(ORDO NEWS) — In an underwater cave at a depth of just over 50 meters, underwater archaeologists have found evidence that the first inhabitants of the northern peninsula arranged complex structures for catching fish.
The history of the settlement of Alaska is a question on which there is no general opinion of the scientific community yet.
Some scientists believe that people crossed into the New World through the ancient isthmus on the site of the Bering Strait, and then this campaign took place 15-40 thousand years ago.
Others believe that people could well have sailed to America: in this case, all dating should be based only on archaeological finds. After all, it turns out that the first colonists could simply bypass Alaska.
Archaeologists say that only finds that are about ten thousand years old have been able to reliably date. Geneticists do not agree with this: they believe that the domestic dog, who lived these very ten thousand years ago in Alaska, separated from the line of his ancestor more than 16 thousand years ago.
And on this basis, it is believed that Alaska was settled earlier than the 9th millennium BC. All of these disputes highlight the importance of archaeological evidence in establishing the real time of colonization.
On the seafloor off southeast Alaska, underwater archaeologists have found the remains of an elaborate stone fish trap.
The trap lies about 52 meters below the present-day water surface in Shakan Bay on the west side of Prince of Wales Island. It is a wall of several stone hemispheres a little less than two meters high each, laid out in a row.
In our time, the place where they found the trap is located at a distance of almost two kilometers from the coast.
Researchers believe that the structure was erected 11,100 years ago – a thousand years older than the earliest archaeological evidence of human presence in Alaska. Similar traps have been found elsewhere, and the oldest one was built about 5,470 years ago.
For the first time, the existence of a certain man-made structure in the Shakan Bay was suggested back in 2010, after a sonar study. But underwater work has been carried out only now.
Such a trap is a kind of dam. At high tide, salmon go over the wall, and some fish do not have time to swim back when the tide begins to go down. It is much easier to catch salmon in a fenced area than in the open sea.
Scientists suggest that such traps were used seasonally, when there were a lot of salmon. And seasonally they could be built on or rebuilt – both by swapping stones and adding wooden stakes.
In addition, the researchers believe that even the stone base that was found at the bottom was much higher – after the rise in sea level, it simply went into the ground.
If the dating of the dam is correct (currently being rechecked), this makes it the oldest stone fish trap found in the world. And this is by far the first such trap discovered in North America.
Usually such semicircular “walls” blocked the ravines next to the rivers, along which the salmon went to spawn.
Most of the year these ravines were dry, but during the high water season (coincident with spawning) the river flooded the ravine and not too wise salmon were trapped.
It turns out that the ancient inhabitants of Alaska first acquired knowledge about the behavior and migrations of salmon, and then developed the technology to harvest a significant amount of this fish. Later, this technology spread throughout the North American continent.
In general, the archeology of Alaska is rather stingy. We still have a poor idea of the history of the settlement of America.
The previously dominant theory that it was Alaska (and Beringia) that was the gateway to the first Americans is now being questioned – thanks to finds in a high-mountain Mexican cave, much older than the oldest traces of people on the peninsula.
We mentioned above the suggestion that people came to America by water, but critics of this hypothesis consider navigation too difficult for the ancients.
Finds of structures on the ocean (as it was then) indicate that the early inhabitants of Alaska were not afraid of the sea, but, on the contrary, they knew it and skillfully used it.
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