Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 28
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28 TEA LAA 9219
tives centered on cultural comparisons of speech,
dress, manner and religion with known Old-World cul-
tures and speculating on a method of transporting
them to the New World.
Joseph de Acosta in 1589 took an approach close to
scientific in analyzing the problem. He doubted the
Americans' ancestors sailed to the New World in
ancient times because the lodestone or compass was
not in use at the time. Therefore, they could not have
crossed the Atlantic.
There was also the problem of New-World animals
that appeared closely related to beasts in the Old
World. They could not have been transported by boat.
Consequently, both man and beast must have
reached the New World by land, Acosta thought. No
known land route between Europe and America
existed in the 16th century nor was any known of in
ancient times. Acosta speculated a land bridge existed
to the west and connected with Asia. Along this route,
the New-World inhabitants had made their way into
the new homeland. The migration took place in small
groups over a considerable length of time, not a
major, massive movement of people in a short period.
Although there had been earlier speculation about
a land bridge, Acosta was the first to postulate one not
connected with European legend.
A Unexcovoted Site
Acosta was the first writer to set ground rules
about how the migration took place. His works were
widely read after 1590, and his careful analysis gives
him the distinction of providing the first "scientific"
approach to the solving the problem. The work was
first published in English in 1607.
The debate on the origins moved into northern Eu-
rope in the 17th century. Between 1640 and 1675, dozens
of academic dissertations on American Indians
appeared in the universities of the region.
Rumors of the Russian expedition of 1728 that dis-
covered the Bering Strait confirmed the speculations
of a possible land bridge and the close proximity of
Asia and the New World. Acosta's theory of 140 years
earlier was exonerated.
Today's debates accept the Bering land route a
priori, and the major question revolves around
"when" not "how" the early migrants made their
way to the New World. Texas in many ways is right in
the middle of the research and debate in the current
scientific studies. It remains to be seen if a new
Acosta is emerging whose theory on timing will one
day be embraced as perceptive and correct.
FOR FURTHER READING: Huddleston, Lee
Eldridge, Origins of American Indians: European Con-
cepts, 1492-1729; University of Texas Press, Austin and
London, 1967, 1972.
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TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/32/: accessed June 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.