PerspectiveArchaeology

Finding the first Americans

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Science  03 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6363, pp. 592-594
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5473

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Summary

For much of the 20th century, most archaeologists believed humans first colonized the Americas ∼13,500 years ago via an overland route that crossed Beringia and followed a long and narrow, mostly ice-free corridor to the vast plains of central North America. There, Clovis people and their descendants hunted large game and spread rapidly through the New World. Twentieth-century discoveries of distinctive Clovis artifacts throughout North America, some associated with mammoth or mastodon kill sites, supported this “Clovis-first” model. North America's coastlines and their rich marine, estuarine, riverine, and terrestrial ecosystems were peripheral to the story of how and when the Americas were first settled by humans. Recent work along the Pacific coastlines of North and South America has revealed that these environments were settled early and continuously provided a rich diversity of subsistence options and technological resources for New World hunter-gatherers.