Pre-Columbian (Prehistoric) America
Debate Over Migratory Theories
There have been several models for the human settlement of the Americas proposed by various academic communities. The question of how, when and why humans (Paleo-Indians) first entered the Americas is of intense interest to archaeologists and anthropologists, and has been a subject of heated debate for centuries. Modern biochemical techniques as well as more thorough archaeology have shed progressively more light on the subject.
Current understanding of human migration to and throughout the Americas derives from advances in four interrelated disciplines: archeology, physical anthropology, DNA analysis and linguistics. While there is general agreement that America was first settled from Asia by people who migrated across Beringia, the pattern of migration, its timing, and the place of origin in Asia of the peoples who migrated to the Americas remains unclear.
In recent years researchers have sought to use familiar tools to validate or reject established theories like Clovis first. As new discoveries come to light, past hypotheses are reevaluated and new theories constructed. The archeological evidence suggests that Paleo-Indians' first "widespread" habitation of the Americas occurred during the end of the last glacial period, or more specifically what is known as the late glacial maximum, around 16,500–13,000 years ago.
The chronology of migration models is currently divided into two general approaches. The first is the short chronology theory with the first movement beyond Alaska into the New World occurring no earlier than 15,000 – 17,000 years ago, followed by successive waves of immigrants. The second belief is the long chronology theory, which proposes that the first group of people entered the hemisphere at a much earlier date, possibly 21,000–40,000 years ago, with a much later mass secondary wave of immigrants.
One factor fueling the debate is the discontinuity of archaeological evidence between North and South America Paleo-Indian sites. A roughly uniform techno-complex pattern known as Clovis appears in North and Central American sites from at least 13,500 years ago onwards. South American sites of equal antiquity do not share the same consistency and exhibit more diverse cultural patterns. Thus, archaeologists conclude that the "Clovis-first", and Paleo-Indian time frame do not adequately explain complex lithic stage tools appearing in South America. Some theorists seek to develop a colonization model that integrates both North and South American archaeological records.
Availability of unobstructed routes for human migration southward from Beringia during the ice age (summarized)
Beringia "Land Bridge"
15,000 - today
Indigenous Amerindian genetic studies indicate that the "colonizing founders" of the Americas emerged from a single-source ancestral population that evolved in isolation, likely in Beringia. Age estimates based on Y-chromosome micro-satellite place diversity of the American Haplogroup Q1a3a (Y-DNA) at around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. This does not address if there were any previous failed colonization attempts by other genetic groups, as genetic testing can only address current population ancestral heritage.
Migrants from northeastern Asia could have walked to Alaska with relative ease when Beringia was above sea level. But traveling south from Alaska to the rest of North America may have posed significant challenges. The two main possible routes proposed south for human migration are: down the Pacific coast or by way of an interior passage (Mackenzie Corridor) along the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains. When the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets were at their maximum extent, both routes were likely impassable. The Cordilleran sheet reached across to the Pacific shore in the west, and its eastern edge abutted the Laurentide, near the present border between British Columbia and Alberta. Geological evidence suggests the Pacific coastal route was open for overland travel before 23,000 years ago and after 15,000 years ago. During the coldest millennia of the last ice age, roughly 23,000 to 19,000 years ago, lobes of glaciers hundreds of kilometers wide flowed down to the sea. Deep crevasses scarred their surfaces, making travel across them dangerous. Even if people traveled by boat—a claim for which there is currently no direct archaeological evidence as sea level rise has hidden the old coast line — the journey would have been difficult with abundant icebergs in the water. Around 15,000 to 13,000 years ago the coast was presumed ice-free. Additionally, by this time the climate had warmed, and lands were covered in grass and trees. Early Paleo-Indian groups could have readily replenished their food supplies, repaired clothing and tents, and replaced broken or lost tools.
Coastal or watercraft theories have broad implications; one being that Paleo-Indians in North America may not have been purely terrestrial "big-game hunters", but instead were already adapted to maritime or semi-maritime lifestyles. Additionally, it is possible that "Beringian" (western Alaskan) groups migrated into the northern interior and coastlines only to meet their demise during the last glacial maximum, approximately 20,000 years ago, leaving evidence of occupation in specific localized areas. However, they would not be considered a founding population, unless they had managed to migrate south, populate and survive the coldest part of the last ice-age.
40,000 B.C. – 25,000 B.C.
30,000–20,000 years ago:
· Mammoth bones, believed to have been chipped by humans, are found at the Yukon's Bluefish Caves and Old Crow Flats sites investigated in the 1970s and 1980s by archeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars and his team.
· In 2004, Albert Goodyear of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology announced that radiocarbon dating of a bit of charcoal found in the Topper Site near Allendale County, South Carolina. However, these deposits may have been made by forest fires.
(Note: The dates given for the Old Crow and Topper digs have not been completely accepted by the archaeology community.)
· Ice-free corridor running north and south through Alberta and the continental glacier called Laurentide ice sheet. Introduced by geologists in the 1950s when stone tools were found in the Grimshaw, Bow River and in Lethbridge Alberta, under glacial sand and gravel are believed to be pre-glacial and therefore may indicate nomadic humans occupied the area. A child's skull found in 1961 near Taber, Alberta is believed to be one of the oldest inhabitants discovered in Alberta.
(Note: The conclusions reached in Alberta on dates have not been accepted by the entire archaeology community.)
· Cambridge DNA Services estimates around 25,000 years ago humans entered the Americas. Other geneticists have variously estimated that peoples of Asia and the Americas were part of the same population from about 21,000 to 42,000 years ago.
· Siberian mammoth hunters believed to have penetrated far into the Arctic where ice-free corridors north during the time are believed found. Theory first introduced by geologists in the late 1970s when core samples indicate the ice is no older than 17,000 years old.
23,000–16,500 years ago:
· 2002 the presence of the X haplogroup was found in a small percentage of modern indigenous Americans that is known to exist in a few locations in Europe and the Middle East. Subsequent research indicated that this DNA was not the result of genetic mixing after Columbus. However, the time estimates on haplogroup X entering Americas is around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.
· Genetic evidence (2007–2009) suggests the Beringia population's first genetic diversification from Asian populations occurred. An article in the American Journal of Human Genetics states "Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Native American haplogroups, including haplogroup X, were part of a single founding population.
16,500–13,000 years ago:
· Receding glaciers reopened an ice-free corridor through Canada between Alaska and the rest of the Americas. Massive flooding would have created large lakes covering vast areas of north America with glacial waters.
· Age estimates based on Y-chromosome micro-satellite place diversity of the so called "American Haplo" Q1a3a1 at around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.
· Mass extinction of large fauna begins due to climate change and perhaps hunting. The Dire Wolf, Smilodon, Cave Lion, Giant beaver, Ground sloth, Mammoth, American Mastodon, American Camel, American Equine, and American lion all become extinct by 11,000 years ago.
· Pre-Clovis sites uncovered from 1973 to 1978 Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania site indicated occupancy as early as 16,000 years ago and possibly as long as 19,000 years ago. Dates in excess of 19,000 years have been claimed for the deepest occupation layer uncovered.]
· pre-Clovis sites found in Monte Verde, located along Chinchihuapi Creek, in Chile. A crew of eighty people, led by Tom Dillehay of the University of Kentucky, excavated the site from 1977 to 1985. A coastal migration could explain how people arrived in Monte Verde.
15,000–13,000 years ago:
· The Taima Taima mastodon kill/butchering site in Falcon, Venezuela was first excavated by J.M. Cruxent in the 1960s and 1970s. It is one of the earliest archaeological sites that is pre-Clovis. In l976 a broken El Jobo point (red arrow) was found inside the pubic cavity of a partially disarticulated and butchered young mastodon whose bones had been cut, with a jasper flake found near the left ulna of the animal.
· Peñon women found by an ancient lake bed near Mexico City in 1959.
· El Abra sites located in the valley east of the city of Zipaquirá, Colombia. First excavated by Gonzalo Correal and associates in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 3,072 pieces found indicate it was inhabited continuously for over 7,000 years.
· At Paisley Caves in the Cascade Range of Oregon, archaeologists find a scattering of human coprolites, or fossil feces in 2003. The mitochondrial DNA extracted from coprolites linked the cave dwellers to two genetic groups of early Americans that arose 14,000 to 18,000 years ago. These two genetic groups were the founding Paleo-Indians and later Na-Dené migration.
13,500 – 12,000 years ago:
· The Ice Age is ending, melting glaciers have raised sea levels 120 meters and submerged the land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. Geologic evidence indicates that by 11,500 years ago, the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets had retreated far enough to open a habitable ice-free corridor between them. The exposed land was dry and probably restored enough to support plants and animals, which the migrating hunter-gatherer followed.
· Clovis theory – People were living near Clovis, New Mexico where tools from this era were found in the 1930s. This find gave rise to the widely held "Clovis First" theory that people spread through the Americas only after the Ice Age. The Clovis culture was believed replaced by several more localized regional cultures, such as the Folsom tradition, from the time of the Younger Dryas cold climate period.
· Peru coastal region inhabitants fished with nets and bone hooks, collecting seafood such as crabs and sea urchins.
12,000–10,000 years ago:
· Ice age over, climate similar to present temperatures. Old migration theories believe first widespread migration in South America and subsequently a dramatic rise in population all over the Americas, introduced in the 1930s.
· Luzia Woman's skull and other bones excavated in the Lagoa Santa, Brazil area by French archaeologist Annette Laming-Emperaire in the 1970s. By 2006, Lagoa Santa sites had produced no fewer than 75 well-preserved ancient skulls.
· 1994, University of California, Riverside anthropologist R. Erv Taylor examined seventeen of the Spirit Cave artifacts near Fallon, Nevada from the 1940s using mass spectrometry. The results indicated that a mummy was approximately 9,400–10,200 years old — older than any previously known North American mummy.
· Unique markers found in DNA recovered from an Alaskan tooth were found in specific coastal tribes, and were rare in any of the other indigenous peoples in the Americas. This finding lends substantial credence to a migration theory that at least one set of early peoples moved south along the west coast of the Americas in boats.
9,000–8,000 years ago:
· Remains, known as Kennewick Man, are found in 1996 on the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington. A skull and more than 300 bones and bone fragments were found at the site, making up among the oldest, best preserved, and most complete human remains ever found in North America. Initial radiocarbon dating indicated the remains were between 7,000 and 9,500 years old. A leaf-shaped projectile found on the body was long, broad and had serrated edges, all fitting the definition of a Cascade point. This type of point is a feature of the Cascade phase, occurring in the archaeological record from roughly 6,000 to over 8,500 years ago.
· 1930s-1990s no major Central American archaeological sites that go back more than 9,000 years have been found. Isolated finds of stone tools in Belize, Nicaragua and Costa Rica indicates that such sites almost certainly exist. Lack of funding for exploration in the areas has postponed likely finds.
· Tehuacan Valley of Mexico – people are living in rock shelters and using stone cooking pots, which were left in the center of the hearth. Maize was to be used in the same valley between 7,000–6,000 years ago.
By the 1920s studies indicated that blood type O was predominated in pre-Columbian populations, with a small admixture of type A in the north. Further blood studies combining statistics and genetic research were pioneered by Luigi Cavalli-Sforza and applied to population migrations predating historical records. This led Jacob Bronowski, to assert in 1973 (in The Ascent of Man) that there were at least two separate migrations; "I can see no sensible way of interpreting that but to believe that a first migration of a small, related kinship group (all of blood group O) came into America, multiplied, and spread right to the South. Then a second migration, again of small groups, this time containing either A alone or both A and O, followed them only as far as North America."
Modern Amerindian genetics studies focus primarily on Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups and Human mitochondrial DNA haplogroups. The genetic pattern emerging shows two very distinctive genetic episodes occurred; first with the initial peopling of the Americas, and secondly with European colonization of the Americas. The former is the determinant factor for the number of gene lineages, zygosity mutations and founding haplotypes present in today's indigenous Amerindian populations.
Genetics and blood studies indicate human settlement of the New World occurred in stages from the Bering sea coast line, with an initial layover on Beringia for the small founding population. The micro-satellite diversity and distributions of the Y lineage specific to South America indicates that certain Amerindian populations have been isolated since the initial colonization of the region. The Na-Dené, Inuit and Indigenous Alaskan populations exhibit haplogroup Q (Y-DNA) mutations, however are distinct from other indigenous Amerindians with various mtDNA and atDNA mutations. This suggests that the earliest migrants into the northern extremes of North America and Greenland derived from later migrant populations.
Also known as the Bering Strait Theory or Beringia theory, the Land Bridge theory has been widely accepted since the 1930s. This model of migration into the New World proposes that people migrated from Siberia into Alaska, tracking big game animal herds. They were able to cross between the two continents by a land bridge called the Bering Land Bridge, which spanned what is now the Bering Strait, during the Wisconsin glaciation, the last major stage of the Pleistocene beginning 50,000 years ago and ending some 10,000 years ago, when ocean levels were 60 metres (200 ft) lower than today. This information is gathered using oxygen isotope records from deep-sea cores. An exposed land bridge that was at least 1,000 miles wide existed between Siberia and the western coast of Alaska. In the "short chronology" version, from the archaeological evidence gathered, it was concluded that this culture of big game hunters crossed the Bering Strait at least 12,000 years ago and could have eventually reached the southern tip of South America by 11,000 years ago.
At some point during the last Ice Age, about 17,000 years ago, as the ice sheets advanced and sea levels fell, people first migrated from the Eurasian landmass to the Americas. These nomadic hunters were following game herds from Siberia across what is today the Bering Strait into Alaska, and then gradually spread southward. Based upon the distribution of Amerind languages and language families, a movement of tribes along the Rocky Mountain foothills and eastward across the Great Plains to the Atlantic seaboard is assumed to have occurred at least some 13,000 to 10,000 years ago.
This big game-hunting culture has been labeled the Clovis culture, and is primarily identified with fluted projectile points. The culture received its name from artifacts found near Clovis, New Mexico, the first evidence of this tool complex, excavated in 1932. The Clovis culture ranged over much of North America and appeared in South America. The culture is identified by distinctive "Clovis point", a flaked flint spear-point with a notched flute by which it was inserted into a shaft; it could then be removed from the shaft for traveling. This flute is one characteristic that defines the Clovis point complex.
Dating of Clovis materials has been by association with animal bones and by the use of carbon dating methods. Recent reexaminations of Clovis materials using improved carbon-dating methods produced results of 11,050 and 10,800 radiocarbon years B.P. (before present). This evidence suggests that the culture flowered somewhat later and for a shorter period of time than previously believed. Michael R. Waters of Texas A&M University in College Station and Thomas W. Stafford Jr., proprietor of a private-sector laboratory in Lafayette, Colorado and an expert in radiocarbon dating attempted to determine the dates of the Clovis period. The heyday of Clovis technology has typically been set between 11,500 and 10,900 radiocarbon years B.P. (The radiocarbon calibration is disputed for this period, but the widely used IntCal04 calibration puts the dates at 13,300 to 12,800 calendar years B.P.). In a controversial move, Waters and Stafford conclude that no fewer than 11 of the 22 Clovis sites with radiocarbon dates are "problematic" and should be disregarded—including the type site in Clovis, New Mexico. They argue that the datable samples could have been contaminated by earlier material. This contention was received as highly controversial by many in the archaeological community.
Clovis-type artifacts seem to disappear from the archaeological record after the hypothesized Younger Dryas impact event roughly 12,900 years before the present. The effects of the event possibly caused a decline in post-Clovis human populations and shifts in culture and behavior patterns.
Significant problems arise with the Clovis migration model. If Clovis people radiated south after entering the New World and eventually reached the southern tip of South America by 11,000 years ago, this leaves only a short time span to populate the entire hemisphere. Another complication for the Clovis-only theory arose in 1997, when a panel of authorities inspected the Monte Verde site in Chile, concluding that the radiocarbon evidence predates Clovis sites in the North American Midwest by at least 1,000 years. This supports the theory of a primary coastal migration route that moved south along the coastline faster than those that migrated inland into the central areas of the Americas. Many excavations have uncovered evidence that subsistence patterns of early Americans included foods such as turtles, shellfish, and tubers. This is quite a change of diet from the big game mammoths, long-horn bison, horse, and camels that early Clovis hunters apparently followed east into the New World.
At the Topper archaeological site (located along the banks of the Savannah River near Allendale, South Carolina) investigated by University of South Carolina archaeologist Dr. Albert Goodyear, charcoal material recovered in association with purported human artifacts returned radiocarbon dates of up to 50,000 years BP. This would indicate the presence of humans well before the last glacial period. Nevertheless, considerable doubt over the validity of these findings has been raised by many other researchers, and the pre-Clovis Topper dates remain controversial. Charcoal could have originated from forest fires and the crude stone artifacts can actually be misinterpreted geofacts.
Pre-Clovis dates have been claimed for several sites in South America, but these early dates have yet to be verified unequivocally.
Recent discoveries of human coprolites (fossilized feces) found deeply buried in an Oregon cave indicate the presence of humans in North America as much as 1,200 years prior to the Clovis culture.
Earlier finds have led to a pre-Clovis culture theory encompassing different migration models with an expanded chronology to supersede the "Clovis-first" theory.
Pacific models propose that people reached the Americas via water travel, following coastlines from northeast Asia into the Americas. Coastlines are unusually productive environments because they provide humans with access to a diverse array of plants and animals from both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. While not exclusive of land-based migrations, the Pacific 'coastal migration theory' helps explain how early colonists reached areas extremely distant from the Bering Strait region, including sites such as Monte Verde in southern Chile and Taima-Taima in western Venezuela. Two cultural components were discovered at Monte Verde near the Pacific Coast of Chile. The youngest layer is radiocarbon dated at 12,500 radiocarbon years (~14,000 cal BP) and has produced the remains of several types of seaweeds collected from coastal habitats. The older and more controversial component may date back as far as 33,000 years, but few scholars currently accept this very early component.
Other coastal models, dealing specifically with the peopling of the Pacific Northwest and California coasts, have been advocated by archaeologists Knut Fladmark, Roy Carlson, James Dixon, Jon Erlandson, Ruth Gruhn, and Daryl Fedje. In a 2007 article in the Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, Erlandson and his colleagues proposed a corollary to the coastal migration theory—the kelp highway hypothesis—arguing that productive kelp forests supporting similar suites of plants and animals would have existed near the end of the Pleistocene around much of the Pacific Rim from Japan to Beringia, the Pacific Northwest, and California, as well as the Andean Coast of South America. Once the coastlines of Alaska and British Columbia had deglaciated about 16,000 years ago, these kelp forest (along with estuarine, mangrove, and coral reef) habitats would have provided an ecologically similar migration corridor, entirely at sea level, and essentially unobstructed.
As early as 1787 Chilean naturalist Juan Ignacio Molina mentioned the possibility of South America being populated from south Asia through the "infinite island chains" of the Pacific while North America could have been populated from Siberia. Some anthropologists such as Paul Rivet have proposed that peoples of Oceania or southeast Asia crossed the Pacific Ocean and arrived in South America long before the Siberian hunter-gatherers. These hypothetical Pre-Siberian American Aborigines populated much of South America before being nearly exterminated and/or absorbed by the Siberian migrants coming from the north. Some of the theories involve a southward migration from or through Australia and Tasmania, hopping subantarctic islands and then proceeding along the coast of Antarctica and/or southern ice sheets to the tip of South America sometime during the last glacial maximum.
There have been well-dated stratigraphic studies that point to people entering Australia some 40,000 years ago. At this period Australia was not connected to another continent, which leads to the assumption that it was reached by watercraft. If Australia was reached in this fashion, some reason that the New World could have been reached in the same way. Proponents of this model have pointed to cultural and phenotypical similarities between the Aboriginals of Australia and the Selknam and Yaghan tribes of southern Patagonia. The theory of Australoid migration to the Americas has earned little scientific support as there is no genetic evidence matching indigenous Australians with South American populations. This model is taught in Chilean schools together with the land bridge model.
A recent study claimed that the Mapuche pre-Columbian Araucana chicken came from Polynesia by analysing their DNA; this suggests a more recent contact between the Mapuche and Polynesia. Another recent study has contradicted this claim stating that the DNA found in the chicken bone was closer to post colonial European chickens.
One of the earliest known sites of human occupation in the Americas, Monte Verde, lies within what was later to become Huilliche territory, although there is currently no demonstrated link between the Monte Verde people and the Mapuche.
The boat-builders from Southeast Asia may have been one of the earliest groups to reach the shores of North America. One theory suggests people in boats followed the coastline from the Kurile Islands to Alaska down the coasts of North and South America as far as Chile. The Haida nation on the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia may have originated from these early Asian mariners between 25,000 and 12,000. Early watercraft migration would also explain the habitation of coastal sites in South America such as Pikimachay Cave in Peru by 20,000 years ago and Monte Verde in Chile by 13,000 years ago.
"'There was boat use in Japan 20,000 years ago,' says Jon Erlandson, a University of Oregon anthropologist. 'The Kurile Islands (north of Japan) are like stepping stones to Beringia,' the then continuous land bridging the Bering Strait. Migrants, he said, could have then skirted the tidewater glaciers in Canada right on down the coast." '
Archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley champion the coastal Atlantic route. Their Solutrean Hypothesis is also based on evidence from the Clovis complex, but instead traces the origins of the Clovis toolmaking style to the Solutrean culture of Ice Age Western Europe. The theory suggests that early European people (or peoples) may have been among the earliest settlers of the Americas. Citing evidence that the Solutrean culture of prehistoric Europe may have provided the basis for the tool-making of the Clovis culture in the Americas, the theory suggests that Ice Age Europeans migrated to North America by using skills similar to those possessed by the modern Inuit peoples and followed the edge of the ice sheet that spanned the Atlantic. The hypothesis rests upon particular similarities in Solutrean and Clovis technology that have no known counterparts in Eastern Asia, Siberia or Beringia, areas from which, or through which, early Americans are known to have migrated. The theory is largely discounted by most professionals for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the differences between the two tool making traditions far outweigh the similarities, the several thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean and the 5000 year span that separate the two different cultures. Genetic studies of Native American populations have also shown the Solutrean theory to be unlikely, showing instead that the 5 main mtDNA haplogroups found in the Americas were all part of one gene pool migration from Asia.
The coastal migration models provide a different perspective on migration to the New World, but they are not without their own problems. One of the biggest problems is that global sea levels have risen over 100 metres since the end of the last glacial period, and this has submerged the ancient coastlines which maritime people would have followed into the Americas. Finding sites associated with early coastal migrations is extremely difficult—and systematic excavation of any sites found in deeper waters is challenging and expensive. If there was an early pre-Clovis coastal migration, there is always the possibility of a "failed colonization." Another problem that arises is the lack of hard evidence found for a "long chronology" theory. No sites have yet produced a consistent chronology older than about 12,500 radiocarbon years (~14,500 calendar years, but South America has still seen only limited research on the possibility of early coastal migrations.
Cave and other sites in the Aldan River valley have yielded remains of a culture that may be a potential Paleoindian ancestor. This culture occupied the region from 35,000-12,000 years ago. The Dyukhtai or similar Northeast Asian cultures may have entered the New World through Beringia and spread into British Columbia. It is thought that they pursued Pleistocene mammals such as the giant beaver, goats, elk, ancient reindeer (early caribou), horses, Yukon camels, steppe bison, musk ox, mastodons, and woolly mammoths.
The chief characteristic of the Dyukhtai was their manufacture of microliths or microblades. Microblades are small flakes less than 11⁄4 inches long, with a sharp edge and a "backed" or blunted edge that could be guided with the index finger to sever meat from a carcass. Microblades could also be incorporated into composite tools such as an arrow or sickle. Thousands of microblades have been found at upper Paleolithic Stone Age sites. They have been found north of Mongolia together with projectile points and hand-carved ivory statuettes. The earliest of several sites there has been dated at 45,000 years ago. Microblades appeared in Japan by 20,000 during the LGM when the island was still a peninsula and reachable by land.
Microblade manufacture was an important event in human history and its appearance corresponds roughly to the end of the Middle Paleolithic 60,000 years ago. Over 98% of all human history is encompassed by the period of time that began with the appearance of Australopithecus afarensis [e.g. "Lucy] and ended with the manufacture of microblades by lower-upper Stone Age cultures such as the "Dyukhtai".
Modern Indian Nations
According to the still-debated theory of the Settlement of the Americas, migrations of humans from Eurasia to the Americas took place via Beringia, a land bridge which formerly connected the two continents across what is now the Bering Strait. Falling sea levels created the Bering land bridge that joined Siberia to Alaska, which began about 60,000–25,000 years ago. The minimum time depth by which this migration had taken place is confirmed at 12,000 years ago, with the upper bound (or earliest period) remaining a matter of some unresolved contention. Three major migrations occurred, as traced by linguistic and genetic data; the early Paleoamericans soon spread throughout the Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes. The North American climate finally stabilized by 8000 BCE; climatic conditions were very similar to today's. This led to widespread migration, cultivation of crops, and subsequently a dramatic rise in population all over the Americas.
The big-game hunting culture, labeled as the Clovis culture, is primarily identified with its production of fluted projectile points. The culture received its name from artifacts found near Clovis, New Mexico; the first evidence of this tool complex was excavated in 1932. The Clovis culture ranged over much of North America and also appeared in South America. The culture is identified by the distinctive Clovis point, a flaked flint spear-point with a notched flute, by which it was inserted into a shaft. Dating of Clovis materials has been by association with animal bones and by the use of carbon dating methods. Recent reexaminations of Clovis materials using improved carbon-dating methods produced results of 11,050 and 10,800 radiocarbon years B.P. (roughly 9100 to 8850 BC).
Numerous Paleoindian cultures occupied North America, with some arrayed around the Great Plains and Great Lakes of the modern United States of America and Canada, as well as adjacent areas to the West and Southwest. According to the oral histories of many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, they have been living on this continent since their genesis, described by a wide range of traditional creation stories. Other tribes have stories that recount migrations across long tracts of land and a great river, believed to be the Mississippi. Genetic and linguistic data connect the indigenous people of this continent with ancient northeast Asians. Archeological and linguistic data has enabled scholars to discover some of the migrations within the Americas.
The Folsom Tradition was characterized by use of Folsom points as projectile tips, and activities known from kill sites, where slaughter and butchering of bison took place. Folsom tools were left behind between 9000 BCE and 8000 BCE.
A Folsom point for a spear.
The Na-Dené people entered North America starting around 8000 BC, reaching the Pacific Northwest by 5000 BCE, and from there migrating along the Pacific Coast and into the interior. Linguists, anthropologists and archeologists believe their ancestors comprised a separate migration into North America, later than the first Paleo-Indians. They settled first around present-day Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, from where they migrated into Alaska and northern Canada, south along the Pacific Coast, and into the interior. They were the earliest ancestors of the Athabascan- speaking peoples, including the present-day and historical Navajo and Apache. They constructed large multi-family dwellings in their villages, which were used seasonally. People did not live there year round, but for the summer to hunt and fish, and to gather food supplies for the winter. The Oshara Tradition people lived from 5500 BCE to 600 CE. The Southwestern Archaic Tradition was centered in north-central New Mexico, the San Juan Basin, the Rio Grande Valley, southern Colorado, and southeastern Utah.
The Poverty Point culture is an archaeological culture whose people inhabited the area of the lower Mississippi Valley and surrounding Gulf Coast. The culture thrived from 2200 BC- 700 BC, during the late Archaic period. Evidence of this culture has been found at more than 100 sites, from Poverty Point, Louisiana across a 100-mile (160 km) range to the Jaketown Site near Belzoni, Mississippi.
The Woodland period of North American pre-Columbian cultures refers to the time period from roughly 1000 BCE to 1000 CE in the eastern part of North America. The term "Woodland" was coined in the 1930s and refers to prehistoric sites dated between the Archaic period and the Mississippian cultures. The Hopewell tradition is the term used to describe common aspects of the Native American culture that flourished along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern United States from 200 BC to 500 CE.
The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations, who were connected by a common network of trade routes, known as the Hopewell Exchange System. At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the Southeastern United States into the southeastern Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. Within this area, societies participated in a high degree of exchange, most activity was conducted along the waterways that served as their major transportation routes. The Hopewell exchange system traded materials from all over the United States.
Coles Creek culture is an archaeological culture from the Lower Mississippi valley in the southern present-day United States. The period marked a significant change in the cultural history of the area. Population increased dramatically. There is strong evidence of a growing cultural and political complexity, especially by the end of the Coles Creek sequence. Although many of the classic traits of chiefdom societies were not yet manifested, by 1000 CE the formation of simple elite polities had begun. Coles Creek sites are found in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. It is considered ancestral to the Plaquemine culture.
Hohokam is one of the four major prehistoric archaeological traditions of the present-day American Southwest. Living as simple farmers, they raised corn and beans. The early Hohokam founded a series of small villages along the middle Gila River. The communities were located near good arable land, with dry farming common in the earlier years of this period. Wells, usually less than 10 feet (3 m) deep, were dug for domestic water supplies by 300 CE to 500 CE. Early Hohokam homes were constructed of branches bent in a semi-circular fashion and covered with twigs and reeds. The last layer was heavily applied mud and other materials at hand.
Sophisticated pre-Columbian sedentary societies evolved in North America, although they were not as technologically advanced as the Mesoamerican civilizations further south. The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex is the name archeologists have given to the regional stylistic similarity of artifacts, iconography, ceremonies and mythology of the Mississippian culture, which coincided with the people's adoption of maize agriculture and chiefdom-level complex social organization from 1200 CE to 1650 CE. Contrary to popular belief, this development appears to have had no direct links to Mesoamerica. The peoples developed an independent, sophisticated and stratified society, after the cultivation of maize allowed the accumulation of crop surpluses to support a higher density of population. This is turn led to the development of specialized skills among some of the peoples. The Ceremonial Complex represents a major component of the religion of the Mississippian peoples, and is one of the primary means by which their religion is understood.
The Mississippian culture created the largest earthworks in North America north of Mexico, most notably at Cahokia, based on a tributary of the Mississippi River in present-day Illinois. Its 10-story Monks Mound has a larger circumference than the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan or the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The six-square mile city complex was based on the culture's cosmology; it included more than 100 mounds, positioned to support their sophisticated knowledge of astronomy. It included a Woodhenge, whose sacred cedar poles were placed to mark the summer and winter solstices and fall and spring equinoxes. Its peak population in 1250 AD of 30,000–40,000 people was not equalled by any city in the present-day United States until after 1800. Cahokia was a major regional chiefdom, with trade and tributary chiefdoms located in areas bordering the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Iroquois League of Nations or "People of the Long House" had a confederacy model. It has been claimed as contributing to the political thinking during the later development of the democratic United States government. Their system of affiliation was a kind of federation, different than the strong, centralized European monarchies. Leadership was restricted to a group of 50 sachem chiefs, each representing one clan within a tribe; the Oneida and Mohawk people had nine seats each; the Onondagas held fourteen; the Cayuga had ten seats; and the Seneca had eight. Representation was not based on population numbers, as the Seneca tribe greatly outnumbered the others. When a sachem chief died, his successor was chosen by the senior woman of his tribe in consultation with other female members of the clan; descent was traced matrilineally. Decisions were not made through voting but through consensus decision making, with each sachem chief holding theoretical veto power. The Onondaga were the "firekeepers", responsible for raising topics to be discussed. They occupied one side of a three-sided fire (the Mohawk and Seneca sat on one side of the fire, the Oneida and Cayuga sat on the third side.) Elizabeth Tooker, an anthropologist at Temple University, has said that it was unlikely the US founding fathers were inspired by the confederacy as it bears little resemblance to the system of governance adopted in the United States. For example, it is based on inherited rather than elected leadership selected by female members of the tribes, consensus decision-making regardless of population size of the tribes, and only a single group capable of bringing matters before the legislative body.
Long-distance trading did not prevent warfare among the indigenous peoples. For instance, archaeology and the tribes' oral histories have revealed that about 1200 CE, the Iroquois invaded and attacked tribes in the Ohio River area of present-day Kentucky. Through warfare, the Iroquois drove several tribes to migrate west to what became known as their historically traditional lands west of the Mississippi River. Tribes originating in the Ohio Valley who moved west included the Osage, Kaw, Ponca and Omaha people. By the mid-17th century, they had resettled in their historical lands in present-day Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Osage warred with native Caddo-speaking Native Americans, displacing them in turn by the mid-18th century and dominating their new historical territories.