Class Notes (1,200,000)
CA (650,000)
McMaster (50,000)
GEOG (1,000)

The poepling of the America's

Course Code
Walter Peace

of 3
The Peopling of the Americas
September 19, 2011
11:01 AM
1. What is "knowledge"?
1. What is a "fact"?
1. Where do facts and knowledge come from?
1. How does a fact become accepted as such in science/ social science?
1. Can the "facts" (and knowledge) change?
Fact: things certainly known to have occurred or to be true; what is true or
existents; reality
True: in accordance with fact or reality; not false or erroneous
Reality: the property of being real
Real: actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact
In thy face
I see the map of honor, truth, and loyalty
William Shakespeare
Human history- a history of migration, beginning 1.5 to 2 million years ago with
movement out of Africa into Europe, middle East; approx. 50,000 yrs. Ago,
movement into Australia
Questions about the first peoples in the Americas;
1. When did the first peoples arrive?
1. How did they get here (and from where)?
Native American oral history:
"There's nothing in our history that says we were beaten or chased away
from anywhere else, and we didn't chase anyone away to get here. We
were here." i.e. no tale of coming from else where
- quoted in Koppel, p12
Began nearly 2 million years ago
See Bone, ch. 2 Table 2.1 (Geological Time Chart)
Fig. 2.2 (Wisconsin Ice Sheet)
Most recent ice age- The Wisconsin-> began 100,000 years ago; reached max.
southerly extent = (approx.) 22, 000 yrs ago
Sea levels much lower, then as a result of melting ice, sea levels rise 100m or
more; one estimate; 860,000 km squared of late Pleistocene coastal plain now
under water
(Koppel, p. 73)
End of Wisconsin Ice Age-> 10-12,000 yrs ago
Migration from Siberia across "land bridge"; known as Beringa which connected
Asia to (present day) Alaska
Subsequent dispersal via "ice-free corridor" (Mackenzie Valley) into interior of
North America
What were the origins of this 'conventional' wisdom?
What alternative views (to the conventional wisdom) have emerged?
What is the validity/ credibility of the alternative views?
James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, primate of All Ireland determined
that Earth was created on Oct. 23, 4004 BC (i.e. Earth was less than 5000
years old)
Late 1700s
James Hutton ("Father of Geology") argued that the world was much older
than 5000 years- but how much older?
Charles Lyell published "Principles of Geology"
Louis Agassiz published "Study of glaciers" (knowledge of earth and
environmental processes began to influence understanding of how humans
populated all parts of the world including N.A. )
French archaeologist Jacques Boucher de Crevecoeur de Perthes -
evidence that humanity was much older than age suggested by the Bible
Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species"
Charles Lyell published "Geological Evidence for the Antiquity of
Prevailing belief- human presence in N.A. no more than 4,000-5,000 years
AlesHrdlieka (Herdlishka)- "America had been peopled by immigration from
Asia at the end of or shortly after the last ice age"
(in Koppel, p.99)
Folsom, New Mexico
Clovis, New Mexico
(Clovis First theory- Clovis older than Folsom - Big game hunters)
Late 1930s Clovis culture accepted as earliest signs of human habitation in the
New World
But how old? - best guess at that time 10, 000 years
1940s Radiocarbon dating techniques
Late 1960s "Clovis First" theory prevails and become the 'conventional wisdom'
Some Key Sites:
Evidence challenging the conventional wisdom:
Monte Verde, Chile -> dated 12, 5000 years old at which time Beringia blocked
by ice; possibly as old as 33,000 years (Thomas Dillehay)
Meadowcroft Rock Shelter, Penn. - radiocarbon dating of artifacts -> 19,000
years BP
Pendejo Cave, New Mexico- radiocarbon dating of charcoal = 19,180 years old;
earlier layer dated = 27, 800 years BP; lower strata possibly > 38,000 years BP
"…Evidence for the presence of humans before 12,900 to at least 38,000
years ago is overwhelming'
(Scotty MacNeish, 1991)
Who/ What are we to believe?
Where does the truth lie?
Possible Alternative Explanations:
Pre-Clovis Peoples migrated into lower reaches of N.A. before ice sheet
Coastal route (avoiding glacial ice); now submerged
NOTE: 12,000 years ago, sea levels, on avg. 90m lower than today
Travel from Australia/ Southeast Asia to South America by boat
Travel from Europe of southern edge of ice in North Atlantic (or by boat
across Atlantic)
What is the truth?
Where does the truth come from?
What will be the truth in 100 years?
In general:
What can we say with certainty?
What are reasonable speculations?
"if any consensus can be said to exist among archaeologists, it would be that
the earliest Americans were characterized by multiple origins and numerous
migrations; by this view, late Ice Age America may have been the original
melting pot."
Davis Hurst Thomas
Human artifacts found with Pleistocene animals