Glacial retreat had cleared a path along Alaska’s shores by 17,000 years ago
Ancient colonizers of the Americas could have traveled down Alaska’s Pacific coast in canoes or other sea vessels around 17,000 years ago, a new study finds.
At that time, toward the end of the last ice age, glaciers had just receded from a cluster of southern Alaskan islands, say geologist Alia Lesnek of the University at Buffalo in New York and colleagues. Life-supporting habitats appeared soon after the ice melted, the scientists report May 30 in Science Advances.
Measures of chemicals that accumulate in rock due to cosmic radiation once glaciers retreat provided age estimates for when four Alaskan islands lost their ice coat. An open pathway for coastal travelers probably existed along the entire southeastern Alaskan coast roughly 17,000 years ago, the scientists say. Radiocarbon dates for a ringed seal’s remains found on a southern Alaskan island indicate that the seal lived about 17,000 years ago, suggesting the area became habitable soon after glaciers left.
A.J. Lesnek et al. Deglaciation of the Pacific coastal corridor directly preceded the human colonization of the Americas. Science Advances. Published online May 30, 2018. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aar5040.
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