October 19, 2011

Clovis First theory disproved

I've discussed the origin of Indians in postings such as Clovis Site in Time Team America and Migration Theories in Time Team America These postings challenged the prevailing Clovis theory. Now this theory is crumbling to bits.

The First Americans:  Mounting Evidence Prompts Researchers to Reconsider the Peopling of the New World

Humans colonized the New World earlier than previously thought—a revelation that is forcing scientists to rethink long-standing ideas about these trailblazers

By Heather Pringle
For decades scientists thought the first Americans were Asian big-game hunters who tracked mammoths and other large prey eastward across a now submerged landmass known as Beringia that joined northern Asia to Alaska. Arriving in the Americas some 13,000 years ago, these colonists were said to have journeyed rapidly overland along an ice-free corridor that stretched from the Yukon to southern Alberta, leaving behind their distinctive stone tools across what is now the contiguous U.S. Archaeologists called these hunters the Clovis people, after a site near Clovis, N.M., where many of their tools came to light.

Over the past decade or so this Clovis First model has come under sharp attack as a result of new discoveries. In southern Chile, at a site known as Monte Verde, archaeologist Thomas D. Dillehay, now at Vanderbilt University, and his colleagues found traces of early Americans who slept in hide-covered tents and dined on seafood and a wild variety of potato 14,600 years ago, long before the appearance of Clovis hunters. Intrigued by the findings, some scientists began looking for similar evidence in North America. They found it: in Paisley Five Mile Point Caves in Oregon, for example, a team uncovered 14,400-year-old human feces flecked with seeds from desert parsley and other plants—not the kinds of comestibles that advocates of the big-game hunters scenario expected to find on the menu. “What we are seeing,” says Dennis L. Jenkins, director of the Paisley Caves dig and an archaeologist at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene, Ore., “is a broad-range foraging economy.”

Now, along Buttermilk Creek, Waters and his team have made one of the most important finds yet: a mother lode of stone tools dating back a stunning 15,500 years ago. In all, the team has excavated more than 19,000 pre-Clovis artifacts—from small blades bearing tiny wear marks from cutting bone to a polished chunk of hematite, an iron mineral commonly used in the Paleolithic world for making a red pigment. Publicly unveiled this past spring, the site has yielded more pre-Clovis tools than all other such sites combined, and Waters has spared no expense in dating each layer multiple times. The work has impressed many experts. “It is easily the best evidence for pre-Clovis in North America,” says Vance T. Holliday, an anthropologist and geoscientist at the University of Arizona.
The result of this evidence:Whether the migrants cooled their heels in Beringia, however, or somewhere else in northeastern Asia, people eventually began striking off farther east and south. A warming trend began slowly shrinking North America’s ice sheets some 19,000 years ago, gradually creating two passable routes to the south and opening the possibility of multiple early migrations. According to several studies conducted over the past decade on the geographic distribution of genetic diversity in modern indigenous Americans, the earliest of these migrants started colonizing the New World between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago—a date that fits well with emerging archaeological evidence of pre-Clovis colonists. “At some point, these migrants surveyed the landscape and realized for the first time that smoke from all the other campfires was behind them, and ahead there was no smoke.” Adovasio reflects. “And at that moment, they were literally strangers in a strange land.”Comment:  These findings have several cultural and political consequences. For starters, they eliminate the right-wing hoopla over Kennewick Man--the claims that white men may have been here first.

Indeed, the findings add almost 50% to the time Indians have lived here as unchallenged masters of the land and its resources. Their ownership of the Americas is that much more unassailable.

Moreover, Paleo-Indians weren't responsible for the megafauna extinction that occurred around the same time as the Clovis cultures. The Paleo-Indians had already been here for several thousand years when the animals began dying off. All the talk of waves of brutal killers exterminating species left and right--didn't happen.

Conservatives have used the megafauna extinction to attack Indians. They weren't proto-environmentalists who revered and protected nature, these critics have claimed. The mass exterminations prove they were thoughtless brutes who killed indiscriminately--savages, basically.

Poor, bigoted conservatives: All their semi-racist insinuations are out the window. Nobody exterminated anything until white Christian Euro-Americans began slaughtering species from the buffalo to the passenger pigeon.

For more on ecological Indians, see Ecosystem Disruption Killed Megafauna? and The "Black Mat" Theory.

(Illustration by Tyler Jacobsen)


Anonymous said...

Indians are also blamed for killing off animals like the Aztlan rabbit. The Aztlan rabbit was last seen in 40000 years ago. According to orthodox anthropological theory, Indians have an alibi, having been somewhere in Africa at that time.

In the year five million, an Indian will stare across the Bering Strait to Alaska. This will lead to the extinction of the trilobite.

dmarks said...

Anon forgot to mention Turok, which is based on actual tribal legends. It was him, not the meteor, that wiped out all of the dinosaurs.

TwoEyes said...

I think you are a little ahead of where the arguments are heading on this as what I took as one of the subtext of the recent Manis Mastodon paper in Science (last week) is the reinvigoration of the association of big game and preclovis extinctions - just because it is no longer justifiable to speak of clovis first and clovis induced extinctions, does not mean they will not try to turn this intopre clovis big game hunters and pre clovis extinctions....