Letters to ...

"Clovis, anyone?" draws grad student's ire

... First-comers to America: from east or west?

from Len, Jill, John and several others

Editors' note: Jill Donald, a graduate student in archeology, took umbrage with Stringer Len Dalton's December, 2005 article called "Clovis, anyone?" Her email to our editors began a spat of cross-country communications involving Dalton, Dr. John Averell (also of the SilverStringers) and Ms. Donald -- all of which we present with mutual permission below:


From: "Jill Donald"
To:
Subject: Clovis anyone?
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 15:14:49 -0800

Hi, just found this article. As a grad student in archaeology, I feel that your treatment of the Salutrian population model is irresponsible. You claim that "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 statement indeed requires an exlamation point. While the Salutrian model is a debated theory, I would venture to say that most archaeologists dismiss it entirely. The evidence base is problematic to say the least, and much of it is vehemently denied by mainstream archaeologists. In the meantime, there is more than ample evidence for at least one wave of people settling via some type of Beringian crossing.

To suggest that the Salutrean model is widely accepted, let alone universally accepted, is incorrect and, as I said, irresponsible. It is Euro-centric and borderline racist.

Jill Donald
Cal State Northridge

The article, "Clovis anyone?" can be reached by clicking here.

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To: "Jill Donald" ,
Subject: Re: Clovis anyone?
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006

Jill,

(This was an article by Len Dalton in the Dec 2005 issue.)

Ours is hardly a scholarly journal. I think that on scientific issues you may consider yourself closer to current theories than we are. I'll let Len defend his thoughts on the subject.

The Melrose Mirror is basically an internet journal, a community blog, written by seniors. You might want to go to the current front page at http://melrosemirror.media.mit.edu and browse around to get a better feel for the tenor of the articles.

May I suggest that in pursuing your studies you keep an open mind.

Regards,
John Averell, Ph.D. (1963, Physics, Harvard)

--------------------------------

From: Jill Donald
To: John Averell
Cc: Lenny Dalton
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2006 10:50 PM
Subject: Re: Clovis anyone?

Hi John,

Thanks for your quick reply. I apologise if I directed my comments incorrectly; I just replied to the given email. And I recognize that you're not putting out an academic publication. I did, in fact, take a look at the rest of the site. However, I still feel as a student and as assistant editor for an academic journal (Western Folklore) that if something is worth publishing, it's worth doing well and thoroughly, and certainly worth doing responsibly. Perhaps this is idealistic. I am all about keeping an open mind, and having been trained as an anthropologist, open-mindedness has been sort of bred into me. It was precisely the lack of objectivity/open-mindedness that bothered me about this article. He sets forth as fact a theory that is debated but not at all widely accepted, without acknowledging opposing theories. This presentation inhibits, rather than inspires, further constructive debate, and is more harmful than helpful, in my opinion.

Again, thanks for taking the time to reply to me so quickly. I've replied separately to Mr. Dalton, and appreciate the discussion with you both.

Sincerely,

Jill Donald

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From: "John Averell"
To: "Jill Donald"
Cc: "Jack Driscoll" ,

Hi Jill,

And thank you for the handsome reply. I'm CCing our editors, and letting you know my personal feelings about that article. I remember when it was submitted. There was some discussion about even including it, since clearly this was not developed from Len's personal expertise, but seemed to be just copied from some newspaper or magazine article. But I guess we figured, what the heck! Doesn't hurt to educate the readers a bit. There was some discussion about asking for attribution for the "facts" that were being presented.

We editors should learn something from your response. It is OK to express personal opinions, but we need to be careful and selective about posing as experts or passing along someone else's theories without attribution. Thank you for taking the time to keep us and the world honest!

John Averell

------------------

... and Len Dalton adds ...

As she stated, Ms. Donald is a student of anthropology. Essentially my motive in writing that article, "Clovis Anyone?" was to generate thinking on the subject by the reader. Academically, the Clovis technology has now been found to be virtually identical to the Salutrean technology in spite of the fact that Salutrean predates Clovis by 5000 years. That, to me, would imply that it had been around long enough to have spread among any peoples recognizing its benefits and profits. A site in Chile, Monte Verde, was initially recorded as 12,000 years old but now has been set as 33,000 years old; setting a new argument as to how these people got there! During the time of the Salutreans the oceans were 300 or more feet shallower than today; making shorelines much further out on the continental shelf than today. The ice frontier brought arctic animals to the mid Atlantic area. Food was plentiful so it is far from out of the question that Salutreans could make it across to the New World. As Donald pointed out so well, the argument continues. Len Dalton

In a final note, Len adds in a letter to Editor Don Norris ...

Thanks for your interest in my article. The Beringian idea for the Clovis technology has been thoroughly proven as faulty via the complete absence of Clovis points anywhere north of New Mexico and that includes Alaska/Siberia. Indeed microblades were the only stone technology in that direction. Clovis technology, however, is found to the east coast hence the comparison to Salutrian points which were close to identical to Clovis. Thanks again. Dalton

... Jill Donald provides a further review of Len's comments above ...

Hi John,

Thanks for giving me a chance to reply. Certainly you may publish my emails. First, so that I can be sure I'm not mis-representing myself, I have a BA in anthropology from University of California, Irvine, and am working on my MA in archaeology at Cal State Northridge. I cannot call myself an expert in any archaeological matter yet, but as a graduate student, I have received a certain amount of exposure to these theories and feel capable of fairly representing the state of discourse on the subject. So let me address Mr. Dalton's comments, which, for the first set, I hadn't seen.

"As she stated, Ms. Donald is a student of anthropology. Essentially my motive in writing that article, "Clovis Anyone?" was to generate thinking on the subject by the reader.

A very respectable motive. However, a more effective way to do this is to bring opposing theories into the arena. The alternate theories are not only emitted entirely, but the state of current dialogue is misrepresented by the statement "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 assertion certainly cannot be attributed to the entirety of Palaeo-archaeologists.

Academically, the Clovis technology has now been found to be virtually identical to the Salutrean technology in spite of the fact that Salutrean predates Clovis by 5000 years. That, to me, would imply that it had been around long enough to have spread among any peoples recognizing its benefits and profits.

See Philip Smith's 1963 article, "A Fluted Point From the Old World" for a discussion on the similarities and lack of. (American Antiquity, Vol. 28, No. 3) I believe most archaeologists attribute any similarities to parallel development, rather than diffusion.

A site in Chile, Monte Verde, was initially recorded as 12,000 years old but now has been set as 33,000 years old; setting a new argument as to how these people got there!

Tom Dillehay, the first archaeologist to excavate Monte Verde, did date MV-II to about 12,500 BP and MV-I to about 33,000 BP. However, while MV-II has been fairly well-established, MV-I dates are still highly controversial, and are not widely accepted. See "On the Pleistocene Antiquity of Monte Verde, Southern Chile" from David Metzer et al. from 1997 for a more in-depth review (American Antiquity, Vol. 62, No. 4).

During the time of the Salutreans the oceans were 300 or more feet shallower than today; making shorelines much further out on the continental shelf than today. The ice frontier brought arctic animals to the mid Atlantic area. Food was plentiful so it is far from out of the question that Salutreans could make it across to the New World. As Donald pointed out so well, the argument continues. Len Dalton

The argument does indeed continue, and that was my main point in commenting initially, but a relevant note is that there are few proponents of the Solutrean theory, namely Bruce Bradley and Dennis Stanford. An essay that I believe is fairly representative of the general feelings on the subject in the archaeological community is Lawrence Guy Strauss' 2000 paper, "Solutrean Settlement of North America? A Review of Reality" (American Antiquity, Vol. 65, No. 2).

Thanks for your interest in my article. The Beringian idea for the Clovis technology has been thoroughly proven as faulty via the complete absence of Clovis points anywhere north of New Mexico and that includes Alaska/Siberia. Indeed microblades were the only stone technology in that direction. Clovis technology, however, is found to the east coast hence the comparison to Salutrian points which were close to identical to Clovis. Thanks again. Dalton"

I'm not certain what he means here by "Beringian idea for the Clovis technology." It was my understanding that most archaeologists feel Clovis to have originated in the Amrericas. However, the Beringian model of initial population of the New World has been in no way "thoroughly proven as faulty," and is still, in one form or another, the most generally accepted model. See wikipedia.org on the topic "Models of migration to the New World" for a pretty good summary of many of the models. The assertion that there is a "complete absence of Clovis points anywhere north of New Mexico" is incorrect. I know of several sites north of New Mexico, but to illustrate further, see Thomas Kehoe's 1966 article "The Distributions and Implications of Fluted Points in Saskatchewan" (American Antiquity, Vol. 31, No. 4).

***

A more active debate right now is the Pre-Clovis versus Clovis First positions, which are related to this. Many archaeologists now believe that the Americas may have been settled before the Late Glacial Maximum, meaning they would have been here pre-Clovis and that Clovis technology would have developed here. Although there are Palaeo-Indian sites in Alaska that have been reliably dated to about 11,000 BP, the overall lack of site evidence in northern latitudes makes Pre-Clovis theories problematic. The climatic conditions created by retreating glaciers (and thereby rising sea-levels) would have destroyed much of the potential evidence, both inland and along the coast.

For further reading on New World population models, see the following:
Martin, Paul S.
   1973 The Discovery of America. Science 179(4077): 969-974.
Hoffecker, John F.; W. Roger Powers; Ted Goebel
   1993 The Colonization of Beringia and the Peopling of the New World. Science 259(5091): 46-53.
Madsen, David B.
   2004 Colonization of the Americas before the Last Glacial Maximum: Issues and Problems. In Entering America:
   Northeast Asia and Beringia before the Last Glacial Maximum, edited by D.B. Madsen. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Lastly, I'd like to reemphasize my point in initiating this exchange. While the debate is interesting, and I hope that somebody will find my comments titillating enough to give the subject further consideration, my main concern is that room is left for debate. I'm sure Mr. Dalton did want to encourage thought on a very interesting topic, but I felt he should have made his attempt more carefully, giving the available theories and literature fair consideration.

Thank you allowing me to participate in the dialogue.

Jill Donald


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