The Peopling of the Americas
•What different views exist regarding
•What are traditional archaeological
theories of origins?
•How are these archaeological
theories being challenged?
•What are some of the ethical
concerns in researching origins?
Two Views of Origins
• Before 1990 archaeologists and historians agreed
the first inhabitants came from Asia across the
Bering Strait when sea levels were lower (~13 500
years BP)
• Since 1990 many questions surfaced contradicting
this theory: Shared plant life, structures, diversity
of native languages and so on fostered this
Two Views of Origins
Aboriginal Perspectives
• Many First Peoples see Canada as their
• They believe they have been here since
“Time Immemorial.”
• Aboriginal creation stories vary, but share
one thing in common – Aboriginal peoples
have no bond with any other place
Gathering Archaeological
• Archaeologists use artifacts as evidence to help
understand past societies
• Artifacts can deteriorate with age therefore the
method known as radiocarbon dating is used
• This process measures the age of carbon in
artifacts and therefore tells how old an artifact is
• Tools, utensils and weapons are all artifacts
archaeologists use to learn many things about the
way people lived
Gathering Evidence
• Evidence of Paleo-Indian is found in their
unique tools
• DNA analysis is now being used, however
is quite expensive
Traditional Archaeological
• The earliest evidence came in the form of spear
• Style of spear points determined age and culture
The Clovis Period
• 11 500 – 11 000 BP
• Many researchers believe hunters used spears to
hunt some mammals into extinction
• Archaeologists believed in this model so much
they virtually stopped digging any deeper
Traditional Archaeological
The Plano Period
• 10 000 – 7 000 years BP
• Large mammals like the camel and mammoth
disappeared around this time
• During this time the Plano peoples – descendants
of Paleo-Indian began hunting bison
• Change in spear and arrowhead design came with
the Plano peoples
Linguistic Evidence
• Archaeology does not provide all the answers
• Linguistics show how language of cultures
evolves over time
• Language can explain culture, its interrelations
and its differences
• Linguistics shows that the more diversity there is
in language – the more time has passed
• North America is one of the most linguistically
diverse areas suggesting that First Peoples arrived
here long before the Clovis period
Physical Anthropology
• Study past by examining human remains
(“CSI Historians”)
• Believe there were several migrations of
people to the Americas
• They also believe early peoples came from
different places at different times
Theories of First People’s
The Land Route
• Geologists believe during
the last Ice Age
(Pleistocene Era) sea
levels were lower across
the Bering Strait (between
Alaska and East Asia)
• It is widely believed that
many peoples may have
migrated across this land
bridge into N.A. between
13 500 – 50 000 years BP
A Land Route
• Geologists believe that during the last Ice Age, called the Pleistocene
Era, sea levels were lower across the Bering Strait than they are today.
• A vast grassy plain called Beringia, or land bridge linked what is now
called Siberia with Alaska.
• It is believed that at least 13,500-50,000 years ago early peoples
migrated across to North America.
• Similar fossils discovered on both continents prove that large grazing
animals – bison, caribou, horses, mammoths and musk oxen migrated
across. Early peoples probably followed the herds of animals.
• A stone tool radiocarbon dated 10200 BP makes it possible that a
Pacific Coastal route was taken.
• BP – Before Present
Theories of First People’s
A Pacific Route
• This theory suggests people first came to N.A. by
watercraft over the Pacific Ocean
• Fossil evidence in the Northwest Coast of sea and
land wildlife suggests there were enough natural
resources for people to survive
• There has been little archaeological exploration in
this area due to the belief it was covered by
A Pacific Route
• Suggests that the First Peoples crosses the
Pacific by watercraft.
• Fossil evidence of sea and land mammals
and other wildlife dated 16800 years BP has
been found along the Northwest Coast
• May have inhabited South America first
then moved on to North America
• Genetic links
Theories of First People’s
An Atlantic Route
• Both land bridge and Pacific theories are
challenged by researchers who argue that early
Asians didn’t have technology that matched those
of the Clovis period
• They’ve found evidence showing more similarities
to technology used along the Northern coast of
• There is also DNA evidence linking Aboriginals to
Europeans and not Asians
• This suggests First Peoples may have come across
the Atlantic
An Atlantic Route
• Clovis projectile points are more similar to
Solutrean points – found 16500-22000 years
BP where what is now the Northern Coast
of Spain.
• Solutrean – an ancient culture of Western
Europe dating from 21000- 18000 years ago
• Genetic markers linking Aboriginal Peoples
to Europeans but not to Asians
• Could be a combination of all three which
would explain the diversity of the First
Peoples of the Americas.
• What do you think?
Case Study
Develop an organizer/chart comparing the theories of
first peoples’ origins (p. 18). Include the
following in your comparison:
1. Brief description of the theory.
2. Outline of the evidence supporting each theory.
3. Arguments against each theory.

The Peopling of the Americas