Until recently most scholars have accepted the theory that the ancestors of all Native American cultures in the New World migrated by foot from Asia during the Pleistocene Era, when the sea level was lower and a narrow strip of land called the Bering Land Bridge connected the two continents. In his new book, Quest for the Origins of the First Americans, E. James Dixon challenges this traditional view and presents an impressive and compelling body of evidence suggesting that the first inhabitants of ancient America actually arrived on ocean-worthy vessels—the first as early as 35,000–40,000 years ago. Dixon is one of the leading authorities on the archaeology of eastern Beringia, the chain of islands which once formed the ancient land bridge connecting Asia with present-day Alaska. Although no one doubts the existence of this land bridge or its potential as a conduit for human migration, Dixon demonstrates that it is not realistic to conclude that the land bridge was the sole mechanism for populating the Americas.
Latter-day Saint scholars have long been interested in the issue of transoceanic crossings to the ancient New World, although they have found scant support among most experts in the field. Likewise, Dixon at one time was “sharply and swiftly” criticized by several of his colleagues for even suggesting the possibility of transoceanic migrations and was counseled to drop the subject for fear of losing credibility within the profession. Although Dixon still encounters some reservations regarding his theory of transoceanic voyaging, his newest book has been received with great fascination.