Thousands of years ago, a stretch of land connected the continents of Asia and North America, in the place the Bering Strait now occupies.
The Bering land bridge was exposed at various times over an almost three million year period, when wide scale glaciation lowered sea levels by as much as 150 metres. The land bridge was part of "Beringia," which refers to the stretch of land between present day Siberia and Yukon Territory. It's been home to woolly mammoths, steppe bison and humans.
Now, researchers have a better idea of what this region looked like and how our ancient relatives used the landscape.
Jeff Bond, a geologist with Yukon Geological Survey in Whitehorse, has produced a map showing what Beringia looked like 18,000 years ago. At that time, much of the earth was glaciated, but Beringia remained predominantly ice-free due to its arid climate. ...
"It's the story between 35,000 year ago and 15,000 years ago that is very intriguing," said Julie Brigham-Grette, a geologist at the University of Massachusetts who helped Bond with the map.
"Where did they go, how did they live, why did they migrate?
"Maps like this really open your imagination to what these landscapes must have been like," she said.
Brigham-Grette, who has been studying the land bridge for decades, helped Bond make sure the map is accurate, particularly with regards to the distribution of glaciers. Bond said the map shows the most current understanding of ice distribution along the border of Beringia.
Brigham-Grette said the lack of ice means people could have travelled along the coast.
"There are ideas that early humans were using boats ... and maybe they were migrating along that coastline," she explained.
"Some questions we may never have an answer for but [the map] ... is just wonderful eye candy."
New map of Beringia 'opens your imagination' to what landscape looked like 18,000 years ago
Images: Yukon Geological Survey