Friday, March 2, 2007

New Frontiers: searching for our ancestors beneath the sea

Science magazine has news on this intriguing expedition:

Submarine to Search for Early Americans

When humans first trekked from Asia to North America, perhaps as long as 25,000 years ago, the continent was gripped by ice sheets and glaciers. Those hardy immigrants probably traveled by boat or along the shore, where finding food and shelter would have been easier. The trouble for archaeologists is that as the ice melted, the seas rose and covered any traces of this early migration. Now marine geologists and archaeologists are hunting for underwater clues in the Gulf of Mexico.

The submarine and ROV will survey the bottom of the reef, 120 meters deep, which is thought to have been the location of the shoreline some 20,000 years ago. The reef is built atop large reserves of salt, and Ballard says it's possible that Native Americans would have mined it from caves or tunnels. "We're confident something is out there; we just need to see if we can find it," Ballard said at a press conference yesterday. The research isn't all archaeology; scuba divers from one of the research vessels will also observe conch, parrotfish, and manta rays on the shallow reefs.

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