Beringia is the land bridge thought to have existed over the Bering Strait, the waterway that separates Asia (Russia) from North America (Alaska). Scholars believe that a natural bridge was formed across the strait either by ice or by dropping sea levels that exposed land masses during the late ice age (known as the Pleistocene glacial epoch, which ended around 10,000 b.c.)
Asian peoples are believed to have migrated over Beringia as they pursued large game. They arrived in North America as early as 50,000 b.c. These people were the Paleo-Indians, the first inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. Many American Indian groups that were encountered by the Europeans in the early 1500s were descendants of the migratory Paleo-Indians.
The Bering Strait, which connects the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea, is 53 miles (85 kilometers) across at its most narrow point. The first European to traverse the Bering Strait (in 1728) was Danish navigator Vitus Bering (1681–1741), from whom it takes its name. He had been employed by Russian Czar Peter the Great to determine whether Asia and North America were connected.
See also: Paleo-Indians