Skip to comments.Archaeologist says Va. bolsters claim on how people got to America [ Solutrean ]
Posted on 05/10/2006 10:09:18 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
The Smithsonian archaeologist pursuing the contentious claim that ancient Europeans fleeing the Ice Age settled in America says artifacts unearthed in the Chesapeake Bay region support his theory. Smithsonian Institution curator of archaeology Dennis Stanford argues that about 18,000 years ago, Solutrean hunters from the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal followed seals and other marine mammals for their fur, food and fuel across a partially frozen north Atlantic Ocean to the New World... "Pre-Clovis is a fact in North and South America," archaeologist Michael Collins of the University of Texas at Austin said this year at a symposium on the topic... Pre-Clovis culture represents a transition between Solutrean and Clovis cultures, according to Stanford. Not only do the pre-Clovis sites fill the time gap, but they are conveniently located near the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America, he noted. The Solutrean people lived about 16,000 to 22,000 years ago, during the height of European glaciation. They lived in protected coves in southwestern France and coastal Spain and Portugal that they left in the fall and winter. Stanford says Solutrean cave art in northern Spain appears to depict speared seals, although other scientists disagree.
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Archaeologist says Va. bolsters claim on how people got to America
BY A.J. HOSTETLER
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
May 11, 2006
The Smithsonian archaeologist pursuing the contentious claim that ancient Europeans fleeing the Ice Age settled in America says artifacts unearthed in the Chesapeake Bay region support his theory.
Smithsonian Institution curator of archaeology Dennis Stanford argues that about 18,000 years ago, Solutrean hunters from the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal followed seals and other marine mammals for their fur, food and fuel across a partially frozen north Atlantic Ocean to the New World.
"Through such activities they ended up . . . along the exposed continental shelf of North America discovering a new land," he and colleague Bruce Bradley write.
Numerous scientists vigorously dispute the "Solutrean Solution" theory, saying Stanford lacks physical evidence, even as the notion that Stone Age humans arrived in the Americas in a massive colonizing wave across the Bering Strait is losing traction.
Stanford says his "testable model" rests at least in part on recent findings of early human settlements along the East Coast, including one possibly 17,000 years old along Virginia's Nottoway River called Cactus Hill.
That's long before the once-accepted but now questioned time frame of humanity's arrival in the Americas roughly 11,500 years ago. Those early Americans were a culture of hunters called Clovis, named for the New Mexico town where distinctive thin, sharp stone points were found. How the points were carved or flaked and attached to wooden spears can tell archaeologists about the people who made them.
Link to Europe
In the past two decades, however, scientists have unearthed points and other material they say are older and different at sites in Virginia, the Delmarva peninsula, western Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Florida and South America. Some suggest that means there were humans here before the Clovis culture; Stanford says those humans could represent a link to Europe.
"Pre-Clovis is a fact in North and South America," archaeologist Michael Collins of the University of Texas at Austin said this year at a symposium on the topic.
Collins, Stanford and others discussed alternatives to the theory that the Americas were populated via the Bering land bridge. Some climate records suggest the glaciers that once formed a bridge between Siberia and Alaska began receding more than 13,000 years ago, too early for the Clovis-first theory.
Alternatives put forth in the past few years suggest that instead of trekking across land and ice, humans used boats or perhaps even ice floes to move thousands of miles from one continent to another.
Based on sites along the Pacific coast of the Americas, some archaeologists suggest seafarers from Asia took a Pacific Rim route more than 12,000 years ago to the West Coast and then sailed south, following marine life.
"This whole Clovis and pre-Clovis debate is healthy for archaeology," said Mike Barber, Virginia's new state archaeologist. "Now we have a plethora of competing theories."
He said Stanford's Solutrean theory deserves consideration.
To explain the arrival of humans along the East Coast at the end of the last Ice Age, Stanford in 1999 resurrected the controversial theory that paleo-Europeans may have entered the New World thousands of years before Leif Eriksson or Christopher Columbus.
To Stanford, the Clovis tool technology that creates a leaf-shaped point appears derived from the European Solutrean culture, which featured laurel or willow-shaped spear points developed thousands of years earlier in Spain. He discounts the thick-bodied style of northeast Asian points as the progenitor of Clovis' slender points.
Stanford notes growing evidence that several sites on the East Coast, including the Cactus Hill site, and others in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Florida pre-date the Clovis time period.
Pre-Clovis culture represents a transition between Solutrean and Clovis cultures, according to Stanford. Not only do the pre-Clovis sites fill the time gap, but they are conveniently located near the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America, he noted.
The Solutrean people lived about 16,000 to 22,000 years ago, during the height of European glaciation. They lived in protected coves in southwestern France and coastal Spain and Portugal that they left in the fall and winter.
Stanford says Solutrean cave art in northern Spain appears to depict speared seals, although other scientists disagree.
Stanford believes that Solutrean hunters chased seals and other foods from their European beachside homes to the New World. Millions of seals even now live along the coast of the North Atlantic. The populations of Canadian and European seals meet off the coast of Greenland, he said.
"I wonder if I were sitting on the coast of Spain 19,000 years ago wondering where the next meal would be, [and] the wind blew the ice in and I saw 4 million harp seals, I think I know where the next meal would be," Stanford said.
During that cold period when sea levels were lower, the ice extending south from the Arctic was probably close to the Iberian coast, he said. In warmer times, it retreated north about 500 miles, enticing hunters and their families in the summer to follow the seals and other marine life by boat.
Once on the hunt, the prevailing ocean current would sweep the Solutrean people westward. The distance across this ice bridge would have been about 1,500 miles, much closer than it is today. The trip might have been accomplished in just a few weeks.
"You could actually get a whole bunch of people washing up on the shore of Nova Scotia," Stanford said, noting that boats such as those used by modern Inuits could have made the crossing. "You get three boats like this working along the edge of that ice and they kind of end up going to America and you get a viable population."
From Canada, the Solutrean people may have made their way south to the Hudson Valley region, then to the mid-Atlantic, Stanford said.
"We've started looking on the [Chesapeake] Bay," he said.
Solutrean people probably stayed close to what was then the coastline. "I think that's why we start seeing a lot of this pre-Clovis stuff right about Delaware, Maryland and then down into Virginia, the Carolinas and Florida.
"This is only an hypothesis," Stanford said, adding, "I'm beating the bandwagon and making these comparisons to Spain, which has got people upset."
One of those upset is anthropologist Lawrence G. Straus of the University of New Mexico. A specialist in the Upper Paleolithic era in western Europe, he questions that if the Solutrean people made it to the East Coast, where did they go? He sees no sign that they passed on to pre-Clovis humans their highly artistic culture or their tool-making abilities, and little sign that they passed on their genes.
Straus also disputes Stanford's marine drawings. He says that while Solutrean people ate marine animals such as shellfish and used harpoons, they did not hunt seals in boats.
Instead, Straus says it is more likely that peopling of the Americas began not across the North Atlantic but from the west through Beringia, and that "people faced with roughly similar situations . . . come up with very similar [technological] solutions."
Another of Stanford's most vocal critics is Stuart Fiedel, an archaeologist with the Louis Berger Group in Washington specializing in the pre-history of the eastern United States.
To change his mind, he says, someone would have to find, at a site between New Jersey and the Carolinas, a handful of laurel-leafed points, "nicely dated" to about 19,000 years ago. "I don't think it's going to happen," he said.
Barber, Virginia's state archaeologist, said he, too, has "trouble seeing the transition from Solutrean to pre-Clovis to Clovis, but says it's not impossible to consider.
"We need to follow it with data" he said, closely examining the techniques used to make spear points and by finding interim, transient camps along the coastline. That won't be easy, he noted, since any coastal camps from that time period now are underwater.
Stanford says artifacts unearthed on the Delmarva peninsula and the barrier islands along the Eastern Shore hint at a Solutrean influence that pre-dates Clovis culture. They include fossilized remains of walruses, which may have lured wandering Solutrean hunters to the Chesapeake region when sea levels were 350 feet lower than today.
"The more paleo-Indian points . . . you find, which indirectly suggest that the coastline was the place to be, it sort of fits [Stanford's] model . . . of pre-Clovis folks focused along the coastline and exploiting coastal resources," said archaeologist Darrin Lowery. Lowery's artifacts, cited by Stanford, were found on Maryland's Jefferson Island and Hooper Island as well as at Virginia's Northampton County and Mockhorn Island.
"They look very similar to some of the stuff from Cactus Hill, to some of the stuff that they're finding in Florida. And more importantly they look very similar to some of the stuff found at Solutrean sites," Lowery said.
The archaeologist excavating Virginia's Cactus Hill, Joseph McAvoy, believes most of his colleagues still favor the Siberia-Bering Strait theory for most of North America's native population, although he adds that "it is starting to appear that the oldest identifiable occupation of the New World was in the east."
For McAvoy, the issue isn't east or west.
"Perhaps the better question is, did a technology arrive with just a few people from the east . . . which spread through a light and/or later population primarily arriving from the west," he said.
Contact staff writer A.J. Hostetler at email@example.com or (804) 649-6355.
Nice little theory but it seems kind of light on supporting data.
"Nice little theory but it seems kind of light on supporting data."
The now WIDELY ACCEPTED fact of Lief Eriksson's settlement in Canada was only discovered less than 50 years ago.
No telling what the next 50 years may reveal.
I like this guy already. Too bad most of what they need to find is off the coast on the contentinental shelf.
I do agree, most may be found on the continental shelf. However, the isolationist bias, which held that the Americas had been occupied for perhaps 3,000 years, and then around WWII retreated to the position that Clovis is as old as anything gets in the Americas, has prevented finds from being accepted. That's over a century of damage that has to be repaired wherever possible. The best way to do that is to dig on land. The finds are under there just waiting.
ie: ground slate, hard limestone etc.
"In any event, subsequent mtDNA studies may support the notion that some of the genes of these vanished predecessors worked their way into the Native American bloodlines. In the past few years a fifth mtDNA lineage, called X, has turned up both in living Native American groups and in prehistoric remains. Though variants of the first four mtDNA lineages have been found in Siberian, Mongolian, and Tibetan populations, the origins of the X lineage are downright mysterious. "It doesn't seem to appear in any East Asian or North Asian populations--which are the putative progenitors, or at least the potential sister groups, of the Native Americans," says Schurr. "The source area for the X lineage is not clear, but it doesn't appear to be Asia." In fact, the first variant of X mtDNA was identified in Europeans. Schurr speculates that the X lineage originated somewhere in Eurasia, with its carriers then going their separate ways: some west in the Old World, some east all the way to the New."
"Some scientists think that the earliest colonizers could have started out somewhere in Europe, not in Asia as previously thought. That idea is rooted in a rare genetic link called haplogroup X - DNA passed down through women that dates back more than 30,000 years."
"Recent genetic samples from remains in Illinois show that the rare European DNA was around centuries before European exploration. Today, haplogroup X is found in about 20,000 American Indians."
"To some researchers, its presence suggests the Mongolian ancestors of most American Indians were latecomers. Genetic tests show the DNA is completely absent from East Asian and Siberian populations."
Looks like the Bering Strait theory is losing traction. I learned when I was a kid and never bought into it. Solutrean had to be Cro-Magnon man most likely. I have read that Mapuches, Mayans, and Incans have the same rate of Rh negative blood as Basques, Celts, Berbers. I have seen Anasazi artifacts and they look very Celtic like.
I thought you said X is found mostly in Chippewas. Who never lived in Virginia.
There are plenty of Indians still living all over the East Coast. If they're descended from Europeans, where's the DNA?
The Bering Strait theory is NOT losing traction. The more the DNA is tested, the more solid it gets.
Native Americans are most closely related to people now living in Siberia.
Have you had your own DNA tested yet?
My mother's descended from Chippewa women, and her mitochondrial DNA is very similar to Aleut DNA and Siberian DNA.
Basques and Celts have R1 Y-Chromosome haplotype.
Native Americans have A1 or A0.
Get yours tested, it doesn't cost much. Learn something.
I would love to get my DNA tested for sure.
Don't recall ever saying that.
Read My post #32 on This thread for my thoughts on that.
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