Ice Age Hunter-Gatherers and the Colonization of Mesoamerica

Guillermo Acosta Ochoa

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Ice Age Hunter-Gatherers and the Colonization of Mesoamerica

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology by Region
  • Prehistoric Archaeology



This article reviews archaeological evidence of Ice Age hunter-gatherers and the colonization of Mesoamerica. Data currently available indicate that the land bridge known as Beringia linked Asia with the Americas when the sea level dropped during the Pleistocene. To date, this appears to have been the most viable route for the first inhabitants of the New World, who may have followed game that migrated to the new continent. However, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether this migration occurred over land or along the coast and how early the process began. One theory suggests that initial colonization occurred through coastal routes from the Pacific Northwest. This model allows for the possibility that the first Americans gradually colonized coastal ice-free areas along the coast of Beringia and the Pacific Northwest via boats. The model is supported by studies that indicate that the coast of Beringia could have included ecosystems richer in resources than inland areas, suggesting a habitable migratory corridor along the continental landmass. This model also appears to be the most parsimonious theory for explaining the technological diversity observed toward the end of the Pleistocene era, in both Middle America and the rest of the New World.

Keywords: Beringia; land bridge; Pleistocence; New World; migration; coastal routes

Article.  4697 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region ; Prehistoric Archaeology

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