Photograph courtesy Amy Gusick
About the Project
Archaeologist Amy Gusick and her team are going underwater in the Sea of Cortez to search for evidence of the New World’s earliest inhabitants.
Traditional theory has been that Clovis culture hunters on the trail of mammoth and bison arrived in North America from Asia across a corridor between retreating ice sheets.
Gusick’s team supports the emerging theory that the earliest new world immigrants arrived via the Pacific coast, which would have been ice-free and available for migration beginning about 14,500 years ago.
To date, archaeological research into the Pacific coastal migration theory has been largely focused on terrestrial areas along the eastern Pacific coast. However, Gusick’s team believes the proof is located underwater.
Isla Espiritu Santo, an island in the Sea of Cortez represents a key piece of this research. The first human migrations into the Americas could have utilized this island for many reasons including the marine life, fresh water sources, rock shelters, coastal location and its close proximity to the mainland.
In an earlier phase of the project, Gusick created a model of part of a drowned landscape off Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez. This allowed the team to identify areas that would be optimal for mobile hunter-gatherers.
Now, armed with the model, Gusick's team is ready to go below and search for the elusive evidence of North America's first inhabitants.
Hundreds of cultural deposits have been identified on Isla Espiritu Santo; two of these sites date back to the Pleistocene epoch (1.8 million to 11,550 years ago); however the sites were not dated early enough to relate to a Pleistocene coastal migration.
Gusick's team discovered sites last year that also did not date to the late Pleistocene, but they only had gone approximately 60 feet deep. To find materials that would date to the Late Pleistocene, the team plans on looking at landscapes deeper than 120 feet. They will be conducting a combination of sonar and physical scuba surveys in the new year.
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