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      Welcome to Camp Internet's Explore the Ancient Southwest!

Ancient Peoples of the Southwest

The Great Journey

During the Ice Age, called the Pleistocene Period, long after the Age of the Dinosaurs, the waters that had been covering many areas of the earth were drawn into large glaciers and ice sheets in the northern hemisphere. As these waters froze, the level of the sea water lowered. California, which had mostly been under seawater during the previous Age of the Dinosaurs, began to see dry daylight. And up in the far North a land bridge appeared as the waters lowered, linking Asia and North America.

Traveling to a New World

At least 35,000 years ago, people who had been living in Asia crossed the Bering land bridge, probably following herds of game. When in Asia, heading north, the sun rose on their right and set on their left. Since they did not have a map, they did not 'know' that their path was taking them up one continent and down another they were just walking and following the animals, which appeared to them a continuous flat trail. Except, once they reached North America and began heading south, the position of the sun had changed. When you walk south in North America, the sun rises over your left shoulder, and sets on your right shoulder. Try that out. So it is possible these early travelers not only knew they were on a Great Journey, but also noticed that they had come to a new world that to them had a somehow different sun. ( early Portuguese sailors noticed the same phenomena as they sailed south around Africa and north into the Indian Ocean in the 1400s, alerting them that what may have looked like continuous seacoast actually had them changing directions 180 degrees.)

Over time, these early wanderers walked further and further south. The mystery of their journey may never be solved, but one of the most interesting facts is that 35,000 years ago, there is evidence they were in South America and North America. This suggests that if the land route was their only means of crossing between continents, the journey must have already been going on for many years inorder for them to reach the Pacific coast of South America where remains of their life have been found. Another theory of interest is the possibility that there was also an ocean-going migration taking place from Asia to America. While some scientists protest there was not seafaring technology to support this idea, we now know that by 13,000 years ago there was, as human bones have been found on Santa Rosa Island off California. That discovery has lead scientists to rethink if possibly the South American earliest people might have arrived by boat and not made the long journey by land. Or possibly that North America was also first populated by sea going people who skirted the coasts, not only walking the land routes.

Challenge : if the average person walks 2 miles an hour, how many hours and days would it have taken to walk from the Bering land bridge to South America ? You will need to find a world map, measure the distance from the Aleutian Islands area down to the middle of South America on the Pacific Coast. Then divide that number of miles by 2, and that will tell you how many hours it would have taken to walk. Divide that number by 4, figuring an average day would have seen 4 hours of walking and the remainder gathering food and making shelter. Then you have the number of days it would have taken to walk continuously, with out stopping, north to south. How many months does this journey then require at a minimum ? Then add-in twice that amount of time to account for temporary camps to gather and prepare large game, and it becomes years of travel, possibly walking 5 days and resting/hunting 5 days as they went. How many years?

Actually, it is though the migration was not a continuous walk. Scientists think that over generations the migration took place. Each generation walking a certain distance and then setting up a camping/hunting range where they raised their children and fed their families. Then the next generation would see a few children pick up the migration, leaving the older and younger family members behind, heading south again until they too found a place to set up a camping/hunting range and raise their own children. In this way, it would have taken many generations to make the complete migration.