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Author's theory supported by new science

Press Release May 1, 2006

Author’s theory supported by new scientific discoveries

(New Zealand) Mexican-American author Rudy Whitehead-Lopez was pleased but not surprised when he read the cover story of TIME magazine’s March 13 American edition. The article reveals new ideas surrounding the origins of early man in the Americas, a topic which Whitehead-Lopez has extensively researched. Recent theory challenges the long held belief that the Americas were populated 11,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers crossing the Bering land bridge at the end of the last Ice Age. Scientists now concede that the date could be as early as 30,000 years ago.

“This fits in perfectly with what I wrote in my recent novel, The Song of Laughing Bird”, says Whitehead-Lopez, who is now based in New Zealand. Set in Siberia 25,000 years ago, the story chronicles the life of a small band of people living on the eastern edge of the continent just 100 kilometres from North America. “I knew that if people had made it to Siberia by that time, a short distance of water would not stop them from moving on. It is in our nature to explore and push ahead. Once the land bridge opened up with the lowering of sea levels there was nothing to keep them from leaving Asia. I could not see them cooling their heels for several thousands of years and then, just before the land bridge disappeared, deciding to move to North America. It’s crazy.”

Other ideas have also been confirmed. For example, Whitehead-Lopez’s fictional tribe, ‘The People’, trace their origin to ‘a vast lake at the head of a river’. He had Lake Baikal in southern Siberia in mind when he wrote these words. “It made sense to me that migration to north-eastern Siberia would follow a river route. The river Lena goes directly from the Baikal Mountains 4,400 kilometres north to the Arctic Ocean. It seemed logical that with its vast fresh water and abundant supply of fish, it would have been a good place for early people to settle for awhile.” DNA evidence suggests the homeland for the first Americans was around the Lake Baikal region, confirms University of Nevada anthropologist Ted Goebel. He even speculates that there was a northward migratory move between 28,000 and 20,000 years ago. “That definitely fits,” Whitehead-Lopez grins.

The most exciting idea that has been recently recognised by the scientific community is one that Whitehead-Lopez is yet to publish. “The Song of Laughing Bird is the first of a trilogy of books I am writing. In the third book the protagonist, Dr. Joseph Wolf, seeks funding to explore the continental shelf at a depth of 70 metres from Alaska to California, for proof of a coastal migration route. This idea flies in the face of conventional scientific theory, which says that the first Americans migrated down a land corridor between the two massive North American ice plates. Again, this doesn’t make any sense. Would you walk down a narrow, barren 3,400 kilometre road, between two ice walls several kilometres high, towards somewhere you didn’t even know existed? We must give early humans more credit. They were smart, creative and resilient. They were us. They would have followed the route that was safest and had the best chance for survival. We don’t know what the coasts looked like in the last Ice Age or how close the ice plates came to the edge of the Pacific because it is now all under water. I am convinced that this is where the next great adventure in American archaeology lies.”

Apparently some scientists agree. Early this year Jon Erlanson of the University of Oregon submitted a paper on the potential significance of kelp beds on migrations of early peoples. Erlanson explains, “They provide abundant food, from shellfish, seals, and otters that thrive there, but they also reduce wave energy, making it easier to navigate offshore waters. Unfortunately, the strongest evidence for the coastal theory lies offshore, where ancient settlements would have been submerged by rising seas over the past 10,000 years. I’m quite confident there’s material out there.”

For Whitehead-Lopez, this new direction in scientific thinking only confirms the theory that he developed almost ten years ago. “I’m lucky. As a fiction writer I don’t have to back up my ideas with measurable proof. Sometimes it takes science a while to catch up with the imagination.”

The Song of Laughing Bird available through www.nationwidebooks.co.nz

ENDS

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