Day By Day

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Were the First Americans Europeans?

There has been a lot of discussion in the press this week regarding the first inhabitants of the New World. The standard view has long been that America was settled by newcomers from Siberia, traveling either by land or sea from Asia. There has been considerable controversy as to exactly when and how these journeys took place, but the direction of movement, from North Asia to the West coast of America has seldom been questioned. Now a new book  by Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley asserts that the first inhabitants came from Europe and settled the East Coast of North America about 20,000 years ago, during the last glacial maximum.

As a number of commentators have noted, there is nothing new here. Stanford has been making this argument for more than a decade and it has been rejected by nearly all specialists in the field. This is a technical controversy however, and press reports cannot do justice to the evidence. John Hawks, a reputable anthropologist with a specialization in genomic evidence, will be giving the book a close read and will report his reactions on his blog. For now, though, he recommends a number of recent books on the subject that, taken together, will provide readers with a good introduction to the paleoindian controversies that have roiled American anthropology in the past decade.

If you are interested, check out his post here.

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