I spent decades teaching US History and stayed at it so long because I loved it. Still do. I’m a history geek, and a recent book about where early Americans came from has me all excited. It’s called “Across Atlantic Ice,” and it’s shaking up the history world.
The new theory is that at least some early Americans arrived from Europe across the Atlantic along the edge of pack ice during the last glacial maximum - that period 22,000 years ago or so around the time when the Atlantic would have been frozen furthest south. Every US History text I’ve ever used taught that the first Americans came across a land bridge from Asia - where the Bering Strait now separates the two continents - no earlier than 14,000 years ago, as if were established fact. That always bothered me, because we simply couldn’t know that for certain. When I was teaching, I’d always point out to students that their textbook was making an unsubstantiated claim. Evidence pointed in that direction, yes, but it wasn’t a certainty. While it is proven that some early Americans migrated from Asia, we simply couldn’t be sure that they were the first to come here. I’d always caution students to qualify such a claim by saying something like: “As far as we can tell . . . ”
The general rule of thumb would be that the further we go back in history, the less we can be sure of. When we’re trying to figure out what happened tens of thousands of years ago, it’s mostly speculative. The authors of “Across Atlantic Ice” are nothing if not humble. The book is filled with qualifiers because it’s authors know their idea is a theory, and because professionally, Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley are sticking their necks out. Because he’s Director of the Smithsonian’s Paleoindian/Paleoecology Program, Stanford’s book has to be taken seriously in the archaeology community. His and Bradley’s theory isn’t new, but until now, the case hasn’t been put forth as comprehensively as they have done, so there’s lots of heated discussion. That’s as it should be in any scientific or academic community.
Those who insisted that people from the so-called “Clovis” culture were the first Americans, and that they came exclusively from Asia after the 14,000-year mark, are the most threatened by “Across Atlantic Ice,” and it’s time they were seriously challenged.
The rest is here.