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Mother Tongues Trace Steps of Earliest Americans

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Science  27 Feb 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5355, pp. 1306-1307
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5355.1306b

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Summary

While archaeologists are still trying to determine when the ancestors of the first inhabitants of South America first set foot in North America, a linguist has estimated from known rates of the spread of languages and people that it would have taken about 7000 years for a population to travel from Alaska to Chile. Because that would put the first Americans' arrival squarely in the middle of the last major glacial advance, she proposes that the first settlers began to enter the New World well before the height of glaciation--earlier than 22,000 years ago.