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July 22, 2003

The first Americans

A First Nations community centre near the Lair of the Flea cheerfully welcomes visitors to their home of 30,000 years. The claim may need to be revised alongside dates ascribed to numerous proto-American artifacts in museum display cases across North America.

A new genetic study may provide more reliable figures than have so far been available to archaeologists:

On one side of the argument are researchers who claim America was first populated around 13,000 years ago, toward the end of the last Ice Age. On the other are those who propose a much earlier date for colonisation of the continent - possibly around 30,000-40,000 years ago.

The authors of the latest study reject the latter theory, proposing that humans entered America no earlier than 18,000 years ago.

It is early days for genetic modelling of the kind carried out in this study. The guestimate of the duration assigned to an average male generation is only one statistical gap through which the carts of future study might be driven. Future work of this kind nevertheless suggests more reliable insight into early human migration in the Americas and elsewhere. It may also help us toward a more sensible enforcement of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a law whose interpretation, often grounded in oral tradition and mythology, has interfered with archaeological research.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 22, 2003 11:07 AM