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A Journey to a New Land

Caribou

12,000 Years Ago

Americas at 12000 BP

Thousands of years of glacial ice had scoured the land of soil, plants and trees. It took a very long time for new soils to form and the first grasses and shrubs to take root. But once vegetation became established, grazing animals such as bison and caribou began to move onto the land. Many archaeologists believe that the first people reached the Americas by following these migrating herds across the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia.

Geologists say that it was about this time that the "ice free corridor" between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets opened up along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. A train of large boulders that had been deposited over thousands of years by the slowly moving Cordilleran Ice Sheet provides evidence for this hypothesis. But if the ice free corridor was not open until after 12,000 years ago, that left a very short time for people to have reached and settled in the southern and eastern United States by 11,500 years ago. Did the ice free corridor open too late to have been the route taken by the first people in the Americas?
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Whether or not everyone agrees that people were living in North America before 11,500 years ago, an archaeological site in Chile has left little doubt that humans had reached the southern tip of South America by 12,500 years ago. How did people travel all the way from Siberia to southern Chile by that early date? Why have no traces of their journey been found?

Monte Verde