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Settlement of the Americas, The - A New Prehistory

Hitoru | 9:39 AM | 0 comments
Who were the first Americans? Where did they come from, when did they get here, what was their culture like, and how did they settle North and South America? Until recently, we thought we knew the answers... No scientist has done more to demonstrate the need for new thinking on these questions than Thomas Dillehay. The Monte Verde site in southern Chile, which Dillehay and his team excavated from 1977 to 1989, is the first proven "pre-Clovis" site - a human New World settlement that is at least 15,000 and perhaps as much as 30,000 years old. Wouldn't logic suggest that the first settlements should be found in North America...?

This breakthrough demands more than simply moving back the date of human entry into the Americas: Our entire picture of where these first settlers came from, how they lived, and their relationship with their new environment must change.

The Settlement of the Americas is the first book on the new prehistory of the New World.

Thomas D. Dillehay is T. Marshall Hahn, Jr., Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He was the Principal Investigator at the Monte Verde site in Chile and has also carried out extensive archaeological research in the eastern United States, the Great Plains, Peru, Argentina and Uruguay.

From the Publisher:
Since 1977, archaeologist Tom Dillehay has been unearthing conclusive evidence of human habitation in the Americas at least 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, settling a bitter debate and demolishing the standard scientific account of the settlement of the Americas. The question of how people first came to the Americas is now thrown wide open: the best guess is that they arrived from a variety of places, at many different times and by many different routes. Dillehay describes who the earliest settlers are likely to have been, where they may have landed, how they dispersed across two continents, what their technology and folkways may have been like, and how they interacted with the famous Clovis culture once thought to represent the earliest settlers.

From Amazon.com
Archaeology is radically rewriting American prehistory. Since 1932, when exquisite stone points were first discovered at Clovis in New Mexico, accepted theory has asserted that humans did not begin to populate the New World until the retreat of glaciers that were blocking entry from Asia about 12,000 years ago. Then, in 1997, a group of archaeologists confirmed that objects found preserved in a peat bog in the far south of Chile--stone tools, bones, even chunks of mastodon meat--could securely be dated to at least 12,500 years ago. In The Settlement of the Americas, Thomas D. Dillehay--the archaeologist who excavated this material--gives his reasons for believing that people reached the Americas before the ice sheets moved south more than 20,000 years ago. It is a fascinating detective story based on tantalizingly meager data, one in which logic and a powerful imagination are required to fill vast blank areas in the geography and prehistory of two continents. The author sets the scene at a time when so much water was locked up in glaciers that coastlines were several hundred feet lower than they are now. Scientific studies such as stone-tool technology, linguistics, and genetics are used to build an overwhelming argument. Academic battles can be as bitter as any others, and the author is ruthless in his demolition of rival theories. Every scientist has his own bias, and this study is heavily weighted toward South American evidence, but Dillehay's interpretations appear to be objective and well-argued. The Settlement of the Americas answers basic questions, such as who were the first Americans and how did they colonize an empty land, in an exciting and readable way. - John Stevenson

From Publishers Weekly:
In a gripping and groundbreaking new study, University of Kentucky anthropologist Dillehay (Monte Verde: A Late Pleistocene Settlement in Chile) pushes back by at least 1,000 years our estimates of when the New World was first settled. He challenges a long-held beliefAthat the first inhabitants of the Americas were the so-called Clovis people, a big-game-hunting culture who came through North America starting 11,200 years ago and reached South America even later. Drawing on his 20-plus years of research at Monte Verde, in Chile, he argues that South America was inhabited by 12,500 years ago. Indeed, he suggests, there were multiple pre-Clovis migrations to the Americas from several different points in Asia and possibly other parts of the world. Thus, the continent was a land of great cultural diversity at least 11,000 years ago. Dillehay also offers some evidence that these populations were physically as well as culturally diverse; he postulates that late Pleistocene America was the world's first real ethnic melting pot. The first Americans, he argues, do not fit into any of our contemporary categories of race or ethnicity. Writing in accessible but still scientifically rigorous prose, the anthropologist does a good job of supporting his controversial claims with solid radiocarbon dating and other evidence; his passion for and mastery of the topic make for an impressive narrative. Whether or not future scholarship confirms Dillehay's theories, this is a valuable book for anyone interested in archeology, early American settlements or the history of science. (June) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:
In 1997, a group of archaeologists ventured to Chile in order to validate or discredit work done by Dillehay (anthropology, Univ. of Kentucky) at a site known as Monte Verde. According to radiocarbon dates, artifacts found there were approximately 20,000 years old, which certainly did not fit the widely accepted Clovis model that dominated thought on the migration of people into the Americas. (The so-called Clovis people were said to have migrated across the Bering Strait no earlier than 12,000 B.C.E.) The experts ended up approving Dillehay's work, and the discipline of archaeology has never been the same. Here, Dillehay presents a multidisciplinary theory of the settlement of the Americas that gives context to his groundbreaking work in Chile. It is a seminal work in the field that is accessible to lay readers and should be purchased by every public and academic library in the country. Academic libraries supporting programs in archaeology, anthropology, American Indian studies, or history of the Americas should also consider purchasing Dillehay's Monte Verde: A Late Pleistocene Settlement in Chile. Vol. 2: The Archaeological Context and Interpretation (Smithsonian, 1997). D. John R. Burch Jr., Cumberland Coll. Lib., Williamsburg, KY - Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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