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Challenges To Assumptions about First Americans July 3, 2008

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Science & Technology.

Texas Archaeological Dig Challenges Assumptions about First Americans: Scientific American
Since the 1930s textbooks have taught that the New World’s first inhabitants, known for the town in New Mexico where their spear points were discovered, walked from Siberia to Alaska about 13,300 years ago. The Clovis people were believed to be highly mobile nomadic hunters, never settling in one place, instead surviving on massive mammoths, mastodons and ancient bison.

But in excavations starting in 1998 Gault has revealed that Clovis people lived at the site for extended periods over a span of 300 years, says Michael Collins, a research associate with the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory. The evidence? Scientists have found numerous tools manufactured from local stone, used until they were worn, then repaired repeatedly until they finally were discarded.

Until an ice-free corridor opened in northwestern Canada about 13,300 years ago, providing a route to the interior, a dome of ice divided Asia from North America. Some archaeologists have proposed an ice-free route along the northwestern coast; others suggest the first Americans, like the first Australians, had boats and used them either to travel east from Asia or, a few daring archaeologists propose, west from Europe. Hard evidence is unavailable because the coastline moved several hundreds of meters inland when the ice sheets melted. “The archaeological record is out there underwater,” says Hemmings, “so that’s the next frontier in this search.” Hemmings plans to spend two weeks this summer in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico looking for Clovis and pre-Clovis sites.


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