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No. 125: Sep-Oct 1999

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The Power Of A Paradigm

Powerful paradigms can stifle scientific research. The truth of this has become apparent at the Topper archeological site near Allendale, South Carolina. The dig was discovered back in 1981 when a local man, named Topper, led A. Goodyear (from the University of South Carolina) to a deposit of side-notched chert points. These artifacts are similar to 10,000-year-old points found elsewhere. Nothing anomalous so far! At depths of 80-100 centimeters, Goodyear came across fluted blanks from which the classic and distinctive Clovis points could be manufactured. This was the culmination of the dig; the archeologists picked up their trowels and headed for other sites. Why? Simply because everyone knew that there were no North American artifacts older than Clovis points. Dated at

10,800-11,200 radiocarbon years, Clovis points supposedly marked the earliest arrival of humans in the Americas. Digging deeper at the Topper site would have been a waste of time.

In 1998, however, Goodyear had second thoughts. This was the time when the nothing-older-than-Clovis paradigm was being challenged by finds at Monte Verde, Chile. (SF#120) Goodyear decided to take his trowels back to the Topper site.

"After some 40 cm of essentially barren deposits, the excavators began finding small flakes and microtools. The lower level, exposed over 28 square meters, has yielded some 1,000 waste flakes, 15 microtools (mostly microblades), and a pile of 20 chert pebbles plus four possible quartz hammerstones."

Goodyear thinks that chert pebbles were being processed at Topper 12,000-20,000 years ago. Apparently, North America has its own Monte Verdes!

(Anonymous; "Pre-Clovis Surprise," Archaeology, 52:18, July/August 1999.)

Comment. Shouldn't Goodyear keep on digging at Topper? Should we be satisfied with Relativity, the Big Bang, Plate Tectonics, Neo-Darwinism, etc.?

A Clovis fluted point A Clovis fluted point. The digging stops here!

From Science Frontiers #125, SEP-OCT 1999. 1999-2000 William R. Corliss