Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trading One Zombie Model for Another: Why I am Fed Up with the Beringia Standstill Model and the journals and conferences that don't consider alternatives

Marnie Dunsmore

As you can tell from the title, I am fed up with the fact that models that contest the Beringia Standstill Model[0] are not adequately funded or even considered.  I note that several very well funded DNA papers and archaeology papers have come out recently supporting the Beringia Standstill Model, while researchers that propose a Pre-Ice Age presence in North America are not adequately funded, or not funded at all, and are not published in "prominent" well funded journals such as Science.

Here are the reasons why alternatives to the Beringia Standstill Model should be more adequately funded and published:

1.  Speaking from the perspective of someone who grew up in Canada and who knows Canadian archaeologists working in areas at the southern end of the "Ice Free" corridor, posited to have been a path by which humans travelled to and from the Americas, I can attest to the fact that funding for Pre-Clovis archaeology in Canada is terrible to non-existent.  Many Paleaolithic archaeologists in Canada are trained in Europe, do their research primarily at European or Middle Eastern sites, and actively avoid research on Pre-Clovis archaeology.  They avoid the topic of Pre-Clovis archaeology in order to preserve their careers and not affront the now very well established cadre of Clovis First archaeologists, who again are mostly trained in Europe.  Archaeologists who attempt to publish Pre-Clovis results are often defunded and even pushed out of the field of archaeology.  This is especially the case in Western Canada.

2.  Known Pre-Clovis sites in Florida, in the Delmarva Peninsula, in Maryland, in Kansas, and in South and Central America should be better funded [1][2].  Funding is minimal and inadequate at many of these sites.

3.  The distribution of mitochondrial DNA haplogroups in the Americas, namely haplogroups A, B, C, and D, according to Behar[3], split from the mitochondrial tree earlier than 30,000 thousand years ago (before the last Ice Age).  Given the distribution for these haplogroups[4][5], it is equally likely that the branching of these mitochondrial haplogroups occurred in the Americas, as in Asia or Beringia. Given that Beringia and Siberia were cold, while many areas in the Americas were temperate [2], during the Ice Age, the likely expansion of the A, B, C and D haplogroups during the Ice Age was in the Americas south of the glaciers, not Beringia or Siberia (as proposed in the Beringia Standstill Model.)

4.  The Clovis First Model and the Beringia Standstill Model are at odds with the narratives of most Native Americans, who instead argue for a Pre-Age Age presence in the Americas.[7]

5.  There is ample evidence that Modern Humans were in Siberia and Beringia tens of thousands of years before the Ice Age.  Given that sea level data indicates that there were long periods before the Ice Age (when Modern Humans were in Beringia) when there was an easily walkable path from Beringia to Florida, to the American Central Plains, to the American East Coast and to points further south, it is highly improbable that highly mobile large game hunters over tens of thousands of years would not easily have moved back and forth between the Americas and Eastern Eurasia[5][8][9][10].

6. According to a recent paper, bison crossed between Asia and the Americas ∼195–135 thousand years ago and ∼45–21 thousand years ago during sea level lowstands[6].  If so, given that bison were a popular game animal for Modern Human Siberian Paleolithic hunters, it is highly improbably that they would not also have made the crossing from Siberia to the Americas ∼45 to ∼25 thousand years ago before the closing, due to the last glaciation, of the Ice Free Corridor running from the Canadian Yukon to the American Central Plains.

7.  Autosomal DNA studies indicate that populations in the Americas and Siberia became separated between 26,000 and 14,000 years ago.  This indicates that populations between the Americas and Eurasia were connected, likely by their long distance hunting strategies, and only became separated first by the glaciers starting 26,000 years ago, and second by the flooding of Beringia starting 14,000 years ago[5][10][11].

8.  Research on Pre-Clovis sites, especially sites older than 18,000 years, has been actively suppressed for decades.  A recent article by Canadian journalist Heather Pringle  discusses how evidence of an archaeological date of 24,000 years before present  at the Bluefish Cave site in the Canadian Yukon was suppressed for over twenty years.  Prominent archaeologist Cinq-Mars was marginalized [12].  Heather describes the broader implications of these scientific blockades, which can leave dysfunctional and unsupportable "zombie models" in place for decades. The Beringia Standstill Model is simply another "zombie model" and a very cautious retreat by Clovis First supporters to avoid the possibility of Modern Humans being in the Americas at a time frame that is contemporaneous with them establishing themselves in Europe approximately 45,000 years ago.

I note that prominent conferences such at the Paleoanthropology Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia at the end of March (by the way, to be held on never ceded Salish territory in downtown Vancouver), continue to entertain papers supporting only the Beringia Standstill model, but not alternatives.  Given the weight of evidence, this cannot be seen as objective, and the unlevel funding supporting the Beringia Standstill Model can only be seen as another example of formerly Clovis First too cozy ancient DNA researchers, archaeologists, and their supporters, feeding at the trough.

Paleoanthropology Society
2017 Annual Meeting

March 28 and 29
Vancouver Hyatt Regency
Program (pdf)

Distribution of site specific papers and posters:
Africa: 38
China: 1
Australia: 1
Europe and SW Asia: 24
Central Asia: 1
Beringia Standstill Model: 1
America Paleoanthropology (South of Beringia): 0

Note that many of the papers presented on Europe and Africa are from the Upper Paleolithic and are contemporaneous with dates on sites in the Americas that are not presented at this conference.  The National Science Foundation runs this conference and is therefore directly responsible for the lack of inclusion of American sites in its conference.

Mark Collard, an author of several papers on Neanderthals at this conference, is the Chair of Canadian Evolutionary Studies and Professor of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia.  He was trained in the United Kingdom.  None of his research focuses on the Americas before the Paleoindian period 13,000 years ago.  He was supervised by Professor Bernard Wood.


[0] Tamm et al., Beringia Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders, PLOS One, September 5th, 2007.

[1] Jonathan C. Lothrop, Darrin Lowery, Arthur E. Spiess, Christopher Ellis, Early Human Settlement of Northeastern North America, PaleoAmerica, 2:3, pp. 192-251, 04 Oct 2016.

[2] James S. Dunbar, The Search for Paleoindian Contexts in Florida and the Adjacent Southeast, PhD Thesis, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 2012.

[3] Behar et al, A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root, American Journal of Human Genetics, 90(4): 675–684, 2012 Apr 6.

[4] Roberta Estes, New Native American Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups, DNAeXplained Blog, March 2, 2017.

[5] Wong et al., Reconstructing Genetic History of Siberian and Northeastern European Populations, BioRxiv, December, 2016.

[6] Froese et al., Fossil and genomic evidence constrains the timing of bison arrival in North America, PNAS, February 3, 2017.

[7] Paulette Steeves, Decolonizing the Past and Present of the Western Hemisphere (The Americas), Archaeologies, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 42–69, April 2015.

[8] Liu et al., The earliest unequivocally modern humans in southern China, Nature, Volume: 526, Pages:  696–699, 29 October 2015.

[9] Mietje Germonpré , Sergey Fedorov, Petr Danilov, Patrik Galeta, Elodie-Laure Jimenez, Mikhail Sablin, Robert J. Losey, Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 78, 2017.

[10] Raghevan et al., Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans, Science , 21 Jul 2015.

[11] Eelco J. Rohling, Robert Marsh, Neil C. Wells, Mark Siddall, Neil R. Edwards, Similar meltwater contributions to glacial sea level changes from Antarctic and northern ice sheets, Nature, 430, 1016-1021, 26 August 2004.

[12] Heather Pringle, From Vilified to Vindicated: the Story of Jacques Cinq-Mars, Takai Magazine, March 7th, 2017.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Small Number Counts to 100: Blackfoot

Small Number Counts To 100: English

Reconstructing genetic history of Siberian and Northeastern European populations

Emily H.M. Wong, Andrey Khrunin, Larissa Nichols, Dmitry Pushkarev, Denis Khokhrin, Dmitry Verbenko, Oleg Evgrafov, James Knowles, John Novembre, Svetlana Limborska and Anton Valouev
Genome Research
December 13, 2016


Siberia and Northwestern Russia are home to over 40 culturally and linguistically diverse indigenous ethnic groups, yet genetic variation and histories of peoples from this region are largely uncharacterized. We present deep whole-genome sequencing data (∼38×) from 28 individuals belonging to 14 distinct indigenous populations from that region. We combined these data sets with additional 32 modern-day and 46 ancient human genomes to reconstruct genetic histories of several indigenous Northern Eurasian populations. We found that Siberian and East Asian populations shared 38% of their ancestry with a 45,000-yr-old Ust’-Ishim individual who was previously believed to have no modern-day descendants. Western Siberians trace 57% of their ancestry to ancient North Eurasians, represented by the 24,000-yr-old Siberian Mal'ta boy MA-1. Eastern Siberian populations formed a distinct sublineage that separated from other East Asian populations ∼10,000 yr ago. In addition, we uncovered admixtures between Siberians and Eastern European hunter-gatherers from Samara, Karelia, Hungary, and Sweden (from 8000–6600 yr ago); Yamnaya people (5300–4700 yr ago); and modern-day Northeastern Europeans. Our results provide new insights into genetic histories of Siberian and Northeastern European populations and evidence of ancient gene flow from Siberia into Europe.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Early Human Settlement of Northeastern North America

Jonathan C. Lothrop, Darrin L. Lowery, Arthur E. Spiess, Christopher J. Ellis
2:3, 192-251
04 Oct 2016


This paper summarizes current evidence for earliest human occupation of northeastern North America during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. We review evolution of the region’s landscapes and evidence of archaeological chronologies as context for understanding human settlement of the region. Current data support limited evidence for pre-Clovis occupation south of the Laurentide glacial margin, followed by a significant temporal gap prior to early Paleoindian settlement of the region. Despite differences in subregional data sets, mapping of site distributions and assemblage data do support the notion of variation in lifeways between Paleoindian populations occupying formerly glaciated parts of the Northeast in the late Pleistocene, versus contemporary groups in lands south of the Laurentide glacial margin. Through time, the greatest differences in Paleoindian land use and technology occur between the Younger Dryas and early Holocene.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kainai Dogs

Kainai Dogs, Southern Alberta, 1910, Provincial Archives of Alberta, from the Harry Pollard fonds, P54.

Palaeolithic and prehistoric dogs and Pleistocene wolves from Yakutia: Identification of isolated skulls

Mietje Germonpré , Sergey Fedorov, Petr Danilov, Patrik Galeta, Elodie-Laure Jimenez, Mikhail Sablin, Robert J. Losey
Journal of Archaeological Science
Vol. 78, 2017

Fig. 1. Map of northern Eurasia with the most important sites discussed in the text: 1: Badyarikha River, 2: Tirekhtyakh River, 3: Ulakhan Sular, 4: Malyia Lyakhovsky Island, 5: Razboinichya cave, 6: Shamanka, 7: Berelekh, 8: Nikita lake site, 9: Dyuktai Cave, 10: Afontova Gora, 11: Verholenskaya Gora, 12: Ust’Khaita, 13: Ushki, 14: Zhokov Island, 15: Kostienki, 16: Mezhirich, 17: Mezin, 18: Eliseevichi, 19: P redmostí, 20: Goyet, 21: Trou des Nutons, 22: Maldidier, 23: Anabar District (map: OpenStreetMap).


Four isolated canid skulls from four sites (Badyarikha River, Tirekhtyakh River, Ulakhan Sular, Malyi Lyakhovsky Island) in the Sakha Republic of northern Siberia are here described. Three specimens date from the Pleistocene and range in age from more than 50,000 years to about 17,200 years old, the fourth specimen is about 950 years old. The Yakutian canid skulls are compared with Palaeolithic dogs, recent Northern dogs, Pleistocene wolves and recent Northern wolves by multivariate analyses of standardized cranial measurements in order to determine with which reference group they have the closest affinity. These analyses permitted to identify the Tirekhtyakh River specimen as a Pleistocene wolf. The Ulakhan Sular specimen resembles the Palaeolithic dogs and the Malyi Lyakhvosky specimen the recent Northern dogs. The Badyarikha River skull falls in between groups. The archaeological implications of the presence of ancient canid specimens resembling Palaeolithic and early dogs in arctic northeast Asia are discussed.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

From Vilified to Vindicated: the Story of Jacques Cinq-Mars

While excavating at Bluefish Caves in northern Yukon during the 1970s and 1980s, Canadian archaeologist Cinq-Mars found cut-marked horse bones and other traces of human hunters that seemed to date to 24,000 years ago—thousands of years before the Clovis people. Photo by Ruth Gotthardt

Heather Pringle
Hakai Magazine   
Published March 7, 2017

"What I remember most about Jacques Cinq-Mars the first time we met was his manner—one part defiance, one part wariness. It was 1994, and I had just flown into the small village of Old Crow in northern Yukon; Cinq-Mars was waiting in the tiny airport. Tall, grizzled, and unshaven, the French-Canadian archaeologist looked every bit the old Yukon hand. Still fit in his early 50s, he worked as a curator at what is now called the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. But Cinq-Mars lived for summer fieldwork, combing Yukon riverbanks and rock shelters for traces of Ice Age hunters. In three hollows known as the Bluefish Caves, he and his team had discovered something remarkable—the bones of extinct horses and wooly mammoths bearing what seemed to be marks from human butchering and toolmaking. Radiocarbon test results dated the oldest finds to around 24,000 years before the present.

"Bluefish Caves directly challenged mainstream scientific thinking. Evidence had long suggested that humans first reached the Americas around 13,000 years ago, when Asian hunters crossed a now submerged landmass known as Beringia, which joined Siberia to Alaska and Yukon during the last ice age. From there, the migrants seemed to have hurried southward along the edges of melting ice sheets to warmer lands in what is now the United States, where they and their descendants thrived. Researchers called these southern hunters the Clovis people, after a distinctive type of spear point they carried. And the story of their arrival in the New World became known as the Clovis first model.

"Cinq-Mars, however, didn’t buy that story—not a bit. His work at Bluefish Caves suggested that Asian hunters roamed northern Yukon at least 11,000 years before the arrival of the Clovis people. And other research projects lent some support to the idea. At a small scattering of sites, from Meadowcroft in Pennsylvania to Monte Verde in Chile, archaeologists had unearthed hearths, stone tools, and butchered animal remains that pointed to an earlier migration to the Americas. But rather than launching a major new search for more early evidence, the finds stirred fierce opposition and a bitter debate, “one of the most acrimonious—and unfruitful—in all of science,” noted the journal Nature. Cinq-Mars, however, was not intimidated. He fearlessly waded into the fight. Between 1979 and 2001, he published a series of studies on Bluefish Caves.

"It was a brutal experience, something that Cinq-Mars once likened to the Spanish Inquisition. At conferences, audiences paid little heed to his presentations, giving short shrift to the evidence. Other researchers listened politely, then questioned his competence. The result was always the same. “When Jacques proposed [that Bluefish Caves was] 24,000, it was not accepted,” says William Josie, director of natural resources at the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow. In his office at the Canadian Museum of History, Cinq-Mars fumed at the wall of closed minds. Funding for his Bluefish work grew scarce: his fieldwork eventually sputtered and died.

"Today, decades later, the Clovis first model has collapsed. Based on dozens of new studies, we now know that pre-Clovis people slaughtered mastodons in Washington State, dined on desert parsley in Oregon, made all-purpose stone tools that were the Ice Age version of X-acto blades in Texas, and slept in sprawling, hide-covered homes in Chile—all between 13,800 and 15,500 years ago, possibly earlier. And in January, a Université de Montréal PhD candidate, Lauriane Bourgeon, and her colleagues published a new study on Bluefish Caves bones in the journal PLOS One, confirming that humans had butchered horses and other animals there 24,000 years ago. “It was a huge surprise,” says Bourgeon.

"The new findings, says Quentin Mackie, an archaeologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia who was not a member of the team, are prompting the first serious discussion of Bluefish Caves—nearly 40 years after its excavation. “This report will tilt the scales for some [archaeologists] towards accepting the site, and for some more, it will inspire a desire to really evaluate the caves more seriously and either generate new data or try to replicate this study,” Mackie notes.

"But the study also raises serious questions about the effect of the bitter decades-long debate over the peopling of the New World. Did archaeologists in the mainstream marginalize dissenting voices on this key issue? And if so, what was the impact on North American archaeology? Did the intense criticism of pre-Clovis sites produce a chilling effect, stifling new ideas and hobbling the search for early sites? Tom Dillehay, an archaeologist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and the principal investigator at the Chilean site of Monte Verde, thinks the answer is clear. The scientific atmosphere, recalls Dillehay, was “clearly toxic and clearly impeded science.”

(read more)

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."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Search for Paleoindian Contexts in Florida and the Adjacent Southeast (pages 27-28)

James S. Dunbar
Florida State University
pages 27-28

"While pre-Clovis contenders have been identified in Florida, other site are scattered along the eastern Atlantic Coast from Virginia to Florida. Important pre-Clovis sites outside Florida include Cactus Hill (44SX202)(Feathers et al. 2006; McAvoy and McAvoy 1997; Wagner and McAvoy 2004), Miles Point site (18TA365) on the western Delmarva Peninsula (Lowery et al. 2010), and the Topper site (38AL23) in South Carolina (Goodyear 1999). The Atlantic seaboard sites are yielding dates assignable to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM as occurring from 26.5 to 19.0 ka cal BP see Clark et al. 2009) yet they do not represent the oldest sites with artifacts and faunal remains.

"Perhaps the oldest pre-Clovis site contender in North America is the Burnham site (34WO73) in northwestern Oklahoma. The site yielded the fossil remains of Bison chaneyi in association with 52 debitage flakes, a biface fragment, a flake tool and large chert cobble (Buehler 2003). According to the most recent interpretation of the site the bison remains and related stone artifacts date from about 43.0 ka cal to 34.5 ka cal BP with a median age of 39 ka cal BP (Wyckoff et al. 2003). Biostratigraphically Bison chaneyi is the correct form of bison for this temporal placement. Bison chaneyi is the descendant of Bison latifrons and progenitor of the late Pleistocene, Clovis-age Bison antiquus. Although an attempt to conduct uranium series radiometric dating failed, the site’s excellent organic preservation allowed age determination to be made by radiocarbon and ESR methods. These assays place the age of the site prior to the LGM during Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS-3) around 39 ka cal BP (Wyckoff 1999; Wyckoff and Carter 1994).

"The Burnham site is controversial because of its age, but the depth of the site’s burial, the cluster of artifacts surrounding the bison remains (but nowhere else above, below, or laterally adjacent to the remains), as well as the species of bison that matches the expected bio- and chronometric stratigraphy is difficult to reject. The Burnham site, similar to Monte Verde I in Chile, dates prior to the LGM (Dillehay and Collins 1988), and should not be dismissed, though additional sites and context studies will be needed before such an early age for Paleoindian in the Americas will be considered for acceptance (Meltzer 2009). In Florida the Latvis-Simpson site (8JE1617) in the Little River Section of the Aucilla River has the remains of a mastodon with three statistically related radiocarbon dates (Mihlbachler et al. 2002) that average 35,872 ±606  cal BP. Sediment samples collected from the profile wall of the excavation has yielded a single debitage flake from the MIS-3 mastodon level (Hemmings 2010). Given these data, just how far back in time the Paleoindian occupation of Florida extends is, and should be, an open question."