Arrows Reveal Native American Origins

Here’s a report on recent research which proposes the spread of the first Americans coming in from Asia via a supposed ice-free corridor ca. 12,000 bp, can be traced through the distribution of Clovis technology across North America, and the way in which it appears to vary at a regional level.

The study included 216 stone arrowheads found in a number of states, including Montana,Arrowheads New Mexico, Arizona, Maine and Texas.

The researchers analyzed variations in angles, base size, tips, stone flaking and more. They then studied how the differences, and similarities, related to where the arrowheads were excavated.

Researchers Briggs Buchanan and Mark Collard propose a model that explains the spread of Clovis through humans arriving from the North, who then quickly inhabited an unpopulated North America; other models suggest there was already a pre-Clovis population present, and that Clovis spread through it, rather than with an expanding population that had only recently arrived. Moreover, other research has been conducted which has prompted suggestions that Clovis spread from the South – which again would indicate an extant population that preceded the purported Beringian intrusion event. For example, the site of Taima-taima in Venzuela, dating to around 13,000 bp, has yielded these El Jobo points with a decidedly leaf-like appearance, itself suggestive of Clovis, and as others have claimed, Solutrean as well.

Additional comment is provided by assistant Professor Todd Surovell at the University of Wyoming, who says,

“Their paper raises an interesting question…Is it possible that Clovis represents a colonizing population, but not the first population to colonize the New World? Clearly we have more work to do.”

He contends that the lithic variations can be explained by different groups of people sharing the technology with one another, which would suggest that different styles of Clovis might reflect a subjective, rather than strictly utilitarian approach to the way in which different groups expressed the culture.

Clovis has recently been in other news, with suggestions that this technology came to an end when a comet exploded over North America, apparently wiping out not only the Ice Age hunters, but most of the mega-fauna with whom they had shared a more crowded continent.

However, as Michael Collins points out in his Gault essay,

In the succession of Clovis components at Gault, there is an interesting change in the remains of large fauna. Lower deposits contain bones of mammoth, horse, and bison whereas higher ones have only bones of bison, suggesting that the Clovis interval at Gault spanned the extinction of horse and mammoth in the local region. If this is true and if the theoretical proposition is correct that Clovis weaponry is specialized for the taking of mammoth, then there should be a change in technology at the point in time when mammoths disappear from the regional fauna. No such change has been perceived in our studies.

It’s unlikely that Clovis ceased at exactly the same time over such a wide area as North America, and in any event, it seems there were human survivors of the proposed extinction event who continued to use the same technology thereafter. (TJ)

see also: The South American Twist

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