Archaeologists have long held the belief that the Clovis People were the first to arrive and settle in the Americas, however, this assumption is no longer the case in light of the growing evidence. The reason for this assumption was that no contrary evidence had been found to cast doubt on the Clovis being first. Of course, the theory was that the Clovis people crossed the landbridge that existed (more than once) between Siberia and Alaska during the last Ice Age and made their way southward via an ice-free corridor that existed at the time in Alaska and Western Canada.
Then in 2011 studies began to emerge challenging the Clovis First hypothesis. One such study took place at Buttermilk Creek, Texas where a prominent group of researchers claimed to have established the existence of a pre-Clovis culture. New C14 dates obtained by the researchers at Texas A&M University put the Clovis Culture in a shorter time frame beginning 450 years later than thought (13,200 kya to 12,900 kya). Most researchers now hold the view that the Clovis First hypothesis was wrong.
In 2015 another study undertaken by a number of researchers concluded that even though the theorized ice-free corridor in Western Canada was thought to be the entry point for the first Americans their research suggested that this ice-free corridor opened too late for the Clovis People to have passed through. These researchers suggested that by 10 kya the ice-free corridor in Alberta, Canada and British Columbia was gradually overtaken by Boreal Forest dominated by spruce and pine trees and that the Clovis people most likely CAME FROM THE SOUTH not the north possibly via following wild animals like bison!
There are also other discoveries over the years that have challenged the Clovis First hypothesis. One site was in Pedra Furada, Brazil which was dated between 10.5-12 kya and possibly greater than 50 kya but these dates were strongly disputed by other researchers. Another site was in Monte Verde, Chile which was dated between 18.5-14.8 kya and yet another was found at Taima-Taima, Venezuela dated at 14 kya. Other sites in South America are: Lapa do Boquete, Brazil dated at about 12 kya, El Abra in Columbia dated at about 11.7 kya, and the Tagua-Taugua site in Chile dated at around 11.4 kya.
In North America sites predating Clovis Culture include the Meadowcroft site in Rockshelter, PA dated at 16 kya, the Cactus Hill site in Virginia dated at about 15 kya, the Saltville site in Virginia dated at 14.5 kya, the Connley Caves site in Oregon dated at 13 kya, the Page-Ladson Prehistory site located in Florida dated at 15-14 kya, Paisley Caves in Oregon dated at 14.3 kya, the Tanana Valley site in Alaska dated between 13-14 kya, the Nenana Valley site in Alaska dated at about 12 kya, and as of now the Bluefish Caves site in the Yukon dated at 24 kya.
Some theorists believe pre-Clovis people migrated southward along the North American coastline while others argue that there were likely multiple migration routes.
The Pedra Furada site located in Brazil is a collection of rock shelters used for thousands of years by various human populations. Artifacts have been found there that date from 48-32 kya! These dates have been confirmed by repeated analysis and have even extended the earliest date from 48 kya to 60 kya.
At the Topper site located in South Carolina, USA worked stone tools have been found dating back to 50 kya using C14 dating. However, scholars are debating this date as expected but they do agree that there is evidence of humans at this site as early as 22.9 kya. Further, at the Paisley Caves site in Oregon extensive C14 dating and genetic testing has been carried out indicating that prehistoric humans related to modern Native Americans were present at this site over 1000 years before the Clovis people! Also, at the Monte Verde site in Chile evidence suggests humans were in that area as early as 13 kya an if so then that means pre-Clovis people entered the Americas around 16 kya or more.
Turning to Mexico the Tiapacoya site has been excavated no less than 17 times along the base of the Tiapacoya Hill between 1956-73. The hill sites at the base of the remains of a volcano on the shore of what was once Lake Chalco. Literally piles of bear and deer bones were found at this site all appearing to have been butchered. Also found were 2500 stone flakes and blades and one non-fluted spear point. All of these artifacts were found in the same stratum also containing 3 circular hearths filled with ash and charcoal. Many other animals bones were also found at this site. The hearths dated at about 24-22kya. At another location nearby a prismatic microblade made of obsidian was found in a tree trunk which yielded at date of about 24 kya. Recently this blade was again dated but using hydration dating techniques which yielded a date of 22 kyr.
Regarding the “Coastal Migration” theory back in 2007 mtDNA results of Native Americans revealed that the people of the Americas may have diverged genetically from Siberians as early as 20 kya which is far earlier that standard theory suggests. One theory suggests that the Pacific Coast of North America may have been ice-free in the continental interior but there has been no evidence found supporting this theory as yet other than genetic analysis of coastal marine life which indicates diverse fauna persisted throughout the Pleistocene ice ages along the coasts of Alaska and British Columbia. These “refugia” included common food sources of coastal native people also so a coastal migration was certainly possible.
In February of 2014 DNA analysis was undertaken on the “Anzick Boy” specimen (aka: Anzick 1) from Montana dated at 12.6 kyr. That analysis found mt’DNA to be D4h3a which is a rare lineage associated with Native Americans. This is the same mtDNA associated with coastal populations of North and South America today. Finding this mtDNA so far inland (Montana) shows such genetic markers are not necessarily indicators of people movement.
The Solutrean Hypothesis is yet another possibility and this hypothesis is highly controversial. It was presented back in 1999 by Smithsonian archaeologist Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley. It suggests that the Clovis people may have inherited stone tool technology from the Solutrean people who lived in southern Europe 21-15 kya. These are also the people who created the first Stone Age artwork in southern France. Supporters of this theory point to a similarity in technology in terms of projectile points in comparisons between those used by the Clovis and Solutrean people. Supporters also point to tools found at various pre-Clovis sites in eastern North America namely around the Chesapeake Bay area. This hypothesis postulates that the Solutreans cross the Atlantic in small boats following the edge of pack ice in the North Atlantic Ocean that extended from the coast of France to eastern North America. They believe the first landfall was made around the then exposed Grand Banks of the North American continental shelf. However, in 2008 Westley & Dix announced that their research does not support this theory.
Dr. Lawrence Straus of the University of New Mexico has been an outspoken opponent of the Solutrean Hypothesis. He says there is an obvious difference in Clovis artifacts that are NOT features of the Solutrean people. He also points out the lack of cave art among Clovis people and one assumes since the Solutreans painted art in southern France they’d have done the same in North America IF they were ever there to begin with. He also points out the 3000 to 5000 radiocarbon year gap between the Solutrean period in France an Spain and the New World Clovis people as a problem for the Solutrean Hypothesis. In response, researchers Bradley & Stanford argue that it was a very specific subset of Solutreans who formed the parent group that adapted to maritime environments and who made their way across the North Atlantic ice to “colonize” eastern North America! They also argue that this specific group may NOT have shared all Solutrean cultural traits either!
Whatever the case may be with the Solutrean or Coastal Migrations hypotheses one thing is now apparent and that is that the Clovis people were NOT the first Americans! There were pre-Clovis people in the Americans already when the Clovis people migrated across the landbrdige in Alaska. Further, the most recent evidence comes from Bluefish Caves in the Yukon dating to 24 kyr long before the arrival of the Clovis people in the Americas and that is strong evidence that it was NOT “Clovis First” at all.