Beringia, Alaska and Siberia 13,000 to 25,000 years ago. What a magical place it must have been.


Picture Alaska and Siberia at the end of the last ice age. During that time in earth history, thick ice covered much of the northern hemisphere; Glaciers in the mountains of Canada extended icy fingers down to the 40th parallel (Kentucky) before retreating into Canada. 

Another very long glacier system started in Siberia and skirted the west coast of Alaska and Canada to as far as Oregon.

On the other side of the world it was worse. Eurasian glaciers and ice packs probed south into Europe as far as the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain and France.

As the glaciers melted, the Canadian and the west Alaska glacier systems melted apart and left an ice free passage through Central Alaska down to Idaho. Migrants moved through that passage to settle all of North and South America.  

In the picture top right the artist did an excellent  job rendering his vision of what the land masses of   Siberia, Alaska and Canada must have looked like then, but he overlook a couple of important points.

The ocean level was some 500 feet lower than it is today, and he depicted the elevation then with a dotted line showing where the shoreline is now. The deepest parts of the Bering Sea even then were  under water; people must have found routes blocked by water, had to walk around hills which are now  islands in the Bering Sea. 

Land masses of Siberia and North America extended much further out to sea than they do now, and the  Aleutian Islands with a shallow off shore shelf must have been above water and twice as wide as it is now. Only the deepest passages between islands required a boat to cross, so the Aleuts could have walked from Kamchatka Peninsula down the Aleutian Archipelago to the mainland of Alaska.     

We have for years referred to a land bridge Siberia and Alaska. In reality it was quite wide, about 500 miles from where the Bering Sea ended and the Arctic Sea began. Parts of the Bering Sea are deeper than 500 feet, so those elevations were under water. In reality there were probably several bridges.

The distance from the Chutchi peninsula of Siberia is about 125 miles from the nearest land in Alaska. Migrants from Chutchi to Alaska would have had a nearly straight walk into central Alaska. West of the glacier the Native Aleuts from Kamchatka Island could have walked most of the way from there to the glacier that blocked their path at the west coast of mainland Alaska. 

That is as broad a northwest passage as anyone on foot could possibly want, but the passage would have been dangerous; Paths were blocked by lakes or hills which today are islands in the sea; There were some dangerous animals, very large wolves, saber tooth tigers, polar bears, short faced Brown Bears aplenty, all looking for something to eat. 

Crossing that bridge gave the migrants two advantages and perhaps three, moving to warmer weather and finding more game was certain, and escaping from enemies in Siberia might have been the third.  

Given that early peoples populated the continent as far as South America, here are the stories about the three main groups of native peoples who stayed in Canada and Alaska, including some subsidiary problems they had to overcome while starting new lives.

Eskimo  Two groups of Aleut people who settled Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Islands.

  The story of two groups of Eskimo peoples of Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

  Story of the longest native occupants in Alaska, the Indians. 

  Problems people had settling the land, natural enemies all around, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters, being imprisoned by the Russians, or by the Japanese. It wasn't all easy.

 by Alaska Natives Association


Chart Of Native Corporations

The graphic on the left shows the approximate boundaries of the Alaska Native Corporations. Corporation members may actually live in any part of Alaska, or even in the lower forty eight.

Click here for a full size chart.

The artist conception of north west America 18,000 years ago. It looks exactly like some parts of Alaska now. Only the Mastodon pictured is out of place. Imagine a Moose instead of the Mastodon and you have it. 18,000 years ago the glaciers retreated from America. Notice how wide Florida was. See at top left the often discussed separation of glaciers that cleared an ice free path south through British Columbia to North America. 


fun histories 2002