News & AnalysisArchaeology

Do Island Sites Suggest a Coastal Route to the Americas?

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Science  04 Mar 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6021, pp. 1122
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6021.1122

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About 12,000 years ago, on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of California, a group of prehistoric hunters bagged geese, cormorants, and albatross, perhaps using crescent-shaped stone points to stun the birds. They also caught an array of fish, including surfperch and rockfish, probably spearing them with barbed stone points also used to hunt seals. These sea goers must have crossed 10 kilometers of open water from the coast near what is now Santa Barbara to reach the island, and they also visited nearby San Miguel Island, where they raked in bountiful amounts of red abalone, mussels, snails, and crabs. On page 1181 of this week's issue of Science, archaeologists detail the remains of these ancient hunts: thousands of bird, fish, and sea-mammal bones, as well as shells and the characteristic stone points.