Scientists have always believed that there was one mass migration of people across the land bridge between Asia and the Americas. This group of people then split in two, forming the northern and southern groups, which are the ancestors of modern day Native Americans. This belief was mostly based on DNA from bodies and remains found in settlements. However, a new discovery might completely change the theories about these people and their paths.
In 2010, a group of archaeologists, led by Dr. Ben A. Potter, explored a temporary settlement in Alaska and uncovered three bodies in an ancient burial site. A three-year-old boy was buried alongside two infant girls. The remains were found to be 11,500 years old. When DNA was recovered from one of the infants and analyzed, it was discovered that they were not related to the two main groups of Native Americans. This means that there is an undiscovered third branch of Native Americans, changing the previous timeline that scientists had established for migration to the Americas.
The discovery has brought clarity to a part of history that was previously muddled due to the rarity of artifacts from that age. Now, scientists know that the third branch, which they have named the Beringians, split from the main group roughly 4,000 years before the northern and southern groups separated. From there, the Beringians pursued a nomadic lifestyle, moving from one temporary settlement to another. It was in one such settlement that they found the bodies of the children. Evidence indicates that the Beringians would travel to one place, set up tent-like homes, fish and hunt until game grew scarce, then pack up and leave. Scientists believe that they survived for about 13,000 years after the split before disappearing.
While the discovery of the Beringians does shed some light on the past, it also brings up many questions. There is a lot of controversy over what this find means for the pre-established timeline. Some scientists think that this, along with previous genetic studies, proves the Beringian Standstill model. The model is a theory that the first natives didn’t immediately scatter across the Americas. Instead, they lingered in Beringia, a region that includes the northeastern top of Russia, Alaska, and the area in between, which was previously all land. Another theory is that they split long before arriving in Alaska, perhaps somewhere in Asia. All of these theories require much more research and evidence.
This find shows that while we may have discovered a lot, there is always more to learn. There are still many secrets in our world waiting to be uncovered.
[Source: The New York Times]