Life on the edge: early maritime cultures of the Pacific Coast of North America

TitleLife on the edge: early maritime cultures of the Pacific Coast of North America
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsErlandson, JM, Moss, ML, Lauriers, MDes
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews

A variety of evidence suggests that the Americas may have been colonized, at least in part, by maritime peoples moving around the North Pacific Rim near the end of the Pleistocene. Understanding the geography of late glacial and early postglacial landscapes and the antiquity of human societies along the Pacific Coast continues to be a challenge, however, due to geological dynamics associated with glaciation, tectonism, submergence of coastal lowland landscapes by rising postglacial seas, and coastal erosion. Nonetheless, archaeological research has Pushed back the antiquity of human settlement along the Pacific Coast of North America to the terminal Pleistocene or early Holocene, providing important new data on the nature of the earliest coastal peoples in the Pacific Northwest, Alta California, and Baja California. In this paper, we summarize what is known about the earliest peoples of the Pacific Coast of North America and evaluate the Current viability of the coastal migration theory via a Pacific Rim route. Archaeological evidence now shows that Palaeocoastal peoples occupied each major region of the Pacific Coast by at least 13,000-11,500 calendar years ago (cal BP) (13-11.5 ka), essentially contemporaneous with Clovis and Folsom peoples of the interior. Although it is too early to conclude that the initial human colonization of the Americas took place via a migration by maritime or coastal peoples, it seems increasingly likely that such a migration played a role in the early peopling of the Americas. (c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.