AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

26 October 2016

Origin.


Doug Peacock on the origins of the first Americans ...

We finally have a definitive answer to the timeless mystery of where the First Americans came from: They walked across the Bering Straits from Asia (and not from southwest Europe paddling kayaks across the frigid Atlantic sea, as some have claimed).

The first people to successfully colonize North America are called “Clovis,” and they made their appearance in the lower United States just prior to 13,000 years ago. The only known Clovis burial is in Montana, about forty miles north of my house on the Yellowstone River (also known as the Anzick site). Here prehistoric people buried a one and a half year old boy with about 115 stone and bone funeral offerings, all covered with sacred red ocher. The burial objects, discovered by construction workers in 1968, constitute the largest and most spectacular assemblage of Clovis artifacts ever found.

A recent analysis of the child’s DNA (Nature 2-13-2014) reveals a genome sequence showing the Montana Clovis people are direct ancestors to some 80 percent of all Native North and South Americans living today. The child’s ancestors came over in a single migration from Northeastern Asia. This data is a very big deal.

Archeologists call this report “the final shovelful of dirt” on the European hypothesis. And, yes, previous to the release of this information, a popular alternative theory argued that the sophisticated Clovis stone-flaking technology came from Southwestern Europe, from Solutrean people living in Spain and France who paddled across the ocean 18,000 years ago. That meant the Clovis child should be of European ancestry. The iconic Clovis projectile point, many of which have been found imbedded in the bones of huge animals who became extinct around 12,900 years ago, appeared suddenly and is a large, extremely well-crafted weapon. A troubling insinuation of the “Solutrean” theory is that Native Americans weren’t somehow able to invent the distinctive Clovis point on their own.

One might think that the Out-of-Europe hypothesis was, at its worst, a harmless crackpot theory--that this very terrestrial-adapted culture of the Iberian Peninsula, with no evidence of maritime technology, overcame a frigid Atlantic ocean during a time span of 5,000 years by iceberg-hopping in skin boats in order to deliver the distinctive Clovis weapon system to the Southeastern United States. But this scholarly squabble quickly grew ugly with the discovery of Kennewick Man in 1996.

Civility evaporated during the nasty eight-year legal squabble over Kennewick Man (a 9,000-year-old skeleton found in the Columbia River), and we were reminded that archaeology lingers yet as a barely disguised insult to many Native Americans. The central issue of Kennewick Man was his ancestry: Was he of European origin?

No comments: