We have moved up in time to the Holocene: The geological epoch during which we now live (starts roughly 11,000–10,000 years ago).
This chapter begins with a brief discussion of Kennewick Man, perhaps the most controversial for the general public, but not the only individual embroiled in legal battles
The remains of a mid-40s man were accidently discovered in 1996 at the end of the Columbia River, in Kennewick, Washington.
The estimated date for the remains is 9,300 years ago, in the Holocene.
Once James Chatters began involved the situation became very controversial
The US government invoked NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) -- The federal law that puts restrictions on the study of ancient American skeletal remains and authorizes their return to modern tribes.
A group of biological anthropologists sued and a group of 5 American Indian tribes counter-sued.
The lawsuit was ‘settled’ in favor of the anthropologists, but cost $8.5 million to “settle” and 9 years in court.
The cost in relationships between many American Indian groups and archaeologists is astronomical; years will be spent re-establishing trust.
More on this specimen beginning on p. 315
Entering the New World 1
There is a big debate is to when did humans first entered the New World.
The estimates range from 30,000+ years ago to 13,500 years ago. The latest data point to about 16,500 as a strongly supportable date.
When I was a child everyone I know (and probably you too) learned the First Peoples of the New World migrated over the Bering Land Bridge, aka Beringia (and this is one of the competing views we will discuss). In technical terms this hypothesis is called “Clovis-First” after the tool tradition linked to this migration of peoples
We will also discuss another hypothesis called “Pre-Clovis” which, based on the name, obviously means there were people in the New World before the Bering Land bridge was open.
It is during this time that the scene was set for plant and animal domestication and thus the transformation of the Earth’s surface
Because we are talking about modern humans the changes that occur are the result of cultural changes, not physical ones.
We are now talking about biocultural evolution, for the most part stimulated by cultural innovations and the effects of an ever growing population. Did you notice that the textbook is now labeling chapters with ‘archaeology” and not “paleoanthropology”?
Entering the New World 2
When people first arrived in the New World is tied up with where they arrived.
Archaeologists rely on biological, geographical, and linguistic data to help sort out this question.
Three competing hypotheses:
Bering Land Bridge: By way of the Bering land bridge that connected Asia and North America several times during the late Pleistocene.
Pacific coastal route: Along the coast of the northern Pacific Rim
North Atlantic ice-edge corridor: By following the ice edge across the northern Atlantic from western Europe.
Omitted from the book, but we will cover.
This was never a strongly supported hypothesis, but I think it still has some potential merit.
It is important to keep a few concepts in mind:
These hypothesis are not mutually exclusive (First Peoples could have migrated using both or all three pathways, at different times)
Ignore all the media hype that suggests that anyone who suggested Pre-Clovis was harassed. They WERE challenged, but this is because it is good science but because of some “conspiracy” to cover up the truth.
Hypothesis 1: Bering Land Bridge 1
The first pathway to be proposed was by way of the Bering land bridge that connected Asia and North America several times during the late Pleistocene.
The climate altered during this time, and more ocean water was locked into glaciers.
As a result, the he dry-land connection between Asia and America (Beringia) existed periodically during the Pleistocene epoch (28-11,000 years ago). Even earlier, at times the bridge was dry (75-45 kya)
This bridge was quite extensive in land area, up to 1,300 miles wide.
The land bridge consisted of steppes and tundra. This environment would have been the same as that in northern Asia, allowing for similar cultural adaptations on both sides of the bridge.
Steppes; Dry treeless plains characterized by temperature extremes.
Tundra: Treeless plains characterized by permafrost conditions that support the growth of shallow-rooted vegetation such as grasses and mosses.
This environment supported herds of grazing animals.
Hypothesis 1: Bering Land Bridge 2
So, Beringia was dry during two times of interest to human migration:
75-45,000 years ago, during which the problem for travelers was the glaciers themselves.
Laurentian: Pleistocene ice sheet centered in the Hudson Bay region and extending across much of eastern Canada and the northern United States
Cordilleran: Pleistocene ice sheet originating in mountains of western North America.
Around 25-11,000 years ago is when the glaciers again had started to recede. They had receded by about 13,500 years ago and so if Beringia is the route, it had to be this more recent date.
In northern Asia, archaeologists have found Paleocene hunting tools.
More recently, 14-13,000 years ago at Berelekh (Russia) shows how well adapted residents were to this cold environment.
This route is dependent on several ideas:
This is the technologically simplest way to the New World
Lots of other animals arrived by this route during the Pleistocene
The skeletal and genetic evidence favors an Asian origin for the New World peoples.
Hypothesis 2: Pacific Coast Route
The second scenario also has the first migrants coming from Asia.
They would move along the Pacific Rim from Asia to North America.
This is a water route along which people could have arrived earlier (17-15 kya) as the coast was less daunting then the interior.
There was a diverse marine and terrestrial ecosystem in place.
Among the resources were kelp forests, fishes, mammals and birds
Would these populations have watercraft with which to travel the “Pacific Rim Highway”/
There is evidence of use of watercraft had been used to reach Australia by at least 50,000 years ago.
This means it might be feasible, but no direct data for a boat or raft yet found.
Many like this idea as it explains the finds in South America that predate the glacial recessions. There are problems with this view:
The archaeological data that would support this view is submerged.
There is little evidence of a marine-adapted population on the coast of northeastern Asia
One computer simulation suggests that the coastal route is not enough to explain all the data
Hypothesis 3: North Atlantic Ice-edge Corridor
The earliest arrivals in the New World may have come from western Europe and traveled up the coast and across to North America by following the ice sheet between the continents in the late Pleistocene.
Unusual stone assemblages and tools found well below the typical Paleo-Indian components
18-15 kya dates concur with stratigraphy, but not yet accepted
Meadowcroft (Pennsylvania, 19,000–14,000)
North American site which is increasingly accepted as a valid example of pre-Clovis presence of humans in North America
This indicates big-game hunters and gatherers were present in North America before 14,000 years ago
Which are the Pre-Clovis Sites? 2
South American Sites
Pedra Furada (Brazil, ?50,000 -?40,000)
One of several South American sites for which great antiquity is claimed
Re-dating of charcoal from hearths yielded 50 kya dates
Re-dating of rock paintings shifted them from 30 kya to only about 3 kya
Monte Verde (Chile, 14,500)
Pre-Clovis camp site in southern South America
Where wooden hut remains, wood and stone tools, abundant plant and animal remains appear to date to about 14,800 years ago
By 1997, a reexamination of Monte Verde confirmed its antiquity.
Summary of current findings.
Pailey Caves site in Oregon is best candidate to date for North American pre-Clovis site.
Monte Verde is best candidate in South America
Update: New stone tools at this site support that Clovis was not the only tool tradition in place. The update calls this second tool tradition “Western Stemmed Projectile”
Update: Latest genetic data supports a previously proposed migration model that there were several “waves of migration” into the New World.
Update: Manis Mastodon site, near Olympic Peninsula, Washington is a likely pre-Clovis site (13,800)
Paleo-Indians in the Americas
During the Paleo-Indian period (13,5-10 kya), evidence of mobile hunting and gathering comes from widely scattered locations, including many sites in the western United States.
The distinctive fluted point is the period’s hallmark artifact.
Each face of a fluted point typically displays a groove (or “flute”) resulting from the removal of a long channel flake, possibly to make it easier to use a special hafting technique for mounting the point on a shaft.
One of the striking findings about Clovis is that is was found in so many places across both continents at nearly the same time in all the places.
Distribution of points cross-cuts many environments
This suggests that the peoples were of recent introduction to the New World or that the idea of Clovis spread very fast (it was a great idea)
These fluted Clovis spear points were hafted to bone foreshafts making for more efficient hunting
This means that when a point was thrown it became detachable from the spear shaft
This may be the first example of a ‘semi-automatic’ weapon
There is a reevaluation of the megafauna hunter scenario (animals over 100 pounds) as explaining all Paleo-Indian cultures. Instead there was a broad spectrum practice (eat more food choices)
A recent analysis of 62 Paleo-Indian sites from US negates this scenario. Other animals were being eaten, such as caribou, deer, smaller animals, and fish (depending on region)
Lower Amazon, in northern Brazil evidence of carbonized seeds, nuts, fishing
Several other sites indicate much of the meat was not from megafauna
While Clovis hunters (13,200 –12,800) did hunt megafauna it was likely a very rare event.
Some association with megafauna (mammoths and mastodons) but usually involving single individuals in locations that suggests chance encounter (associated with water)
At many of these kill sites, knives, scrapers, and finely flaked and fluted projectile points are directly associated with the animal bones, all of which are evidence that the megafauna were human prey.
Clovis tradition was repeatedly replaced as cultural traditions shifted:
The Clovis point gave way to the Folsom point (c. 12,500) Late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers who hunted now-extinct giant long-horned bison in the American Southwest.
Next came the Plano tradition (11,000 –9,000) Hunter-gatherers of the Great Plains; their unfluted spear or dart points are associated only with modern fauna
Finally, the Dalton variety (10-8,000) Late or transitional Paleo-Indian projectile type seen in the eastern US
Species extinction is a natural process and happens for a variety of reasons
While humans likely contributed to the extinctions it looks to be primarily a response to climate shifts
Early Holocene Hunter-Gatherers 1
Across North America and Eurasia gradual warming conditions during the transition between the Pleistocene and the Holocene had significant effects on human behaviors
After the Younger Dryas period ended, the general long-term trend of global warming resumed.
Glaciers melted, much land was newly exposed, biotic zones shifted northward, and sea levels rose as much as 400 ft and new rivers were cut.
As much as 40% of European land area was lost due to the rise of sea levels
This means many archaeological sites are under water.
As the ice sheets receded till plains appeared: Stones, boulders, loess, mud, sand, and silt deposited by glaciers as they melt; a ground moraine.
Different animals began to thrive.
Right after the last ice age the north experienced a climatic maximum (8-6 kya)
Episode of higher average annual temperatures that affected much of the globe for several millennia after the end of the last ice age; also known as the altithermal in the western United States or hypsithermal in the East.
Huge rain-fed lakes that filled during glacial times evaporated.
Temperatures were as much as 5 degrees higher than now
Early Holocene Hunter-Gatherers 2
Cultures kept pace with the environmental changes. Different terms are used to represent the different parts of the world that reflect the cultural diversity of these peoples.
Mesolithic: Middle Stone Age; period of hunter-gatherers, especially in northwestern Europe
Epipaleolithic: Term used primarily in reference to the Near East, designating the time of Middle Stone Age foragers and collectors.
Archaic: North American hunter-gatherers after the end of the last Ice Age; traditionally ends with the beginning of the use of ceramics; equivalent to the Mesolithic in the Old World.
Hunter-gatherers: People who make their living by hunting, fishing, and gathering their food, and not by producing it.
Essentially, this time frame was one where we see an embracing of the broad spectrum strategy as many of the plants and animals seen in the Upper Paleolithic are extinct.
Seasonality and Resource Scheduling: Technique of hunter-gatherers to maximize subsistence by relocating in accord with the availability of key resources at specific times and places throughout the year.
Hunter-gathers Lifeways (on a continuum from foragers to collectors)
Foragers: A hunter-gatherer who lives in small groups that move camp frequently to take advantage of fresh resources as they come into season
Collectors: A hunter-gatherer who tends to stay on one place for a long time.
By the time of the Holocene the atlatl and the spear were the dominate weapons used in hunting. The bow and arrow came to the US by 1,800-1,500 years ago.
Many populations tended to the collector strategy over the forager strategy, which increased their carrying capacity (the maximum population of a specific organism that can be maintained at a steady state)
Western North America
Rock-shelters/caves in the Great Basin include archaeological sites such as Gatecliff Shelter, Lovelock Cave (both in Nevada) and Danger Cave (Utah). Coprolites help to reconstruct the diet of these peoples:
In this environment, freshwater and brackish marshes were gathering spots.
Rarely was larger game exploited.
Abundant and well-preserved artifacts associated with hunters and gatherers in the Great Basin have been found that include weapons, baskets, nets, mats, clothing and even gaming pieces.
In this area, due to the limited resources, cultural flexibility was key to survival.
Case Studies of Early Holocene Cultures 2
Western North America (continued)
California and the rest of the West Coast had varied environments, and so demonstrate the range of cultural adaptations.
Groups such as the Chumash of California, the ancestors of the Makah at Ozette and the Thule (Inuit) are examples of differing cultural adaptations and abundant food resources.
Salmon was an important resource, but they also hunted wild game, such as bear and deer. Halibut and whales also provided meat proteins
Berries and other sources of vegetation are utilized seasonally
By historic times many of these groups were sedentary collectors.
In the Midwest around the Great Lakes, peoples were seasonally mobile collectors.
They connected with those further south by the large rivers, such as the Mississippi
Koster (Illinois, 9,000 –4,000) is a classic example and represents a stratified sequence of Archaic camp sites that document the changing lifeways of people who lived on the edge of the Illinois River valley throughout the Archaic period
Case Studies of Early Holocene Cultures 4
Eastern North America (continued)
These southern groups began to make earthworks as early as 5,500 years ago.
Poverty Point (Louisiana, 3,500) is representative of the southern groups with whom the Great Lakes people were trading.
Poverty Point consists of a large series of earthworks that covers nearly one square mile; the most elaborate example of planned communities that were built in the Southeast in late Archaic times.
Koster slides were produced by Thomas Genn Cook and Michael D. Wiant while the Poverty Points slides were produced by Clarence H. Webb
Koster Archaeological Remains (Not pictured)
Poverty Point Archaeological Remains (Not pictured)
Mesolithic of Northern Europe
Water levels went up around the English Channel and other low-laying areas.
Across NW Europe grasses, then forests spread over the steppes.
Plant materials were scarce or absent for many parts of the year so relied on hunting and fishing.
Animals such as red deer, elk and auroch replaced the reindeer, horses, and bison of previous times.
Aurochs: European wild oxen, ancestral to domesticated cattle
Between the climate changes, animal shifts and new technologies, humans expanded their carrying capacity
Two examples of Mesolithic sites in Europe:
Star Carr(10,500, England) was used as a seasonal hunting camp
Evidence of microliths was found
Even earlier use of the bow and arrow
Domesticated dogs likely helped the Star Carr hunters
Tybrind Vig (7,500-6000, Denmark) is a location where several dugout canoes, paddles, fishhooks and fabric have been found.
Coastal resources became a larger part of the diet where available.
For instance, shellfish became a ready source of protein
Epipaleolithic of the Near East 1
Peoples in these regions tended to rely more on wild plant resources, supplemented by animal protein.
There had been an absence of ice sheets during the Ice Ages
At this time some of these groups were on the way to food production (Chapter 14) and a transition from hunter-gatherers to more sedentary lifeways