Dr Dennis Stanford and Professor Bruce Bradley.

Prize for research documenting a trans-Atlantic origin of Ice Age Americans

University of Exeter research which details fascinating evidence about the early inhabitants of North America has been awarded a prestigious prize.

The study found some of the earliest humans to inhabit North America came from Europe, having travelled by boat from Basque Country during the last Ice Age, 14,000 to 25,000 years ago.

The book which described this research, Across Atlantic Ice: The Origins of America’s Clovis Culture, is the result of more than a decade’s research by Bruce Bradley, Professor of Prehistory from the Archaeology Department and his colleague Dennis Stanford, curator at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.

Both men have been awarded a Secretary’s Research Prize, that recognises and promotes excellence in scholarship within the Smithsonian Institution (Professor Bradley is a Research Associate).

The award is given annually to ten recipients by a selection committee organised by the Institution’s Congress of Scholars. The awards are selected from throughout the entire Smithsonian Institution comprising 19 museums, 9 research centres and over 150 affiliated museums in the US and abroad.

Professor Bradley’s and Dr Stanford’s findings throw into doubt previous assumptions that people first entered America only from Asia, via a land bridge that spanned the Bering Sea.

The evidence comes from stone tools discovered by archaeologists, which indicate people entered the New World in more than one direction. The East Coast of America was populated much earlier than had been thought, and by people who had occupied the Basque Country in northern Spain and southern France more than 20,000 years ago.

This ongoing research suggests the early history of the American continents is far more complex and intriguing than was formerly considered.

Professor Bradley said: “For us this award is a big achievement. It is great that our peers have recognised the impact of our work. It is an honour to know that our work was chosen from hundreds of other eligible pieces of research.”

Professor Bradley and Dr Stanford have presented their work to colleagues and the general public in Siberia, throughout Europe and North and South America.

Date: 10 February 2016

Read more University News