It is theorized that humans first
began crossing a land “bridge” between
Asia and North America about 40,000 years ago. It is thought
that so much water was contained in the glaciers of the
period that the levels of the oceans were decreased by
as much as 300 feet. Large areas of land were exposed.
The connecting link between Alaska and Siberia was not
really a bridge — implying a narrow strip of land — but
an area made up of several hundreds of square miles. This
area today is known as Beringia. As the glaciers melted,
the water levels rose, covering the link of land that provided
a passageway for North America’s first inhabitants.
It must be noted that some of America’s native peoples
believe they originated on the continents of North and
South America and did not migrate from Asia. There is evidence
that may support these beliefs, as sites of human existence
discovered in northeast Brazil have been tentatively dated
to 48,500 years ago. Native Americans theorize that the
migration of prehistoric people began, instead, in the
Americas and spread into Asia, and that the journeying
of people was aided by the use of floating vessels along
In the latter stages of the Ice Age, herds of roaming
animals such as bison, mastodons and mammoths and small
horses wandered back and forth across the ice bridge. Bands
of nomadic people who hunted these animals as a source
of food followed their migration back and forth across
the Bering Sea. People migrated for many centuries moving
about the Americas. Archaeologists believe people reached
what is now known as Ohio 15,000 years ago, while radiocarbon
testing shows that humans reached the southernmost part
of South America 8,000 years ago. Native people believe
that they have always been here.
They came to our state more than 12,000 years ago. Some believe they crossed
a land bridge from Siberia to Alaska and migrated south. Prehistoric
Ohioans looks at the Paleo, Archaic, Adena, Hopewell, Whittlesey
and Fort Ancient peoples. See who lived, hunted, gathered, farmed and built
mysterious mounds in Ohio.
Students will use globes to locate possible connections
that exist or may have existed between continents.
Ohio Social Studies Content Standards
Grade 4 Benchmark: History
2. Describe the earliest settlements in Ohio including
those of prehistoric peoples
Grade 4 Benchmark: Geography
Indicator: Human Environmental Interaction
8. Identify how environmental processes (i.e., glaciation
and weathering) and characteristics (landforms, bodies
of water, climate, vegetation) influence human settlement
and activity in Ohio.
A globe for each team or group of students
Form groups of three or four children.
Give each group a globe. Ask children to locate and
identify each continent. Ask them to find places where
continents touch. Ask if there are any locations where
continents nearly touch. Let students know that at one
time, no people lived on the continents of North and
South America, but starting around 40,000 years ago people
began to appear on the North American land mass.
Have students brainstorm about how people might have
moved into North America.
- After children have presented their discussions, use
the information from the overview of the lesson (above)
to teach how the western hemisphere became populated.
This may be used as a means of formative or summative
Which two continents did Beringia connect?
Which body of water now covers the land that was crossed
by wandering animals and people?
When do scientists believe the first inhabitants of
North America arrived?
What caused early people to cross the land bridge
into North America?
What caused the strip of land known as Beringia to
When do scientists believe people first reached the
area known today as Ohio?
Which prehistoric animals crossed Beringia?
Where do Native people believe their ancestors came
This test form may be used.
If it is preferred that students use a word bank, the following
choices should be placed on the chalkboard or overhead:
|15,000 yrs. ago
||following a source of food
||melting of the glaciers
mastodon, bison, mammoth, horse
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