First settlers of America: who were they, and how and when did they arrive?
Let's see what scientific researchers have found out about the first settlers of the Americas.
When were the Americas first settled? This has been a question whose answer is still a matter of debate, although there is no shortage of archaeological evidence that the first settlers of the Americas did not come all at once and did not colonize the entire continent.
There are several theories about who were the first to set foot on the American continent, when they did so and how they expanded. There is even the theory that, similar to what happened in Europe with the Neanderthals, there was some kind of hominid interbreeding.
Whichever theory is preferred, today we are going to talk about the debate over who the first settlers were. who the first settlers of the Americas were and what dates are proposed as the first moments in which inhabited this great territory that seems that since ancient times was already earning the nickname of being the New World.
Who were the first settlers of America?
Understanding who the first settlers of the Americas were and how they got there is a topic that has sparked a broad and arduous debate in the international scientific community. Several theories have been put forward to explain how the American continent was populated, when it happened and in what way. Some believe it was around 15,000 years ago and others much earlier, almost 40,000 years ago..
One of the most widely shared and famous theories is that the first humans set foot in the Americas some 20,000 years ago at the latest, across the Bering Strait from Asia. Others, on the other hand, consider that this does not explain how the south of the continent could have been inhabited so quickly after such an event and that, in fact, everything points to the fact that there were already people living in South America, coming from Polynesia and Australasia.
The hypotheses about the occupation of America
The human beings who first set foot on the American continent are considered the ancestors of the famous Inca, Mayan, Aztec and Native American cultures of the United States and Canada, among other ethnic groups. However, the moment in which they set foot on the continent is something that has always aroused great debate and has required much scientific effort to elucidate how the first colonization of the continent took place. of the continent.
Native mythology, although rich and fascinating, does not shed much light on the subject. For example, if we ask the Navajo culture, they maintain that the first humans emerged from the earth, that their people have been living there forever and that they could never, ever, ever have come from outside. They, and other Amerindian tribes, believe in their respective worldviews that their lineages go back to the creation of the Earth and that it was precisely that continent where they lived, and that they have not moved from there.
This belief of coming from the earth is a proof of how ancient their cultures are, that they do not even remember where they come from, but attribute that they have always been there. But, of course, this is not the case, they had to come from somewhere, and archeology, paleontology and population genetics have given proof of the origins of the different pre-Columbian ethnic groups..
Based on the different findings made in the continent, three main theories have been put forward to explain how human beings first arrived in America.
Isolationist or evolutionist position
This theory states that, in one way or another, the American civilizations originated in the continent itself as a result of the evolution of hominids that were found in the continent.. That is to say, that before Homo sapiensIn other words, before Homo sapiens, there were already other hominids on the continent and, evolving and hybridizing with more modern humans, they were creating human cultures of unique lineages, something similar to what happened in Europe with the Neanderthals.
The defenders of these theories, some of the most controversial, use as evidence for these hypotheses the cultivation of cassava, corn, potatoes, quinoa, chili peppers and cacao, plants unknown in other continents.
Among the main representatives of this theory were the Argentine paleontologist Florentino Ameghino (1853-1911) and Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg (1814-1874). These ideas had a certain acceptance in the scientific community, since fossil remains of hominids not belonging to the species Homo sapiensof more than 130,000 years of antiquity have been found.
The diffusionist positions mainly maintain that the Paleolithic cultures arrived in America by crossing the Bering Straitbetween the Russian Autonomous District of Chukotka and the U.S. state of Alaska. The first Americans themselves used as a bridge the ice road that had been created between Siberia and North America, formed from the last glaciation.
Within this position there are also theories that maintain that human beings came from Polynesia. These contingent waves of humans were distributed throughout the continent for hundreds of years. According to the theory, they would be humans coming from regions such as Oceania, Europe and Asia, something that would explain certain genetic characteristics of some Native American groups that still remain in the continent..
Lastly, we find a more eclectic position, in which the approaches of the two approaches of the two previously mentioned positions are combined.. This theory considers that there are certain cultural traits that are indigenous to the Americas, but that there must also have been some kind of influence from outside, contributions from other cultures that, when fused with the humans who lived there, created the Amerindians themselves.
Theories of multiple migrations
For a long time, it was believed that the first settlers of the Americas were the Clovis culturethe name given to the human group from Asia that had crossed the Bering Strait and arrived in North America. This culture would have first set foot in the present-day United States and Canada at the earliest about 20,000 years ago, a date that North American scholars claimed was the earliest time that the American continent had been populated.
However, while this would be true for North America, it could not be extrapolated to the rest of the continent. Findings from other sites further south confirm that there were humans before 20,000 years ago, with some believing that there may have been human activity some 40,000 years ago.. Genetics also disproves the idea that they arrived in northern America and from there spread throughout the rest of the continent.
There is a marked decoupling between the native cultures of North and South America, evidenced by linguistic, geographic and even genetic differences, which confirms that American peoples prior to the arrival of the Europeans were the result of different migrations.. In Peru, for example, genetic lineages of Polynesian origin have been found. Thus, many scientists believe that the American continent was originally populated in several waves, a theory known as the theory of multiple migrations.
In Brazil, for example, objects from more than 30,000 years ago have been found; in Venezuela, tools from 14,000 years ago; in Chile there are human remains from 30,000 years ago, while in North America they are only 10,000 and 12,000 years old. In other words, there seems to be evidence that, while the first settlers of the present-day United States and Canada crossed the Bering Strait, the first humans in the south of the continent would have arrived there by other routes, from the Pacific, Asia and Oceania, through the Bering Strait.from the Pacific, Asia and Oceania. The discoveries in southern Mexico would confirm this idea.
In July 2020, a new discovery was made in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, in the Chiquihuite cave. What was found there suggests that humans inhabited the continent some 15,000 years earlier than previously thought, thanks to radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence techniques, scientists were able to determine the age of the remains, estimated at 33,000 years.. This confirms the idea that there were people there before the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (20,000 years ago).
The skeleton of Chan Hol ll
One of the most important archaeological findings to determine when the first settlers of America lived is the skeleton of Chan Hol II, in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
The skeletal remains found date back to the late Pleistocene, during the last ice age.. The team in charge of the discovery was led by Professor Dr. Wolfgang Stinnesbecl and biologist Arturo González González González, dating the skeleton to at least 13,000 years ago based on a stalagmite that had grown on the hip bone.
The human fossils were discovered in a flooded cave system near Tulum, Quintana Roo. After the first discovery in the area, more human remains were found, each one baptized with a characteristic nickname: The Woman of Naharon, The Woman of the Palms, The Man of the Temple, Naia and the skeleton of Chan Hol II.
According to scientists, this cave system was located above sea level. However, after the global rise in sea levels at the end of the Ice Age, the caves were underwater, the caves were left underwater, preserving in good condition the skeletal remains of ancestral inhabitants of the American continent, bones that have been of great scientific relevance to the question of when and how they lived. scientific relevance in the question of when and how the first settlers of the Americas lived.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)