The dominant theory in American migration studies for the past several decades has been that the Clovis were the first people cross into the New World from Asia during the last ice age about 13,500 BCE. A few months ago I posted about the Lapa Do Santo petroglyph discovered in Brazil in 2009. It was dated to about 9,000-12,000 years ago, making it the oldest petroglyph found in South America (read more about it here). Discoveries like this have caused disagreements with the Clovis first theory.
There have been several sites which initially were dated to far earlier than Clovis, but quite often the dating is contested. Such as the Chilean Monte Verde site. This site is older than any known Clovis site and is also much further south. The speed and ease with which people were able to migrate is also debated.
It finally appears that a significant number of American archaeologists, lagging behind their S. American and European counterparts, have accepted that the Clovis were most likely not the first people to migrate to the New World.
There have been several articles lately discussing this dismissing of ‘Clovis first’. Both Archaeology Magazine and the New York Times report about the Buttermilk Creek site in central Texas which predates Clovis:
There, in perfect stratigraphical alignment, archaeologists found the remains of tools left behind by different Archaic period hunter-gatherers sitting above those of various Paleoindian cultures. The team believes the oldest layer, containing 20,000 pieces made of chert, a sedimentary rock—with roughly 100 discernable tools such as blades, choppers, and end scrapers—dates to 15,500 years ago, 2,500 years before
The assemblage found at Buttermilk Creek does not resemble those at several previously found pre-Clovis sites, such as the 14,500-year-old tools from Monte Verde in southern Chile. Its incorporation of bifacial and bladelet technology does recall Clovis culture, suggesting a lineage between the two. “There’s a logical expectation that somewhere in North America we are going to find something that can be called proto-Clovis,” says Stuart Fiedel, an archaeologist at the Louis Berger Group in Richmond, Virginia. Source: Nikhil Swaminathan, Archaeology Magazine.
Agreeing that the were Clovis most likely were not the first people to have migrated to America, this doesn’t mean that archaeologists have come up with any definitive answers yet. In fact, the mystery has enlarged because the puzzle has just broken into more pieces. We still aren’t sure who the Clovis people really were, let alone who preceded them. Material evidence and genetic studies hold the key to this mystery, if only we can find enough of it.