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[graphic] Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Map of the Bering Strait and Seward Peninsula where a land bridge connected Asia with North America
NPS graphic, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is one of the most remote national park areas, located on the Seward Peninsula in northwest Alaska. The Preserve is a remnant of the land bridge that connected Asia with North America more than 13,000 years ago. The majority of this land bridge, once thousands of miles wide, now lies beneath the waters of the Chukchi and Bering Seas. During the glacial epoch this was part of a migration route for people, animals, and plants whenever ocean levels fell enough to expose the land bridge. Archeologists agree that it was across this Bering Land Bridge, also called Beringia, that humans first passed from Asia to populate the Americas. The Preserve's western boundary lies 42 miles from the Bering Strait and the fishing boundary between the United States and Russia. The distance across the Bering Strait from Siberia to Alaska's Seward Peninsula is approximately 55 miles, and for several periods during the Pleistocene Ice Ages the trip could be made entirely on land instead of water. During additional periods, the passage from Siberia to North America could also have been made by small watercraft moving along coastlines. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve commemorates this prehistoric peopling of the Americas from Asia some 13,000 or more years ago. It also preserves important future clues in this great detective story regarding human presence in the Americas.

[photo] Alaska Native women from the village of Shishmaref
National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection

Humans were latecomers to this magnificent land mass so widely separated from other continents by vast oceans except near Earth's poles. Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Indonesian Archipelago, and Australia already hosted humans. Well dated finds in both the southwestern United States and South America suggest that humans were in these locations about 12,000 years ago. Much closer to the Bering Land Bridge, the arctic coastline was not peopled year-round until about 4,500 years ago. Artifacts suggest that people lived in both North and South America by some 12,000 years ago; by the time waters of the Bering Strait had become a significant barrier again. However, similarities between peoples of coastal Siberia and coastal Alaska show that the Bering Strait did not prevent contact between their cultures. Similar languages, shared spiritual practices, hunting tool and traditional dwelling similarities, distinctive fish cleaning methods, and meat preservation by fermentation are but a few examples ethnologist cite. Eskimo peoples of the Bering Strait inhabit a world in which the thinnest of lines separates the realms of physical appearance and spiritual reality. Dangers of cold and threats of starvation have engendered a reality that their lives depend upon taking life from other beings. Blurred are any lines between social organization, religious practice, subsistence patterns, and artitistic and educational endeavors. Artifacts of material culture and ceremonial life seem fused in form and in function. Excellent records of traditional life exist in the words of people born in the 1800s before modern technologies. When Europeans first came here the Eskimo population is estimated to have been 30,550. Today it numbers 36,000 in Alaska and Siberia.

Visit the Park's website for further information.

Ponca Tribal Self-Help Community Bldg. | SW Range and Sheep Breeding Lab | Campus Center Bering Land Bridge National Preserve | American Indian Feature Page | NR Home

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