This post is intended as a follow-up to Kambiz’s review of the new dates for Toloquilla footprints. Frankly, it’s been very tiring to read and watch all the current and past powwows about the validity and veracity of pre-Clovis sites. Science is currently making a huge methodological mistake by assuming that the early presence of humans in the Americas has to be “proved.” In fact, we need to do the opposite:
- let’s assume that all continents (America, Africa, Europe, Asia/Australasia) had modern humans (anatomically AND behaviorally) for at least 40-50,000 years ago;
- then let’s try to demonstrate, using geography, archaeology, paleobiology, odontology, craniology, genetics, kinship systems, ethnology and linguistics and simulating different population scenarios, that all but one of these continents were in fact peopled from an adjacent continent earlier than the set date;
- whichever continent turns out to be most resistant to this kind of multidisciplinary experiment will be the one from which humans originally radiated to all other places.
Right now, hypothesis 1 cannot be rejected for any of the continents, including America. And it’s not the matter of whether Tom Dillehay mixed up the strata in Monte Verde or Toloquilla footprints may not be 40,000 years old. Clovis-I proponents (as well as the new wave of 16,000-YBP-proponents) should understand that “pre-Clovis” is first of all not found in Siberia/East Asia, and that they need pre-Clovis sites in America in order to make “the peopling of the Americas” empirically demonstrable (Dziebel, G. V. 2000. The Test of a Null Hypothesis for the Origin of American Indians //Current Research in the Pleistocene 17: 125-127. Corvallis, OR: Center for the Study of the First Americans). Once convincing lithic and paleobiologial evidence is presented to show that humans indeed peopled the Americas, then we can move on. As of now, scholars are methodologically confused, hence all the irrational fights around pre-Clovis sites.
It’s true that archaeological finds earlier than 12,000 YBP have been slow in coming in the Americas. Notably, some of the most interesting ones indicate human presence vicariously: scat in Oregon, footprints in Mexico, skin flakes in Pendejo Cave. There are several reasons for this paucity:
- Looking for the traces of human activity, we apply the standards of the European Paleolithic, thus assuming ad hoc that these standards are universal and will turn up legitimate finds in Africa, Australia, Asia and America. But what if pre-Clovis in the Americas was an adaptation based mostly on soft, perishable technologies? What if humans didn’t utilize stone tools that much? According to Alan Bryant, only 20% of tools collected from a modern tribe are lithic; the rest is bone, fiber, wood. These tools will never be highly visible in the archaeological record;
- Population size and density were very low;
- Methodological confusion referred to above regarding what has to be proved and what has to be assumed;
- Ongoing biases against America as an old continent and the legacy of the conquest. In Transcaucasia, for example, the Azeris and the Armenians have been having land disputes for centuries; not surprisingly, the scholars on both sides have been trying to justify their respective governments’ current land claims by portraying the other party as a “recent” immigrant into the disputed area. By the same token, the colonization of the Americas naturally led to the suppressed estimates of the native populations’ age. And let’s not forget that we’d decided that America was a “new” world long before scientific method has prevailed in the descriptions of nature and culture. America as the New World, i.e. the world not mentioned in the Bible, is a relic of our pre-scientific worldview, and its short Clovis-I chronology is a local survival of the original world short chronology presented in the Bible. As of now, after decades of search, there’s no scientific evidence that indicates that America is a recently populated continent. Only a perverted logic would require a small group of “dissidents” to prove that America is old.
The new dates for the Toloquilla footprints at 40,000 YBP are fully consistent with the fact that Siberia hasn’t furnished the necessary evidence to demonstrate the origin of the earliest American lithic assemblages outside of the Americas. It means that the roots of Clovis, Nenana and other incipient early American archaeological cultures are in America, all the way back to 40-50,000 YBP, unless convincingly demonstrated otherwise.