II
Alaska AND THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST COAST

As SOME PREHISTORIC PERIOD, GROUPS OF ASIAN HUNTERS BEGAN TO ARRIVE ON Alaska'S WEST COAST by way of narrow Bering Strait. Far to the south, early navigators of the Pacific may also have reached the American mainland, perhaps repeatedly. Settlements of the New World began, dispersed groups gradually occupying the entire continent, north and south. By the time Columbus arrived, a variety of cultures had developed throughout the Western Hemisphere, including the advanced, urbanized civilizations of Middle America and the Andean highlands of South America. The level of achievement of these civilizations was in many ways equal to that of Old World cultures. The Maya excelled in a knowledge of astronomy, and the ancient Peruvians in ceramics and textiles. Until the coming of the white man, the aboriginal inhabitants of this continent did not know how to smelt iron, but they had hematite and softer metals and bronze alloys were used. They were generally unfamiliar with the wheel, which they knew only as a toy, and had few domesticated animals. The more advanced cultures, with notable results in the arts, were developed independently, but not, according to some scholars, to the total exclusion of all relations with peoples across the Pacific.

The tribes that drifted into North America probably arrived with very little, mainly a knowledge of the use of stone implements, handled and missile weapons, and with a multitude of inherent capacities. The magnificent arts of wood carving in the north, and of stone sculpture and various crafts in the regions of Middle and South America, were developed substantially in isolation. Differences in material cultures developed as between the settled agricultural people of the south and the Indians and Eskimo of the north, who lived by hunting and fishing and only incidentally depended on agriculture. Eskimo and Indians are Mongoloid, as are the peoples in Asia and Indonesia, with brown racial characteristics rather than black or white.

It may seem surprising that the Eskimo remained in such an unfriendly environment when they might have moved south where living conditions were less severe. There are two theories that attempt

-60-

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