INTRODUCTIONWhen did the first humansarrive in the Americas? Questioning the time period in which the peopling ofthe New World took place is a long-standing topic of interdisciplinary debatebetween scholars (Dillehay 2015). Many scholars in the archaeological communityhave accepted the Clovis-first model as the first human entry culture. However,there are many archaeologists that have rejected this model (Dillehay 1999).
Thesespontaneous archaeologists are pre-Clovis proponents who believe that thepresence of early humans in the Americans happened before the Clovis-firstmodel (Meltzer, Grayson, Ardila, Barker,Dincauze, Haynes, Mena, Nunez, Stanford 1997). Despite havingskeptics that disregard the idea of the pre-Clovis model, there arearchaeologists out there that support, and even accept, the model. This article will use the necessary evidence to supportthe peopling of the Americas during the Pleistocene. Though it is important tostate that this article’s purpose does not involve “proving” an idea or theory,but to instead provide significant evidence and ideas to back up any claim mentioned.Using solid evidence found at the site of Monte Verde and Tom D. Dillehay’sdedication to researching the site will both assist with supporting thepre-Clovis model.
Persistence and determination are both crucial to findfurther evidence to support the theory of the Peopling of the Americas duringthe Pleistocene period in order for it to gain widespread acceptance byscholars and then hopefully solve the mystery of how and when the first Americansarrived in the New World. If that is unattainable, a better understanding ofthe archaeological record will still be attained and more investigations shalland should be done.TheOrigins of the First Americans: Peopling of the Late PleistoceneQuestioningthe origins of the first American populations has always fascinatedarchaeologists, and Dillehay writes, “Important to an understanding of thefirst people of any continent is an understanding of human dispersion andadaption and their archaeological signatures” (Dillehay 2009). Manyarcheologists agree that the first humans to have slowly migrated to the NewWorld were from Asia around 12,000 B.P.
Even though this is widely accepted,the ways in which the migrations were done is unknown; the unfortunate truth isthat the ways in which the peopling of the New World was accomplished stillremains a mystery that has yet to be solved (Whitley and Dorn 1993).Fortunately, this presents the opportunity to claim that the colonization ofthe Americas happened far earlier than previously thought. The idea of thepre-Clovis model suggests that it exists and holds a place in thearchaeological record, and it would have logically lead to the Clovis-fistmodel. However, it should be stated that no single cultural model can fullyexplain the peopling of the Americas; theories and ideas are only accommodationsfor unknown occurrences of the past. Nevertheless, scholars who commit their workto investigations to provide the world with their insight will help withputting the peopling puzzle together, leading to a better understanding of theentire process (Dillehay, Collins 1991).Aclassic theory on how early humans arrived at the New World is that a smallpopulation from Asia migrated to North America by crossing Beringia, an ancientland bridge that connected Russia to Alaska, no earlier than 13,500 B.
P. Thisentry route theory is known as the Ice-Free Corridor Model (IFC). The other oneis the Coastal Model (CM), which theorizes that early humans migrated to theAmericas following the Pacific Coastline; it is believed that they eithermigrated along the shoreline by foot or by boating (Waguespack 2007).
Interest in the CMmodel has soared, and Waguespack (2007) has two key concepts as to why theinterest has grown:First, therelatively widespread acceptance of Monte Verde presents a continentalarcheological record where a near-coastal South American site predates allearly interior sites. Second, recent geological work concerning the locationand boundaries of continental ice masses has altered our understanding of thecorridor. It is now generally acknowledged that the Laurentide and Cordilleranice sheets coalesced during Wisconsin glaciation. Further, cosmogenic dating ofglacial erratics associated with the Laurentide ice sheet,58 together withother geologic evidence, imply that the corridor was not open between26,000–14,000 CYBP, severely limiting the temporal ”freedom” the IFC modelallowed for colonization. If Monte Verde is as old is it appears to be, humanswere south of glacial ice before the opening of the corridor (Waguespack 2007).Thissuggests that the peopling of the New World happened thousands of years beforethe Clovis-first model.
Those who oppose this claim might point out why thereare little to no sites that provide documentations of the supposed events. Thisquestion can easily be answered using logical thought. The CM model consistedof early humans residing and traveling by the Pacific coastal route during theglacial period.
Those early colonizers arrived before the glaciers started tomelt, and the melting outlines an evident scenario. The rising sea levels,caused by the melting of glaciers, had submerged the earliest sites that wouldhave been present on the coastal route (Waguespack 2007).Humanpresence during the pre-Clovis model differs between North and South America mustbe mentioned. Differences include: colonization, demographic models, migrationroutes and subsistence strategies (Scheinsohn 2003). North America was ravagedby glacial sheets while South America only dealt with minor glaciers, butsuccessful colonization in South America was no easier. Some early humans inSouth America decided to settle in the highlands of the Andes Mountains. High-altitudeenvironments are never welcoming; high-altitude environments are harsh and aremore difficult to adapt to due to colder temperatures and limited resources.Obviously far from being a pleasant experience, it comes to no surprise that high-landenvironments were some of the last landscapes to be colonized in South Americaaround 15,000 – 11,000 B.
P. In general, a majority of scholars believe thatearly humans settled in South America at least during 14,600 B.P (Jolie, Lynch,Geib, Adovasio 2011). Strangely enough, there are more pre-Clovis sites presentin South America than there are in North America (Scheinsohn 2007). Also, the discovery and dating of South America’sMonte Verde questions if North America was even colonized before South America(Whitley and Dorn ). According to Edward Lanning’s article: Eightradiocarbon dates from four archaeological sites are in excess of 13,000 years.Seven of them have faunal associations, but only three are clearly associatedwith a definable lithic industry.
These are 14,180 +/-300, 14,180 +/- 250, and14,190 +/- I80 B.P. These dates, from Pikimachay Cave in the south-centralPeruvian highlands, refer to the newly-discovered Ayacucho complex. Theassociations are impeccable: a stratum that has yielded to date fifty-oneartefacts plus bones of Paleolama and Megatherium, the whole sealed in by amassive rock fall from the cave roof (Lanning 1970). These dates suggest that SouthAmerica was colonized by or before 14,000 B.P.
; early humans resided in SouthAmerica during the times of the late Pleistocene at the latest (Lanning 1970).The amount of pre-Clovis sites present in North and South America is notsignificant, but the fact that both continents contain any pre-Clovis sites atall is what is significant. The most precise or accepted cultural model thatdetermines the migration of early humans also does not matter.
These sites andmodels all provide valuable evidence that supports the idea of Pleistocenepeopling in the Americas, bringing the archeological record closer to solvingthe puzzle of the New World’s origins.Monte Verde: The most Viablepre-Clovis Site The site of Monte Verde (located in Chile,South America) is recognized as one of the most viable pre-Clovis sites of theAmericas. Tom D.
Dillehay was the first to excavate the site in 1977 andcontinues to conduct research at the site to this day (Meltzer, Grayson,Ardila, Barker, Dincauze, Haynes, Mena, Nunez, Stanford 1997). Dillehaychallenged the Clovis-first model after the discovery and dating of MonteVerde. Like previously stated, many scholars agree that early humans migratedfrom Asia to North America around 12,000 B.P. (Clovis-first model date) usingthe land-bridge Beringia that was last present between 35,000 and 14,400 B.
P.,but Dillehay states that the Clovis-first model of human entry can no longerexplain the peopling of the Americas (Meltzer 1989; Dillehay 2015). The reasonhe makes this claim is because Monte Verde had beautifully well-preservedorganic remains, like wood, bone, and skin, and inorganic artifacts andfeatures dating from 33,000 to 12,500 years B.P. (Meltzer 1997). Although thesedates are controversial and are doubted by many, including by Dillehey himself,the dates can still be authenticated and they still imply that early humanscolonized the Americas earlier than the Clovis-first model (Waguespack 2007).
An example of a date that has beentested carefully is the date of when the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets coalesced.Although the ice sheets were only located in North America, they still have aconnection with South America’s Monte Verde. Waguespack writes in his article:Itis now generally acknowledged that the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheetscoalesced during Wisconsin glaciation. Further, cosmogenic dating of glacialerratics associated with the Laurentide ice sheet, 58 together with othergeologic evidence, imply that the corridor was not open between 26,000–14,000CYBP, severely limiting the temporal ”freedom” the IFC model allowed forcolonization. If Monte Verde is as old is it appears to be, humans were southof glacial ice before the opening of the corridor (Waguespack 2007).
These generalizations suggest thatearly humans managed to migrate to South America before the glaciers melted.Not only does this support the Coastal Model, but it also supports the ideathat early humans possibly colonized South America before 26,000 – 14,000 B.P.The early colonizers must have used the coastal route to migrate to SouthAmerica and then dispersed once they arrived at the continent. Also, they mighthave built multiple sites along the coastline, and the reason why remnants ofthose now extinct sites is because they were lost and destroyed by rising sealevels caused by the glacial sheets melting (Waguspack 2007).
Nevertheless, evidencewas still attainable and that evidence supports the peopling of the Pleistocenein the Americas. Monte Verde II (MV-II) is seen as aPleistocene site, since the site’s dating goes back to around 30,000 to 15,000B.P., that has played an important role in interdisciplinary research on thedating and nature of the initial peopling of South America for decades(Dillehay 2015).
Dillehay (2015) excavated the site recently once again, andits nearby locality of Chinchihuapi, in hopes of discovering new findings thatwill reveal cultural evidence that strengthens the possibility of an earlierhuman presence on the continent. Some of the new evidence found consists of low-densityoccurrences of stratigraphic in situstone artifacts, faunal remains, and burned areas. These findings suggestdiscrete horizons of ephemeral human activity radiocarbon dates between 14,500to 19,000 B.P., which further suggests a wider diversity of tool types ofephemeral human behavior, landscape use, site size and structure. The datafinally suggests that people might have arrived in South America before 15,000;early South American colonizers were very mobile and managed to adapt to a widevariety of environments (Dillehay 2015).
Dillehay and his colleagues found thirty-nine lithicassemblage samples at Monte Verde, findings that have a significant role incontextual and chronometric evidence. The earliest probable lithics are thoughtto date from around or before 25,000 years ago. These lithics share similardates to the site of MV-I (15,000 to 20,000 B.P. as well), and consists of fourspecimens that include:Twowell-rounded possible “sling stones,” a possible chopper with a clearpercussion flake on an exotic white quartz, and an angular spall of basalt showingno evidence of cultural use. Next is nine specimens, dated between ~19,000 and17,000cal BP, including a clearly flaked pebble of serpentine, five human-madepercussion flakes, a round stone, and aspherical stone possibly used as a slingstone, and an exotic discoidal beach pebble manuport. Dating between~16,000-and15,000 cal BP are three artifacts, a basalt wedge, aculturally producedbasalt flake with clear percussion marks, and an intentionally split pebble withheavy marginal retouch and “edge-batter”. The fourth assemblage, dated at~15,000 to 14,500cal BP, is contemporary with MV-II and numbers18 specimens.
These dates provide moreevidence for the presence of early humans during the Pleistocene. While it isphenomenal that these archaic findings were able to be recovered, lithic remainsare inorganic materials which gives them an advantage when it comes to beingpreserved. Organic remains sadly do not preserve as easily. However, they werestill able to find bone fragments at MV-I and CH-I, but they were unfortunatelytoo small to identify what species it belonged to. Faunal remains found atstrata MV-7 and MV-8 also possess impressive dates; an animal skin fragment wasrecovered at a depth of 2.
1 m and dated 43,000 B.P., which agrees with aprevious 14^C assay of 42,000 B.P. at the same level in a nearby block that wasexcavated (Dillehay 2015).Thedates are undeniably very exciting and crucial for Pleistonce-proponents, butnot for the opposing side. Dillehay mentions and writes about Lynch in one ofhis articles: First,Lynch remarks that “pre-Clovis proponents” are looking too”hard” and too “anxiously” for pre-Paleoindian sites.
Hemakes a plea for “colleagues to be more restrained, even self-critical, inthe interpretation of archaeological data, and to depend more on the absolutelysecure cases and major patterns than on the infrequent, and often transitoryexceptions (Dillehay 1991). These are indeed brash statements, to say the least,about Monte Verde. Yet, Dillehay (2015) has concluded that, “the majority of anatomical,archaeological and genetic evidence gives credence to the view that people wererelatively recent arrivals to the Americas, probably sometime between 20,000and15,000 years ago, (Dillehay 2015). Thankfully, Dillehay made comments thatprotected the site from Lynch’s criticisms.
He writes that pattern recognitionsstart off with discoveries and observations of infrequent occurrences.”Infrequent” and ‘transitory” patterns encouraged further research to beconducted at the site. He even went as far to question if Clovis-first siteshad any major patterns when they were first discovered to deliberately provokeLynch (Dillehey 1991). In archaeology, it is necessary to heavily rely onassumptions and on arguments of plausibility. The construction of archeology canbe misconstrued by factual errors, inconsistencies, and misinterpretations madeby those who investigated the site and those who critique the sites as well.
Nomodel can fully explain how the early peopling of the Americas, be it theClovis- First or pre-Clovis models, happened. Yet, the insights ofarcheologists allow for a better understanding of the peopling of the NewWorld, which adds once missing pieces back to the puzzle (Dillehay 2015).CONCLUSION”When did the first early humans arrive in the America,”is indeed a question that is difficult to answer. Seeking the traces leftbehind by those early colonizers could help to answer that question.
Solvingtheir migration patterns and finding out how they adapted to differentenvironments could also help to answer the question, which then leads to abetter understanding. The reality is, “A better understanding of such thingswill not set the boundaries within which humans came to the Americas. None cangive that sort of information,” (Meltzer 1989). These words might sounddisheartening, but they speak the truth. “Rather, their value will come in anability to predict and, possibly, discover the earliest traces of the firstNorth Americans, and evaluate and understand that evidence if we do,” (Meltzer1989). This is why investigations are crucial in archaeology; their traces willeventually be found if we continue to look and dig for them.
Working in the field of archaeologytruly does require persistence and determination because it could take a longtime to find evidence that is needed to support a model and there are scholarsout there that will try to provoke insights. The quarrels between pre-Clovisand Clovis-first proponents interferes the progression of attaining knowledge.We can only progress if the debate is outgrown and then investigations arecontinued (Dillehay and Collins 1991). The evidence that is found will alwaysassist with the understanding of how the whole processes, the peopling of theof the Americas during the Pleistocene, was possibly done. To conclude, we have yet to find allthe pieces of the puzzle but pursuing the missing pieces is crucial.
Manyarcheologists have dedicated their time to look for those pieces of evidence toprovide insight for what model they believe in. I think that thosearcheologists have done a remarkable job to support the pre-Clovis model, andthere is more data out there to be gathered and assessed. Nevertheless, theunpredictability of the early archeological record of the New World willcontinue to be intriguingly and satisfyingly complex (Dillehay 2015).