Seaweed and Human migrations

16 Oct 2011

At there is a quite good overview of the currently acceptable alternative migration route into the Americas, the so called seaweed trail. A continuous belt of offshore seaweed stretches from Alaska to Chile and it is thought that in earlier times, when the Bering Land Bridge was above sea level, this trail of seaweed wound its way all around the rim of the North Pacific - to as far as Japan (and possibly even further south). This means it may have been feasible to migrate from Asia into the Americas - during the Ice Age. This theory is based on what the seaweed harbours - lots of fish, shell fish, and other marine animals. In addition, the seaweed is edible - even nutricious. Hence, this theory has a series of more practical facts in its favour than peoplel migrating on land and having to contend with large mammals such as mastodon, mammoth, and bison. The seaweed trail, it might be said, is gatherer orientated as opposed to hunter dominated, the land route. The land route came into favour after the discovery of the Clovis archaeological site in the 1930s and it displayed evidence of big game hunting. The site had a very strong influence on subsequent US archaeology - provided the US with a pivotal role in the migration, and was adopted wholesale by the academic fraternity - as they are wont to do. It brushed aside similarities between Clovis blade technology and an Ice Age toolkit from Iberia and SW France known as the Solutrean. Repeated ad nauseum the Clovis migration became a central dogma. Whenever archaeologists, and others, found evidence of earlier human activity in the Americas it was treated with suspicion, scoffed at, and generally derided - and inevitably lost in some museum recess. However, in 1975 Tom Dillehay found a site in Chile, stumbling on it by accident during an archaeological foray, now known as Monte Verde, some 50 miles distant from the coast. It immediately became controversial and the usual personal attacks were made - but Dillehay was made of stern stuff. The big problem was that Monte Verde was older than Clovis, the so called first people of the Americas. Some 72 different kinds of plants were found at the site - including nuts, seeds, berries, leaves, and potatoes, all firm evidence of huma occupation and exploitation of the environment surrounding the site. All the evidence was unquestionable in the eyes of Dillehay and his collaborators as it was preserved in situ as a result of being buried beneath fallen trees and an instantly created bog environment. In other words, some kind of catastrophe buried what was essentially a village at Monte Verde - an unusual storm perhaps - or something bigger? A combination of peat and an air tight insulation kept the site intact - for thousands of years. In spite of all this the academics refused to accept the emerging evidence - without visiting the site to have a look at what was being carefully excavated. That seems to be a common problem with science - consensus overrules the obvious and the observable. However, it gradually got worse for the Clovis dogma as C14 dates, at first only hundreds of years older than Clovis, were found to be much much older at depth - and they are still digging deeper. Levels at Monte Verde currently go back 30,000 years - well into the Ice Age. In fact, they are older than the Last Glacial Maximum when ice sheets reached as far south as Poland, a large part of Britain, and covered NE America - and global sea levels differed dramatically. 

One of the commenters raises an interesting point. Is the seaweed trail becoming the new dogma? Why is the Solutrean-Clovis link ignored, and why is the new theory an adaptation of the old in that people moved around the rim of the North Pacific. Why could they not have travelled across the ocean?