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No. 112: Jul-Aug 1997

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We've Known It All Along!

An archeologist really risks his or her reputation if he or she suggests that the Americas were peopled before 12,000 years ago. At least that's the way it was until early 1997, when a select "jury" of a dozen skeptical archeologists visited the Monte Verde site in southern Chile. There, T. Dillehay, made his case for a culture that preceded North America's Clovis culture by at least 1,000 years. Monte Verde artifacts go back at least to 12,500 years before the present. The Monte Verde tour, backed by two very detailed reports, convinced some of the most obstinate skeptics. The "jury" was "in," and the Clovis culture was "out," at least as being the first New World culture.

Naturally, some still-skeptical archeologists bristled at the suggestion that a "jury" could decide for them. [But isn't that the way science always works?] Regardless, the once formidable 12,000year barrier now seems to have been officially breached.

The Monte Verde dates imply either:

  1. The Bering land bridge, thousands of miles to the north, was crossed a few millennia before 12,500 BP, or
  2. The Monte Verde people arrived by some other route, perhaps by ship!

(Wilford, John Noble; "Human Presence in Americas Is Pushed Back a Millennium," New York Times, February 11, 1997. Cr. M. Colpitts. Also: Meltzer, David J.; "Monte Verde and the Pleistocene Peopling of the Americas," Science, 276:754, 1997.)

Comment. Two delicious ironies emerge from this archeological turning point:

  1. The "We knew it all along" phase of the paradigm shift has appeared. K. Butzer, University of Texas, said that Monte Verde has been "uncontroversial" for some time. But it was only in 1990 that the "Clovis Police" insisted that the 12,000-year barrier be moved back to 11,500 years. (SF#72/22)
  2. T. Dillehay, champion of the antiquity of Monte Verde, is one of the main critics of N. Guidon's dating of Brazil's Pedra Furada site at 50,000 years. (SF#108) Yet, Dillehay's team is finding dates that seem to be over 33,000 years just 70 meters from the Monte Verde 12,500-year dig.

From Science Frontiers #112, JUL-AUG 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss