Origins of American Indians

John Grehan jrg13 at PSU.EDU
Thu Oct 21 08:29:35 CDT 1999

As an issue in systematics its possible that some on this list are aware of
the controversies surrounding the handling of the Kennewick Man, found in
the banks of the Columbia River in Washington, particularly efforts of
several partys, including at least one government agency, to intefere with
scientific analysis. Recent findings about the probable affinities of the
skeleton are of biogeographic as well as systematic interest.
The following statements have recently been released (excerpted from
Anthropology in the News" web page):

"The remains, estimated to be about 9,300 years old according to earlier
radiocarbon dating, most closely resemble Asian people, particularly the
Ainu of northern Japan, and to Polynesians from the  South Pacific, the
scientists said. Both groups are descendants of people from southern Asia,
they said.

 Because Kennewick Man had features that seem to be neither modern American
Indian nor contemporary Asian, the find has held the possibility that it
could lead a broader theory about how  the Americas were peopled".

I find the results interesting in the context of Leon Croizat's theories
about Amerindian origins. He proposed in the 1950's that early colonization
occured anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 years ago. This range comes close to
the figure of 30,000 years now proposed by anthropologists.

Croizat also proposed that the colonists were seafarers that crossed the
north Pacific, and that they migrated from coastal regions of Asia between
South East Asia and Japan (inclusive). This also matches which the findings
on Kennewick and other recent studies.

Croizat further suggested that the ancestors of modern Amerindians did not
look "modern" at the time of early colonization. This also matches similar
conclusions by anthropologists. Joseph Powell, a professor of anthropology
at the University of New Mexico stated

"The older the bones, the more difficult it can be to neatly link them to
specific populations....ancient skeletons found in Europe or Asia, for
example, don’t
 necessarily look like modern-day Europeans or Asians. Any number of
factors could have influenced the degree of variation among humans then and

The origins of Amerindians are proving to be far more complex than
previously accepted among anthropologists (apart from a few so-called
excentrics), but interestingly shows some correspondence with proposals by
Croizat (who wrote quite extensively on biogeographic anthropology, but his
work has been ignored by anthropologists in the same way biogeographers
ignored his work until relatively recently). Given that some Brazilian
skulls have been asserted to have similarities to Melanesians, the question
of biogeography and human anthropology should continue to generate some
interesting developments. But most intriguing has been the virtual lack of
popular interest in the US at least about these challenging discoveries.

John Grehan

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