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The “Beringian Standstill” hypothesis was first proposed by Latin American geneticists in 1997, as a way to explain the genetic evidence indicating that Native Americans started diverging from Siberians 25,000 years ago. In contrast, the archaeological evidence for the first Americans goes back only 15,000 years, to the end of the ice age known as the Last Glacial Maximum.
In this week’s issue of the journal Science, three researchers report new clues that support the claims for Beringia’s lost world. They say fossilized insects, plants and pollen extracted from Bering Sea sediment cores show that central Beringia was once covered by shrub tundra. That would have made it one of the few regions in the Arctic where wood was available for fuel.
Thousands of Siberian migrants might have found refuge in central Beringia until the climate warmed up enough for glaciers to recede, letting them continue their movement into the Americas, the researchers say.