Prehistoric Culture Waves from Asia To America

Author(s): Diamond Jenness

Year: 1941


The recent excavations of Collins on St. Lawrence Island and at other places around the Bering Sea " seem to bring out one very important point, viz, that there has been no extensive migration across Bering Strait, unless it be of Eskimo, since the early centuries of the Christian Era. The Eskimo culture strata in that region show no profound disturbance such as one would expect from an invading

horde, but rather a gradual change, stimulated to some extent by Asiatic as well as strictly American influences, but not by the intrusion of an alien people. Nordenskiold and others have proved that although a few Polynesians may on one or more occasions have reached the shores of America, there has never been any transoceanic migration large enough to affect profoundly the physical composition of the aborigines in the New World or the evolution of their cultures.

We can rule out likewise any immigration by way of Kamchatka and the Aleutian Archipelago, if for no other reason than that the archipelago has yielded no traces of earlier remains than those of the Aleutian Eskimo, who undoubtedly reached their home from America.

Bering Strait, therefore, was the only route of ingress into this hemisphere, and the forefathers of every known division of Indians must already have crossed this strait by the beginning of the Christian Era. This conclusion harmonizes well with the results of linguistic studies. Hitherto we have utterly failed to link up any American Indian language with any language or group of languages in the Old World.

On etlmological grounds, too, there seems no reason to question this conclusion, because the traits that are common to Asia and America, apart from a few that are concentrated near the bridgehead at Bering Strait, are so widely diffused in both continents that they evidently carry a very respectable antiquity.

Even the resemblances between the Palae-Asiatics and the Indians of the northwest coast of America hardly demand a migration in post-Christian times. If there was such a migration it is more likely to have been from America to Asia by way of the Aleutians and Kamchatka, as Collins has shown,* than from Asia to America; moreover, it was a relatively insignificant migration that introduced into northeast Asia a few cultural traits such as labrets, certain forms of stone lamps, a certain type of house, and perhaps some folk tales, but failed to effect any far reaching changes. It can hardly account for the much deeper resemblances, e. g., in physical type and clothing, between the Palae-Asiatics and some of the American Indians.

Originally, this resource was a citation record only with information that was migrated into tDAR from the National Archaeological Database Reports Module (NADB-R) and updated.

In 2015 the Center for Digital Antiquity obtained a digital copy of the article from the Biodiversity Heritage Library( and added it to the record.

Cite this Record

Prehistoric Culture Waves from Asia To America. Diamond Jenness. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of The Smithsonian Institution for 1940: 383-396. 1941 ( tDAR id: 144054) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8416Z9N

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 153.365; min lat: 49.564 ; max long: -129.98; max lat: 71.441 ;

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Submitted To(s): Smithsonian Institution

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NADB document id number(s): 1402907

NADB citation id number(s): 000000002848

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