This group of humanoids were tagged the Clovis culture, dating back 13,000 years. And they were given credit for the peopling of the Americas.
But world-traveled archaeologist Michael Collins has a controversial – although he says it shouldn’t be controversial – hypothesis that the general beliefs that the Americas were populated by Asians are “wrong, wrong, wrong.”
Collins was the guest speaker at the Bayside Historical Society’s quarterly presentation in Bayside on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Collins said he started his interest in archaeology when he was 10 to 12 years old.
He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Texas and doctorate from the University of Arizona.
He taught at the University of Kentucky for 11 years and has practical experience all across the United States, Europe and the Near East.
Currently, Collins is a professor at Texas State University and the Gault School of Archaeological Research.
He said it was about 40 years ago that he came to the conclusion that the general consensus on how the Americas were populated was wrong.
He talked about the people of Clovis, N.M., discovered in 1934 where bones and artifacts were dated to 13,000 to 13,500 years ago.
Artifacts such as spear points were found among mammoth bones.
“The thought was the Clovis moved around a lot to follow mammoths. And this story was honed for 70 years,” he said.
“Similar points found were assumed to be Clovis,” he said.
“‘Clovis-First’ became a deeply rooted concept,” he added.
But new evidence – artifacts and bones – suggest an older group of people dating back for more than 20,000 years.
The artifacts were similar to Clovis but different.
He likened it to the way a Ford and a Chevrolet are made on an assembly line. The end result is a car, but the way they are made are totally different.
The older group of people made their spear points and other tools differently, and time dating confirms these items to be older.
“It was in the ’60s and ‘70s that I began to see older materials – older than Clovis,” he said.
But Collins ran into what a lot of people with new ideas run into.
“You couldn’t get a grant if you believed that,” he said.
However, through time, scientists have started opening their minds to the new concept.
“There are way too many sites in North America ... about 2,000 sites. The High Plains, mountains: too many different environments. They had to be descendants of people who were here a long time,” he said.
“A number of the sites predate Clovis.”
Collins said archaeologist now are looking at the way artifacts were manufactured.
“If you can do that, then you can figure behavior,” he said.
And he said two things may look alike and perform a lot alike, but often they were made differently.
“My personal view is a corridor might have been ice free 13,000 years ago, but it doesn’t mean it’s travel able – no vegetation, lots of ice pools and ice-edge winds in this 1,000 mile corridor – a rational individual would not take the 1,000-mile trip,” he said.
“It’s another nail in the coffin of ‘Clovis First.’”
Collins said there are 30 to 40 sites that are older than Clovis.
“At that time, there was no corridor for pedestrians. Glacial ice precluded the pedestrian route.”
Collins said he has seven patterns that suggest another avenue and way that people used to populate the Americas.
Possibly people came by water along the Pacific Coast, according to Collins.
He said he was in a minority of believers who say people came across the North Atlantic by boat.
Here are Collins’ patterns:
1. Artifacts were found along the Eastern Seaboard extending 60 miles out into the Atlantic. These artifacts are identical to those of cultures in France and Spain. They are older than Clovis.
2. A series of sites in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida dating up to 21,000 years ago have been found.
“The naysayers: This really keeps them awake at night,” he said.
3. Discoveries have been made in the High Plains, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Mexico that are up to 20,000 years old.
4. Artifacts dating up to 17,000 years ago were found in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Montana and Washington – all pre-Clovis
5. In Texas, the Freidkin and Gault sites have offered more proof.
Clovis was found there, but deeper in the ground revealed people older than Clovis.
Collins said he purchased the site and donated it to the Archaeology Conservancy. The public can visit it anytime. It’s 40 miles north of Austin between Florence and Saledo.
6. Artifacts dating back as much as 14,000 years have been found along the Pacific Coast all the way down to Chili.
7. Again, artifacts found from California to Chili suggest a maritime adaptation – not Clovis.
“The oldest to the youngest starts in the Northeast and spreads to the West Coast,” he said.
Collins hypothesized that during the latter part of the ice age, people in Europe began seeing sheets of ice floating by with seals, shore birds and fish.
Human ingenuity prompted these people to develop boats, clothing and harvesting that were suitable to exploit the resources.
“People began to paddle farther and farther. They eventually landed on the coast of North America.
He said the glacial ice edge offered shell fish sea mammals, birds and other foods.
Most importantly, the ice provided fresh water.
Collins said more research is being conducted.
“If we can get ancient DNA, we will have a more complex story,” he said.