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Between two continents on the edge of the Arctic lay the ancient place called Beringia. It was a time of ice, giant mammals and some of the first people in North America.

During the Ice Age, vast glaciers up to nearly two miles thick covered much of the northern hemisphere, locking up much of the world’s water as vast ice sheets.   Of interest to Alaska is one very long glacier system that started in Siberia and skirted the west coast of Alaska and Canada to as far as Oregon. Global sea levels dropped as much as 300 feet as a result, exposing the floor of the Bering Sea and revealing a relatively flat, low-lying stretch of continental plain linking North America to Asia. This land bridge was part of a larger unglaciated area called Beringia.

Beringia remained untouched by glaciers because of its arid climate. Instead, the landscape consisted mainly of hardy grasses, herbs, dwarf birch and willows of the vast steppe tundra that joined the continents of Asia and North America. It was home to the giants of the Ice Age - the woolly mammoth, the mastodon, the steppe bison, the giant beaver, the North American horse, and camel. Also present were large predators - the giant short-faced bear, the American lion and the scimitar cat.

The theory of Beringia infers that the first people who saw what is called America today were following ice-age mammals who were migrating east from Siberia in search of more food and to escape from their predators. In time these hunters, following the game, wandered into the grasslands of the American interior, then east to the Atlantic shores of Canada, south across the deserts, through Central America, and finally to Tierra del Fuego, the tip of South America. Though we do not know with certainty when people first reached Beringia and settled there permanently, it was the emergence of the Bering land bridge that enabled them to reach the North American continent. As the ice receded, the sea levels rose again until, about ten thousand years ago, Alaska and Siberia were parted once and for all by the waters.

How long the Americas have been inhabited by humans is simply informed guesswork, but most agree that it has been at least 15,000 years. The disagreements arise anew with the unearthing of skulls, bones, primitive burial grounds, hunting camps, and utensils.  Recent archeological discoveries have shattered the thought that North and South America were populated strictly by those early peoples who crossed the land bridge (as shown in the map to the right), or even that migrants through Beringia were ancestors of all the North American tribes.

However, my intent for this page is not to discuss populating any part of the Americas except our area of research - Alaska.  And whether or not the tribes of Alaska were "the first Americans" is irrelevant for this page simply because what is important to us is the fact that they even made that trek at all and began the establishment of what today would be called Alaska.  To us, those ancient People were first.

Between 14,000 and 12,000 years ago, a migration took place along the Beringian land mass. These people were the ancestors of the Eskimo and Aleuts, whose material culture was founded in the Siberian-American Paleoarctic tradition. Components of the Ushki Lake sites in central Kamchatka (Russia), dated to 14,000 years ago, have analogous artifacts at maritime Alaska sites, such as Anangula in the Aleutian chain and Ground Hog Bay on the northwest coast.

Artifacts have shown that another migration of Ancients took place, but they sailed through the Bering Strait on hide-covered watercraft instead of crossing the bridge. This migration possibly included the ancestors of the interior Alaska Indians and the Pacific Northwest coast Indians. These people were nomadic gatherers and caribou hunters who used a microblade technology; their abandoned camps are scattered across eastern Siberia and interior Alaska.

Using tools created from stone, bone, sinew, wood, fiber, and moss, they invented secure dwellings and tailored skin clothing. They developed expert control of fire, including the use of alternative fuels such as animal dung, finely broken bone, and fat or oil in areas lacking woody plants. They learned to travel over snow and ice. They also learned to cope with long hours of winter darkness. These ancient people were skilled in many of the arts and sciences we pursue today. They possessed profound biological knowledge - the nutritional and medicinal properties of many plants and the habits and anatomy of many animals. They were experts at finding geological deposits that contained stone suitable for flaking into tools and grinding into pigments. They were storytellers who entertained and educated themselves by passing on oral histories and knowledge from one generation to another.

Each new group brought a new tradition and language. The new tribe would invade, pushing the older tribes south or east to find new land to graze. Until the Eskimo, no man dared to settle the frozen land.