Paleoamerican Odyssey

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

Chapter 29
The Ones That Still Won’t Go Away:
More Biased Thoughts on the
Pre-Clovis Peopling of the New World

J. M. Adovasio1 and David R. Pedler2

ABSTRACT

Since the seminal discoveries at what for all intents and purposes is the Clovis type locality at Blackwater
Draw in 1933, more than 500 archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere have been claimed to be older
than the 13,000 BP Clovis horizon. The debunking and dismissal of these sites in mid-twentieth-century
scholarly literature powerfully reinforced the notion that the makers of Clovis fluted points were the first
colonizers of the New World. As it gradually evolved from a scientific paradigm to pseudo-theological
dogma, the Clovis First model assumed a behavioral dimension while maintaining its chronological one.
Its subject peoples also evolved from being producers of highly distinctive stone points to a veritable
“culture” of spear-wielding, rapidly moving, highly specialized big-game hunters whose florescence was
without parallel in the history of the planet. Beginning in the early 1970s, a series of far-flung discoveries
in widely separated parts of the hemisphere began the systematic unraveling of Clovis First’s chronological
and behavioral underpinnings. Initially greeted with scorn, these sites and others—in conjunction with the
progressive refinement of analytical techniques and a growing corpus of linguistic and bioanthropological
data—ultimately led to the collapse of a venerable paradigm.

KEYWORDS: Beringia, Clovis, Clovis contemporaries, Clovis First, Ice-Free Corridor, Last Glacial Maximum,
Peopling of the New World, Pre-Clovis


Introduction

The antiquity of humans in the New World has been a central preoccupation of American archaeologists, scientists from multiple disciplines, and interested members of the lay public and popular press for generations, dating to as early as the midnineteenth-century development of modern geoscience and European discoveries of Paleolithic human antiquity. American archaeologists and geologists, following developments in Europe, set themselves to the task of discovering a comparable “American Paleolithic,” establishing a dynamic that would dog the discipline through the twentieth century. Claims would be forwarded for a deep (and sometimes quite improbable) human antiquity at a given location, which would then be investigated and dismissed by the cooler heads of the scientific establishment. This process played itself out in the case of the debunking of the American Paleolithic—thanks largely to the insistence on rigorous standards of evidence by Aleš Hrdlička, William Henry Holmes, and others—and has continued to resonate throughout New World archaeology ever since.

As is well known to virtually everyone, prior to the 1920s the received wisdom was that humans were impeded from entering the Western Hemisphere until the final retreat of the Wisconsinan glacial ice. This almost universally accepted position would ultimately be dismantled in 1927 by another del

1,2 Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, Mercyhurst University, 501 East 38th Street, Erie, PA

Corresponding author e-mail:2dpedler@mercyhurst.edu

-511-

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