Early Holocene Hunter-Gatherers I
November 7 , 2013
Pleistocene – Ice Ages
Pleistocene – 2,000,000 to 12,000 ya
◦ Several Ice Ages in the Pleistocene
Most recent Ice Age:
◦ Weichsel glaciation (Wisconsin in North America) – ca. 115,000 - 12,000 ya
◦ alternating periods of extreme cold (glaciers advance) and warming (glaciers
◦ most recent advance – 20,000 - 12,000 ya
A Sense of Scale?
During Ice Age, much water remains on land, in form of ice, and is removed from the
Ice thickness in southern Ontario around 20,000 years ago
◦ 2000 meters
◦ 553 meters
Impacts of Glacial Conditions
Glaciers push out and kills off plants, animals, fish which lived in the area
◦ Change the conditions for human adaptation
Ocean level drops, exposing ocean bed as dry land
◦ land bridges form between continents (Sunda, Sahul, Beringia)
Major influence on human populations
Where did the native peoples of the Americas come from?
First Nations Perspectives
◦ Have occupied the land since mythological times (“time immemorial”)
Archaeology / Biological Anthropology
◦ Most evidence points to an origin in northeastern Asia
Possibly a common ancestor with the modern Ainu and Kitchak peoples of
Japan and Siberia
◦ moved from NE Asia into Alaska via Bering Strait(?)
Route of Access to North America?
Bering Strait: exposed land from 25,000 to 12,000 ya
◦ land connection between Asia and North America
◦ ~ 1000 km north to south
◦ low and flat, for the most part, and covered with bogs and shallow lakes ◦ http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Beringia_land_bridge-
Humans in Beringia
probably crossed Beringia in small groups, slowly following food sources
◦ Lived for many generations in Beringia
◦ Probably moved back and forth between Asia and North America, following
herds of caribou or horse
◦ Wintered in sheltered areas or in boreal forests of the mainlands
There are only so many ways into North America.
◦ Ice Free Corridor / Clovis First
◦ Coastal Migration
Others have suggested non-Beringia routes:
◦ Atlantic Crossing
Can be examined through: archaeological, environmental, biological, and linguistic data
The Ice-Free Corridor / Clovis First Hypothesis
End of Pleistocene – Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets separated along the eastern
slope of the Rocky Mountains
◦ “Ice-Free Corridor” from Alaska to Montana
Clovis Paleo-Indians – First Occupants of North America
◦ Moved south into North America through this corridor
Named for the Clovis Site, New Mexico
Identified by Clovis points
◦ Large (7 - 15 cm long) point, with comparatively short flutes extending 1/4 to 1/2
the length of the tool. Mostly worked by percussion flaking.
Associated with remains of mammoth
Example: The Colby Mammoth Site
Four Clovis points
Bones of at least seven Columbian mammoths
Three radiocarbon dates on mammoth bones: two within Clovis range (11,000 - 10,000
BP) + one far too recent.
Changing Perspectives on Clovis
Most archaeologists now feel that fluted points were invented in the southern Plains
◦ Appear and end at about the same time across North America
◦ No real evidence of a gradual development
There are no known fluted points, let alone fluted point traditions, in Asia.
Fluted points are uncommon in the North ◦ Quite late compared with those of the Plains.
A number of purported pre-Clovis sites are known
◦ such sites challenge the Clovis First hypothesis.
Most of these sites turned out to be rife with problems, and have not been widely
Excavated by James Adovasio
Radiocarbon dates of 13,230 BP and perhaps as old as 19,000 BP.
over 2,000 stone flakes and tools, 150 fire pits and 1 million animal remains.
Coal in the area
contaminated the radiocarbon samples?
Most archaeologists believe the date to be closer to 12,000 -12,500 BP and related to
But, good possibilities of at least a small pre-Clovis occupation.
Dated to 50,000 BP.
Thousands of flaked stone tools.
Bottom of exfoliating cliff face.
Skeptics argue flakes are “ecofacts” not artifacts.
Not widely accepted.
Excavated by Tom Dillehay
Numerous radiocarbon dates as old as 14,000 BP and many around 12,000-12,500 BP.