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The Bering Land Bridge: Theory, Overview

Instructor: Stacy Chambers
The Bering Land Bridge theory hypothesizes that humanity made its way to the New World by way of exposed land between Siberia and Alaska. Learn about the theory and why most archaeologists think this is possible.

Introduction

Siberia and Alaska - otherwise known as Beringia - used to be much bigger than they are today. Because so much water was in ice form during the last Ice Age, sea levels were much lower, and much more land was exposed. This is why most archaeologists believe Siberia and Alaska were not only bigger, but were also once connected by a strip of land known as the Bering Land Bridge.

This is significant because most archaeologists also believe this land bridge is how humans crossed from the Old World into the New World. However, humans probably didn't cross out of curiosity, but out of necessity. In other words, they were looking for food.

Bering Land Bridge
Bering Bridge

Beringia

During the Stone Age, humans were hunter-gatherers. They hunted animals and gathered herbs and other plants for food. Because so much of the world was pure ice, vegetation would have been hard to find, so humans would have relied on animals for most of their nutrition.

At the time, Beringia was an oasis from the constant sheets of ice that covered so much of the world. It supported plant life, which meant it could support animal life. If animals crossed from Siberia into Alaska in search of food, humans would have naturally followed. Humanity was nomadic by necessity.

Clovis heads

Most archaeological finds date humanity's crossing from 12,000 - 14,000 years ago, though no one knows for certain exactly when the migration took place. Scholars don't have a lot to go on - the Stone Age is called that because most of what archaeologists have found have been the tools from that age. So far, tools have been about the only things that have survived the ravages of time from prehistory.

One tool of which historians have found several examples are spear heads. These are also known as Clovis heads - named for the 'Clovis people' scientists believe once populated Beringia and other parts of what is now the United States. Clovis heads - originally found near Clovis, New Mexico - have been found all over the country.

Clovis Head
clovis head

The Theory

Despite the fact that other theories, such as the Solutrean Hypothesis, have gained traction in recent years due to archaeological finds, the Bering Land Bridge theory remains the most widely accepted among those who study the Stone Age.

Bering Land Bridge Migration
Bering Land Bridge Migration

Questions

One issue some archaeologists have with the Bering Land Bridge theory is that the Clovis heads found in the eastern part of the United States appear to be older than those near and in Beringia. This indicates that humanity migrated to the New World earlier than the Bering Land Bridge theory hypothesizes - and that the migration took place in a different way. Some scholars believe humanity immigrated to the New World far earlier - at least 21,000 years ago - from Europe by boat.

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