The stormy scientific debate over the origins of the first Americans has taken a surprising geographic turn. Human skulls unearthed in Brazil and ranging in age from about 8,000 to 11,000 years look more like modern Africans and Australian aborigines than like modern Asians or Native Americans, according to a report presented in Kansas City at last week's annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
This finding contradicts the influential theory that Asians were the first to cross the now submerged Bering land bridge to North America around 12,000 years ago, says Walter A. Neves of the University of So Paulo. Instead, African migrants actually may have been the first to take this northern route into the Americas, theorizes Neves, who directed the Brazilian excavation and fossil analysis. At least 45,000 years ago, he adds, migrating Africans reached Australia via a southern route.