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Late Pleistocene exploration and settlement of the Americas by modern humans

Michael R. Waters | June 12, 2019
Summary

North and South America were the last continents to be explored and settled by modern humans at the end of the Pleistocene. Genetic data, derived from contemporary populations and ancient individuals, show that the first Americans originated from Asia and after several population splits moved south of the continental ice sheets that covered Canada sometime between ~17.5 and ~14.6 thousand years (ka) ago. Archaeological evidence shows that geographically dispersed populations lived successfully, using biface, blade, and osseous technologies, in multiple places in North and South America between ~15.5 and ~14 ka ago. Regional archaeological complexes emerged by at least ~13 ka ago in North America and ~12.9 ka ago in South America. Current genetic and archaeological data do not support an earlier (pre–17.5 ka ago) occupation of the Americas.

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North and South America were the last continents to be explored and settled by modern humans at the end of the Pleistocene. Genetic data, derived from contemporary populations and ancient individuals, show that the first Americans originated from Asia and after several population splits moved south of the continental ice sheets that covered Canada sometime between ~17.5 and ~14.6 thousand years (ka) ago. Archaeological evidence shows that geographically dispersed populations lived successfully, using biface, blade, and osseous technologies, in multiple places in North and South America between ~15.5 and ~14 ka ago. Regional archaeological complexes emerged by at least ~13 ka ago in North America and ~12.9 ka ago in South America. Current genetic and archaeological data do not support an earlier (pre–17.5 ka ago) occupation of the Americas.

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