the preferred scenario for the majority of scientists who are studying this issue. Ewen makes reference to a “flurry of recent articles” that propose a trans-Pacific migration of Polynesians to the Americas, but the three cited articles do not support his claim that the Bering Strait theory has come “crashing down,” that this research has “pretty much settled the debate for everyone except the most dogmatic Bering Strait advocates,” and that “the evidence for pre-Columbian contact between Polynesians and American Indians has always been strong.” For example, the 2012 article that Ewen cites in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society by Erik Thorsby states that there was an “early Amerindian contribution to the Polynesian gene pool on Easter Island” (and not the other way around!), but he provides no firm chronology for when this “contribution” may have taken place—noting (p.818) that “this question cannot of course be answered by our investigations.” The article that Ewen cites in Current Genomics (2010) by Arnaiz-Villena (et al) is also problematic because it supports both a Beringian and a possible trans-Pacific scenario. The authors of this article state (p.112) that “North West Canadian Athabaskans have had gene flow with (a) close neighboring populations, (b) Amerindians, (c) Pacific Islanders including East Australians and (d) Siberians. The authors also state with more specificity (p.111) that “Meso and South American Amerindians” share genetic material with “(1) Siberians, (2) other First American Inhabitants including Athabaskans and Eskimo, but not Aleuts…, (3) Asian Pacific Coast populations (Ainu, Japanese, Taiwan) and to a lesser extent with Indochina people and, (4) East Australian Aborigines and Pacific Islands, like Papua New Guinea or Samoa….” The inclusion of all of these greatly dispersed populations from Siberia all the way to Samoa compels them to support both a Beringian and a trans-Pacific scenario, but the reference to Papuans from New Guinea and Australian aborigines also seriously complicates Ewen’s hoped-for trans-Pacific migration scenario that focuses exclusively on Polynesians. In this respect, he should also be careful what he wishes for. Papuans and Australian aborigines are usually defined broadly as Asiatic “Negroes” or blacks in contrast to the allegedly Asian, or more Asian Polynesians. According to the proposed chronologies for all of these groups (which are not mentioned in the article or by Ewen), the Asiatic Blacks (Australians, Papuans and Melanesians) populated Australia and the western Pacific (30-50,000BP) long before the arrival of defined Polynesians. See Dunn et al (2005) and Holden (2008). Readers of this journal should also know, if they don’t know already, that so-called “Afrocentric” scholars have jumped all over this issue by claiming that the first Americans were blacks from Australia and the islands of Oceania who crossed the Pacific ocean by watercraft and came to the Americas to be displaced by groups of Asians who allegedly came much later. This model of trans-Pacific migration to the Americas received much attention from the mid-1990s until recently as a result of morphological studies completed on Brazilian skulls by Walter Neves, Joseph Powell and others as cited in Ewen’s recommended article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2012) by Faria Gonçalves et al. This article by Faria Gonçalves et al. also fails to support Ewen’s claim that the Beringian model has come “crashing down.” The article is riddled with doubts about a possible trans-Pacific migration of Polynesians to the Americas and when it might have happened. They state that they “cannot claim to have an answer” and they rightly cite the problems with the chronology for Polynesians that Ewen fails to address. According to Faria Gonçalves et al. and the articles that they also cite (pp.3-4), the “Polynesian islands” were “apparently” not populated until “around 3,000 y(ears) ago,” and despite their efforts to obtain earlier dates through genetic analysis, they conclude that the dates for Polynesians are “too recent” and are probably not connected to the migration of the first Americans (also see Lawler, 2010). Ewen is also dismissive of a Beringian coastal migration by watercraft because according to him, “the coastal route was completely blocked by ice from Russia all the way to Seattle.” In actuality, we don’t know if this is in fact the case. A significant part of the coastline for that period now lies underwater because of the rise in sea level since that time. Future research will have to focus on the submerged land masses, and please don’t tell the Inuit that they can’t deal with extreme cold and ice. References: Dunn, Michael, Angela Terrill, Ger Reesink, Robert A. Foley, Stephen C. Levinson. "Structural Phylogenetics and the Reconstruction of Ancient Language History." Science, vol. 309 (September 2005): 2072-2075. Holden, Constance. "Polynesians Took the Express Train Through Melanesia to the Pacific." Science, vol. 319 (June 2008): 270. Lawler, Andrew. “Beyond Kon-Tiki: Did Polynesians Sail to South America?” Science, vol. 328 (June 2010): 1344-1347.

haslip-viera's picture
haslip-viera
Submitted by haslip-viera on
Alec Ewen’s claim that the “Bering Strait Theory…Comes Crashing Down” is totally without merit. The Bering Strait migration model has always been one of several competing scenarios for the migration of the first people into the Americas and it continues to be the preferred scenario for the majority of scientists who are studying this issue. Ewen makes reference to a “flurry of recent articles” that propose a trans-Pacific migration of Polynesians to the Americas, but the three cited articles do not support his claim that the Bering Strait theory has come “crashing down,” that this research has “pretty much settled the debate for everyone except the most dogmatic Bering Strait advocates,” and that “the evidence for pre-Columbian contact between Polynesians and American Indians has always been strong.” For example, the 2012 article that Ewen cites in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society by Erik Thorsby states that there was an “early Amerindian contribution to the Polynesian gene pool on Easter Island” (and not the other way around!), but he provides no firm chronology for when this “contribution” may have taken place—noting (p.818) that “this question cannot of course be answered by our investigations.” The article that Ewen cites in Current Genomics (2010) by Arnaiz-Villena (et al) is also problematic because it supports both a Beringian and a possible trans-Pacific scenario. The authors of this article state (p.112) that “North West Canadian Athabaskans have had gene flow with (a) close neighboring populations, (b) Amerindians, (c) Pacific Islanders including East Australians and (d) Siberians. The authors also state with more specificity (p.111) that “Meso and South American Amerindians” share genetic material with “(1) Siberians, (2) other First American Inhabitants including Athabaskans and Eskimo, but not Aleuts…, (3) Asian Pacific Coast populations (Ainu, Japanese, Taiwan) and to a lesser extent with Indochina people and, (4) East Australian Aborigines and Pacific Islands, like Papua New Guinea or Samoa….” The inclusion of all of these greatly dispersed populations from Siberia all the way to Samoa compels them to support both a Beringian and a trans-Pacific scenario, but the reference to Papuans from New Guinea and Australian aborigines also seriously complicates Ewen’s hoped-for trans-Pacific migration scenario that focuses exclusively on Polynesians. In this respect, he should also be careful what he wishes for. Papuans and Australian aborigines are usually defined broadly as Asiatic “Negroes” or blacks in contrast to the allegedly Asian, or more Asian Polynesians. According to the proposed chronologies for all of these groups (which are not mentioned in the article or by Ewen), the Asiatic Blacks (Australians, Papuans and Melanesians) populated Australia and the western Pacific (30-50,000BP) long before the arrival of defined Polynesians. See Dunn et al (2005) and Holden (2008). Readers of this journal should also know, if they don’t know already, that so-called “Afrocentric” scholars have jumped all over this issue by claiming that the first Americans were blacks from Australia and the islands of Oceania who crossed the Pacific ocean by watercraft and came to the Americas to be displaced by groups of Asians who allegedly came much later. This model of trans-Pacific migration to the Americas received much attention from the mid-1990s until recently as a result of morphological studies completed on Brazilian skulls by Walter Neves, Joseph Powell and others as cited in Ewen’s recommended article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2012) by Faria Gonçalves et al. This article by Faria Gonçalves et al. also fails to support Ewen’s claim that the Beringian model has come “crashing down.” The article is riddled with doubts about a possible trans-Pacific migration of Polynesians to the Americas and when it might have happened. They state that they “cannot claim to have an answer” and they rightly cite the problems with the chronology for Polynesians that Ewen fails to address. According to Faria Gonçalves et al. and the articles that they also cite (pp.3-4), the “Polynesian islands” were “apparently” not populated until “around 3,000 y(ears) ago,” and despite their efforts to obtain earlier dates through genetic analysis, they conclude that the dates for Polynesians are “too recent” and are probably not connected to the migration of the first Americans (also see Lawler, 2010). Ewen is also dismissive of a Beringian coastal migration by watercraft because according to him, “the coastal route was completely blocked by ice from Russia all the way to Seattle.” In actuality, we don’t know if this is in fact the case. A significant part of the coastline for that period now lies underwater because of the rise in sea level since that time. Future research will have to focus on the submerged land masses, and please don’t tell the Inuit that they can’t deal with extreme cold and ice. References: Dunn, Michael, Angela Terrill, Ger Reesink, Robert A. Foley, Stephen C. Levinson. "Structural Phylogenetics and the Reconstruction of Ancient Language History." Science, vol. 309 (September 2005): 2072-2075. Holden, Constance. "Polynesians Took the Express Train Through Melanesia to the Pacific." Science, vol. 319 (June 2008): 270. Lawler, Andrew. “Beyond Kon-Tiki: Did Polynesians Sail to South America?” Science, vol. 328 (June 2010): 1344-1347.

haslip-viera's picture
haslip-viera
Submitted by haslip-viera on
Sorry for the repetition of my comments, which seemed not to go through the first time.
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