Megabeasts' Sudden Death

Before Clovis

When did humans first arrive in the Americas? For decades, the "Clovis-first" model of initial colonization held sway. It says that the first Americans were the Clovis people—named for an archeological site near Clovis, New Mexico—and that they walked across the Bering Land Bridge and spread into North America about 13,500 years ago. In recent years, however, researchers have unearthed many sites that appear to be pre-Clovis, some of them potentially doubling the time frame people have been in the Western Hemisphere. Below, explore 28 possible pre-Clovis sites found throughout North America.—Robson Bonnichsen and Robert Lassen

Clovis map
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  1. Old Crow
    Yukon Territory
    25,000-40,000 years old
    Large mammal bones, possibly flaked or cut.

  2. Bluefish Caves
    Yukon Territory
    12,000-28,000 years old
    Mammoth bone core and flakes, microblades, and debitage.

  3. Manis
    Washington
    14,000 years old
    Antler point in mastodon rib. Mastodon bone cut and flaked.

  4. McMinnville
    Oregon
    46,000 years old
    Broken mammoth bones and bison tibia chopper.

  5. Fort Rock Cave
    Oregon
    15,500 years old
    Stemmed points found in early context.

  6. Wilson Butte Cave
    Idaho
    17,500-18,500 years old
    Modified bones and flakes.

  7. False Cougar Cave
    Montana
    12,500-17,500 years old
    Stone artifacts and human hair.

  8. Pendejo Cave
    New Mexico
    14,000 years old
    Human hair and prints in baked clay, and possible stone tools.

  9. Sand Creek
    Texas
    16,540 years old
    Mammoth associated with a stone tool.

  10. Lamb Spring
    Colorado
    13,500-15,000 years old
    Flaked mammoth bones.

  11. Selby
    Colorado
    14,000-17,000 years old
    Flaked and polished extinct mammal bones.

  12. Dutton
    Colorado
    14,000-17,000 years old
    Flaked and polished extinct mammal bones.

  13. La Sena
    Nebraska
    17,000-22,000 years old
    Human-flaked mammoth bone.

  14. Jensen
    Nebraska
    17,000-22,000 years old
    Human-flaked mammoth bone.

 
  1. Shaffert
    Nebraska
    17,000-22,000 years old
    Human-flaked mammoth bone.

  2. Burnham
    Oklahoma
    22,000-40,000 years old
    Flake tools associated with extinct fauna.

  3. Big Eddy
    Missouri
    14,000-14,500 years old
    Possible stone tools.

  4. Lovewell
    Kansas
    22,000 years old
    Modified mammoth bones.

  5. Mud Lake
    Wisconsin
    15,000-16,500 years old
    Mammoth bones with butchering marks.

  6. Hebior
    Wisconsin
    15,000-16,500 years old
    Stone tools and mammoth bones with butchering marks.

  7. Schaefer
    Wisconsin
    15,000-16,500 years old
    Stone tools and mammoth bones with butchering marks.

  8. Meadowcroft
    Pennsylvania
    13,500-17,500 years old
    Lanceolate point, blade-like flakes, and charred basketry.

  9. Saltville
    Virginia
    15,000-16,000 years old
    Flaked stone, fractured and polished bone.

  10. Cactus Hill
    Virginia
    17,000-19,000 years old
    Lanceolate points, blades, and blade cores.

  11. Topper
    South Carolina
    15,000-16,000 years old
    Possible stone tools found in dated deposits.

  12. Sloth Hole
    Florida
    14,400 years old
    Stone tools and cut mastodon tusks.

  13. Page Ladson
    Florida
    14,400 years old
    Stone tools and cut mastodon tusks.

  14. Little Salt Spring
    Florida
    14,000 years old
    Shaped wooden stake embedded in extinct tortoise shell.

Note: The map above shows glaciers, lakes, and shorelines as of 12,900 years ago. Not shown is a famous pre-Clovis site in South America, Monte Verde in Chile, which is 14,500 years old and features many organic artifacts, stone tools, and house structures. This is an updated version of a map that originally appeared in "The Case for a Pre-Clovis People," by Robson Bonnichsen and Alan L. Schneider, American Archaeology, Winter 2001-2002. Special thanks also to Dennis Stanford, Smithsonian Institution.

Interactives

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Robson Bonnichsen, who died in 2004, was a professor of anthropology and director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University. Robert Lassen is a former master's student at Texas A&M. This feature originally appeared on NOVA's America's Stone Age Explorers website.

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