Paleoindians in Beringia: Evidence from Arctic Alaska

Science  04 Feb 1994:
Vol. 263, Issue 5147, pp. 660-662
DOI: 10.1126/science.263.5147.660


Excavations at the Mesa site in arctic Alaska provide evidence for a Paleoindian occupation of Beringia, the region adjacent to the Bering Strait. Eleven carbon-14 dates on hearths associated with Paleoindian projectile points place humans at the site between 9,730 and 11,660 radiocarbon years before present (years B.P.). The presence of Paleoindians in Beringia at these times challenges the notion that Paleoindian cultures arose exclusively in mid-continental North America. The age span of Paleoindians at the Mesa site overlaps with dates from two other cultural complexes in interior Alaska. A hiatus in the record of human occupation occurs between 10,300 and 11,000 years B.P. Late Glacial climatic fluctuations may have made northern Alaska temporarily unfavorable for humans and spurred their southward dispersal.