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America's Stone Age Explorers

Program Overview


Clovis point NOVA investigates the evidence for and controversies surrounding who the first Americans were, where they came from, and how they arrived in the Americas.

The program:

  • reports how a type of prehistoric spearhead—known as the Clovis point—was found in 1933 in Clovis, New Mexico, and later discovered in all 48 contiguous states, Mexico, Belize, and Costa Rica.

  • notes that mammoth bones found near the Clovis point were dated at 13,500 years ago, coinciding with the end of the last great Ice Age and mass extinction of some 35 genera of big animals, or megafauna.

  • presents the conventional, so-called Clovis-first theory—that Clovis people crossed a now-submerged land bridge spanning the Bering Strait and then made their way south via an ice-free corridor between the great ice sheets that covered most of Canada.

  • reviews controversial archeological evidence indicating the entry of pre-Clovis people, and reports on a possible Ice Age migration route along the Pacific coastline of Alaska.

  • explains how mitochondrial DNA was used to strengthen the case that people migrated to the Americas at least 20,000 years ago.

  • relates the search for the origins of the Clovis point and recounts the findings of similar spear points made by the Solutreans of Ice Age France and Spain.

  • reports on evidence from a site in Virginia that some scientists claim bridges a 5,000-year gap between Solutrean and Clovis points.

  • examines Inuit survival strategies to understand how prehistoric European travelers could have made an Ice Age Atlantic Ocean crossing.

  • voices criticisms of the transatlantic theory, for instance, that many types of Solutrean artifacts and personal ornaments are not found in North America.

  • reports on an emerging new portrait of the first Americans as people who arrived by various routes 20,000 years ago, spread throughout the country and eventually started making the Clovis point—perhaps the first great American invention—13,500 years ago.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
America's Stone Age Explorers

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