You Mean People Didn’t Get to America by Walking Across the Bering Strait?

Map showing the proximity of the Chukchi penin...

Map showing the proximity of the Chukchi peninsula in Russia to the Seward Peninsula in America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, yes and no.

Two archeologists have a new theory that the first Americans came here from Europe 20,000 years ago, as explained in their book, largely due to similarities in tools, Across Atlantic Ice: The Origin of America’s Clovis Culture.

Everyone else seems to agree that sometime between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago, Siberians crossed what was then the land bridge and what is now the 53-mile Bering Strait in the Bering Sea, between Russia and Alaska. 

But, even scientists who subscribe to the Bering Strait land bridge theory don’t agree on what happened next.

When I was in school, we were taught those who crossed at Bering Strait just migrated all the way down to North America.

Today, while scientists believe that eventually happened, there were thousands of years when people could not have walked down the coast because of glaciers.

They could have waited until the glaciers melted.

They could have taken boats down the coast.

Or, they could have gone inland and walked down.

And, they probably didn’t just migrate once over the Bering Strait land bridge.

They probably did it three or four times, coinciding with the times it was land, not sea, 14,000 to 10,000, 8,000 and 4,000 B.C. 

What About the Camels?

Scientists have updated their understanding of the migration paths and timing of migration across the Bering Strait because of new fossil, DNA and linguistic evidence that gives them a fuller picture.

However, nearly lost in this discussion was the, apparently, undisputed fact that camels and horses first developed in North America.

Wait a minute. I thought Columbus and the Spanish explorers brought horses here. 

And, in my lifetime, the only camels I’ve seen in North America were in zoos. Although some of the llamas we still see in South America were an offshoot of camels.

Scientists no longer think there was a clear path between the first fox-sized horse and the full-size horses of today. There were more types of horses between then and now.

But, they all do generally agree that horses first developed here.

Then, there are different theories about what happened and why we didn’t see them again, they went extinct in North America, until the Spaniards arrived.

They were over-hunted.

They lost their food when an ice age returned.

So, It Was a Two-Way Bridge?

All this time, I’ve been thinking of the Bering Strait land bridge as a roadway for Siberians to come to North America.

When I should have been thinking of the Siberians waving to the horses and camels going back the other way to Siberia.

The research is thin on when the horses and camels crossed into Siberia.

The land bridge was there, apparently for 10,000 years. But, it was only at the end that enough Siberians had migrated up from Europe to be interested in following it here.

By then, the horses and camels may have already migrated.

And, a good thing too, considering what happened to the ones left in North America.

It’s kind of like the cherry trees the Japanese gave us. When something wiped out a bunch of their trees, we were able to replenish their stock from the ones they had given us.

Thanks to the Spaniards, the horses came home.

The camels, however, are still in the zoos.

Did you know horses and camels originated in North America?

Did you know that the Bering Strait used to be a land bridge?

Did you know llamas were related to camels?

To you and enjoying the wonders of the animal world with your grandchildren.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers

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