Why are there similarities to civilizations in Asia and the Americas? How are there fossil record similarities, despite Europe and Asia being separated from the Americas by a vast ocean in either direction? One of the ways to explain these similarities is the Bering Strait land bridge theory.
Although the two continents are separated by a vast ocean, there is one point where the two continents are extremely close to one another. The Seward Peninsula in Alaska sits across from the Chukotka Peninsula, separated by a narrow stretch of relatively shallow waters called the Bering Strait.
In 1590, the first written suggestion of a possible land bridge in this location was published by Jose de Acosta. Over the next century, an exploration of the region would show that ice could form in levels that were strong enough that a migration between the two continents could occur. Maps began to show a landmass between the two continents.
This allowed the land bridge theory to gain strength.
Could Someone See Russia from Their Front Porch?
At its most narrow point in the Bering Strait, the Americas and Asia are separated by just 55 miles. In the middle of the Strait are two islands, called Big Diomede and Little Diomede. The former lies in Russian-controlled territory, while the latter is considered to be part of the United States. That means the maritime border between Russia and the United States is just 2.5 miles between the two.
When the waters freeze in winter, it is possible to walk between the two islands. Circumstances such as this help to fuel the land bridge migration theories like the Bering Strait land bridge theory.
During the de-glaciation period of the planet after the last Ice Age, the shallowness of the area around the Strait could have been enough to have water recede between the two continents for a short period. It may have been possible to traverse this bridge during seasons where water levels were not affected by ice floes.
Although evidence of such a land bridge has never been discovered, it does provide an explanation for how it is possible to see such similarities between the two continents in a variety of ways. It is a theory that also fuels the idea of having global access by road to virtually the entire world.
Could a Bridge Be Built Across the Bering Strait?
Despite difficult political circumstances, engineering challenges, and the threat of weather that is ever-present along the Bering Sea, there have been several proposals over the years to develop a transportation route between Russia and Alaska. Although it would involve a long bridge and possibly a tunnel, it is seen as a feasible project.
The first idea of having a crossing between the two peninsulas was proposed in 1890 when a railway span was proposed. The first formal proposal for a bridge was offered in 1892 by Joseph Strauss, who offered a railroad bridge design as part of his senior thesis. The project was even offered to the Russian government as a direct proposal at the time, but was eventually rejected.
Although there are challenges to a modern “land bridge” between the continents, the depth of the water is not one of them. At its deepest spot along the proposed route, the water depth is just 55 meters, or 180 feet. Tides and currents are not severe in the area either.
It is the extreme weather, just below the Arctic Circle, that would stop much of the project. In a good year, construction of the bridge and/or tunnel would be restricted to about 5 months. Ice floes would be in constant motion during certain seasons that would create massive impacts on bridge piers as well, even though icebergs do not form in that part of the Strait.
How Real Could the Bering Strait Land Bridge Be?
Although ice forms and a land bridge may have formed, evidence suggest that migration patterns pre-date their formation. Some peoples may have traveled this ancient corridor, while others may have used maritime methods to move between the continents.
Through DNA analysis and sediment cores, there were few ancient resources available in this corridor. Successfully traversing a land bridge in such conditions would have been extremely difficult. The first people coming to the Americas would have been required to take a different route.
The origins of our current population structures will likely remain a mystery that is reserved for ancient history. The Bering Strait land bridge theory offers one look at migratory patterns, but evidence suggest multiple methods were used – not this one physical location.