The Clovis people, known for their distinctive spear points, likely were not the first humans in the Americas, according to research placing their presence as more recent than previously believed.
Using advanced radiocarbon dating techniques, researchers writing in the journal Science on Thursday said the Clovis people, hunters of large Ice Age animals like mammoths and mastodons, dated from about 13,100 to 12,900 years ago.
That would make the Clovis culture, known from artifacts discovered at various sites including the town of Clovis, New Mexico, both younger and shorter-lived than previously thought. Previous estimates had dated the culture to about 13,600 years ago.
These people long had been seen as the first humans in the New World, but the new dates suggest their culture thrived at about the same time or after others also in the Americas.
Michael Waters, director of Texas A&M University’s Center for the Study of the First Americans, called the research the final nail in the coffin of the so-called “Clovis first” theory of human origins in the New World.
Waters said he thinks the first people probably arrived in the Americas between 15,000 and 25,000 years ago.
The theory has been that the Clovis people first migrated out of northeast Asia across the Bering land bridge from Siberia into Alaska and traveled through a ice-free corridor into North America, populating that continent while their descendants journeyed into South America.
The Clovis complex is considered to be the oldest unequivocal evidence of humans in the Americas, dating between 11,500 and 10,900 radiocarbon years before the present (14C yr B.P.). Adjusted 14C dates and a reevaluation of the existing Clovis date record revise the Clovis time range to 11,050 to 10,800 14C yr B.P. In as few as 200 calendar years, Clovis technology originated and spread throughout North America. The revised age range for Clovis overlaps non-Clovis sites in North and South America. This and other evidence imply that humans already lived in the Americas before Clovis.
1 Departments of Anthropology and Geography, Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University, 4352 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4352, USA.
2 Stafford Research Laboratories, 200 Acadia Avenue, Lafayette, CO 80026, USA.