Earliest humans in the Americas
Politis, Gustavo G. CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- Routes into the Americas
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The Americas were the last continents (except for Antarctica) colonized by Homo sapiens (that is, anatomically modern humans) and they represented the “end of the road” or final stage of the global expansion process that started in sub-Saharan Africa around 100,000 years ago. Although some researchers in the past postulated that the origin of humankind was in South America, currently all of the available data support the model that humans migrated to the American continents as Homo sapiens at the end of the Pleistocene (an epoch spanning about 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago and commonly characterized as when the earth entered its most recent phase of widespread glaciation). This means that no ancestors of Homo sapiens ever occupied or evolved in the Americas. Although this has been a highly contested debate, it seems that Neandertals lived in the Old World until roughly 30,000 years ago (when they became extinct), coexisting with the ancestors of modern humans who had expanded throughout the Old World from Africa between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago. The descendants of these modern humans then entered the Americas sometime at the very end of the Pleistocene.
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