Clovis anyone?

... new findings on the history of the human presence in North America

by Len Dalton

13,000 years ago, give or take a few hundreds, in what is now Clovis, New Mexico, a band of hunters managed to kill a mammoth. To be sure, it was a dangerous enterprise. The tools at hand were stone spears and knives. The animal may well have been stampeded to a drop off of sufficient severity to cripple it and make the end much more assured for the hunters. One spear point was embedded in the hip of the mammoth and was left with the bones after the flesh was stripped. That magnificent stone point was unearthed in the last 40 years or so by paleo archeologists. The artistry of the stone was amazing but even more amazing was the determined age, told from the bones: 13,400 years!

To the scientists that meant that humans had made the trip across Beringia, the dry land bridge from Siberia to Alaska, at least that long ago. Theory was that Siberians took advantage of the land bridge and found new hunting grounds on the other side. Eventually the ice melted and it is considered that a corridor was formed along the Canadian side through which these Siberians found their way south to more abundant hunting grounds.

Since the day scientists made that discovery, other “Clovis” points began turning up on the east coast and they first felt that it was a spreading of the technology to create such perfect weapons. It seemed so.

At the time of the “Clovis” people, a boundary of the ice sheet extended all across the Atlantic Ocean from France to North America. Paleo-archeologists have found one of these clovis points embedded in a walrus hip in Chesapeake Bay area! Walrus were creatures of the ice. Hunters of the time killed that animal at the edge of the ice sheet.

Naturally if the inhabitants of North America came from Siberia/Alaska, it is natural to say that the ‘Clovis’ technology would be found there, too. Searches were made on sites all around the area there but, no ‘Clovis’ points or anything like that materialized! Even in Siberia, the tools of hunting were made of thin, sharp strips of stone embedded in strong wood and called ‘micro blades’.

Was ‘Clovis’ a ‘new’ technology 13,000 years ago? Today points similar to ‘Clovis’ have been found in northern Spain and southern France; made by the Salutrian people. These people occupied areas bordering the ice sheet. Paleo-archeologists now feel that the Salutrians traveled in skin boats across the frontier of the ice sheet all the way to this continent and brought the ‘Clovis’ technology with them! This included axes as well as spear points unique to the Salutrians. Baloney?  Not quite. Salutrian DNA has been found among east coast American Indians!

In Castle Hill, North Carolina, a flint deposit has been excavated to a depth reflecting over 20,000 years of use. Much of the technology found there was of the Salutrian tradition.

Scientists now believe humans were here far longer than the ‘Clovis’ people. A site found in Chile includes a child’s slipper and foot print of 40,000 years! They’re still working on that one. It is my hope you will find these findings of interest to ponder.

December 2. 2005

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