Ice Age Columbus: Who Were the First Americans?
According to the traditional and now obsolete history of the Western hemisphere, the Americas were originally populated by Asians who crossed the Bering Strait land bridge during the last Ice Age. These Paleo-Indians were the ancestors of today’s “Native Americans” and Europeans didn’t come onto the scene until Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 1492. That’s the story, anyway.
No one doubts that Asians crossed the land bridge which connected Alaska and Siberia during the Last Glacial Maximum, but a lot of evidence has emerged which suggests that they weren’t the first Stone Age people to set foot on the continent. For various reasons, many of them political, these recent discoveries haven’t penetrated into our public school system–let alone the public consciousness–but it’s clear now that the early history of the Americas is much more complicated than we have been led to believe. The story is one of successive waves of migration from all around the world. In fact, there is reason to believe that the true “Native Americans” could have been Solutreans from what is now France.
This is called the Salutrean Hypothesis. Strange as the idea may be to people who have never heard of it before, the idea that the original Americans may have come from Europe is based on solid archeological and DNA evidence. In the first case, various cutting tools like spear points and arrowheads have been discovered in Virginia which were created using Solutrean technology–a Stone Age flint technology which only existed in certain regions in France at that time. The presence of Solutreans in the northeast is also supported by the DNA evidence, which shows that some North American tribes share a common ancestor with present-day Europeans identified by Mitochondrial DNA Hapologroup X. Taken together, these findings suggest that Europeans were probably the first to settle in North America and were later absorbed through intermixing with later migrations from Asia.
Ice Age Columbus, a fantastic documentary from the Discovery Channel, documents this entire story through interviews with scientists involved in the archaeological discoveries and with dramatizations of the way Stone Age hunter-gatherers from Europe could have reached North America by crossing the continuous ice sheet which connected the two continents across the Atlantic Ocean at the time — a fact which has been verified through Ice Age climate models. Seal hunters, fishermen and tribal outcasts could have walked or floated from Europe to North America, probably ending up on the Grand Bank islands now submerged off the coast of Newfoundland. The prevailing currents at the time flowed from east to west along the edge of the ice cap, so boats would have been carried to the New World as a matter of course. It was a dangerous journey, but it could have been done and probably was done — repeatedly.
The documentary does a great job in re-creating the harsh and exotic environment of the time. Life was a constant struggle for survival back then. Ice Age North America was full of strange animals like saber-tooth cats, giant “short-faced” bears, giant ground sloths, and vast herds of woolly mammoths. At the time, a sheet of ice almost a mile thick reached down as far as as the upper Midwest. This is all re-created through excellent CGI effects. All in all, Ice Age Columbus is a great video if you’re interested in the hidden history of North America. Highly recommended.