CHAPTER ONE - AMERICAN PREHISTORY

 

THE PEOPLING OF THE AMERICAS

 

     The 60,000 year Ice Age lasted until 11,000 years ago. During last seven or so millennia of that period, a grassy Arctic desert corridor existed east of the Canadian Rocky Mountains separating the two mile thick ice sheets, the Cordillian and Laurentide. This extended the Beringia highway into the Americas.
     Even though there is little debate that this condition existed during Paleolithic times, there is considerable debate about how the Americas became peopled:
A.  Overland Migration Theory - Most theorists believe that greatest part of the migration to the Americas took place via the Beringia Land Bridge - Canadian Corridor. It is theorized small tribes or bands of Paleo-Indians slowly pushed east and south from Asia to the Americas, hunting as they came, not knowing what land laid ahead. These migrations would have taken generations. Armed with stone tipped spears that they could propel with ingenious spear throwers, they effectively hunted the giant fauna as they came. Slowly, they settled the entire Americas, even as far south a Patagonia, 10,000 miles from Siberia.  The First Americans
B.  Coastal Migration Theory - While it is certainly possible, it is even probable that at least some Paleo-Indians migrated to the Americas in small boats via a coastal route, since the immediate coast would not have been covered by the Cordillian Ice Sheet. Nonetheless, it is doubtful that large numbers migrated via this route and since the Ice Age coast is 300 feet below present levels, finding archeological evidence is extremely difficult. Still, some such evidence has been found, thereby fueling the theory.
C.  Trans-Pacific Migration Theory - Though there is some evidence of a trans-Pacific migration, like the coastal theory, it is also unlikely that large numbers arrived in the Americas via that route. The existence of Old World tropical parasites in Andean mummies is evidence that at least some trans-Pacific migrations did take place via a tropical ocean corridor.
Creation Stories - (Some creation stories)  Most Native American cultures believed, and many still believe, that they, and even all humans, originated in North America. The motifs of their stories typically center around a great flood or a mother earth, father sky theme, though there are other North American motifs. Nonetheless, many northwestern and later arriving cultures believe their origins are across the ocean.

 

THE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
      Todayís Indians bear Mongoloid traits like coppery skin, dark eyes, strait black hair, wide cheekbones, and distinctive shovel shaped incisors linking them physically to the Asian population. Other physical traits including head shape, blood type tendencies, eye shape, bone shapes, and musculature further link them to Asians.
 
     Archeologists have uncovered a wealth of evidence that tells us a great deal about the prehistoric Americans. A flesher fashioned from a caribou leg bone was discovered in the Old Crow Basin of the Yukon Territory of Canada carbon dated at 27,000 B.P. Old Crow Basin which covers 3,000 square miles was apparently a prehistoric arctic Eden. Dozens of species of mega-fauna inhabited the basin. Thousands of specimens including artifacts have been discovered in this, what has become the richest site in the Americas. Old Crow Basin rests on the course of the Canadian Ice Age corridor. This wealth of evidence only solidifies the Bering Land Bridge/Canadian Corridor theory.
      Points found at an archeological site near Clovis, New Mexico defined the high quality stone spear points found in North America. The distinctive groove or fluting characteristic of these points aided in hafting. These points first appeared about 12,000 years ago. They were also found as far away as the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania and in numerous other locations. Even older points were found at Folsom, New Mexico dated as old as 25,000 years, but they were not of the quality of the Clovis points.
 
      The age of many sites are strongly disputed, particularly the California sites of Del Mar (48,000 years), Santa Rosa Island (40,000 years), and Calico (40,000 years). If these datings are valid, it would mean that some migrations took place prior to the existence of the Canadian Corridor and would support all but Canadian Corridor theory.
      Little Salt Spring in southern Florida is a site where 12,000 years ago a Paleo-Indian apparently fell 87 feet into a spring with no way to climb out. He apparently was able to impale and cook a large turtle, but with no way out he eventually perished.
      A great deal can be learned from archeological evidence, but the evidence is generally limited to weapons, art, architecture, and tools fashioned from stone or bone. Sometimes, however, perfect conditions can be found in caves where organic materials like wood, seeds, charcoal, middens, and other items may be preserved. There is no doubt that many archeological discoveries are yet to be made.

 

THE LANGUAGES
      By the end of the Ice Age, there were at least five, and possibly six, language phyla in the present United states. By 1492, there were seven language phyla in the lower conterminous United States, and the Eskimauans had arrived in Alaska and Canada.
      About 7,000 years ago, the Na-Dene probably crossed over the frozen Bering Strait and settled in the Alaska/Yukon sub-arctic. Then, some 5,000 years ago, the Eskimauans slowly migrated into the arctic and sub-arctic of the New World, eventually ranging from Siberia to Greenland.
Click on map for printable version

 

Linguistics
      Glottochronology is the study of the effect of time on languages. These is another tool used by anthropologists as historical evidence. There are two elements to the theory of glottochronology:
1. Languages change at a predictable rate of about 15% per thousand years
2. After one thousand years of separation, two groups speaking the same language can no longer speak to each other due to pronunciation differences.
      This theory can be demonstrated by considering the words (or lexicostatistics) for colors in three Indo-European languages:
English German Spanish
blue blau azul
green gruen verde
white weiss blanca
brown braun moreno
black swartz negro
      There are about 1,600 years of time depth between English and German, but much more between English and Spanish.  Many languages fissioned from time to time into separate ethnies probably due to population increases.  This  created competition for territories as well as conflict and famine
      Much of the prehistory of the world is recorded in itís languages. We know only from the languages that at least eight ethnies migrated to and settled in North America separately. From the languages, we know that soon after the end of the Ice Age that these ethnies not only fissioned, but into what ethnies they fissioned, and so on.
      It is also important to understand that the various Native American languages are every bit as complex as the other languages of the world, even though all of the Native American languages were oral and not written. The Aztecan and Mayan languages of Mexico were written, however.
      The simple Indian Sign language that was popularized on the Great Plains is in no way reflective of any lack of complexity of the native languages, but rather was a simple trade language that could be used by two peoples speaking different languages. Sign language actually existed prior to emergence onto the Great Plains.
 

Chapter One Review Questions                                                 Name ___________________________

 

1. What are the three Native American migrations theories?  _____________________,

___________________________, and __________________________.

2. Do some Native American peoples believe the creation stories over the migration theories?  Yes ___ or No _____  (Check one)
3. Circle the number of all of the peoples who do NOT have Mongoloid traits.  1.  Russians,  2.  American Indians,  3.  Chinese,  4.  Japanese,  5.  French,  6.  Koreans
4. What valuable archeological region rests on the course of the Ice Age Canadian Corridor?

 __________________________

5. What are two types of spear "points" found in New Mexico?

____________________________ and _______________________________.

6. What is the study of the effect of time in languages called?

____________________________________________

7. What is the only listed German color lexicostatistic that is not cognate with English?

__________________________________

8. About how many years of time depth is there between English and German?

___________________________

9. Do you have concave incisors?         _______________
10. What did the unfortunate Indian who was trapped in Little Salt Spring eat to survive?

________________________________________