Archaeologists at a Central Texas site have unearthed artifacts indicating that the first humans arrived in North America roughly 2,500 years earlier than previously thought, raising questions about how they made it to the New World and what route they took.
The artifacts, found along Buttermilk Creek south of Killeen by a Texas A&M University-led team, date as far back as 15,500 years. That's more than 2,000 years before the Clovis people, who were long believed to be the first humans in North America. The Clovis were named after a site found in 1930 near Clovis, N.M.
The many Clovis artifacts, particularly their unique spearheads, were found over the last 80 years and indicated that they lived as long as 13,100 years ago.
The finds at the Buttermilk Creek site aren't the first to challenge when humans migrated to the Americas -- other such artifacts have been found in Pennsylvania, Oregon and Chile -- but it is the most complete, with more than 16,000 artifacts, said Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M.
"Now Texas can boast having the oldest [human] archaeological site in North America," Waters said. "... This is the strongest evidence yet that humans colonized North America 2,500 years earlier than we first thought."
Other pre-Clovis locations have artifacts, but they aren't "very robust," Waters said. He said the latest discovery should win over most people who doubt that humans occupied North America earlier. The findings were released Thursday and are in the current issue of Science. "We have the most artifacts, the biggest assemblage of pre-Clovis material, the biggest variety of artifacts," Waters said.
Not all his peers were impressed by the significance of the findings.
"For several years now we have known that the Clovis first theory is dead," said Tom D. Dillehay, an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University. "The work presented to Science simply shows that this is true for another region in the United States, the southern Great Plains. It seems that by stating, once again, that the 'Clovis first' model is dead is building a straw man and burning it."
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