Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pre Clovis Tools - American Archaeology and Earth Sciences

Science Friday had an entertaining talk with Michael Collins of Texas State University about the discovery of blades and spear points in Texas that pre date Clovis tools which are thought by many to represent the earliest people in the Americas.

From the transcript:

FLATOW: But why do you go deeper, where some other scientists might have stopped?

Dr. COLLINS: Well, we're working against an inertia, two inertias, really, that one has said for very many years that Clovis was the oldest culture in the Americas, at around 13,000 to 13,200 or 13,300 years ago. And some people haven't gotten over that, in spite of the fact for the last nearly 20 years we have had quite a few sites with strong indications of people being here before Clovis
And another thing - and that's improving. More and more people are accepting the concept or are at least willing to investigate it.

The other thing, the other inertia that we have, and it's also improving rapidly and greatly: American archaeology has - grew up in the social sciences. 

And not long ago, the vast majority of practicing archeologists in this country had very little background in the earth sciences and consequently didn't really think about the fact that okay, I have found cultural material here, I'm backing this excavation to Clovis, so that's the oldest culture, I'll just quit here, without thinking: You know, the dirt below that is just a little bit older. Why don't I look at that and see what's in it? There just wasn't that - that mindset was not particularly common. But happily, both of those things are changing for the better.

I find the stuff about the lack of earth sciences background hindering exploration a little hard to swallow. You don't need a background in earth sciences to motivate yourself to poke around in slightly older layers.

Just common sense..and perhaps overcoming the first inertia that a mainstream theory could be wrong.


  1. Good post, Suvrat.

    The "Clovis as oldest" paradigm has been eroding for a long time now. Dr. Collins is only partly right on this point: many people have looked deeper and many have wanted to topple the Clovis First paradigm. I've been skeptical of most specific examples -- not one seemed convincing in and of itself (Tupper, etc.), though the sheer number of proposed early sites was hard to ignore. The new Texas work has put me in the likely pre-Clovis camp.

    My question then is what does the Clovis event represent? It's a consistent appearance of a material culture across North America. A migration? A physical displacement of people? An osmosis of technology and lifestyle?

  2. Yes CM .. I've been reading about pre Clovis for some time now.. so was a bit surprised by Dr. Collins..thanks for the input.