Sunday, January 17, 2016

Beringia: A Modern-day Fable –Part I

Many years ago, paleontologists and anthropologists struggled with the question of how did people spread from Africa, where they believed man originated, to the Americas, when it was not considered possible for ships to have crossed the major oceans in that early era. Obviously, there was no land connection between the Western and Eastern Hemispheres, though the view of the closeness of Siberia and Alaska across the Bering Straits drew their collective attention. 
    They thought “If only the land was connected there—after all, it was just 51 miles across.” Surely, they reasoned, at some point the land had to have been connected as the various land masses and tectonic plates moved about forming the map as we now see it.
Top: Current map of Siberia (left) and Alaska (Right) and the Bering Sea and (red arrow) Bering Straits in the middle; Bottom: The proposed Land Bridge of Beringia
    So the search began to find an answer to the need for a connection. The idea emerged that a Land Bridge must have existed thousands of years ago—in fact, it was eventually decided that it was more than 10,000 years ago because that was the time period when it was agreed that the oceans rose in height as a result of the melting and receding glaciers, that would have covered any existing bridge. And a bridge between Siberia and Alaska made sense because of the narrowness of the area between.
    They called it Beringia. And decided that it would have “perhaps” been the result of a blockage of land that exposed the sea floor when the ocean levels were lower, both at the present strait and the shallow sea north and south of it
    Over time, this became the most accepted view, and now about the only “scientific backed” view of how the Paleo-Indians (the first people who entered, and subsequently inhabited, the American continent), entered America between 8000 and 7000 B.C. from Eurasia (Eastern Hemisphere).
In Orange, the so-called Beringia area that at one time scientists claim connected Siberia and (Yellow area) Alaska together. Red Arrows show the additional land of Beringia; Blue arrow shows the existing separation between Siberia and Alaska covering 620,000 square miles
    Next came a need for a reason for man to have crossed that bridge in the frozen north. It was decided that food was the reason—and the retreat across Siberia (Northern Russia) toward the ice encrusted Alaskan tundra of the large mammoth (Mammuthus proboscidean), claimed to have lived around that time but now extinct—the mastodons are only a distant relative of the mammoths and part of the separate Mammultidae family from which today’s elephants are supposed to have evolved.
    For some unknown reason, these mammoths decided to migrate or retreat through Siberia, across the so-called Land Bridge, and into present-day Alaska. For what reason? Why did mastodons, mammorths, steppe bison and other ice-age mammals leave their long-standing breeding grounds and habitat where scientists claim they had been from 40,000 to 17,000 years earlier?  Because, scientists claim it was a result of “the climate stabilizing, leading to a rise in population and lithic technology advances, resulting in more sedentary lifestyles.”
In this way, while they claim life began in Africa, they could then distribute it across the oceans from one hemisphere to another through this so-called Land Bridge, which was the result of climate change
    And man followed for shelter and for food (obviously, scientists claim, man's only available source of food was retreating across Siberia and into Alaska, so they followed). And why shelter was not available to them in Siberia is not stated or considered. For some unknown reason, after a lengthy time in Russia, these early migrants up and left to find a better land by doing what? Heading straight for the ice covered northern landscape of Beringia around 40,000 to 17,000 years ago.
    However, a problem arose as to why man or beast would retreat toward and through an ice-covered land. Up came the idea that the land was not covered with ice at that time, but was, at least in places, such as a corridor, a fertile, green landscape even though just about the entire north of Russia, Alaska and Canada were covered with glaciers.
While the eastern end of Siberia and western end of Alaska somehow acquired a better climate, they still claim that beyond that spot, the Ice Age Glaciers covered the entire northern land
    Still, the problem arose that why did these migrating people head into the glaciers to travel further south and east into North America when they had fertile, green land across Beringia?
    Another critical problem is that the Inuit (Eskimos) are the last Native groups to come into North America, as the Inuit crossed the Bering land bridge sometime between 6000 B.C. and 2000 B.C., yet according to Dr. Scott A. Elias, and his colleagues at the University of Colorado's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, the Land Bridge closed 11,000 BP (Before Present), or about 9000 B.C., from their studies in the U.S. Geological Survey from their work on the floor of the Chukchi and Bering seas.
    So why did some of these emigrants stop in what is now the Seward Peninsula, the Alaskan side of the opening between Alaska and Siberia? Now, remember, this opening and all around it scientist claim was fertile, green land, but not far beyond were the ice age glaciers covering the entire land. So, why did some stay and others continue on? If the large animals would have continued to retreat into Alaska, then reason tells us all the people migrating would have followed if that was their purpose in coming across anyway. And if the animals stopped retreating, causing some to stay, then why did the others continue on into unknown, ice-covered territory if there was no reason to follow food?
Top: 210-mile long, 90-mile wide Seward Island is the westernmost point of the U.S., 52 miles from Russian Siberia, across the 161-foot deep Bering Straight, lying just south of the Arctic Circle; Bottom: A current native Eskimo village on Seward Peninsula. Note the barren ice and snow covered land
    It should be kept in mind that the life-style of those who evidently remained on what is now the Seward Peninsula of Alaska, live some of the most harsh lives of anyone on earth in one of the most forbidding territories on the planet. Inupiat (Eskimos) numbering 2,901 inhabitants (outside of Nome) live lives no different today than for the past several thousand years according to scientists. This life, and it is difficult to fathom how it became the land we see today and for the past many thousands of years in connection with the computer program image of a Beringia that is fertile and green.
    To better understand what these early migrants found in which to settle (hardly better than where they had been) is a snow-covered land where there is no sun from September to February, where nothing grows in the ground or survives the cold nights, where the winters are long and cold, with short, cool summers, with temperatures ranging from -47ºF upward to barely above zero, with an average daily temperature in winter from -11ºF to -2ºF, and an average daily maximum of 3ºF to 12ºF, and an average growing season of only two month. Fairly heavy snowfall occurs in winter, from 39 to 78-inches, with even heavier concentrations of rain in summer of 18 inches. The soils are poorly drained and shallow, with the entire peninsula underlain by permafrost, and on hill slopes the soil is very gravelly residual material over weathered bedrock.
    Indigenous to the area are Arctic foxes and Alaska hares with polar bears often seen and ribbon Seals in areas offshore, but today’s Reindeer and Musk ox were not introduced until the 20th century. The life style of these migrants are large families in small snow-covered homes in small villages that are far apart. They cook using driftwood when it can be found, but mostly blubber, eating a high-fat diet, with little in the way of plant food, no agricultural or dairy products, subsisting on what could be hunted or caught fishing, and barely avoiding starvation if the hunting or fishing did not pan out.
(See the next post, Beringia: A Modern-day Fable –Part II,” for more of the unanswerable rationale scientists have used to support a Beringia Land Bridge and movement across it by early peoples to settle the Americas)

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