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Story of humans

When did people first settle in the Americas?

Hunters pursuing mammothsHunters pursuing mammothsPeople first arrived in North America probably around 26,500 years ago—the dates are still uncertain. During the Ice Ages, the sea level was lower than it is today. It was possible to walk from northeastern Siberia to Alaska. Hunters followed their prey—mammoth, deer and other animals—from Asia into this new land. Over the years, people spread out to all parts of the Americas. Where game was plentiful, in forests and on the Great Plains, Native Americans (sometimes also called American Indians or Amerindians) continued to live by hunting. In some places, they turned to farming the land.

A Clovis pointA Clovis point

Clovis people

The earliest settlers of the Americas are referred to as Palaeo-Indians by scientists. Until recently, scientists thought that a group of people they call the Clovis people settled in the Americas about 13,000 years ago. The Clovis people are named after the distinctive stone tools found by archaeologists at sites near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s. These stone spearheads, known as Clovis points, are fluted (they have long, shallow grooves) on both sides. They have been dated to around 13,000 years ago.

Genetic studies show that Clovis people are the direct ancestors of about 80% of all living Native Americans in North and South America (the remainder are descended from ancestors who migrated to the Americas later).

Around 30,000 years ago, sea levels were approximately 60–120 m (200–400 ft) below present-day levels.

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