Clovis Stone Tools Were Made Only During 300-Year Period: Study

by johnsmith

Clovis is a prehistoric culture named for stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico in the early 1930s. New radiocarbon testing of bones and artifacts from 10 known Clovis sites show that this culture first appeared about 13,050 years ago and disappeared 300 years later at the beginning of the Younger Dryas, coincident with the extinction of the remaining North American megafauna and the appearance of multiple North American regional archaeological complexes.

Clovis spear points from the Gault site in Texas. Image credit: Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University.

Clovis spear points from the Gault site in Texas. Image credit: Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University.

“We still do not know how or why Clovis technology emerged and why it disappeared so quickly,” said Professor Michael Waters, an anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology and the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University.

“It is intriguing to note that Clovis people first appears 300 years before the demise of the last of the megafauna that once roamed North America during a time of great climatic and environmental change.”

In the study, Professor Waters and colleagues used the radiocarbon method to date bone, charcoal and carbonized plant remains from 10 known Clovis sites in South Dakota, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Montana and two sites in Oklahoma and Wyoming.

“The disappearance of Clovis from the archaeological record at 12,750 years ago is coincident with the extinction of mammoth and mastodon, the last of the megafauna,” Professor Waters said.

“Perhaps Clovis weaponry was developed to hunt the last of these large beasts.”

“Until recently, Clovis was thought to represent the initial group of indigenous people to enter the Americas and that people carrying Clovis weapons and tools spread quickly across the continent and then moved swiftly all the way to the southern tip of South America,” he added.

“However, a short age range for Clovis does not provide sufficient time for people to colonize both North and South America.”

“Furthermore, strong archaeological evidence amassed over the last few decades shows that people were in the Americas thousands of years before Clovis, but Clovis still remains important because it is so distinctive and widespread across North America.

The revised age for Clovis tools reveals that this culture is contemporaneous with stemmed point-making people in the Western United States and the earliest spear points, called Fishtail points, in South America.

“Having an accurate age for Clovis shows that people using different toolkits were well settled into multiple areas of North and South America by 13,000 years ago and had developed their own adaptation to these various environments,” Professor Waters said.

“A new accurate and precise age for Clovis and their tools provides a baseline to try to understand the mystery surrounding the origin and demise of these people.”

The results appear in the journal Science Advances.


Michael R. Waters et al. 2020. The age of Clovis – 13,050 to 12,750 cal yr B.P. Science Advances 6 (43): eaaz0455; doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz0455

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