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A Journey to a New Land

First people
Post secondary Level Resources

Earliest Settlement of the Americas

When did people first arrive in the Americas?

The arrival of humans in the Americas is a relatively recent event, in evolutionary terms. Human beings evolved in the warm, tropical regions of Africa over a period of several million years and then began moving into Asia and then Europe as they adapted to the demands of a colder environment. North and South America were isolated from this initial human colonization by vast stretches of ocean, and were the last of the continents to be settled.

The timing of the first settlement of the Americas, however, remains unknown. The large number of securely-dated Clovis sites in the southern United States confirms that people had certainly arrived by 11,500 years BP, and some archaeologists maintain that the Clovis sites represent the first human occupation of the continent. Others point to evidence of an earlier "pre-Clovis" settlement, and argue that humans were in the Americas long before the first Clovis sites were occupied.

The first settlement of North America was not an isolated event. Around the time people were first crossing over into the New World, humans were also re-entering areas of Northern Europe and the northern British Isles; areas that had been inhabitable during the Last Glacial Maximum. Although people had lived in these areas before they became covered in ice, humans were essentially ‘rediscovering’ these areas as warmer climates allowed people to spread further and further.

A "Pre-Clovis" Settlement


QuickTime videos:

Dr. Jon Driver

Dr. Jon Driver
Department of Archaeology
Simon Fraser University

Dr. Paul Goldberg

Dr. Paul Goldberg
Department of Archaeology
Boston University