PaleoAmerican Odyssey – Afterthoughts

I have hesitated to post anything about the Paleoamerican Odyssey, in part, because there was so much information and so many conversations that it’s hard to know where to begin.  It certainly made an impact on many of us.  I began drafting posts during the event, but upon reading my own words, most of what I was saying was reaction to the more appalling and shocking things.

PAC3For those who were not in attendance, let us get this straight.  This was not a scientific “conference” in the sense that papers were submitted, examined by a jury of peers, and talks selected. Feelings were mixed but as one colleague pointed out, “this was created in darkness, by an unknown committee, sponsored by collectors in antiquities, and presented to the working Paleoindian community as a completed package of self-appointed rock stars of our business.”

PAC1Some talks appeared as re-runs of Forrest Fenn’s Clovis and Beyond conference (upon which, this meeting was modeled).  Sometimes there was the feel of a very tired Dog and Pony Show.  Angry personal comments came from the podium.  Nevertheless, throughout the meetings, there were many excellent and informative papers concerned with genuine research from North and South America, and more importantly Beringia and Siberia.

PAC2As a spill-over, I had about 29 folks extend the weekend by coming to the Clovis site Sunday afternoon.  I pulled a smattering of artifacts from the type-site for people to examine and photograph in person.  We had a great time talking, knapping, and experimenting in general.  Several inquiries were made as to how to return items bought, sold, or taken from the Landmark over the years and one retired archaeologist told us of a sale he witnessed claiming to originate at the Clovis site was arranged in a “back room” meeting over the weekend.  Sad news for us.  I truly hope they are fakes, but somehow I doubt it.

As comments come in, and I have time to catch my breath, I would like to hear more from attendees as I’m sure we all had differing experiences.  I am also glad to get the opinions of the organizers if there is an interest in communicating openly with the actual archaeological community.  My intent is not to focus on the bad because I think a lot of good happened throughout the event.  I just hope it isn’t overshadowed by the dark side.

Towards the Origin of America’s First Settlers

Interesting news from the genetics world.  We’re slowly building a clearer picture of early Americans.

“A new genetic study of South American natives, published on the journal PLOS Genetics, provides scientific evidence to reformulate the traditional model and define new theories of human settlement of the Americas” from a new article by Professor Daniel Turbón, from the Department of Animal Biology of the University of Barcelona.

“This new research is based on the analysis of male Y-chromosomal genetic markers in about one thousand individuals, representing 50 tribal South American native populations.”

Read more about it here.

And the evidence continues to build.

Score one, possibly a definitive one, for the pre-Clovis people.  Below is an abstract from an article by Michael R. Waters et al published in the October, 2011 issue of Science that summarizes his findings concerning a projectile point lodged into a rib of a mastodon at a potential pre-Clovis site.

Abstract

The tip of a projectile point made of mastodon bone is embedded in a rib of a single disarticulated mastodon at the Manis site in the state of Washington. Radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis show that the rib is associated with the other remains and dates to 13,800 years ago. Thus, osseous projectile points, common to the Beringian Upper Paleolithic and Clovis, were made and used during pre-Clovis times in North America. The Manis site, combined with evidence of mammoth hunting at sites in Wisconsin, provides evidence that people were hunting proboscideans at least two millennia before Clovis. [Waters et al, 2011]

Here is a full reference to the Science article, as well as a link to a BBC article that discusses the findings.  Additionally, I have found an NPR interview with Waters, and I will provide a link to it also.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15391388

Waters, Michael R.
2011  Pre-Clovis Mastodon Hunting 13,800 Years Ago at the Manis Site, Washington.  Science 334: 351-353.

http://www.npr.org/2011/10/20/141549739/what-slew-an-ancient-mastodon-dna-tells-tale