thumbnail

The kelp highway hypothesis: marine ecology, the coastal migration theory, and the peopling of the Americas

Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology

By:
, , , , , and
DOI: 10.1080/15564890701628612

Links

Abstract

In this article, a collaborative effort between archaeologists and marine ecologists, we discuss the role kelp forest ecosystems may have played in facilitating the movement of maritime peoples from Asia to the Americas near the end of the Pleistocene. Growing in cool nearshore waters along rocky coastlines, kelp forests offer some of the most productive habitats on earth, with high primary productivity, magnified secondary productivity, and three-dimensional habitat supporting a diverse array of marine organisms. Today, extensive kelp forests are found around the North Pacific from Japan to Baja California. After a break in the tropicswhere nearshore mangrove forests and coral reefs are highly productivekelp forests are also found along the Andean Coast of South America. These Pacific Rim kelp forests support or shelter a wealth of shellfish, fish, marine mammals, seabirds, and seaweeds, resources heavily used historically by coastal peoples. By about 16,000 years ago, the North Pacific Coast offered a linear migration route, essentially unobstructed and entirely at sea level, from northeast Asia into the Americas. Recent reconstructions suggest that rising sea levels early in the postglacial created a highly convoluted and island-rich coast along Beringia's southern shore, conditions highly favorable to maritime hunter-gatherers. Along with the terrestrial resources available in adjacent landscapes, kelp forests and other nearshore habitats sheltered similar suites of food resources that required minimal adaptive adjustments for migrating coastal peoples. With reduced wave energy, holdfasts for boats, and productive fishing, these linear kelp forest ecosystems may have provided a kind of kelp highway for early maritime peoples colonizing the New World.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
The kelp highway hypothesis: marine ecology, the coastal migration theory, and the peopling of the Americas
Series title:
Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
DOI:
10.1080/15564890701628612
Volume
2
Issue:
2
Year Published:
2007
Language:
English
Description:
14 p.
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
First page:
161
Last page:
174