The presence of 12,000-year-old fluted points at Serpentine has potential to change our understanding of early human migration in North America. Lowered sea levels during the last Ice Age exposed dry land between Asia and the Americas, creating the Bering Land Bridge. The first humans to arrive in America came from Asia across the land bridge, but when and how they spread throughout the New World is still a mystery.

The landscape was different then, drier and colder with more lichens and fewer shrubs and bushes, and inhabited not only by caribou and muskox, but also larger mammals such as steppe bison and woolly mammoth. While we do not know exactly who Serpentine's early hunters were or where they were going, we do know that they built a fire or two, processed food, and flintknapped stone tools, because behind them they left the remains of hearths, burnt bone, and stone flakes. These artifacts were buried by wind-blown silt and by mud and rock washed down from nearby slopes, and preserved in place until the present day, and are now being studied as the Serpentine Hot Springs fluted-point archaeological site.

The fluted points from Serpentine resemble fluted points from temperate America dating to 13,000-12,000 years ago. It was previously thought that these early fluted points spread from Alaska, being carried southwards through an ice-free corridor. But the fluted points at Serpentine are not old enough to fit this theory. Instead, fluting technology may have originated in the temperate North America among people who had arrived earlier, perhaps by boat along the south coast of Beringia. Now it would seem that fluted points were brought northwards as glaciers melted and early peoples explored the newly opened territory of northwestern Canada.

Research at Serpentine has been funded by the Shared Beringia Heritage Program of the NPS, the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Elfrieda Frank Foundation, and Shlemon Fund at Texas A&M University.

An excavation crew of 8 men and women stands in a row on the tundra, smiling.
Excavation Crew

Photo by: Texas A&M

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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