Humans in Eastern North America
For at least a decade a war has been raging in academia. The four largest armies are those that believe Asiatic people first walked to America around 13,500 years ago across a land bridge from Siberia; those who believe humans first paddled from Asia much earlier and later, after the land bridge flooded; those who believe that humans either walked are paddled to the Americas from Europe; and those who believe that humans crossed the northern edge of the Atlantic Ocean in both directions.
The farther back one travels in time before eyewitnesses were able to record events, the more theoretical the understanding of the past becomes. When groups of anthropologists agree on a certain description of the prehistoric past, it is still a theory. There may be evidence to support the theory, but there also may be evidence that completely contradicts it that has not been discovered. Nevertheless, there is a tendency of North American anthropologists to label a theory, a fact, if a significant percentage of their profession agrees with the theory. Having a room full of academicians agree on a theory still does not make it an absolute fact.
It is known that large herds of mastodons, giant bison, giant sloths, giant elk, giant beavers, sabertooth tigers, members of the camel-alpaca family and primitive horses concentrated in the Great Appalachian Valley that ran from Pennsylvania southward to Georgia and Alabama, but little is known about the humans that hunted them. They could have been the ancestors of modern American Indians. They could have been more closely related to Europeans. They could have been hybrids. They could have been the red-haired giants of Scandinavian mythology and Midwestern speculation. Homo erectus or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis could have once roamed eastern North America. Right now most of what is known is coming from archaeological sites in western Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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