Re: The Anthroplogy of th

Rab Wilkie (
Fri, 16 Dec 94 03:43:00 -0500

-=> Quoting Scott C Delancey to All <=-

SCD> Date: 13 Dec 1994 11:43:51 -0800

SCD> Several people, from Paul Radin up through Greenberg, have
SCD> argued that linguistic evidence shows that all the rest of the New
SCD> World languages represent a single migration.

RW> They may represent the influence of one language, spoken by a people
RW> who settled in the New World as a result of a single migration, but
RW> this need not imply that there were no other occupants & languages here
RW> beforehand who subsequently were subsumed.

SCD> True. Anyway, the linguistic evidence isn't and never will be
SCD> conclusive on this point; as far as I can see, if we're to have an
SCD> answer to the question of how many migrations it will have to rest
SCD> primarily on evidence that the physical anthropologists come up with.

I understand and can share your view, although I entertain other views from
time to time.

RW> Are you familiar with Merritt Ruhlen's work as presented in "The Origin of
RW> Language", Wiley, 1994?

SCD> I haven't read the new book, but yes, I'm quite familiar with Ruhlen's
SCD> and Greenberg's work, and I stand by my opinion that there's no
SCD> convincing case for the genetic unity of the "Amerind" languages. (Let
SCD> me hasten to add, before the Greenberg apologists start screaming, that
SCD> I think this is a very plausible idea; all I'm saying is that Greenberg
SCD> and Ruhlen have not proven it).

Is their case that much weaker than the cases made for some Old World
linguistic groupings that have more or less been accepted? Even some
"Indo-European" connections.

RW> Would Beringian passage ever have been much of an obstacle, even during
RW> times when the strait existed? The Timor Sea didn't prevent the arrival of
RW> the first Australians -- 50,000y ago. (Or 120,000y BP, if the pollen analyses
RW> /fire regimen correlations are an indication of VERY early settlement).

SCD> Good point. Actually someboey in sci.anthropology just a week or two
SCD> ago was saying that it's not at all clear that the original settlement
SCD> of Australia was by sea; something about an intermittent land bridge

I don't think there was ever a direct land connection. Not according to
the maps I've studied. Australia & New Guinea are separated from the rest
of Indonesia by some very deep waters.

SCD> ... But you're right, it's certainly imaginable (to me anyway, but I'm
SCD> not an archeologist) that even the earliest migration(s) to the New
SCD> World involved boat travel across the strait. One objection to this
SCD> hypothesis might be the fact that except for the Northwest Coast,
SCD> Native Americans don't seem to have been much for sea-going boats or
SCD> maritime activity; you'd think if they already had boats & maritime
SCD> skills sufficient to get across the Bering Strait 12,000, or 25,000,
SCD> or whatever years ago, that you'd still find that culture & technology
SCD> at least along the West Coast.

Mmmm. The loss of earlier technologies after radical adaptations to a new
habitat is not infrequent.

Incidentally, Anna Cameron in "Daughters of Copper Woman" says she came
across an old Northwest Coast navigation song, that according to local
tradition was used at one time for paddling from near Vancouver Island to
Alaska, and beyond.

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