Beringia and the global dispersal of modern humans

John Hoffecker, Scott Elias, Dennis O'Rourke, G. Richard Scott, Nancy Bigelow

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Until recently, the settlement of the Americas seemed largely divorced from
the out-of-Africa dispersal of anatomically modern humans, which began at
least 50,000 years ago. Native Americans were thought to represent a small
subset of the Eurasian population that migrated to the Western Hemisphere less
than 15,000 years ago. Archeological discoveries since 2000 reveal, however,
that Homo sapiens occupied the high-latitude region between Northeast Asia
and northwest North America (that is, Beringia) before 30,000 years ago and the
Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). The settlement of Beringia now appears to have
been part of modern human dispersal in northern Eurasia. A 2007 model, the
Beringian Standstill Hypothesis, which is based on analysis of mitochondrial
DNA (mtDNA) in living people, derives Native Americans from a population that
occupied Beringia during the LGM. The model suggests a parallel between
ancestral Native Americans and modern human populations that retreated to
refugia in other parts of the world during the arid LGM. It is supported by evidence of comparatively mild climates and rich biota in south-central Beringia at this time (30,000-15,000 years ago). These and other developments suggest
that the settlement of the Americas may be integrated with the global dispersal
of modern humans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-78
Number of pages15
JournalEvolutionary Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2016


  • Beringia paleoanthropology paleoecology

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