Ancient People Followed 'Kelp Highway' to America, Researcher Says
LiveScience Staff Writer
LiveScience.com Sun Feb 19, 9:00 PM
ST. LOUIS?Ancient humans from Asia may have entered the Americas
following an ocean highway made of dense kelp.
The new finding lends strength to the "coastal migration theory,"
whereby early maritime populations boated from one island to another,
hunting the bountiful amounts of sea creatures that live in kelp
This research was presented here Sunday at the annual American
Association for the Advancement of Science by anthropologist Jon
Erlandson of the University of Oregon.
Today, a nearly continuous "kelp highway" stretches from Japan, up along
Siberia, across the Bering Strait to Alaska, and down again along the
California coastline, Erlandson said.
Kelp forests are some of the world's richest ecosystems. They are homes
to seals, sea otters, hundreds of species of fish, sea urchins and
abalone, all of which would have been important food and material
sources for maritime people.
Although the coastal migration theory has yet to be proven with hard
evidence, it is known that seafaring peoples lived in the Ryukyu Islands
near Japan during the height of the last glacial period, about 35,000 to
15,000 years ago. These peoples may have traveled 90 or more miles at a
time between islands.
Some scientists believe that maritime people boated from Japan to Alaska
along the Aleutian and Kurile Islands around 16,000 years ago. Before
that, people may have island-hopped their way to Australia 50,000 to
60,000 years ago.
Scientists have discovered settlements 11,500 to 9,000 years old along
the coasts of some of these Pacific islands, which also have
ecologically-rich kelp forests nearby that Erlandson believes existed
when people were island hopping. The remains of kelp resources have been
discovered in a settlement in Daisy Cave in the Channel Islands off
southern California, dated to about 9,800 years ago.
"The fact that productive kelp forests are found adjacent to some of the
earliest coastal archaeological sites in the Americas supports the idea
that such forests may have facilitated human coastal migrations around
the Pacific Rim near the end of the last glacial period," Erlandson
said. "In essence, they may have acted as a sort of kelp highway."
Kelp forests also provide a barrier between coastal settlements and the
rough open seas and lessen the wave forces on beach-side settlements.
Sometimes the kelp washes up on land, where land animals, which humans
could kill and eat, can munch on it.
Mike Ruggeri's Ancient America and Mesoamerica News and Links
Mike Ruggeri's Maya Archaeology News and Links
MIKE RUGGERI'S MOUND BUILDERS/ ANCIENT SOUTHWEST NEWS AND LINKS
Ancient America, Mesoamerica and Andean Museum Exhibitions, Lectures and
Mike Ruggeri's Andean Archaeology News and Links