November 20, 2017

A few items on the Solutrean Hypothesis

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 4:08 pm

A reader and I have been chatting about various stone tool doings and the Solutrean Hypothesis. I’ve never been a big fan of it myself and haven’t really kept up with the literature, but though I would provide a few recent papers on the subject.

Bradley and Stanford 2004: Argues for an ice-edge corridor, something like the ice-free corridor proposed for western N America. I actually hadn’t heard of this before (as I say, not something I really follow).

Westley and Dix 2008 provide a rebuttal for that.

The genetic evidence I’ve always thought was the weak spot, and still think that. Here’s a couple papers on that as well.

Raff and Bolnick 2015 and Raff and Bolnick 2014.

Putting these up for educational purposes, mind you. Will take them down in a couple of weeks.

March 10, 2015

Sort of missed this. . . .

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 7:09 pm

Archaeologists: Are these the oldest tools in North America?

Stone tools discovered by archaeologists at the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter in Oregon suggest that the site could be the oldest known site of human occupation in western North America, the US Bureau of Land Management announced on Thursday.

The rockshelter, which is controlled by the Bureau, is located near the community of Riley in the high desert region of eastern Oregon, and the tool – a hand-held scraper chipped from a piece of orange agate not ordinarily found in the region – was discovered buried underneath an eight-inch layer of volcanic ash from an eruption of Mount St. Helens over 15,000 years ago.

The article is a tad misleading as they show a photo of a Clovis point when that actually wasn’t what was found. The dating seems secure though, which makes it technically pre-Clovis.

UPDATE: Photo of the thing here.

UPDATE II: Didn’t notice this in the second one since I just linked for the photo:

O’Grady called the find “tantalizing,” while Professor Donald Grayson said the scientific community would be disbelieving.

Commenting on the dig, Grayson said, “No one is going to believe this until it is shown there was no break in that ash layer, that the artifact could not have worked its way down from higher up, and until it is published in a convincing way.”

Grayson was a prof of mine and was on my dissertation committee. He was all over the pre-Clovis even in the 1980s. His criteria (which may actually be someone else’s) for demonstrating a good pre-Clovis site were, IIRC, undoubtedly manufactured, securely dated; adequate context, and published.

August 27, 2014

“If you’re going to sue the government, you better be in it for the long haul.”

Filed under: Pre-Clovis, Public archaeology — acagle @ 1:30 pm

The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets

In the summer of 1996, two college students in Kennewick, Washington, stumbled on a human skull while wading in the shallows along the Columbia River. They called the police. The police brought in the Benton County coroner, Floyd Johnson, who was puzzled by the skull, and he in turn contacted James Chatters, a local archaeologist. Chatters and the coroner returned to the site and, in the dying light of evening, plucked almost an entire skeleton from the mud and sand. They carried the bones back to Chatters’ lab and spread them out on a table.

The skull, while clearly old, did not look Native American. At first glance, Chatters thought it might belong to an early pioneer or trapper. But the teeth were cavity-free (signaling a diet low in sugar and starch) and worn down to the roots—a combination characteristic of prehistoric teeth. Chatters then noted something embedded in the hipbone. It proved to be a stone spearpoint, which seemed to clinch that the remains were prehistoric. He sent a bone sample off for carbon dating. The results: It was more than 9,000 years old.

Thus began the saga of Kennewick Man, one of the oldest skeletons ever found in the Americas and an object of deep fascination from the moment it was discovered.

Read the whole thing. Quite sordid.

March 5, 2014

Not Lambeau Field

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 8:18 pm

10,000 years on the Bering land bridge

O’Rourke and colleagues point to a study of mitochondrial DNA – genetic information passed by mothers – sampled from Native Americans throughout the Americas. The study found that the unique genome or genetic blueprint of Native Americans arose sometime before 25,000 years ago but didn’t spread through the Americas until about 15,000 years ago.

“This result indicated that a substantial population existed somewhere, in isolation from the rest of Asia, while its genome differentiated from the parental Asian genome,” O’Rourke says. “The researchers suggested Beringia as the location for this isolated population, and suggested it existed there for several thousand years before members of the population migrated southward into the rest of North and, ultimately, South America as retreating glaciers provided routes for southern migration.”

You really have to think of it not as a “land bridge” but more of almost a continent in and of itself, such that people living there wouldn’t even think of themselves as “crossing over to” anywhere. Then it makes more sense.

February 12, 2014

Don’t tell Dennis Stanford

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 1:41 pm

Oldest Burial Yields DNA Evidence of First Americans

DNA harvested from the remains of an infant buried 13,000 years ago confirms that the earliest widespread culture in North America was descended from humans who crossed over to the New World from Asia, scientists say.

The research, detailed in this week’s issue of the journal Nature, also suggests that many contemporary Native Americans are direct descendants of the so-called Clovis people, whose distinctive stone tools have been found scattered across North America and Mexico.

This is the key part though:

Comparison studies of the ancient DNA showed that it was similar to the genomes of ancient people living in Siberia and the ancestors of East Asians. The team also discovered a deep genetic affinity between the boy’s genetic material and those of 52 Native American populations living in South America and Canada.

So it appears as if this one person is both related closely to Asians and also to the bulk of aboriginals today, which suggests a relatively small founder population that came over at one time rather than wave after wave of immigrants.

October 25, 2013

So can we start calling them Native Eurasians?

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 6:51 pm

Ancient DNA Links Native Americans With Europe

Where did the first Americans come from? Most researchers agree that Paleoamericans moved across the Bering Land Bridge from Asia sometime before 15,000 years ago, suggesting roots in East Asia. But just where the source populations arose has long been a mystery.

Now comes a surprising twist, from the complete nuclear genome of a Siberian boy who died 24,000 years ago—the oldest complete genome of a modern human sequenced to date. His DNA shows close ties to those of today’s Native Americans. Yet he apparently descended not from East Asians, but from people who had lived in Europe or western Asia. The finding suggests that about a third of the ancestry of today’s Native Americans can be traced to “western Eurasia,” with the other two-thirds coming from eastern Asia, according to a talk at a meeting* here by ancient DNA expert Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen. It also implies that traces of European ancestry previously detected in modern Native Americans do not come solely from mixing with European colonists, as most scientists had assumed, but have much deeper roots.

Still looks as if they came via Beringia so Dennis Stanford can’t start celebrating quite yet.

October 24, 2013

The first Clovis

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 7:18 pm

From The Smithsonian.

Apparently you have to watch a commercial to see the rest of the article, but it’s probably worth it (their articles are usually quite good).

November 11, 2012

Big Bird(s)

Filed under: Pre-Clovis, Uncategorized — ArchaeoFriend @ 11:55 am


I realize it is very dangerous for an archaeologist to mention dinosaurs, but the Barney pic just got me thinking.  And this thinking leads my brain down so many paths at once.  A recent news story caught my eye, although it was about a flying creature that lived during the late Cretaceous — many, many (~67) million years before people.  The article looked at research on functional anatomy that had allowed scientists to reconstruct how the largest flying creature (with a wingspan of 34 feet!) managed to get off the ground and fly.  This amazing creature was Queztalcoatlus, and its size and name connect with several things in archaeology that I find fascinating.

A beautiful Quetzal bird, whose feathers were used as prestige items by the Aztecs and other cultural groups

First, one thing that strikes me is that it is yet another use of the Nahuatl language, spoken in the Aztec capital.  Quetzalcoatl was the feathered serpent god, an excellent name choice for a huge pterodactly-like creature that lived back when dinosaurs roamed (and soared, and slithered, and swam).  I am struck by how many words English has received from the Aztecs, and how few (maybe one or two) from Mayan languages (like Yucatec).  Nahuatl words like tomato, potato, guacamole, avocado, cocoa, and jicama are just a few borrowed words (that make me hungry — I must need lunch).  One beloved word of archaeologists from the Aztecs is atlatl.   There must have been a word for that in some ancestral Indo-European language, but it fell out of use along the way.  I also find it ironic that the Inca domesticated the tomato and potato, but the Quechua words for those domesticates was disregarded in favor of Nahuatl.

(If you want to see a youtube video of an atlatl, just click here)

Another thought that struck me, yet again, when reading about this huge creature was that today’s birds are somewhat smallish compared to those our ancestors saw during the Ice-Age.  Teratorns with wingspans of 14 feet lived in areas of the Americas until about 11 or 12 thousand years ago.  Considering we have evidence of people living in Chile at 12,500 years ago, people must have seen some of these huge birds.  What was a single feather like?  I love contemplating Teratorns while looking at this inspired photo:


And wouldn’t it be cool if a teratorn feather were recovered from an archaeological site?  (It probably wouldn’t be from this species, but a similar, slightly smaller one)

July 19, 2012

Three major PreColumbian migrations into the Americas … (revisited)

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — ArchaeoFriend @ 6:03 am

Periodically, the settlement of the Americas comes into the news again (see ArchaeoBlog entries for 2007, for example — does that make it now longer NEWs?).  And yet, it seems to come to basically the same thing I read back in 1986 in this article by Greenberg and others:  genetic and linguistic evidence points to three main pulses of settlement — the earliest and largest being the Amerind, with Na-Dene and Eskimo/Aleut following.  (Which, of course, differs from traditional First Peoples’ accounts, such as that of Raven finding people in a clamshell on the beach, as seen on the lower left of the Canadian $20 bill, below):

raven creation of people

(The image is based on this exceptional piece of art)

 raven carving

May 21, 2012

Clovis (non)update

Filed under: Pre-Clovis — acagle @ 3:58 pm

From the NY Times. Doesn’t really report anything new, just a short summary. Although I should mention that I kind of disagree with the “archaeologists have agreed on an explanation known as the Clovis model” line. What most archaeologists agreed on was that there was little evidence for pre-Clovis occupations, not that there were no pre-Clovis people.

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