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Boulder Sizes Notes of how humans inhabited the Americas



Scientists have found that this is "direct evidence," supporting the theory that glacial migrants from Asia traversed the Pacific coast rather than North America.

Alia Lesnek, left, and Charlotte Lindqvist from the University of Buffalo, watching boulders on Dall Island, Alaska. Scientists have found evidence in Alaska's Rocks that the first people who populated America were island hopping mariners. Jason Briner

How did early humans first enter America?

After crossing into Alaska, the Ice Age adventurers may have hiked in two ways: either walking through the interior of today's Canada through a grassy passage between two large ice sheets, or they were moving south along the Pacific Coast.

Scientists have discussed the two theories, and in recent years support for the coastal route has grown from archaeological finds, such as 13,000-year-old footprints on an island in British Columbia. Now, 17,000 years ago, geologists exploring boulders and bedrock on the southeastern islands of Alaska found traces of an ice-free route that would have allowed human travel.

"We definitely do not say that they have taken the coastal path," said Alia Lesnek, a graduate student at the University of Buffalo and lead author of the study. "We have some of the first direct evidence that this is something that could be done."

The result, published Wednesday in the Science Advances journal, supports the theory that the first people to populate America were sailors, island-to-island travelers.

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The researchers also dated seal bones from a coastal cave, suggesting that coastal travelers have a reliable source of food. Credit Jason Briner

Back in the lab, the team decided How long have the rock samples been trapped by ice sheets? Glaciers are like slow-moving rivers that pick up and move rocks. When the ice melts, the boulders fall. When they sit on the surface of the earth, they are exposed to the cosmic radiation that the scientists can analyze.

Earlier Reports of the Colonization of America

The researchers traveled by helicopter to remote locations in the Alexander Archipelago. Credit Jason Briner


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