Across Atlantic Ice: The Origin of America's Clovis Culture

Article excerpt

Across Atlantic Ice: The Origin of America's Clovis Culture. DENNIS J. STANFORD and BRUCE A. BRADLEY, with a foreword by Michael B. Collins. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2012. xv, 319 pp. ill., maps. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN: 978-0-52022783-5.

In science, one should never assume to know truth, only closer and closer approximations of reality. To do otherwise is to become a slave to ideological or intellectual dogma. In practice, within any particular scientific paradigm, truth is often assumed to be the consensus view of intellectual gatekeepers. In this regard, it seems the consensus view can only change after a particular cohort of esteemed colleagues declares acceptance of new ideas upon personal examination of the evidence. Think of the acceptance of Pleistocene humans in North America at Folsom or, much more recently, the supposed codification of preClovis by a contingent of respected Paleoindian experts upon visiting Monte Verde. In the absence of this, new ideas in archaeology, particularly those that portend radical transformations of consensus views, are often resisted with fervor and quickly deemed dead on arrival by scholars working within the existing paradigm. Historically, consensus views have often been guided as much by quests for personal gain, prestige, and control over the driving narrative of scientific research as by unbiased assessments of the evidence. Of course, it is a truism in scientific archaeology that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Good scientific discourse demands such a standard, and the peer-review process is predicated on the premise of clear and unequivocal empirical evidence.

Such is the case with Stanford and Bradley's Solutrean hypothesis for the origin of Clovis culture. Scientific evaluation of the ideas presented in Across Atlantic Ice must be evaluated critically, but with an understanding of the influence and bias of the prevailing paradigm. If there is one clear picture emerging in the rapidly changing science regarding the peopling of the Americas or other regions of the world, it is that we have time and again consistently oversimplified and underestimated the intellectual and physical capacity of Pleistocene humans to adapt, innovate, and propagate their species over nearly all regions of the globe. The rapid-fire nature of new discoveries and new techniques for analysis has shown in the last few decades that few of our cherished ideas will long survive unscathed. The narrative is shifting under our very feet. As a result, the gatekeepers are losing control over the historical hegemony of scientific discourse. This isn't all bad. While many may mourn the apparent subversion of the peer-review process by new media, science is still ultimately self-correcting. Occasionally, we need to be challenged to think differently. Given the rapid pace of new discoveries, we should not be so quick to condemn new ideas.

In Across Atlantic Ice, Stanford and Bradley weave a fascinating narrative of technological innovation, cultural sophistication, and migration by maritime-adapted Solutrean hunter-gatherers in southwestern Europe navigating and living along the glacial ice margin of the North Atlantic. Stanford and Bradley deftly illustrate their expertise in understanding, replicating, and explaining the nuances of early lithic and nonlithic technocomplexes. The argued distinctiveness of Beringian technology, the apparent lack of clear antecedent technologies to Clovis in Asia, the concentration of early Cloyis and earlier pre-Clovis radiocarbon dates in the East, proxies for direction of migration from cached raw material, overshot flaking, the use of large blades and bladelets, distinctive core technology, along with other specialized tools in Clovis assemblages, and purported proto-Clovis artifacts with similarities to Solutrean artifacts are all offered as circumstantial evidence in support of the Solutrean hypothesis.

In Chapter 1, Stanford and Bradley offer a very informative primer on flaked stone technology, particularly as it relates to the Solutrean hypothesis. …