Assessing the Bering Land Bridge

Document 1: Jose de Acosta, The Naturall and Morall Historie of the East and West Indies

Source: José de Acosta. The Naturall and Morall Historie of the East and West Indies, translated by Edward Grimston (London: V. Sims, 1604 [1590])


Notwithstanding all that hath bene said, it is more likely that the first inhabitants of the Indies came by land.

I conclude then, that it is likely the first that came to the Indies was by shipwracke and tempest of wether, but theereupon groweth a difficultie which troubleth me much. For, suppose wee grant that the first men came from farre Countries, and that the nations which we now see are issued from them and multiplied, yet can I not coniecture by what meanes brute beastes, whereof there is great aboundance, could come there, not being likely they should have bin imbarked and carried by sea. The reason that inforceth us to yeeld that the first men of the Indies are come from Europe or Asia, is the testirnonie of the holy scripture, which teacheth us plainely that all men came from Adam. We can therefore give no other beginning to those at the Indies, seeing the holy scripture saieth, that Gen. all beasts and creatures of the earth perished but such as were reserved in the Arke of Noe, for the multiplication and maintenance of their kinde; so as we must necessarily referre the multiplication of all beastes to those which came out of the Arke of Noe, on the mountaines of Ararat, where it staied. And by this meanes we must seeke out both for men and beastes the way whereby they might passe from the old world to this new. Saint Augustine, treating vpon this question, by what reason you shall finde in some llandes Wolves, Tigers, and other ravenous beastes, which breede no profit to men, seeing there is no doubt but Elephants, Horses, Oxen, Dogges, and other beastes which serve man to vse, have been expresly carried in shippes, as we see at this day brought from the East into Europe, and transported from Europe to Peru, although the voiages be verie long. And by what meanes these beastes which yeeld no profit, but are very hurtefull (as Wolves and others of that wilde nature), should passe to the Indies, supposing, as it is certaine, that the deluge drowned all the earth. In which Treatise this learned and holy man laboures to free himselfe of these difficulties, saying that they might swim vnto these Hands, or that some have carried them thither for their delight in hunting; or that, by the will of God, they had been newly created of the earth, after the same maner of the first creation, when God said, “Let the earth bring forth everie living- thing according to his kinde, Cattle, and creeping Wormes, and the beastes of the field, every one in his kinde.” But if we shall apply this solution to our purpose the matter will remaine more doubt-full, for, beginning at the last point, it is not likely, according to the order of Nature, nor conformable to the order of government established by God, that perfect creatures, as Lions, Tigers, and Wolves, should be engendered of the earth, as we see that Eattes, Frogges, Bees, and other imperfect creatures are commonly engendered. Moreover, to what purpose is that which the scripture saieth, and doth so often repeate, “Thou shalt take of all the beastes and birdes of the aire, seven and seven, male and female, to maintaine generation upon earth”; if such beasts after the deluge should be created againe after a new kinde of creation without coniunction of male and female. And heereupon might grow another question: Seeing such creatures are breeding on the earth (according to this opinion) wherefore are they not likewise in all other partes of the maine Land, and in many landes, seeing wee must not regarde the naturall order of generation, but the bountie of the Creator. On the other part, I will not hold it for a thing incredible, that they have carried some of these beastes for the pleasure f hunting: for that we oftensee, Princes and great men keepe and nourish in their cages, (onely for their pleasure and greatnesse) both Lyons, Beares, and other savage beastes, especially when they are brough from farre Countries: but to speake that of Woolves, Foxes and other beasts which yeeld no profite, and have nothing rare and excellent in them, but to hurt the cattell; and to say also that they have carried them by sea for hunting, truely it is a thing that hath no sense. Who can imagine, that in so long a voyage, men would take the paynes to carrie Foxes to Peru, especially of that kind which they call Anas, which is the filthiest that I have seene. Who woould likewise say, that the have carried Tygers and Lyons? Truely it were a thing worthy the laughing at, to thinke so. It was sufficient, (year, very much) for men, driven against their willes by tempest, inso long and unknowne a voyage, to escape the danger of the Sea with theyr owne lives, without busying themselves to carrie Woolves and Foxes, and to nourish them at Sea. If these beasts then came by Sea, wee must beleeve it was by swimming, which may happen in some llands not farre distant from others, or from the mayne Land, the which wee cannot denie, seeing the experience wee have, and that wee see these beasts, beeing prest to swimme day and night without wearinesse, and so to escape. But this is to be understood in smal Straights and passages: for in our Ocean, they would mocke at such swimmers, whenas birds faile in their flight, yea, those of the greatest wing, upon the passage of so great a Gulph. And although we finde small birds, which flie above a hundred leagues, as we have often seene in our travel, yet it is a matter impossible, at the least very difficult, for birdes to passe all the Ocean. All this beeing true which wee have spoken, what way shall wee make for beastes and birdes to goe to the Indies? And how can I say, they passed from one worlde to an other? I conjecture then, by the discourse I have made, that they new world, which we call Indies, is not altogether severed and disjoyned from the other world: and to speake my opinion, I have long beleeved, that the one and the other world are joyned and continued one with another in some part, or at the least, are very neere. And yet to this day, there is no certaine knowledge of the contrary. For towards the Articke or Northerne Pole, all the longitude of the earth is not discovered, and many hold, that above Florida, the Land runnes out very large towards the North, and as they say, joynes with the Scithike or Germaine Sea. Others affirme, that a Ship sayling in that Sea, reported to have seene the coast of Bacalaos, which stretcheth almost to the confines of Europe. Moreover, no man knowes how farre the land runnes beyond the Cap of Mendoça in the South sea, but that they affirme it is a great Continent, which runnes an infinite length: and returning to the Southerne Pole, no man knowes the lands on the other part of the Straight or Magellan. A ship belonging to the Bishoppe of Plaisance, which passed the Straight, reports to have sayled alwayes within sight of Land: the like Hernando Lamer a Pilot doth affirme, who (forced by foule weather) passed two or three degrees above the sayd Straight. So as there is no reason or experience that doth contradict my conceit and opinion; which is, that the whole earth is united & joyned in some part, or at the least, the one approcheth neere unto the other. If this be true, (as in effect there is some likelyhood,) the answere is easie to the doubt we have propounded, how the first Inhabitants could passe to the Indies: For that wee must beleeve they could not so conveniently come thither by Sea, as travelling by Land, which might be done without consideration, in changing by little and little their lands and habitations. Some peopling the lands they found, and others seeking for newe; in time they came to inhabite and people the Indies, with so many nations, people, and tongues as we see.