The Bering Strait between Asia and America has been a source of ongoing controversy regarding the peopling of America.
James Howell (1594-1666) relates how even in the 17th century the existence of the strait, then known as the Anian, was disputed, although, at the same time, there was also a theory that the nomadic Scythians had originally crossed over the Strait from America.
In 1985, Nicholas Flemming published an article(y) in the Woods Hole Oceanographic magazine Oceanus in which he touched on the matter of the Bering Strait. “There was dry land from Siberia to Alaska, the Bering Land Bridge, for most of the time from 80,000 to 14,000 years ago. Shallow episodes of flooding occurred at about 45,000 and 35,000 B.P Cores from the land and the sea bed provide evidence for the pollen types at different dates, the sediment movements, and the stages of marine transgression or emergence. From the point of view of human occupation, the inhospitable nature of Beringia was not just because of the cold, but also the severe dryness for most of the time from 60,000 to 14,000 B.P.” Contrast this with the next paragraph.
A 2022 report of “A new study that reconstructs the history of sea level at the Bering Strait shows that the Bering Land Bridge connecting Asia to North America did not emerge until around 35,700 years ago, less than 10,000 years before the height of the last ice age (known as the Last Glacial Maximum).”(x)
By the end of the 18th century, the importance of the Strait had been recognised, when Paul Felix Cabrera wrote “That most troublesome of all the difficulties hitherto started by authors respecting the passage of animals to America, particularly of the ferocious kinds at enmity with man, even retaining in full force the plausible reasons so ingeniously urged, if not entirely removed, is nearly surmounted by the discovery and examination of Anian or Behring’s straits’ which are of no greater breadth than thirteen leagues from shore to shore, and where, by means of the ice, the two continents of Asia and America are connected; this would afford a practical route not only for animals but men, from whom it is possible to suppose that those who inhabit the most northerly countries from the straits as far as Hudson’s and Baffin’s Bays, and from the Frozen Sea to California, New Mexico, and Canada to the southward, are descended.” (s)
In certain circumstances, it is still possible to walk across the Bering Strait. “A 2.5-mile stretch divides Russia’s Big Diomede island from Alaska’s Little Diomede island. In the winter, the water separating the two islands freezes, allowing you to trek from one destination to the other.”(n) Wikipedia notes that “numerous successful crossings without the use of a boat have also been recorded since at least the early 20th century.” (o)
There is little doubt that at some point in prehistory a landbridge linked the two continents.
Although it is frequently claimed that the Hadji Ahmed Map of 1559 shows a landbridge between the two continents, it only appears to be so because of the way the map is drawn.
A recent paper(a) by Heather Pringle and Krista Langlois offers evidence that the link was more than just an isthmus but was in fact a vast area of land, Beringia, the size of Australia, and that it provided a crossing point, for humans and animals earlier and for longer than previously believed (See map above right).
After crossing the Strait there were two southward routes, one along the coast and the other via what is known as the Ice-Free Corridor Route which ran between two vast ice sheets, the Laurentide to the east and the Cordilleran to the west(c). According to a 2018 report(i), the coastal route which followed deglaciation “was physically and environmentally viable for early human migration to the Americas.” Another report in 2018 claims that the earliest settlers in America were island-hopping seafarers from Asia(j)(k).
However, there is now compelling evidence that people reached South America before the existence of the northern ice-free corridor, suggesting the alternative coastal migration route, which, so far, has little evidence to support it. This recent report is the result of excavations at the Huaca Prieta ceremonial mound, 600 Km north of the Peruvian capital, Lima. Human activity there has now been dated to around 15,000 years ago(e). Further evidence has now emerged(p) that the peopling of America was not carried out by a single group, but by immigrants from different geographical areas.
Professor Jody Hey of Rutgers University published in 2011 the results of his North American DNA studies, which confirmed the arrival of the first migrants from Asia around 14,000 years ago in a group of not more than 70 people(r).
Pre-Columbian contact between Asia and Alaska was confirmed by a report(b) from Purdue University in September 2016. artefacts were discovered in a house dated between 700 and 900 years old. The bronze items were identified as having been smelted in Asia, while a leather strap was radiocarbon-dated to between 500 and 800 years old.
Another 2016 report(d) added genetic evidence for the Beringia migration route, when the remains of two infants, dated to around 10,000 years ago were discovered at the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.
Further supportive evidence of the use of the Beringia landbridge was uncovered at Alaska’s Swan Point site where human occupation has been dated as far back as 14,000 years ago. “Another notable aspect of Swan Point is the role it has played in understanding the prehistoric migration of peoples into the Americas. A type of stone tool, the microblade, which was unearthed at the site, has been found to resemble those used by the Dyuktai people, who lived in Siberia around the same period. This shows that people crossed from Siberia to Alaska on the Beringia land bridge.”(t)
The ‘received wisdom’ regarding the origins of the Clovis people was that they had crossed into the Americas from Asia via the Bering Strait 12,000 years ago. This has been challenged in a book by two archaeologists, Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce A. Bradley, who claim “that the first Americans crossed the Atlantic by boat and arrived earlier than previously thought. Supplying archaeological and oceanographic evidence to support this assertion, the book dismantles the old paradigm while persuasively linking Clovis technology with the culture of the Solutrean people who occupied France and Spain more than 20,000 years ago.” In 2014, Stephen Oppenheimer endorsed the work of Stanford and Bradley(h). Coincidentally, an article(m) in the August 2017 edition of Antiquity offers evidence that humans lived in Brazil more than 20,000 years ago, which is many millennia before the Clovis people arrived in North America.
A sceptical view of their work should also be read(f). Furthermore, in 2016 the Solutrean Hypothesis also appears to have been contradicted by recent genetic studies(g).
Late August 2019 saw the dating controversy surrounding the arrival of the First Americans re-ignited with a study that pushes the date back to over 16,000 years ago(l). This is based on archaeological discoveries at Cooper’s Ferry in Idaho. This earlier date suggests that the ice-free corridor would not have been available to these people, but are more likely to have used the coastal route from Asia via the Bering Strait. A secondary matter raised by these finds is that “Based on their analysis of the stone tools from Cooper’s Ferry, the researchers suggest that they are most similar to artifacts of the same general period found on the other side of the Pacific. Specifically, they appear to share many traits with tools produced on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido 13,000-16,000 years ago!”
The idea that the Clovis people were the first Americans is gradually losing support as the evidence found at Cooper’s Ferry and other sites indicates otherwise. A recent paper on the National Geographic website supports such a revised view(q).
Itztli Ehecatl published a two-part paper(u)(v) on the Atlantisforschung website denouncing the Bering Strait theory with the complaint that “Although some archaeologists have good intentions, most do not want to consider that Native Americans preserved an ancient history in their oral traditions. The unwillingness to reach a compromise between archaeological and indigenous knowledge is a tragedy that the discipline should work hard to overcome, otherwise, archeology will perpetually rely on flawed data.”
Michael Collins, a Texas State University archaeologist, is one of a number of academics who question whether the Bering Strait was the route used by the First Americans. Although the theory has been generally accepted for at least a century, support is weakening in the face of mounting evidence. An article in the journal Archaeology(w) (Aug.10, 2014) reports on Collins’ evidence up to that date.
It was depressing to read that ” the few scholars who dared challenge the Clovis lace theory on the basis of solid evidence were furiously ostracized and their careers destroyed. In 1951 Dr. Thomas Lee, working at the National Museum of Canada, identified a site in Sheguiandah, Canada. When the site was analyzed it was dated between 30,000 and 100,000 BP. Because his work conflicted with accepted Clovis doctrine, the museum he had worked for fired him, and his records of the finds were mysteriously stolen. Lee explained that both Canadian and American scholars blacklisted him and enforced an eight-year professional ban on him.” This period also saw the academic arrogance that Velikovsky had to endure in the USA.
The first direct connection of the Bering Strait with Atlantis has been suggested by Albert. M. Chelchelnitsky, who proposed that Atlantis had been situated in Alaska and placed the Pillars of Herakles in the Strait itself.
More recently, Michael Szymczyk, the author of Atlantis & Its Fate In The Postdiluvian World , in which, like Chelchelnitsky, he makes some extraordinary claims without providing any evidence. He pinpoints an underwater site near Kodiak Island off the northwest Pacific coast of Alaska as the location of Atlantis!
Heather Pringle “is a Canadian science writer who specializes in archaeology.” She has written many articles as well as a number of books and has her own website(a). Among her work is the prize-winning The Master Plan, in which she charts the work of the Nazi Ahnenerbe, founded by Himmler, “whose mission was to search for the lost civilization of an ancient master race.” Included in this fascinating book is an interesting account of the Hermann Wirth’s obsession with Atlantis in the North Atlantic as well as Edmund Kiss’ work at Tiwanaku in Bolivia.
*[A recent paper(b) by Pringle and Krista Langlois offers evidence that the Bering Strait during the last Ice Age was in fact a vast area of land the size of Australia and that it provided a crossing point, for humans and animals earlier and for longer than previously believed.
Pringle has also turned her attention to the Vikings in an interesting National Geographic article(c).]*
(c) National Geographic, March 2017 p.34]*