By Land or By Sea?

Illustration by Bob Wilder


According to conventional wisdom, America’s earliest settlers came on foot, crossing the Bering Land Bridge and trekking through Canada via a corridor that opened up between massive ice sheets toward the end of the last ice age.

But recent research suggests that the inland route couldn’t have sustained human life at the time these settlers were on the move. Now, a new UB study provides compelling evidence to support a popular alternative theory: that they took a coastal route along Alaska’s Pacific border.

By analyzing boulders and bedrock on four islands along the proposed coastal route, and by dating ancient seal bones previously discovered in a nearby cave, UB geologists determined that the islands were free of ice and ecologically vibrant roughly 17,000 years ago—exactly when migration to the Americas is believed to have occurred.