Scientists have confirmed that the famed Monte Verde archaeological site in southern Chile is about 14,000 years old, making it the earliest known human settlement in the Americas, the journal Science reported Thursday.

The age of Monte Verde has been the subject of controversy over the years, since estimates appeared to conflict with other archaeological evidence related to the settlement of North America.

The new findings support not only the age of the Monte Verde site, but also the coastal migration theory currently ascribed to by most scholars, which hypothesizes that people first entered the New World through the Bering land bridge more than 16,000 years ago.

The study, based on the first data compiled about the Monte Verde site in about a decade, identified nine species of seaweed and marine algae used as food by the settlement's inhabitants.

Carbon dating put the age of the seaweed samples at between 13,980 and 14,220 years old, confirming that the site was occupied some 1,000 years earlier than any other known human settlements in the Americas. The study appears in the May 9 issue of Science.

Discovered in 1976, Monte Verde is located in a peat bog about 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of Santiago, Chile.

Researchers say it could have supported between 20 to 30 people in a dozen huts along a small creek.

A wide variety of food has been found at the site, including extinct species of llama and an elephant-like animal called a gomphothere, shellfish, vegetables and nuts.