ST. LOUIS—The first humans to spread across North America may have been seal hunters from France and Spain.
This runs counter to the long-held belief that the first human entry into the Americas was a crossing of a land-ice bridge that spanned the Bering Strait about 13,500 years ago.
The new thinking was outlined here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Recent studies have suggested that the glaciers that helped form the bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska began receding around 17,000 to 13,000 years ago, leaving very little chance that people walked from one continent to the other.
Also, when archaeologist Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution places American spearheads, called Clovis points, side-by-side with Siberian points, he sees a divergence of many characteristics.
Instead, Stanford said Sunday, Clovis points match up much closer with Solutrean style tools, which researchers date to about 19,000 years ago. This suggests that the American people making Clovis points made Solutrean points before that.
Stanford has an idea for how humans crossed the Atlantic, though: on boats. Art from that era indicates that Solutrean populations in northern Spain were hunting marine animals, such as seals, walrus, and tuna.