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Across Atlantic Ice

Across Atlantic Ice: The Origin of America's Clovis Culture

Dennis J. Stanford
Bruce A. Bradley
Foreword by Michael B. Collins
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Across Atlantic Ice
    Book Description:

    Who were the first humans to inhabit North America? According to the now familiar story, mammal hunters entered the continent some 12,000 years ago via a land bridge that spanned the Bering Sea. Distinctive stone tools belonging to the Clovis culture established the presence of these early New World people. But are the Clovis tools Asian in origin? Drawing from original archaeological analysis, paleoclimatic research, and genetic studies, noted archaeologists Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce A. Bradley challenge the old narrative and, in the process, counter traditional—and often subjective—approaches to archaeological testing for historical relatedness. The authors apply rigorous scholarship to a hypothesis that places the technological antecedents of Clovis in Europe and posits that the first Americans crossed the Atlantic by boat and arrived earlier than previously thought. Supplying archaeological and oceanographic evidence to support this assertion, the book dismantles the old paradigm while persuasively linking Clovis technology with the culture of the Solutrean people who occupied France and Spain more than 20,000 years ago.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94967-6
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Michael B. Collins

    Across Atlantic Iceis an account of two complex and treacherous journeys, one long ago and the other very recent. One is postulated to have occurred across a perilous mosaic of periglacial environments of the Northern Hemisphere during the peak of the last major glaciation some eighteen or twenty millennia ago. The other is a twenty-year intellectual excursion far outside the academic mainstream by two scholars to explore possible answers to the questions of who first came to the Americas, when, whence, and how.

    We long thought that we knew the story of the initial peopling of the Americas: Nomadic...

  6. INTRODUCTION: The First Americans?
    (pp. 1-16)

    Christopher Columbus stumbled across the so-called New World while on a voyage to discover a more direct trade route to India, or so the story goes. Certainly, in his mind, he had found that route, and thus he called the inhabitants “Indians” and the place “the Indies.” It wasn’t long afterward that this monumental misjudgment of geography was recognized, but the misnomer stuck. But if the New World was not India and its inhabitants were not Indians, who were these people, where did they come from, how did they get here, and when did they arrive?

    These questions have fascinated...


      (pp. 19-30)

      Investigating Paleolithic cultures, whether in the Old World or the New, is a great challenge because the principal artifacts we have to work with are flaked stone tools and flaking debris. Fortunately, archaeologists have found sites with animal bones, bone and ivory tools, hints of other perishable artifacts, and even rare cases of art, but these are exceptional. Geological and environmental settings can tell us some things, such as the probable conditions in which people lived, but the minuscule representation of the past provided by stone artifacts can give us more details about our distant human heritage. Along with its...

    • 2 CLOVIS: The First American Settlers?
      (pp. 31-66)

      For decades the Clovis culture has been our anchor to understanding the peopling of the New World. It has been a touchstone for archaeologists, a rare “truth” and comfort regarding the unknowable archaeological past. We have recognized who was first in the Americas and whence they came. Even so, the interest in just how they came to be and where they came from has driven Clovis research, which has resulted in questions challenging even our very basic beliefs. What is the evidence that has started to shake the foundations of this long-accepted theory? Could it be that there were people...

    • 3 BERINGIA: Out of Asia on Foot
      (pp. 67-88)

      The well-known Beringian land bridge /ice-free corridor theory was originally put forth on the basis of geological studies of the timing and extent of the great North American glaciers, as well as the lowering of the sea level, as a logical explanation of the peopling of the Americas. The archaeological profession quickly adopted the theory because it explained how hunters too primitive to have watercraft could have crossed the Bering Sea. With each retelling, in schools, books, and public lectures, the theory took deeper hold, eventually becoming dogma, and generations of professors have taught it to accepting students. The idea...

      (pp. 89-115)

      Complex cultures such as Clovis do not spring out of thin air. Whenever and wherever people move, they take with them their language, belief and kinship systems, lifestyle, and traditions. Aspects of cultures change through time when people are faced with new or diminished resources, and this is especially true of material cultures. People adapt to changing environments by finding new ways to deal with habitat shifts. This often requires only adjustments to existing technologies, but in more severe cases itmay provoke the development of new ones.¹ Even then, the new technologies are usually based on the older systems, which...

    • 5 THE SOLUTREAN: Ice Age Innovators
      (pp. 116-146)

      Since the Beringian evidence includes no suitable, old enough archaeological assemblage that might have given rise to pre-Clovis and Clovis technology, the question is, where in the Paleolithic world was there a technology that shared enough traits with them to suggest a historic relationship? For years scholars have noted superficial similarities between Solutrean and Clovis tools and technologies, but several seemingly irresolvable obstacles have prevented them from postulating a historical connection—chiefly a gap of some 5,000 years and the conviction that Paleolithic peoples could not have crossed the Atlantic Ocean.¹ But we now have pre-Clovis artifact assemblages in North...


      (pp. 149-161)

      A critical but particularly difficult aspect of identifying the origin of a specific population is establishing the existence of historical relationships between it and other archaeological cultures. It is one thing to look at a group of artifacts and say they are alike, another to conclude that the likeness indicates that they are related. In Stone Age archaeology we get only minuscule glimpses of the human record, and we seldom have solid information about the more abstract, nonphysical characteristics—such as language, religious beliefs, mythology, music, philosophy, and symbolism—that we tend to use to define culture and ethnicity. Archaeologists...

      (pp. 162-185)

      Although quantitative analyses and statistical manipulations are useful, a lot of what we infer relies on more subjective assessments and comparisons. This is frequently because we don’t have the information required for more vigorous approaches. For better and for worse, the great need for large, long-term studies of the original collections leaves a lot of scope for future research. Since this work has yet to be done, the following observations are not based on detailed analyses, but we think they are nonetheless interesting. We have tried not to fall into the cherry-picking trap of considering only those items that exhibit...

      (pp. 186-203)

      The preceding chapters provide information that illustrates the strong correlations between Solutrean technologies of southwestern Europe and the earliest technologies found in eastern North America. There is a possibility that these could be the consequence of independent invention, but we have argued for a historic relationship. To consider this proposition further, we pose models of how and why a trans-Atlantic connection would have taken place.

      Our hypothesis proposes that certain Solutrean groups expanded their terrestrial economic resource base to include maritime resources. Since the direct evidence of these maritime resources is mostly on the submerged continental shelf, the well-excavated Solutrean...

    • 9 THE LAST GLACIAL MAXIMUM: How Bad Was the Weather?
      (pp. 204-220)

      The ice age world in which the Solutrean people lived had climatic conditions so different from ours that they are difficult to imagine. Our modern circumpolar regions might serve as analogues to provide us hints about surviving in such conditions, but we must be aware of the major differences from even these Arctic backdrops. For instance, a whole host of now-extinct animals, such as mammoths, mastodons and saber-toothed lions, lived side by side with early humans. The LGM climate caused the formation of huge ice caps that covered more than half of the Northern Hemisphere and were several miles thick...

    • 10 LIVING ON THE ICE EDGE: Ethnographic Analogies
      (pp. 221-238)

      For most modern people life on the edge of the sea ice is as alien as life on Mars, and ignorance of this frozen world prompts many misconceptions and fears. After we make presentations on this topic we are asked the same questions: Wasn’t it dangerous? How could people survive on the ice, especially primitive cavemen? How could they keep warm? What did they use for fuel? What would have been available for food, and how did they find water? Since there is no way to know how Paleolithic people adapted to this environment, we address these and other questions...

    (pp. 239-250)

    This book has been a personal and professional journey for both of us. It has taken us from the mainstream to the position of attempting to broaden the search for evidence of the earliest colonists of North America beyond the northeast Asian unilineal model. This work began as a concept book in which we hoped to elucidate an old idea, elevating it to the level of theory. We arrived at this position from different directions but with a common experience, the investigation of Clovis sites and materials. Bruce came to the idea the way others have in the past century,...

    (pp. 251-252)
    (pp. 253-258)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 259-278)
    (pp. 279-300)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 301-319)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 320-320)