Science agrees on this much: For most of their history, the Americas were a vast land with no people. Our ancestors left Africa and populated the rest of the world — Europe, Asia, even Australia — but never set foot here.
The story of how humans eventually arrived has become a familiar one. During the last ice age, the planet’s sea level dropped, uncovering a vast land bridge between Asia and America and allowing the first bands of people to migrate from the Russian far east into what is now Alaska. Once the glaciers receded, the new arrivals drove south to the Great Plains and went on to people the Americas. Their descendants founded pueblo cities and built empires in the Andes. By the time Christopher Columbus made landfall in 1492, he had missed discovering the New World by a span of time so vast it would have escaped his comprehension.