When did People Settle the Americas?

According to the “Clovis First” theory, the Clovis people were the first ones to settle the Americas. Supposedly, they crossed a land bridge from Siberia to Alaska during the last Ice Age, about 13,000 years ago. But recent discoveries are threatening to upend that theory. Was someone else in the Americas prior to the Clovis people?

The Clovis First Theory?

The “Clovis First” theory has been around for a long time. And over the years, researchers have slowly chipped away at it. For example, in March 2011, a team of archaeologists led by Professor Michael Waters reported that they’d discovered a pre-Clovis excavation site in Texas.

At this site, dubbed the “Buttermilk Creek site,” the team unearthed more than 50 full artifacts as well as hundreds of fragmented pieces in soil sediments. These artifacts may date as long as 15,500 years ago. However, doubts have persisted as to their exact age.

Now, Waters’ team has joined forces with a second team led by Professor Eske Willerslev to examine evidence that might just prove their “Pre-Clovis” theory of America’s settlement. The evidence in question is an ancient mastadon rib discovered over 30 years ago near Seattle, Washington. A manmade spear tip, constructed from a separate mastadon bone, was found embedded within the rib.

Using atomic accelerators, they conducted radio carbon tests and determined that the mastadon rib was about 13,800 years old, which would make it 800 years older than the earliest known appearance of the Clovis civilization. They also used computed tomography to create a 3D image of the spear tip. Apparently, it shows signs of having been deliberately sharpened by an unknown individual.

Did another civilization beat the Clovis Culture to the Americas?

This evidence has yet to be fully accepted by the scientific community. The fact that the “spear tip” was made from mastadon bone has raised questions about whether it’s being identified correctly.

“It’s not definitely proven that it is a projectile point. Elephants today push each other all the time and break each other’s ribs so it could be a bone splinter that the animal just rolled on.” ~ Professor Gary Haynes, University of Nevada, Reno

Professor Waters refuses to back down and points out that a bone pathologist said there no no way it could have come from an internal injury. However, old beliefs require substantial evidence to change and it might take some time before skeptics are willing to agree that mankind has been in North America for much longer than originally thought.

“You know, the Clovis-first model has been dying for some time. But there’s nothing harder to change than a paradigm, than long-standing thinking. When Clovis-First was first proposed, it was a very elegant model but it’s time to move on, and most of the archaeological community is doing just that.” ~ Professor Waters

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, this argument remains unsettled. But it’s looking increasingly likely that humans have been around the Americas for far longer than once believed. And if that’s the case, it raises the interesting question of how they arrived in the Americas prior to the appearance of the land bridge. Another land bridge in a different Ice Age? Ancient sea voyages? Something else? One thing’s for sure…the history of human settlement in the Americas has many pages left to be written.

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