Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Search for Paleoindian Contexts in Florida and the Adjacent Southeast (pages 33- 37)

James S. Dunbar
Florida State University
pages 33-37

"After two decades of criticism, Alan Bryan, along with Tom Dillehay, welcomed the idea of outside site inspections as a means of gaining sound judgments of their South American sites. They hoped to sway opinions and gain the acceptance of Taima-Taima and Monte Verde as legitimate pre-Clovis sites. Learning of this, Vance Haynes began seeking sponsors. In an article in Natural History, Haynes noted that Bryan had openly invited such inquiry (Haynes 1988). In another attempt at funding, Haynes published brief note in Science magazine urging granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation to sponsor an investigative trip because “controversial yet important sites for understanding the peopling of the New World, such as Monte Verde, need independent verification” (Haynes 1989).

"The first volume on the findings at the Monte Verde site was published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in 1989. Dena Dincauze’s (1991) review of this volume (Dillehay 1989) pointed out that Dillehay’s effort did not present the archaeological findings, rather he detailed the site’s paleoenvironment, temporal, and site contexts. "The atypical kinds of data considered all contribute to the site a pervasive strangeness that only the data in the second volume can help allay. Dillehay is clearly aware of this problem; he notes that any ‘attempt to link Monte Verde to North American cultures or to derive a set of generalizations about early cultures from it strikes me as quixotic’"(Dincauze 1991). But that did not prevent Thomas Lynch (1990) from criticizing Monte Verde’s site integrity, age, and the potential for younger, Archaic artifacts to have settled in Paleoindian-age level. But Lynch’s criticism fell far short, a mistake often made by people who have not undertaken a critical field review. As David Meltzer noted, "[and] to Dillehay’s lament that only two archaeologists had responded to his invitation to visit Monte Verde during the excavation and see for themselves, Lynch growled: ‘If so many of us stayed away, it was in good part because we did not feel free to go and make our own observations’" (Meltzer 2009: 122). The need for funding a firsthand site inspection and evaluation was growing.

"The persistence of Vance Haynes and the willingness of Tom Dillehay led to a renewed funding search. Ultimately, the National Geographic Society and Dallas Museum of Natural Science co-sponsored a trip for nine outside Paleoindian specialists, the site investigators, and representatives from the funding agencies. They inspected the collections from Monte Verde housed at the University of Kentucky and Universidad Austral de Chile and traveled to the Monte Verde site for a site inspection during a weeklong expedition. Instrumental in this effort, Dave Meltzer observed that there were some who wondered if Monte Verde I, at ~33.0 ka 14C BP(~37.7 ka cal BP), represented a site, but "no one wanted to go there just yet" (Meltzer 2009: 125). By week’s end, the funding sponsors asked for a panel decision, which was unanimous.

"Monte Verde II was an archaeological site dating 14.6 ka cal BP. The preservation at the Monte Verde II site was superb. Visitors were able to see structural elements lashed with fiber cordage, bone, stone, and organic artifacts including imported and local food and medicinal resources (Dillehay 1997; Dillehay et al. 2008). As for the lithic projectile points, Michael Collins said, “Given the substantial ambiguity resident in existing typologies of lanceolate points and the lack of bases on the three Monte Verde specimens in question, it is not possible to make an absolute typological determination; however, it is with the El Jobo points (Bryan et al. 1978; Cruxent and Rouse 1956) that these three have morphological similarities as well as relative proximity in time and space, so an educated guess would be that they are likely of that type” (Collins 1997: 426).

"Nothing, however, has been decided regarding Monte Verde I, the 37,000 year old component with artifacts. It seems that archaeologists still don’t want to go there; Monte Verde I cannot be summarily dismissed, however. The group inspecting Monte Verde I agreed, as did Dillehay, that it is an extremely intriguing site with artifacts in what appear to be well-dated contexts. Nevertheless, Dillehay and the panel were in agreement that further excavation of the artifact-bearing level was needed (Meltzer et al. 1997). At the time, it seemed that it was far better to avoid having the age of the older component get in the way of the younger site’s pre-Clovis acceptance.

"The controversy about pre-Clovis sites such as Meadowcroft Rockshelter and, to a lesser degree, Monte Verde, did not go away. The argument over Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania need not be revisited here except to say that among the Paleoindian specialists who went to Monte Verde were Vance Haynes, a founder of Clovis First, and James Adovasio, principal investigator at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and by default a member of the pre-Clovis movement. On the last day, in a Chilean bar somewhere in Puerto Montt, a toast was proposed for the unanimous consensus that had just been reached, and to the christening of Monte Verde II as the first accepted pre-Clovis site in the Americas. While toasting, there was a toast mentioning Meadowcroft, not Monte Verde. Things went south after that including a falling out between Adovasio and Haynes (Meltzer 2009), but Monte Verde II was recognized as a legitimate pre-Clovis site in American Antiquity by its critics (Meltzer et al. 1997).

"Two years later, however, Clovis First versus pre-Clovis enmity reappeared in the press (Adovasio 1999; Anderson 1999; Bonnichsen 1999; Collins 1999; Dillehay et al. 1999; Fiedel 1999a; Haynes 1999; Meltzer 1999; Tankersley 1999; West 1999), just in time for the “Clovis and Beyond” Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Stuart Fidel debuted as heir apparent spokesman for the Clovis First paradigm with the tacit backing of Haynes (1999). As a group of students and their friends spelled out on t-shirts at the 1999 Society for American Archaeology meeting in Chicago, IL, one side of the shirts had “Clovis Police: Kickin ass and enforcing paradigms” and the other “Monte Verde Mafia: It used to be mammoth now it’s just personal.” Remembering this message, Gary Haynes stated in an article published just after the meeting:

Advocates of a very early, pre-Clovis human presence in the Americas possibly would argue that the skeptical standards that once were applied by the so-called “Clovis police” (also known as the “Clovis mafia”) —self-appointed enforcers of the rules of interpretation who maintained the status quo by keeping Clovis the first people in the New World—re irrelevant, because Monte Verde has been universally accepted in all its interpretations. However, it should be argued in response that even if the Clovis-first enforcers have disbanded, the standards of archeological interpretation must not be relaxed. Unsound interpretations are bad, no matter how many archeologists they may please; sound ones are good, no matter how few they satisfy (Haynes 2000: 265-266).

"Monte Verde has not fallen from grace and continued research has only served to strengthen its pre-Clovis placement (George et al. 2005).

"For years the Meadowcroft Rockshelter was debated and defended on many fronts and the fight for its acceptance as a pre-Clovis site included issues such as questions about contamination by coal dust and site repeatability, i.e., are their more Meadowcroft Rockshelterlike sites out there? Carbon contamination from coal dust was suspected of yielding anomalously old radiocarbon dates in levels that were much younger (Haynes 1980). Micro-morphological analysis of the proposed contaminated cave sediments showed there was no problem (Goldberg and Arpin 1999). Site repeatability, the other issue, asked if similar artifact assemblages existed, where were they? Adovasio began addressing this issue by pointing to a number of other nearby locations in the Cross Creek drainage that yielded surface-collected Miller complex artifacts. He felt the Miller complex represented an older-than-Clovis population in the upper Ohio Valley, and, possibly the Northeast (Adovasio et al. 1999; Adovasio and Pedler 2005: 26).

"Indications that Adovasio might be correct came with the discovery and investigation at the Cactus Hill site in Virginia. Like the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Cactus Hill had Miller or Miller-like points and yielded both radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates of comparable age below the Clovis level (Feathers et al. 2006; McAvoy and McAvoy 1997). Geoarchaeological investigations also showed that Cactus Hill had good site integrity (Wagner and McAvoy 2004). The most recent discovery of a pre-Clovis site comes from the Delmarva Peninsula at the Miles Point site in eastern Maryland where a Miller-like point and a microcore and blades similar to Cactus Hill have been found in 24.4 ka cal BP context (Lowery et al. 2010).

"Finally, the somewhat similar Page-Ladson points from Florida have been found at three sites: Page-Ladson, Wakulla Springs Lodge, and Half Mile Rise Sink. At Page-Ladson the early Paleoindian level is ~14.4 ka cal BP (Dunbar 2006b) and at the Wakulla Springs Lodge site, below the Clovis-like blade, the youngest possible age of that component is ~13.5 ka cal BP (Rink et al. 2011) with a median age similar to the Page-Ladson site.

"That eastern seaboard pre-Clovis sites have similar biface projectile points appears to be more than random chance (Stanford et al. 2005) and, as a writer for the journal Science distinguished them, “Clovis-lite” (Marshall 2001). Thus it appears that early sites along the eastern/southeastern Seaboard (including the northeastern Gulf Coast) are candidates to be the first recognized pre-Clovis ancestor in North America."

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