Scientists believe that all Native American people descend from a single population that used to inhabit Beringia, a region that comprises Alaska, eastern Siberia, and western Canada along with several lands that are now below water.
Very little is known about the ancient Beringians but a new discovery in Russia might finally give us some clues. Researchers from the Institute for Humanities Research and Indigenous Studies of the North (IHRISN) have uncovered a Paleolithic site on the remote island of Stolbovoy, which is located 184 kilometers (114 miles) from the mainland.
As reported by The Siberian Times, the team discovered tools that could be up to 300,000 years old, although the team admits more tests are necessary to confirm their exact age. If this is confirmed, it will be the first concrete evidence of people inhabiting Beringia.
“We suppose the site is Palaeolithic. We suppose these implements we have found are hundreds of thousands years old, but so far we have no iron proof,” researcher Tomas Simokaitis told The Siberian Times. “If, with time, we prove that it is Palaeolithic, this will be the first clear evidence of humans on the Beringia land.”
The northernmost Paleolithic settlement confirmed so far is located in Yana, 370 kilometers (230 miles) south. The Yana site dates back 32,500 years ago, so this has the potential to be even older. As far as we know, Beringia began to sink roughly 15,000 years ago.
At the time Stolbovoy was connected to the mainland, near the estuary of the giant Paleo-Lena River. This is what led the researchers to explore the remote island. Comparing modern geological data with models of what north-western Beringia could have looked like, the team suspected that the island might have been an important site for ancient humans.
“We do plan the further research,” Simokaitis said. “If not this year, then definitely the next year, we will gather samples. We will try to dig into the permafrost, and open the surface. For now we have just collected material from the surface.”
It will be interesting to see if more is uncovered on the island and to find out exactly how old these tools are.
[H/T: The Siberian Times]