13 June 2024
North America's first people may have arrived by sea ice highway as early as 24

All images are AI generated (poorly)

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Defying conventional theories, new evidence suggests North America’s earliest inhabitants may have journeyed over a frozen ‘sea ice highway’ 24,000 years ago, challenging the long-held belief that the continent’s initial population emerged through a thawed land passage just 13,000 years prior.

Alright, let’s unpack this fascinating story about the possible paths taken by North America’s first inhabitants. It’s like piecing together a puzzle from thousands of years ago, and each new discovery is like finding a corner piece that helps us see the bigger picture.


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So traditionally, we’ve all been picturing these early adventurers trekking through a corridor between massive ice sheets, right? That corridor is thought to have opened up about 13,000 years ago. But hold onto your hats because new clues are suggesting that people were here way earlier—like by a whole 10,000 years earlier. Imagine that!


Now, these early folks didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. They likely traveled from a place called Beringia, which was basically a land bridge that showed up when the ice age had the oceans locked up in ice, making sea levels drop. It’s kind of like when you’re in the bathtub and you stand up, the water level goes down. Same idea, just on a massive, Earth-sized scale.


But here’s where it gets really cool. Some scientists are saying, “Hey, maybe they didn’t walk down at all. Maybe they took the sea ice highway.” Think about it like a frozen sidewalk that ran along the coast, and these folks could have just strolled along it. It’s a bit like when you see images of polar bears hopping from ice floe to ice floe.


And to back up this theory, there’s some nifty detective work involving tiny fossilized sea creatures. These little guys can tell us about past ocean temperatures, salinity, and even whether there was sea ice around. So by studying them, researchers found out that there was a lot of winter sea ice up to about 15,000 years ago that could have supported this kind of migration.


But wait, there’s a twist. Earlier on, the ocean currents were super strong because of all the glacial melting. That would’ve made sailing a boat along the coast as tough as trying to ride a bike against a really strong wind. The new thinking is that these ancient people might have said, “No thanks” to battling those currents and used the sea ice as a solid path instead.


What’s even more amazing is that these ideas aren’t just wild guesses. Scientists are using climate models, which are like really complex weather forecasts for the past, to figure out what was happening. And they’re finding periods when conditions would’ve been just right for this sea ice highway to be the go-to route for human migration.


Of course, proving this without a doubt is super tricky because a lot of evidence is probably chilling underwater. But it’s a fresh way to look at how humans could have moved into North America without having to wait for an ice-free land path or calm seas for boating.


So, next time you’re sipping on a slushie or skating on a frozen pond, think about how ice—in a much bigger sense—might have played a huge part in the story of human travel and survival. Isn’t it amazing how the world’s natural highways have shaped history?

SAUCE: North America’s first people may have arrived by sea ice highway as early as 24,000 years ago




What is Beringia?


Beringia is a land bridge that existed during the ice age, connecting Asia and North America.


How did early humans migrate to North America?


Early humans likely migrated to North America by either walking through a corridor between massive ice sheets or using a sea ice highway along the coast.


What is a sea ice highway?


A sea ice highway is a frozen path along the coast that could have been used by early humans for migration.


How do scientists study past ocean conditions?


Scientists study tiny fossilized sea creatures to learn about past ocean temperatures, salinity, and the presence of sea ice.


How are climate models used in understanding human migration?


Climate models are used to simulate past weather conditions and determine if the sea ice highway could have been a viable route for human migration.

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Beringia, Sea ice highway, Climate models

Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada; on the north by 72 degrees north latitude in the Chukchi Sea; and on the south by the tip of the...
Read more: Beringia

Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and the North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 10°E to 30°E longitude. It is a shelf sea and...
Read more: Baltic Sea

Climate model
Numerical climate models (or climate system models) are mathematical models that can simulate the interactions of important drivers of climate. These drivers are the atmosphere, oceans, land surface and ice. Scientists use climate models to study the dynamics of the climate system and to make projections of future climate and...
Read more: Climate model

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