The Clovis People, named after the Clovis archaeological site in New Mexico were initially accepted as the earliest identifiable human population in the Americas. It was thought that they arrived on that continent around 9,000 BC. Now, however, at a site at Buttermilk Creek in Texas(a), archaeologists have found stone tools in thick sediments beneath what is accepted as typical Clovis material. It is believed that these artifacts may be as much as 15,500 years old, once again pushing back the date of the earliest Americans.
The Gault site, also in Texas, has produced tools and some human remains that have been dated to up to 16,700 years ago, which further argues against the Clovis People as the earliest Americans. This was reinforced by the discovery of a 22,000-year-old mastodon skull along with a flaked blade made of volcanic rock.(f)
October 2018 brought claims by researchers from the Texas A & M University that the oldest weapons ever found in North America had been discovered at another Texan location named the Debra L. Friedkin site(j). They have dated the artefacts as 15,500 years old.
The ‘received wisdom’ regarding the origins of the Clovis people was that they had crossed into the Americas from Asia via a landbridge that spanned the Bering Strait 12,000 years ago. This has been challenged in a book by two archaeologists, Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce A. Bradley, who claim “that the first Americans crossed the Atlantic by boat and arrived earlier than previously thought. Supplying archaeological and oceanographic evidence to support this assertion, the book dismantles the old paradigm while persuasively linking Clovis technology with the culture of the Solutrean people who occupied France and Spain more than 20,000 years ago.”
Stephen Oppenheimer as added his support to this idea of prehistoric transatlantic travel during the last Ice Age, using studies that identified the genetic haplogroup 2Xa among indigenous people in northeast America and western Europe. This was outlined in a recent CBC documentary Ice Bridge, featuring Stanford, Bradley and Oppenheimer. However, for balance, a critique of the show should also be read(i).
A further sceptical view of their work should also be considered(g). However, in 2016, the Solutrean Hypothesis appears to have been contradicted by genetic studies(h).
Until 1999, the existence of pre-Clovis populations was denied by mainstream archaeology(b). Today, there is almost universal acceptance of these very early settlers in both North and South America(c).
Heather Pringle has written a revelatory article about the Canadian archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars who has fought the establishment view since 1979 and only now has his claim of pre-Clovis hunters in North America 24,000 years ago been vindicated(e).
Nevertheless, Professors Jennifer Raff and Deborah Bolnick co-authored a paper offering evidence(d) that the genetic data only supports migration from Siberia to America.
“A new (2022) analysis of archaeological sites in the Americas challenges relatively new theories that the earliest human inhabitants of North America arrived before the migration of people from Asia across the Bering Strait.
Conducted by University of Wyoming Professor Todd Surovell and colleagues from UW and five other institutions, the analysis suggests that misinterpretation of archaeological evidence at certain sites in North and South America might be responsible for theories that humans arrived long before 13,000-14,200 years ago.”(l)
It seems clear to me that the debates surrounding the earliest Americans have a long way to run yet. It did not take long before the presence of pre-Clovis humans was pushed back further to as early as 33,000 years ago. This is contained in a July 2020 report, based on evidence found at Chiquihuite Cave, a high-altitude rock shelter in central Mexico.(k)
See Also: Younger Dryas