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Two interesting stories from last week, on a similar and fascinating topic: the colonisation of the New World (the Americas).

Firstly, this story examines the claims of ‘renegade’ archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars, who believes he has the answer to recent dating controversies which dispute the ‘Clovis-First’ theory of New World colonisation:

[S]cientists have unearthed a growing number of ancient human sites across the continent that date back much more than 13,000 years. How did those people get here? No one knows for sure. Cinq-Mars, a retired former curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, believes the answers lie in the lost land of Beringia.

Named after 18th-century Danish explorer Vitus Bering, this territory emerged from under the sea when advancing glaciers locked up seawater and caused ocean levels to fall 120 metres. The 1,000-kilometre-wide land bridge that joined the two continents was so arid it remained a glacier-free oasis of grassland steppes that teemed with life at the height of the Ice Age.

People here lived alongside giant and outlandish animals – beavers the size of today’s bears, fearsome carnivorous bears that would have dwarfed today’s grizzlies, sloths as big as oxen, mastodons, lions and woolly rhinos and camels.

Cinq-Mars, who has been exploring Beringia since his student days in 1966, believes the region was not only a way-point for people migrating into the Americas, but also a homeland for aboriginal people for millennia as they sought refuge during the Ice Age.

A separate story at Discover.com asks the question: “Did Humans Colonize the World by Boat?“. It looks at the research of Jon Erlandson, who believes there is a “huge area of ignorance” regarding the sea-faring abilities of humans during the last Ice Age:

Our new understanding of climate and sea-level change sheds light on something that has long puzzled archaeologists: How did modern humans colonize the far reaches of the globe so quickly after their exodus from Africa? If Erlandson and his colleagues are right, it was a series of sea voyages and river crossings that brought our ancestors to alien lands, launching the greatest biological invasion of all time.

…“It looks like seafaring capabilities and seafaring technology have a much greater antiquity than conventional wisdom among archaeologists would lead one to expect,” says James O’Connell, an archae­ologist at the University of Utah.

The article also discusses the fact that a lot of the remnants of Ice Age culture lies beneath the ocean, thus contributing to a lack of knowledge about aspects of coastal colonisation.