Paleoamerican Odyssey

By Kelly E. Graf; Caroline V. Ketron et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 16
Complexities of the Colonization
Process: A View from the
North American West

Charlotte Beck1 and George T. Jones2

ABSTRACT

In 2010 we argued that Clovis was not first in the Intermountain West, that when people carrying this tech-
nology arrived they encountered people who were already there, having migrated inland from the Pacific
coast along the Columbia River. These people utilized a technology quite different from that of Clovis, re-
ferred to as the Western Stemmed Tradition, or WST. Critiques of this argument have primarily focused on
the validity of the radiocarbon dates purported to be associated with WST stemmed points, asserting the
traditional notion that the WST evolved from Clovis. Here we focus on three components of our argument,
chronology, technology, and land-use, discussing patterns that we believe support it.

KEYWORDS: Western Stemmed Tradition (WST), Intermountain West


Introduction

Until the late 1980s the Clovis-First hypothesis was accepted by the large majority of archaeologists because no credible pre-Clovis site had been found, with the exception of Meadowcroft, which was subject to alternative interpretations. Today there are a number of credible pre-Clovis sites, which, though rigorously scrutinized, have not been so easily dismissed as were the contenders of an earlier era. As a consequence the old view that Clovis represents the first humans to arrive in all parts of the Americas has been replaced by the view that Clovis people were the “first to colonize large swaths of the continent” (Waguespack 2007:72), thus acknowledging a sparse pre-Clovis presence.

Even with the open-mindedness of the ‘new’ Clovis-First stand it is still difficult for some of its supporters to acknowledge the existence of a technology that was independent of Clovis in the Intermountain West. This region, which is composed of the Columbia Plateau, the Snake River Plain, and the Great Basin (Figure 16.1), has always been a backwater in Paleoindian studies primarily because so few fluted points have been found there relative to other regions, and none have been associated definitively with Clovis-age dates. The early record in this region is, instead, dominated by a stemmed point technology, the Western Stemmed Tradition (WST), assumed to be descended from Clovis, and as a result this record has been viewed as relatively unimportant outside of the region. Even some archaeologists working in the Intermountain West still believe Clovis represents the first human presence there (e.g., Reid 2011; Carlson and Magne 2008; Goebel and Keene 2013), and thus they have continued to search for that elusive buried site in which Clovis artifacts are found in unequivocal association with datable material. After over 80 years of searching, however, that sealed Clovis stratum has not been found in any open or rockshelter site. On the other hand, a well-documented site with pre-Clovis as well as Clovis-age dates has emerged—Paisley Caves in central Oregon—but there is no sign of Clovis in that record.

In 2010 we argued for the coeval presence of Clovis and

1,2 Department of Anthropology, Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Road, Clinton, NY 13323.

Corresponding author e-mail:1cbeck@hamilton.edu

-273-

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